The Life of Leahy: Inside the New Biography


Senator Patrick Leahy has been a figure in state and national politics, for decades.

Chittenden County State Senator Phil Baruth said after watching The Dark Knight in 2008, he wanted to know more about why Vermont's senior senator had a cameo opposite Heath Ledger's joker.

He looked for a biography, but there wasn't one.

So, Baruth, an English professor at UVM, decided to start writing.

The book is titled “Senator Leahy: A Life in Scenes.”

Americans will know him as someone who can have a tough voice in the senate, Vermonters know Patrick Leahy as the "son of Montpelier." 

He was appointed the youngest state's attorney in Chittenden County history at age 26.

Then at 34, the prosecutor became Senator.

“Some biographies go from beginning to end with no cuts or breaks, I thought in this case I'd like to center on the really exciting, dramatic, spectacular parts of Leahy's life and so those scenes I jump cut between,” Author Phil Baruth said.

Baruth just released the first ever biography on Leahy.

"Phil Baruth he's done one heck of a job, he spent years on this.  I keep turning the page and say ohh, I'd forgotten that, but yeah he's right and it's intriguing,” Sen. Patrick Leahy said.

Intriguing, and at some points frightening.

The anthrax attack, two months after 9/11, was personal for the Democratic senator.  A letter was addressed to him.

“Is it painful, is it different to look back at some of the things that were difficult and challenging to get through at the time,” Lauren asked.

"It brings back difficult memories for Marcelle, myself, for our children having police cars and officers around the house night and day around you for a period of time after that, it's very difficult to get used too - but what bothered me the most, was the information that came out, the letter that was addressed to me was so deadly, that one person who handled the letter, handled the envelope rather, died,” Sen. Leahy said.

Something not all Vermonters may know, Sen. Leahy was born blind in his left eye.

As Baruth writes, that wouldn't get in the way of Leahy's lifelong obsession with the camera.

“The politics of witness are very important to him.  So when he's travelled to Tibet, let's say, that's been something that's been very important to his self-definition as a political figure,” Baruth said.

"I've been fortunate enough to be places that others would not be allowed, I've been in private meetings with various Presidents, and I've been in war zones.  I've been in very pleasant areas too and of course the view from our home in Vermont is constantly changing, it's spectacular, so the camera is never more than a couple feet from me,” Leahy said.

Leahy says he’s saved every single camera, he’s owned.

"Pat Leahy has always been immersed in media and film,” Baruth said.

Which gets us to the reason, which compelled Baruth to write this book.

The Dark Knight made more than $155 million dollars in its first weekend at the box office. Baruth noticed a familiar face.

Senator Leahy had a speaking line, in that epic ballroom scene.

"What was your time with Heath Ledger like, I really enjoyed the interaction when you first met him in the makeup chair?” Lauren asked.

“I said hi, I'm Patrick, he said, I'm Heath.  His make-up took a lot longer than mine, the next time I saw him he was on set holding this knife to my throat, and the director said well heck you looked scared, and I said heck, that's not acting,” Leahy said.

A Batman and comic book fan since he was a boy, Leahy has had appearances in five Batman films.

His love of the caped crusader, is no accident, Baruth says.

“I think it's a mistake to say that the Batman stuff is just him being a fan - and then over here is his career.  The two have long inter-married,” Baruth said.

“Senator would it be wrong of me to ask if you had a favorite actor who played Batman?” Lauren asked.

“Yeah (he laughed) I know them all very well.  Although one actor who played Batman, George Clooney said to Marcelle, you know that movie that Pat and I were in that was so bad we almost ruined the franchise.  I said wait a minute, I was on screen for a minute, and you were the star,” Leahy quipped.

You can read the first chapter of Phil Baruth’s book, below. 


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