Friday, February 20, 2015

Connections: My Fifteen Nanoseconds of Fame

Spencer Dryden

Our local newspaper has a reader generated section featuring a number of recurring themes. One of them is called "My Fifteen Nanoseconds of Fame". The theme is stories about readers' chance encounters with famous people. We Minnesotan's have a terrible inferiority complex so whenever we meet a famous person, it's a big deal.  Some years ago, I had an encounter with one of my intellectual heroes, William F. Buckley. The story of our meeting made the printed version of the "Best of the Bulletin Board". I retell it now for you amusement.
Back when I still wore suits and ties, I was in Washington DC doing some promotional work for an insurance association. I had mistakenly fallen into a leadership role which took a great deal of time I didn't have for initiatives that never paid dividends, personally, professionally or for the industry as a whole. With my business concluded, I took a cab to Washington National Airport - this was long before 911- it's called Regan National now.
At that time, the boarding gates were arranged in a semi-circle at the end of a long corridor.
Passengers from the half dozen gates shared a common gathering area. As I awaited for my flight to be called, I spotted William F. Buckley. I admired his writing and loved his old television program, "Firing Line". This was back when there were small "c" conservatives and William F. Buckley was the dean of that school of thought. I couldn't help myself. I approached him like a groupie, realizing that I could not offer one bit of wisdom to a man of his intellect. I simply said 'hello' and told him I was a great admirer. He was very gracious. If you remember how disheveled he looked on TV, you should have seen the real thing; rumpled suit, little blood stains on his collar from a bad shave, yellow teeth, blood shot eyes, threadbare overcoat and very blotchy skin. He looked like someone who I might see pan panhandling on a street corner.
 We exchanged a few pleasantries and I headed back to my area.
Later, when boarding, I was stunned to see Buckley being seated in first class. It was a non stop flight to Minneapolis. What on earth would Buckley be doing heading to such liberal country?
From my seat among the lumpen proletariat I saw Buckley reading a magazine. I wondered what it was. I assumed he simply knew everything. What did Buckley need to read? Whatever it was, I wanted a subscription.
When we arrived in Minneapolis, first class passengers de-planed first, so I lost sight of him. With the world's smallest bladder, I headed to the men's room immediately upon landing. Lo and behold who is at the urinal next to me but William F. Buckley. We exchanged a friendly acknowledgement. This time I asked him why he had come to Minnesota. Turns out he was the guest of the very liberal Hubert Humphrey Institute. Imagine that, liberals and conservatives used to be able to talk to each other.
We finished our business and went our separate ways. But to this day it's my claim that I am the only person I know who won a pissing contest with William F. Buckley.

12 comments:

  1. Although Buckley's politics never floated my boat, his intellect, as you say was astounding. His debates with Norman Mailer were a riot of burps, harrumphs, hack-kaffs and pauses. Filled in with great insights. Buckley would probably be drummed out of the current so-called conservative movement.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great punch line, Spencer! And an interesting story that fits the theme very well.

    Why should Minnesotans (?) have an inferiority complex? You probably have the coldest winters in the continental US.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisabet:
      Don't have a clue but it's palpable even though we have great innovative business climate, lots of the arts and cultural stuff-our sports teams are a constant embarrassment though but I think it really goes back to the Scandinavian Lutherans who think it's bad to call attention to themselves. We do in fact have the largest swing in temperatures from summertime highs to wintertime lows in the continental US.

      Delete
  3. Ah, but this year the east coast is giving Minnesota a run for its money! BTW, my current series of novels are set in Minnesota. The first and 3rd (out March 1) are in Grand Marais, my current favorite camping destination. The second is set in Minneapolis, with trips up to the Mille Lacs area. I have in-laws who live up there, and we like to start our vacations at their cabin on Big Sandy lake up past McGregor, west of where the Jay Cooke State Park used to be, until that flood a couple of years ago decimated the area. We have fond memories of camping there also, and hope it gets rebuilt so we can go again.

    This is what the east coast looks like this year, and as one wag commented, they seem to have stolen the MN weather this year. I'm not sure if Minnesotans want it back, though.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/please-stop-snowing#.gvMxML2l1

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow Fiona:
      Grand Marias is one of our favorite places on earth. The public camping ground there is so fine and the 'schools', fiber arts, iron working, timber framing, We had so many great times there when our kids were young and we could all pack into our old Minne Winne.

      Delete
    2. Then you would probably recognize many of the places in town that I have action set in, despite my changing the names of the places. I do that in the first and third books. The resorts are based on ones we've stopped at for meals, or driven by, thinking how wonderful it would be to get to live up there all year round.

      Delete
    3. Fiona:
      Send me a link to one of your stories and thank you for the review on "Frozen Christmas" you must be the person responsible for the million place surge I had recently at Amazon. It's my theory that a review form a certified purchaser counts very high in their system. fictionbyspencer@gmail.com

      Delete
  4. Didn't Buckley used to rock up onto his toes and then back down while he was speaking? I can't help wondering--but no, even if you noticed, don't tell us. TMI.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great punch line, Spencer, and I agree that Buckley was a small "c" conservative who prob. wouldn't fit in with the current Republican Party of the US. (Margaret Thatcher of the UK, as hated as she has been, seemed like a similar type of rational conservative -- with a big "C" -- who appealed to logic and self-interest rather than mindless patriotism or religious piety.) Your description of Buckley's appearance is priceless. It shouldn't surprise anyone that celebrities have human flaws, but it always does.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Jean:
    It's always a shock when you discover that your 'gods' are very mortal.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm especially amused by the part where you were shocked about him reading a magazine. I wish you'd found out what it was—I'm curious, too!

    ReplyDelete