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From: Patrick Foy (e-mail him)
Re: Peter Brimelow's Column: William F. Buckley, Jr., RIP—Sort Of
During a conversation I had with Scott McConnell years ago, when he visited Miami, the inevitable topic of Buckley came up. I told McConnell that I had not read or heard an original, insightful comment by Buckley in over 30 years.
In sum, Buckley was highly overrated. Brimelow's points about his insecurity and effeminate side ring true. As a result, Buckley gave off an exaggerated, uncalled-for arrogance.
One incident in Gstaad left a big impression upon me.
One February in the late 1990s, I was having lunch at the small, elegant hotel Olden. Buckley arrived with that little know-it-all jackass, Rich Lowry.
I didn't know who Lowry was at the time, but it was obvious he was a protégé or factotum.
The manager of the hotel/restaurant, an Italian gentleman, a gentle and down-to-earth individual whom I knew well, approached Buckley's table. Buckley cut him off with a look of scorn that stopped the man in his tracks. "Don't approach me, I'm too big a deal," is what Buckley's look said.
Since Buckley and Lowry were seated close to me, I could hear their conversation.
What I witnessed was kind of a role reversal.
Buckley the older man, the presumptive great mind, would naturally be the intellectual mentor of the much younger man—one could safely assume that. But then I hear Buckley asking Lowry historical questions, in a manner as if Rich is some sort of authority or professor and Buckley is a third-form student.
That was odd, and so was Lowry's dismissive attitude. He acted like he, indeed, was an expert and that Buckley was, in fact, his pupil. Lowry definitely had a hold on Buckley.
Then, apparently by pre-arrangement, Taki Theodoracopulos showed up to meet Lowry for the first time. As usual, Taki was cordial. I wonder how gracious he would be to Lowry today.
On the one hand, you had the incident of Buckley waving off the manager of the establishment. It was just incredibly rude and pompous, especially since the manager was a good fellow.
Then, on the other hand, a few minutes later, you had Buckley acting the part of a subaltern.
These are small things, of course. But they stuck in my mind.
What's clear to me is that, as Brimelow indicated, Buckley was way overrated both as a writer and as a thinker.
Patrick Foy is an essayist and short story writer. He graduated from Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut and from Columbia University in New York, where he studied English literature, European history and American diplomatic history. Aside from writing, his other artistic endeavor is photography. He has traveled widely in Europe, and resides in south Florida most of the year, where he plays regulation 6-wicket croquet. To augment his writing career, he deals in property.