Pat Conroy, native Atlantan and quintessential Southern writer, entertained an audience of about 300 Thursday evening at Burge Plantation.
For more than an hour, Conroy charmed the crowd with story after story. The evening was sponsored by the Georgia Perimeter College Foundation and Writers Institute at GPC.
One of his best tales of the evening involved a joke he had pulled on a friend that backfired.
While Conroy was an employee of Beaufort, S.C. schools, he changed the IQ listed on the transcript of an extremely intelligent friend, Bernie, to a score of 69. Bernie, after suffering five years of embarrassment from the incorrect transcript, learned what Conroy had done and exacted his revenge by writing a letter to him on fake White House stationary and signed by then President Jimmy Carter.
The Carter White House was not amused when Conroy called, asking when they wanted him to visit for a promised dinner.
Bernie told Conroy when he learned he had fallen for the joke, "now, Pat, why would a busy president take the time to read a book of yours when no one else in the United States has read it?"
Bernie also sent him a letter that he signed from Robert Redford, stating that he was interested in Conroy’s latest book as a possible movie. Conroy fell for that one, too.
He then got a letter from Barbra Streisand asking him to call her. He called but would not believe it was actually her until she sang the first verse of the song, "People."
Streisand later starred in and directed the movie version of Conroy’s book "The Prince of Tides."
Conroy’s wife, Cassandra King, an author in her own right, introduced him. "He is my husband, my favorite writer and my best friend," she said.
His latest book of fiction is "South of Broad," which is about friendships and life in his adopted hometown, Charleston, S.C. He has also penned "The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life."
ABC-TV recently bought the rights to "Prince of Tides" and is developing a television series which will follow Conroy’s book more closely. He will be consulting.