They Call Him Kinky

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Over the course of the past thirty or so years, Kinky Friedman has held a lot of different jobs — bandleader of the semi-legendary Texas Jewboys (“They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore”; “The Ballad of Charles Whitman”), which shocked the nation during its 1976 Saturday Night Live performance, bestselling mystery novelist, magazine columnist, actor (naturally, he played the sports anchorman in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), salsa impresario, animal rights activist — but these days, his answering machine proclaims that “This is Richard ‘Kinky’ ‘Big Dick’ Friedman, the next governor of the great state of Texas!” The Lone Star State’s next gubernatorial election isn’t for another two years, but Friedman is already running hard, or at least loud. — John Ratliff

Let’s talk about politics first.

That’s right, the least important shit first. Bury the spiritual lead.

Did you watch the Republican convention?

Yeah, Arnold was terrific. Arnold has really made it possible for me to be governor. It’d be a real no-hoper without Arnold.

So you’re serious about this?

No, I wouldn’t say serious, I’d say committed. I’ll either be committed to a mental hospital, or I’ll be in the governor’s mansion. People seem to think that having an amateur in there would be very refreshing, and I have to agree. I always remind the folks that it was the professionals who gave us the Titanic, and amateurs who gave us the Ark. Of course, you know the first thing I’m gonna do if I’m elected.


Demand a recount! I’ll videoconference in from Vegas.

You’ve said that by the end of the campaign you’re going to wind up with either a book, a wife, or the governor’s job. Which would the most labor-intensive?

I think the wife would be the most tedious and difficult, since I’ve been a bachelor for fifty-nine years.

It would require some changes on your part.

Just because I’ve been a bachelor all my life does not mean that the rumors that I’m gay are true. I’ve got affidavits from 2,500 sheep. By the way, I’m all for gay marriage. I think I was the first one to say that they should be just as miserable as everybody else.

Dennis Kucinich seemed like he was trolling for a wife on the campaign trail, but that doesn’t seem like your main goal.

There’s a woman I would have liked to have been first lady …kind of a broken-heart situation from the seventies. That was Rita Jo Thompson, who was Miss Texas 1987. She and I traveled the world together for three years. Of course, I was Miss Texas 1967, so we had a lot in common.

Was this sort of like “A Star Is Born”?

Yeah, she’s married and happy someplace, and I’m still wandering in the raw poetry of time. Currently, my family consists of four dogs, four women, and four editors.

Four women? Where’d you get them?

Uh, various places along the literary trail, I guess.

What’s the difference between sex in the world of publishing, sex in the world of country music, and sex in the world of politics?

Well, there is such a thing as literary pussy.

But how does it compare to the other kinds?

First of all, in the world of literature, you don’t get a tour bus. The tour bus is a big magnet for pussy.

It’s a magnet, or it just makes it more convenient to —?

Both. But if you don’t have one — I never quite reached the tour bus level, like Dwight Yoakam, or Willie (Nelson), or one of those guys, so I have tour bus envy.

You could buy a Hummer.

Like my friend Jim Nabors.

How do you know Jim Nabors?

I know Jim Nabors through Ruth Buzzi. And by the way, I’ll let you in on a little Karl Rove insider planning. We are going to buy radio ads, featuring Willie Nelson, Robert Duvall, (Texas musician) Pat Green, and Jim Nabors. And Jim Nabors, whom many people recognize as Gomer Pyle, can tell a true story, which is that he used to be Ronnie Reagan’s next-door neighbor in California. Jim was the first person Ronnie told that he was running for governor.

So the idea is that Nabors was present at the beginning of these two ascendent political careers?

Absolutely. Ronald Reagan was his friend, and now Kinky’s his friend and running for the governor of Texas.

Not to keep bringing the conversation back to sex, but it’s sort of my job. What historical or political figure do you find the most sexually compelling?

(Long silence.) Well, I … I always liked Joan of Arc.

The short haircut does it for you?

I like that boyish look. I’d like to see how Anne Frank developed.

(Horrified laughter)

What’s funny about that? She’s one of my heroes.


Jackie Kennedy was great.

Since you’re friends with the current first lady, you get a free pass on the first part of the next question, but if you’ve got to pick between Elizabeth Edwards or Lynne Cheney, who would you pick?

That’s a tough question. That would really be tough.

And dangerous for a politician to answer.

Laura would be my first choice. If Laura had married me, I’d be president of the United States, and George would be — I don’t know, managing a Wal-Mart in Midland or something. That was really very good decision-making on his part, picking Laura.

Do the Bushes let you anywhere near their daughters?

I’ve never met the daughters. I think they run with a younger crowd and they’re not my type. Laura’s my type. And Laura’s really — I mean, you know, she would make a great president.

You’re playing the Laura card pretty hard.

Laura was my friend before I knew George.

I know, but is this some sort of unrequited thing?

No, we’re just pals. It’s her fault that George and I are friends.

Do you think Republicans will vote for you? Texas is a pretty Republican state at this point.

That’s going to be irrelevant. I mean, the Republicans and Democrats …I think the time has come to realize what the first George W., George Washington, said. They wanted him to join a party. He didn’t want to join any party, and he refused to. He said your loyalty should be to your country, not your party. Parties are for emergencies and things like that, but not to be a regular member of.

Do you have a political position on circumcision?

I do, actually. I’ve suggested that we take our circumcisions and send them all to Cuba, where they can plant them and grow little dick-taters. I can’t believe you actually asked me that.

You’ve been waiting years for someone to ask you that.

It’s like Willie says, every time he gets a new wife, his old lines are good again.

And younger voters haven’t heard any of your old stuff yet.

The younger voters are going to be the difference, and I don’t see any of these ribbon-cutters getting them engaged in the process. Probably my serious spiritual undertone of this campaign would be derived from the great American philosopher George Carlin, who says we have these little American choices. What’s it gonna be, plastic or paper? Whaddya want, decaf or regular? Democrat or Republican? If you want to have a real voice — if you’re sixteen now, it’ll be your first chance to vote — for a change, why not vote for somebody instead of against somebody?

Speaking of younger voters, you’re known for dating younger women, aren’t you?

Yeah, and it’s just getting ridiculous. As you know, I’m fifty-nine and I think dating twenty-two- and twenty-three-year-olds — people who think Hitler might have been a punk band — is not a good thing.

When was the last time you had sex with someone your own age?

God, a very long time ago. To paraphrase my father, I’m not looking for a fifty-nine-year-old belly dancer.

What other sexually magnetic performers like yourself do you think could make the leap to politics successfully?

Well, that’s a tough one. I don’t see myself as much as a performer anymore. Except sexually.

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