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Columnist Art Buchwald


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Associated Press

Washington Post Columnist Art Buchwald

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Columnist Art Buchwald

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Art Buchwald, who took humorous jabs at Washington politicians in syndicated columns for decades, died late Wednesday, January 17, according to close friend, CNN anchor Kyra Phillips. Buchwald was her mentor for 18 years, and she became a close friend of the family. The unofficial cause of death, she said, was kidney failure. He was 81.

She said Buchwald's son and daughter-in-law were at his side, "holding his hand. He passed away peacefully." "In the last few weeks, he knew it was his time," she said. "He said his good-byes to everybody."

That included his colleagues at the Washington Post, which published his columns after he moved to Washington in the 1960s. Buchwald suffered a stroke in 2000, and was plagued by kidney and circulation problems, which led doctors to amputate one of his legs below the knee.

He checked into a Washington Hospice on February 7 after he chose to quit life-prolonging kidney dialysis. His last treatment was February 1. However, Phillips said he continued to make hospital visits because of minor infections from the amputation.

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Columnist Art Buchwald

He planned his funeral when he went to the hospice. "I went to the hospice to die," he told Phillips in November. But he defied the odds, and in July he was flown to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, to spend the summer.

"I had two decisions. Continue dialysis and that's boring to do three times a week, and I don't know where that's going, or I can just enjoy life and see where it takes me," he told writer Suzette Martinez Standring, who spent two days with him in late February.

He resumed writing, including a book about his near-death experience. "The last year he had the opportunity for a victory lap and I think he was really grateful for it. He had an opportunity to write his book about his experience and he went out the way he wanted to go, on his own terms." his son, Joel Buchwald, told The Associated Press

An American in Paris

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Art Buchwald and Actress Audrey Hepburn in Paris

Buchwald launched his career as a columnist in 1949 in Paris, where he wrote about the light side of Paris nightlife in the European edition of the New York Herald Tribune. He returned to the United States around 1962 and moved to Washington, where he began writing columns filled with political satire for The Washington Post.

Some of Buchwald's observations:

During the Watergate scandal, Buchwald explained that the sound in the 18-1/2 minute gap in the White House tapes actually was Nixon humming.

"Just when you think there's nothing to write about, Nixon says, 'I am not a crook.' Jimmy Carter says, 'I have lusted after women in my heart.' President Reagan says, 'I have just taken a urinalysis test, and I am not on dope.'"

"Have you ever seen a candidate talking to a rich person on television?"

"Every time you think television has hit its lowest ebb, a new program comes along to make you wonder where you thought the ebb was."

Pulitzer Prize for Commentary

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Columnist Art Buchwald

Buchwald won a Pulitzer Prize for Outstanding Commentary in 1982, and in 1986 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He began writing columns, later syndicated, for The Washington Post in the late 1960s.

The humorist authored dozens of books, including two memoirs, 1993's "Leaving Home" and 1996's "I'll Always Have Paris." He also wrote 1950's "Paris After Dark," 1961's "Son of the Great Society," 1976's "Washington Is Leaking" and 1983's "While Reagan Slept."

Buchwald and producer, Alain Bernheim, filed a lawsuit in 1988 against Paramount Pictures, contending the company used Buchwald's script idea as the basis for the Eddie Murphy movie, "Coming to America," without giving them credit or profits. Buchwald won the case.

Buchwald Family Life

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Columnist Art Buchwald

Buchwald was born on October 20, 1925, in Mount Vernon, New York, the only son of Austrian American drapery installer Joseph Buchwald and his wife, Helen. The youngest of four children, he grew up in Hollis, a residential community in northeast Queens, New York. Buchwald never met his mother, who suffered from severe chronic depression and was committed to an asylum soon after he was born.

She spent most of her life in a state hospital. According to The Washington Post, His father, struck hard by the Depression, was forced to place him and his older sisters

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