This is the 50th anniversary of the day I crossed paths with Pablo Picasso. It came about in a strange way. I had written a column showing how absurd some of my mail had become.
One letter was from Philadelphia. It was written by a Temple University student named Harvey Brodsky. Harvey said he was in love with a girl named Gloria Segall, and he hoped to marry her someday. She claimed to be the greatest living fan of Picasso. The couple went to a Picasso exhibit and, to impress her, Harvey told Gloria that he could probably get the artist's autograph.
Harvey's letter continued, "Since that incident, Gloria and I have stopped seeing each other. I did a stupid thing and she threw me out and told me she never wanted to see me again.
"I'm writing to you because I'm not giving up on Gloria. Could you get Picasso's autograph for me? If you could, I have a feeling Gloria and I could get back together. The futures of two young people depend on it. I know she is miserable without me and I without her. Everything depends on you."
At the end of the letter, he said, "I, Harvey Brodsky, do solemnly swear that any item received by me from Art Buchwald (namely, Pablo Picasso's autograph) will never be sold or given to anyone except Miss Gloria Segall."
I printed the letter in my column to show how ridiculous my mail was. When it appeared, David Duncan, a photographer, was with Picasso in Cannes and Duncan translated it for Picasso.
Picasso was very moved, and he took out his crayons and drew a beautiful color sketch for Gloria Segall and signed it.
Duncan called and told me the good news.
I said, "The heck with Gloria Segall, what about me?"
David explained this to Picasso and in crayons he drew a picture of the two of us together, holding a glass of wine, and wrote on the top, "Pour Art Buchwald."
By this time, the Associated Press had picked up the story and followed through on the delivery of the picture to Gloria Segall. When it arrived special delivery in Philadelphia, Gloria took one look and said, "Harvey and I will always be good friends."
If you're wondering how the story ends, Harvey married somebody else, and so did Gloria. The Picasso hangs in Gloria's living room.
It was a story that caught the imagination of people all over the world. I received lots of letters after the column was published. My favorite came from an art dealer in New York, who wrote:
"I can find you as many unhappy couples in New York City as you can get Picasso sketches. Two girls I know are on the verge of suicide if they don't hear from Picasso, and I know several couples in Greenwich Village who are in the initial stages of divorce. Please wire me how many you need. We both stand to make a fortune."
Another letter, from Bud Grossman in London, said, "My wife threatens to leave me unless I can get her Khrushchev's autograph. She would like it signed on a Russian sable coat."