February 27, 2008

When I wrote Pat Buckley’s obituary last spring, I had a pretty good idea that Bill would follow her sooner rather than later. I happened to be with him the day she died, along with his brother James and sister Priscilla, and I was taken aback by Bill’s unembarrassed weeping. At her memorial service at the Met, he was more in control, but one could tell that he no longer wished to live. I often went up to Stamford to visit him after that, but it was almost too sad. Gone was the constant banter and double entendres that Bill and Pat indulged in. Although Bill was famously impatient and at times at a loss about Pat’s drinking and smoking, he was, in the 50 years I knew him, incredibly polite with Pat, even in the surroundings of his own bedroom.

I will not go through his various achievements; newspaper obituaries will do this. What they won’t do is capture the man whom every servant loved, as did every ski instructor, every waiter, every young man or woman who came to him for help as I did so long ago. Twice he wrote to editors pleading with them not to fire me because of something I had written. “Taki is an innocent,” he would write, “he really doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.” When I asked him if he were sure about that, he would roll his eyes and say, “a conservative is never wrong.”

Even toward the end, when neocons had not only captured the White House but also the magazine that gave me my start, National Review, he would try and appease me when I’d complain about scum like Frum and other self-publicizing careerists. At his 80th anniversary at the Pierre, he placed my wife next to him and me next to Pat. Some neocons nearby turned green. The supercilious look he affected served him well throughout the years, but never have I had a friend whose heart was that of an angel, and he was as close to a second father to me as it is possible to be. Rest in peace, dearest Bill, you did, after all, believe in the afterlife and now you are back with your darling Patsy. 


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