Christopher Buckley

On this date in 1952, political satirist Christopher Buckley was born in New York City to conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. and Canadian socialite Patricia (Taylor) Buckley, both Catholics. Buckley attended Catholic grammar schools and then a secondary school run by Benedictine monks. After high school he worked briefly on a Norwegian freighter and then graduated with an English degree from Yale University in 1975.

Buckley began his career at Esquire magazine in various editorial positions, which led to his appointment as managing editor at the age of 25. He left the magazine in 1979 to again work at sea. The experience inspired his first book, Steaming to Bamboola: The World of a Tramp Freighter (1982). Buckley served as chief speechwriter to Vice President George H.W. Bush from 1981-83.

His first novel, White House Mess (1986), satirized politics and the writing of memoirs. Buckley continued to write successful satirical books such as Wet Work (1991), Thank You For Smoking (1994), which was also made into a popular film, God Is My Broker: A Monk-Tycoon Reveals the 7-1/2 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth (1998), No Way to Treat a First Lady (2002), Florence of Arabia (2004), Supreme Courtship (2008), They Eat Puppies, Don't They? (2012), The Relic Master (2015) and The Judge Hunter (2018).

Buckley has also written on more serious subjects, such as his sometimes contentious relationship with his parents (Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir, 2009), and especially about his father, who founded the conservative National Review and was considered to be the father of the modern conservative movement. The younger Buckley ditched his own conservatism during the 2008 election by publicly supporting Barack Obama, which lost him his unpaid gig writing for his father's magazine.

He defended his reasoning in a March 2009 Forbes article: "Our choice, last fall, was between an angry 73-year-old with a legislative record far from consistently conservative, who nominated as his running mate a know-nothing religious extremist. On the other side was an appealing, thoughtful man who — for a brief shining moment — seemed to be more than the sum of his ideological parts.”

In an April 1999 Time magazine interview with Joel Stein, Buckley said, "I was raising (my kids) agnostic, then the Hale-Bopp thing happened and I thought, 'What if in their 20s, they decide they need some spiritual connection and they turn to some idiot like that cult leader?' " Buckley said he grew tired of fighting with his father over religion and that his "agnosticism, once defiant, had gone underground. I no longer had the desire to nail my theses to his church door. By now I knew we didn’t have much time left, and I didn’t want to spend it locking theological horns."

He married Lucy Gregg in 1984 and they had two children before divorcing in 2011. He has a son born in 2000 from his relationship with former Random House publicist Irina Woelfle. In 2012 he married Dr. Katherine Close, a physician.

Buckley in 2012 at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas; Harry Cabluck public domain photo.

New York Times: As an only child, did you find one of your parents easier to talk to than the other?
Christopher Buckley: My mother. She got it. He often didn’t get it.
NYT: What didn’t he get?
CB: Religion.
NYT: He was a practicing Catholic. What are you?
CB: I am post-Catholic.
NYT: As opposed to a lapsed Catholic?
CB: I am probably more of a collapsed Catholic.
NYT: Do you believe in the afterlife?
CB: Alas, no.

—"Questions for Christopher Buckley: The Right Stuff," New York Times Magazine (Oct. 23, 2008)

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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