Buckley, who attended hearing after hearing in an effort to recoup his card, had another tale to tell. The cops, he said, told him he could get his card back—for a price.
What for years had been an open secret was suddenly page-one news. Some of New York's leading intellectuals rallied behind Buckley, including Norman Mailer. Buckley was "the guy that blew the cabaret card scandal sky-high," Hume said.
Reforms were later enacted as a consequence. But they came too late to help the good Lord, who never did get his card back. Buckley, who'd had a minor stroke a year before, died of a stroke on November 12, 1960, in New York, at age 54. Some say his death was caused by police harassment.
That was 50 years ago, but Lord Buckley is one old-time comic whose work remains as startling as it ever was, and as hip.
"Lord Buckley was much more than his defined role as a comedian and entertainer," wrote composer and friend David Amram, who was with Lord Buckley the night before he died. "He was a visionary and a true American original who influenced a whole generation."
In 1980, Amram composed the saxophone concerto 'Ode to Lord Buckley' as a tribute.
"For many of us," Amram wrote, "he was a combination of Walt Whitman, Charlie Parker, Baudelaire, and Lawrence Olivier."
Illustration: Drew Friedman
Photos: Charles Campbell; and courtesy Prince Richard Buckley
• Dig Infinity: The Life and Art of Lord Buckley, a book by Oliver Trager, is out of print but available at some libraries and from some retailers at collector prices. It includes a CD. Welcome Rain Publishers, 2002.
• Prince Richard Buckley has produced several CDs of Lord Buckley recordings, available on CD Baby, and on eBay through his Lord Buckley Junior Trading Company. He is producing other CDs, and is working on a screenplay about his father, 'The Death of a Hipster.'
• His Royal Hipness, a CD on Discovery Records, originally released by Elektra and including Lord's 'greatest hits,' is readily available.
• 'Posthumous Stardom for a Once and Future Lord,' a lively essay on Lord Buckley by Albert Goldman, can be found in the December 29, 1969 issue of Life magazine.
• The Police Card Discord, a book by Maxwell T. Cohen, Buckley's lawyer in his attempt to retrieve his cabaret card, is still in print. Scarecrow Press, 1993.