William F. Buckley, Jr. has died.
At the risk of dropping too many I-met-a-celebrity stories, I had the privilege of meeting WFB once. I went on a National Review cruise in 2001—I believe it was one of the first ones. Sometimes I do random things like that. I didn’t know what to expect, but I have to say it was a million times more fun and wonderful than I ever anticipated. The cruise traveled through New England and part of Canada, which was exciting for me since I’d never been outside the U.S. Everyone on the cruise was incredibly warm and welcoming. It turned out to be a real adventure, and I got to see some of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable. . .
Oh, and did I mention the cruise was two weeks after 9/11? Intense. My flight from D.C. had to be changed to a different airport, security was insane, and the departure was rerouted from New York to Boston. Our ship was searched for bombs before we left, and boats full of soldiers with dive-suits and .50 caliber guns on tripods escorted us out of Boston Harbor. No shit. An amazing, scary, emotional time.
So, I met WFB on this cruise and had a chance to chat with him briefly (and I have the photo to prove it!). I was embarrassingly intimidated by him, though his gracious and humble behavior had nothing to do with it: I just couldn’t stop thinking, I am talking to William F. Buckley, Jr. Dork city on my part, but he was so kind and easy to talk to. I did an impromptu ink portrait of him during one of the discussion panels (background: I’ve done portraits professionally since college and art since, oh, birth, so I draw constantly). WFB sought me out specifically to ask about the drawing and get a look at it, and he gave me wonderful compliments that bring a smile to my face even now, although any art of mine would be small potatoes in his cultured world. He was completely genuine, graceful, and a bona fide gentleman. Not to mention brilliant and a gift to his nation, given to us by the God he faithfully served.
WFB had balls of steel, a wickedly deft and subtle intellect, and more importantly, a good heart and the kind of class that has nothing to do with money or social status. We’ve lost one of our best, and there will never be another quite like him. God bless you and Godspeed, WFB!