Steve Sailer’s asides are more interesting than many “real” writers’ entire columns…
Buckley didn’t age particularly well. None of us do, but he had been such a spectacular figure of boyishness during the youth-obsessed late 1960s that the inevitable tolls of aging took a particular toll on him. So it’s hard to explain to younger people who only knew him from late in life the role he played from, say, 1965-1975. It’s like how New York sportswriters who had been telling youngsters how great Willie Mays had been in the 1950s before the Giants moved to San Francisco, didn’t appreciate having the 40 something Willie traded to the Mets in the 1970s.
In strange ways, the Buckley phenomenon was related to the British Invasion phenomenon of 1964. Suddenly, American culture was overwhelmed by charming young men with a certain feline wit that was related to but refreshingly different from what Americans were used to.
I am on record as not being an unadulterated fan of Buckley’s, and got some grief for talking about his drug use after his death.
I’m gratified to see others in the comments refusing to dismiss this as irrelevant:
If Buckley took ritalin all his life, he would have to take a hell of a lot ritalin after twenty years, thirty years etc. to feel an effect at all, and his son did mention his doctor always kept him supplied with a stash. I think we can speculate that Bill Buckley may have taken as much ritalin in his life as anybody ever has. And no one has ever mentioned this: all of Buckley’s little quirky mannerism, the hyper pen in his mouth, the slouching, the tilting in the chair, the way he sped up his sentences and slowed them down and back up again—that is all absolutely the ritalin. Some people call the way their voice changes on adderall the adderall drawl.
In late 1997, I had the job of telling Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman and his wife Rose that Buckley had fired O`Sullivan. (Even National Review insiders were briefly deceived by the cover story that O`Sullivan had “resigned to write a book”.)
Rose Friedman came to the point immediately. “It`s the Alaska cruise”, she said. The Friedmans were regular attractions on National Review conference cruises, major money-makers for the magazine. And they had noticed that Buckley had been embarrassingly upstaged by O`Sullivan, who—whatever his other faults—is a wonderful extemporaneous speaker.