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Grizzard gets nice send-off

The Last Bus to Albuquerque
The Last Bus to Albuquerque
By Lewis Grizzard

Longstreet Press: 1994/p>

This review first appeared in the November 4, 1994 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen.

Lewis Grizzard's untimely death March 20, 1994, at age 47 robbed the country of one of its favorite sons.

Grizzard's gentle humor column was syndicated in more than 450 newspapers. He was also a fine stand-up comic and issued several comedy albums, in addition to writing some 20 books. His folksy, down-home style of writing and storytelling earned him not only the undying affection of tens of millions of fans, but also accolades as a modern-day Mark Twain.

"The Last Bus to Albuquerque" (the title was taken from one of Grizzard's final comments before undergoing his final, and unsuccessful, heart surgery) is a collection of some of his final columns over the past few years.

Not every Grizzard column was a gem. Like most newspaper columnists, he had more deadlines than ideas, and some days he just filled space. But when he was on, Grizzard was as fine a newspaper writer as ever graced those gray pages.

His ode to his black Lab, Catfish, was one of those gems:

My dog Catfish, the black Lab, died Thanksgiving night. The vet said his heart gave out.

Down in the country, they would have said, "Lewis' dog up and died."

He was a celebrity, Catfish. I spoke recently in Michigan. Afterwards a lady came up to me and said, "I was real disappointed with your speech. You didn't mention Catfish."

"The Last Bus to Albuquerque" contains not only Grizzard columns, but also tributes to him from fans and colleagues. The best are from Atlanta sportswriter Furman Bisher (who inspired Grizzard to become a newspaper writer) and Jim Minter, his longtime editor.

True to Grizzard and how he'd have wanted things, the tributes never get too heavy, the analyses avoid uppitiness.

It's a nice collection and traces Grizzard's travails during his last year as he fought a failing heart and repeated hospital visits.