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lit

William F. Buckley was the Wizard of Oz

Dick Cavett has a blog called Talk Show at the New York Times, and he has recent­ly writ­ten two [1, 2] hilar­i­ous entries about his friend­ship with William F. Buck­ley. The most recent includes an excel­lent sto­ry about Buckley's love of prac­ti­cal jokes, one of which I'll paste in its entire­ty right here:

Dick Clur­man of Time mag­a­zine, an affa­ble gent, was a guest on the Buck­ley yacht in the Caribbean. After din­ner, Bill B., leaf­ing through a TV log, announced that "The Wiz­ard of Oz" would be start­ing in half an hour — in Eng­lish, broad­cast from Puer­to Rico. Clur­man was delight­ed and con­fessed to nev­er hav­ing seen it.At the appoint­ed time the set was switched on, but to everyone's cha­grin it seemed the movie had already been on for a good half hour. Bill had read the start­ing time wrong. Clurman's dis­ap­point­ment was visible."Let's see if my name cuts any ice down here," his host said. The incred­u­lous Clur­man lat­er described how his friend grabbed the phone, rang up the sta­tion in Puer­to Rico, man­aged to get through to the engi­neer, explained his guest's dis­ap­point­ment, and asked if it would be too much trou­ble to start the movie over!In dis­be­lief, Clur­man saw the screen go blank, fol­lowed by a fran­tic dis­play of jum­bling and flash­ing. And then — the open­ing cred­its and the com­fort­ing strains of "Over the Rain­bow." The movie began anew. Clur­man declared that nev­er until then had he known the full mean­ing of "chutzpah."I think Bill decid­ed to let a year go by, giv­ing Clur­man time to regale all his friends and acquain­tances with the tale of the Oz mir­a­cle. It was then, still reluc­tant­ly, that the magi­cian revealed his secret. The movie had not been broad­cast at all that night — except on Bill's tape deck, which he had secret­ly manip­u­lat­ed with his unseen left arm while "talk­ing on the phone" using the oth­er.

Giv­en Buckley's love of lit­er­a­ture, I would wager that the choice of movie was yet anoth­er lay­er of the joke. Right? The wiz­ard seems by all accounts to be super­nat­ur­al, but is in fact quite human, mak­ing the "mag­ic" hap­pen by pulling hid­den levers and turn­ing secret knobs? Read the rest here.