Memo: To Website Fans, Browsers, Clients.
From Jude Wanniski
Re: Richard Grenier (1933-2002)
Cynthia Grenier, Richard's wife of 40 years, called to tell me the great man (yes, he was), died Thursday evening while propped up in bed watching President Bush deliver the State of the Union address. It was a surprise. While Richard had not been in the pink for some years, his heart was good, and up to last October he was still writing his priceless twice-weekly columns for Worldnetdaily.com. "I just left the room for a minute," Cynthia told me, "and when I came back his arm lay across the bed and I thought him asleep." It was unhappy news as Richard was one of the most interesting, delightful men I've ever known, but if he had to go, I was pleased to hear he left us so easily. I'm sure the President's speech had nothing to do with his departure. No, I don't. [One of Richard's trademarks was to substitute "No, I don't," and "Yes, he has" as exclamation points.] I met him in 1986 on a Washington Times news junket to Northeast Asia. We hit it off on departure and buddied for the two weeks, Cynthia entrusting him to me to leave the group and explore the cities we visited on foot. He knew everything about everything in several languages, but unless asked to dispense wisdom, he preferred to ask and listen and observe, so he could learn more. Worldnetdaily's Joseph Farah has written a sprightly obituary for his sendoff, which I commend to you. What follows are excerpts of entries on Grenier's journalism from a few select years of the MediaGuide, which I published for several years, with the help of Patricia and many others. The **** rating was the highest possible.
The 1988 MediaGuide
Grenier, Richard. The Washington Times. (* * * *)
The powers that be at the Times sent one of the best columnists in the English language traipsing all over the world in '87 and he returned with malaria, amoebic dysentery and a portfolio of solid gold. The only living U.S. journalist we can think of who would fit in at the old Algonquin Roundtable, a cross between Harpo Marx and H.G. Wells, Grenier is always light on his feet. "In Angolan Struggle, U.S. Plays Both Sides," 3-11, looks on the two faces of American policy in Angola, supporting both Savimbi and the government, including such wisdom for the U.S. as "This is worth considering as a way of life: No grandstanding. Avoid unnecessary somersaults." In "Decay Amidst the Slogans," 9-4, we get a vivid portrait of Marxist Maputo. Without stopping to feel the heat, he remains as always a ladies man, cheeky in his hilarious treatment of Amy Carter, "Let Us Give Thanks for Little Amy," 3-30, and proclaiming his love for Zinzi Mandela, "A Strange Attraction to Zinzi, Of Course," 4-6. On the home front, Grenier, an Annapolis man to boot, was livid over the Stark affair in "How Ready For Action Is Our Navy?" 6-17. Watching the Iran-Contra hearings, "How Many Men Can Rise To Such Heights?" 7-29, he weighs George Shultz's performance: "Being in the presence of Mr. Shultz is like being in the presence of an almost dead oak tree. Somewhere, you realize, just a little bit of sap must be flowing." His lead on "A Little Glasnost at CBS," 6-29, is priceless: "I am so mad. Ever since last week when CBS did its ‘Seven Days in May,’ investigating glasnost in the Soviet Union, I've been hearing people castigate poor Dan Rather for his obsequious, sycophantic, toadying smile when dealing with Soviet officials. This is deeply unfair. What they were seeing on Dan Rather's face was the warmth and natural love he feels for all humankind." Please, editors, keep this man at home in 1988, on the presidential campaign trail!
The 1990 MediaGuide
Grenier, Richard. The Washington Times. (* * * ˝)
If you don't like Grenier's idiosyncratic jingoism, his puckish erudition, his leering insouciance, you just won't like him at all. No, you won't. But if you can imagine Harpo Marx with a Harvard degree in comparative religion, a flag and a gun and a way with words, you might find yourself among his adoring fans. Yes, you will. We swoon over the likes of "Two Hits For New Women," 8-30, a dual movie review of "When Harry Met Sally..." and "sex, lies and videotape," and a 10 Best nomination, where Richard asks: "Are you ready now for the 'Year of the Orgasmic Woman'? Because it's arrived. Oh, yes it has." ....He's nothing if not graphic in "Stepping Through Fidel's Looking Glass," WAT 3-24, visiting Havana and finding "Even in the public facilities of Havana's best restaurants and hotels for foreign tourists, there are no toilet seats, usually no paper, no soap, no water, no locks on stall doors, often no doors. Toilets rarely flush." And "Getting a Back-Home Flossing on Fidel," 4-19, careens hilariously through a political debate on the worker's paradise in Cuba between two unequals: a drill-wielding "progressive dentist and his patient (anti-Castro Grenier) strapped on the chair.... In defense of Martin Luther King, "Prying Has Its Precedent," 11-6, a wonderfully humorous and engaging column and a 10 Best selection, enumerates the human weaknesses of the original Martin Luther: "So I don't care if Dr. Martin Luther King dallied with three, six or 10 women on the eve of his assassination. Or indeed none. I don't care if he played pinochle."
The 1991 MediaGuide
Grenier, Richard. The Washington Times. (* * * 1/2)
Laid up by illness much of the year, Grenier still managed to effectively ravage the world from his bedside perch. While some writers prefer to coat erudition and opinion in honey, Grenier favors a light dose of acid to wither his opponents, in so doing, offering a hilarious view of the inanity of humanity. "Why Mosaics Crumble," 1-24, is provocative, linking American "affirmative action" with the Soviet Union's nationalities mess, an outrageous comparison that Grenier makes work. In "Zappa in the Havel Nexus," 2-21, he offers a piquant view of "the elder statesman of the weird, Frank Zappa" and his new role as cultural representative to Czechoslovakia, where he has an underground following. In "Public Broadcasting Stands By Its Pals," 3-30, Grenier takes on "the fearless Marxists of U.S. public broadcasting," making a compelling case that PBS is using "public funds to advance [its] Marxist Faith." He's funny and serpentine in "Cuddling Up to Arafat," 4-5: "I worry about Jim Baker, because it seems to me anyone who can't tell the ANC from Poland's Solidarity can't be trusted to tell girls from boys. I worry that when no one's looking he'll be off holding hands with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization." "Chaining Art to Rebellion," 6-22, pokes fun at the arts crowd: "There being no artistic canons left to rebel against, artists have been driven into perversity, silliness and gone wholesale into revolutionary politics, an activity of which they have only the most primitive grasp." He's equally biting with "Chocolate Smeared Revenge," 8-7, a delightful but serious review of Karen Findley's performance at Alice Tully Hall. In a 10 Best selection, "The New Treason of the Clerks," National Review 7-23, Grenier takes us through the labyrinthian pathology of the self-styled American ‘intellectual class,’ delicious Grenierian commentary. "Defining Moment for Iraq," 8-23, is a brutal examination of the Arab psyche, borne out by events in the Middle East: "Arab ‘unity’ is and always has been a fiction to salve Arab vanity." Grenier savages Bush's video message in "How to Be Boffo in Baghdad," 9-18, offering instead his own, riotous text. "Julius and Ethel: End of the Debate," 10-2, is serious as Grenier deflates the liberal view of the Rosenbergs, who, according to even Khrushchev in Time, helped the Soviets get the bomb, and are therefore undeniably guilty under U.S. law. But he misses the mark altogether in a pompous and ludicrous "A New Metternich Without the Curls," 5-3, a rare slip in which Grenier compares Bush to Prince Metternich.
1992 MediaGuide 10-Best Award for Commentary
Grenier, Richard. The Washington Times. "Indian Love Call," Commentary 3-91. No American journalist is as encyclopedic in his broad knowledge of history, religion, culture and art as Grenier, who is constantly alert to Hollywood's use of poetic license to advance a leftist political agenda. In this lengthy essay, he treats us to a semi-review of Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves," a richly informative account of the way Indians really lived during the "Dances" time period, using eyewitness accounts and diaries to buttress his points that the Sioux simply did not live as politically correctly as Costner has portrayed. The author of Capturing the Culture: Film, Art and Politics will not stand for revisionism in any form, and "Dances With Wolves" is no exception. "Costner, naturally, is at great pains to demonstrate that his Buffalo Indians were not inferior to the invading white man, but in fact, were really much superior at doing things that really count. To do so, he simply omits everything from period Indian life that modern film audiences would find repugnant, and lays heavy stress on what he considers its strong point: that Indians, as opposed to the white brutes who replaced them, lived in harmony with nature and were environmentally responsible." Grenier then details some of the Sioux customs omitted or downplayed in the film, such as scalping, self-mutilation as religious rite, polygamy, and torture of prisoners. "Thousands and thousands of accounts, some from observers quite well-disposed toward them, described the celebrated Plains tribes as being absolutely merciless, raiding and scalping and murdering and torturing captives for entertainment – at war with their fellow Indians far more than with whites." We loved the movie, but we appreciate Grenier's truths, too.