Humorist Buchwald receives mitzvah for contribution to arts

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • March 24, 2006

by Karen Feld


French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte presented Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist and columnist Art Buchwald with France’s Order of Arts and Letters — a large green and gold medal — for his contribution to the arts and literature. The ceremony and reception took place Wednesday afternoon at the Washington Home, where Buchwald is under hospice care. Buchwald was thrilled with the turnout, chatting with everyone from his grandchildren (ages 1 and 2) to nurses to VIPs. And VIPs were out in full force: Ben Bradlee, cartoonist Gary Trudeau, George and Liz Stevens, Kathy Kemper (his former tennis coach), radio talk show host Diane Rehm, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, movie bigwig Jack Valenti and wife, Mary Margaret, Isabel Ernst, and writer So- phy Burnham.

“This is a helluva day,” Buchwald said. “I hate to say this, but this is bigger than my bar mitzvah.”

Buchwald’s will to live — and joie de vivre — continues to amaze us and demonstrates that love and laughter are the best medicine.


In case Vice President Dick Cheney is ever your houseguest, it will be helpful to know his demands aren’t quite as unusual as those of Barbra Streisand or U2. Nevertheless, he does have prearrival requests, as do most VIPs, before checking into a hotel. The advance directive with instructions for the vice president’s downtime indicates that the temperature must be set at 68 degrees regardless of the season, lights on and all TVs turned to the Fox News Channel. Fresh decaf coffee must be brewing, and in case he’s in the mood for a cold drink, four cans of diet caffeine-free Sprite and four to six bottles of water should be in the suite. As for reading material, Cheney insists on: The New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and a local paper. That way he’ll never forget what city he’s visiting. Oh, and don’t forget the extra soap!


Country great Marty Stuart told me he considers country music “a working culture.” That’s why he and Kenny Vaughn will be conducting a workshop on the art of country guitar for the first time at the Kennedy Center on Monday. “I’m an unschooled player,” said Stuart, who hosts the salute to the Grand Ole Opry — his wife, Connie Smith, is a member — which he describes as a “country music road show,” at the Kennedy Center Sunday evening. “Everything comes from heaven through my heart and through my hands,” he told me. “Someone from the United Nations can interpret for me.”

Stuart collects guitars, costumes and personal effects from important performers of the 20th century. He has about 20,000 pieces in his collection, which he describes as “user-friendly.” A hundred of those collectibles are guitars.


“I got a guitar the other day,” he told me. “It played on ‘Pretty Wom- an.’ Guitars were made to be played. If it’s in the collection, I rig it up and use it in records.” Some of the other favorites in his collection include a signed and dated handwritten manuscript of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and the boots Patsy Kline was wearing when she lost her life. “It’s the real stuff,” Stuart said. “It’s an important segment of American culture that nobody cared about. It was winding up in thrift stores … just stuff to people. But to me it had gold in it.”


Georgetown-based producer George Stevens Jr. — he produces the Kennedy Center Honors — has written a play based on the life of Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice. “Thurgood,” staring James Earl Jones, opens in a limited engagement April 30 at the Westport Country Playhouse. If it’s successful, it’s headed to Broadway later in the year.

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