News & Politics

Partying Down at Bill Buckley’s House


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September 17, 1970, Vol. XV, No. 38

A Day at the Buckleys: Big Blight at Great Elm
By Barbara Long

SHARON, Connecticut — Several months before Apollo 13’s crew walked out on “Hair,” setting us straight once and for all on just who the hell owns the American flag around here, a television interviewer asked Susan Sontag about that particular symbol. “The right,” Susan Sontag said, “always captures the symbols of patriotism.” But while some patriotic symbols may well have been up for ideological grabs from time to time, Great Elm never was. Long before a few conservatives met there 10 years ago to draft the now-famous Sharon Statement and to found Young Americans for Freedom, Great Elm, the Buckleys’ family estate in Sharon, Connecticut, stood rooted on the grounds of unembarrassed capitalism and a certain joyous anti-communism, unabashedly in favor of a man’s right to sail his own yacht, monarchy and primogeniture and entail optional.

Last week YAFers from all over the country met at the University of Hartford to celebrate their 10th anniversary. They bought copies of Freda Utley’s and Bill Buckley’s books in the lobby. They carried “Tell It to Hanoi” stickers and wore “I Am A Capitalist” buttons. They listened to their leaders: Barry Goldwater’s leaning toward legalized pot, Strom Thurmond’s leaning toward God-only-knows-what, and John Tower refusing to budge. On Saturday the young conservatives were bussed over to Great Elm for a visit with their favorite patriotic symbol, a final lunch, and some final speeches. Barry’s comments on pot came up for discussion during the trip. “I tried pot once to see what all the excitement was about,” said someone from San Diego. “I didn’t feel anything.” “I tried pot,” said the student sitting next to him, “and I did feel something, and I liked what I felt, and that’s why I’ll never smoke pot again.” (Bill Buckley considers self-control “the most exhilarating of pleasures.”)

…Around 1 p.m., 600 young conservatives sat under a green and white tent and ate their lunch. “Here we are,” said the master of ceremonies, “you’ve read and memorized the Sharon Statement, and here you are in Sharon.” The first speaker, Dan Carmer, was refreshingly rowdy. Now actively working for John McCarty’s Senatorial campaign in Massachusetts, he mentioned Teddy Kennedy once or twice. He told a story about how he’d bumped into a well-known New England liberal one day at a radio station. “‘Hi, Bill,’ I said, ‘what are you doing here?’ ‘I’m here to present my paper on sodomy,’ he said. He looked at my snappy suit. (Dan Carmer has 12 turtles and six geese living inside his suit.) ‘You’re one of those, aren’t you?’ Bill said. ‘You don’t even believe in sodomy, do you?’ ‘Bill,’ I said, ‘how can you say that? I’m standing here right now having relations with an ass.'”

The kids loved Carmer. Nothing especially ideological about that. Kids always love bawdy stories shared with them by adults.

“My Republican opponent,” said Carmer, “can best be described by his assertion that John Lindsay should be president. My opponent’s name is Kennedy — but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Carmer then nominated Teddy Kennedy for Secretary of Transportation.

Doug Caddy, one of the founders of YAF, said, “Governor Edison took us through his father’s house in West Orange, New Jersey, and showed up the rooms where the electric light bulb was invented. I’m sure Bill Buckley was as moved as I was that day. The Edison house is now a national landmark operated by the United States Parks Service. I predict that 10 years from now, Great Elm will be a national landmark.”

Someone called out, “The Buckley house will never be owned by the government!”

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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