Columnist Art Buchwald Dies At 81

Buchwald said in numerous interviews that after it became public that he was not afraid to die, he was not depressed about his fate and that he was, in fact, having the time of his life.

"It's nice because I can sit here and actually joke and reminisce ... and so it's fun," he said. "The thing is snowballing and rather than just pretend I don't care, I do care. It's a great way to say goodbye."

Naturally, he found the humor in that choice and wrote about it in some final columns.

"I am known in the hospice as The Man Who Wouldn't Die," Buchwald wrote in March. "How long they allow me to stay here is another problem. I don't know where I'd go now, or if people would still want to see me if I wasn't in a hospice.

"But in case you're wondering, I'm having a swell time — the best time of my life."

Last January, doctors had amputated Buchwald's right leg below the knee because of circulation problems. Losing it was "very traumatic" and he said it probably influenced his decision to reject the three-times-a-week, five-hours-a-day dialysis treatments. In 2000, he suffered a major stroke.

His syndicated column at one point appeared in more than 500 newspapers worldwide. It appeared twice a week in publications including The Washington Post and was distributed by Tribune Media Services.

In a 1995 memoir on his early years, "Leaving Home," Buchwald wrote that humor was his "salvation." In all, he wrote more than 30 books.

"People ask what I am really trying to do with humor," he wrote. "The answer is, 'I'm getting even.' ... For me, being funny is the best revenge."

He also was at the center of a landmark battle with Hollywood over the question of who originated the idea for Eddie Murphy's 1988 hit film "Coming to America."

Buchwald first attracted notice in the late 1940s in Paris, where he became a correspondent for Variety after dropping out of college.

A year later, he took a trial column called "Paris After Dark" to the New York Herald Tribune. He filled it with scraps of offbeat information about Paris nightlife.

In 1951, he started another column, "Mostly About People," featuring interviews with celebrities in Paris. The next year, the Herald Tribune introduced Buchwald to U.S. readers through yet another column, "Europe's Lighter Side."

"I'll Always Have Paris!" is the title of a 1996 book. He celebrated his 80th birthday at a party at the French Embassy in Washington.

Among the many who visited Buchwald at the hospice was French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, who brought a medal honoring the 14 years Buchwald spent as a journalist in Paris.

Buchwald returned to the United States in 1962, at the height of the glamour of the Kennedy administration, and set himself up in an office just two blocks from the White House. From there, he began a long career lampooning the Washington power establishment.