2006.02.17: February 17, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Malaysia: Writing - Malaysia: Humor: Election2006 - Friedman: Television: New York Times: Kinky stars on CMT Reality Show

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Kinky stars on CMT Reality Show

Kinky stars on CMT Reality Show

Can the 61-year-old Richard (Kinky) Friedman "I'm too young for Medicare and too old for women to care," he says rally enough disaffected Texans to become the first independent governor of the Lone Star State since Sam Houston in 1859? Or trailed by CMT's relentless cameras, will he vote himself out through outrageous antics, politically incorrect jokes and off-color asides? At a campaign rally, he really does exhort the crowd with "If you don't love Jesus, go to hell." And he tells fondly of his "Yom Kippur Clipper my Cadillac that stops on a dime, and picks it up." Author, Musician, and candidate for Governor of Texas, Kinky Friedman served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malaysia in the 1960's.

Kinky stars on CMT Reality Show

Following a Candidate Named Kinky

Published: February 17, 2006

EVERY journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance," goes the wisdom of Kinky Friedman as he hits the campaign trail for governor of Texas the only Jewish, country-singing, mystery-writing independent candidate with a Palestinian barber/campaign manager and a coin box at the end of the bar.

It's an unconventional bid for sure, on view tonight in the first two half-hour episodes of "Go Kinky" on Country Music Television.

Talk about a reality show, even if there may not be much suspense over the political survival prospects of someone who adorned a recent cover of Texas Monthly dressed in drag as Queen Elizabeth II making a rude gesture and who says things like "There's a fine line between fiction and nonfiction, and I believe I snorted it in 1976."

Can the 61-year-old Richard (Kinky) Friedman "I'm too young for Medicare and too old for women to care," he says rally enough disaffected Texans to become the first independent governor of the Lone Star State since Sam Houston in 1859? Or trailed by CMT's relentless cameras, will he vote himself out through outrageous antics, politically incorrect jokes and off-color asides? At a campaign rally, he really does exhort the crowd with "If you don't love Jesus, go to hell." And he tells fondly of his "Yom Kippur Clipper my Cadillac that stops on a dime, and picks it up."

Mr. Friedman said he did not censor CMT. "We let them shoot what they wanted to shoot," he said by phone from Aspen, Colo., where he was performing at a benefit for the United Jewish Appeal.

He insisted he was not worried about scandalizing a Bible Belt electorate. "This is going to be a pretty young audience; I don't think the old-timers will be watching much," he said. But he conceded, "It may be a little too much for some people let's see how it plays." Will Rogers, he said, had it right when he called politicians "the greatest comedians of them all: every time they make a joke it becomes a law and every time they make a law it becomes a joke."

He was in good company, said Mr. Friedman, who called himself a Judeo-Christian: Jesus and Moses too got crosswise with the government and died homeless and broke. Jesus would be sympathetic, he maintained: "My Jesus is warm and loving and has a sense of humor."

On the show, he agonizes that he may be too smart to be governor of a large Southern state, but then again how wise is it to muse publicly about suicide, hit on attractive women ("You've got first lady written all over you"), toss away a speech ("Who wrote this crap?") and storm out of a strategy session on the campaign bus, complaining: "I got to sit and listen to this" the next word is bleeped "all day?" His first rule as governor, he vows, will be "no meetings."

He makes many other pledges. He wants to change the Ten Commandments to the Ten Suggestions. He will name his pal Willie Nelson to head the Texas Rangers, and his Palestinian adviser and hairdresser, Farouk Shami, who coifs the once-bushy but now alarmingly thinning Kinky tonsure, as Texas's first ambassador to Israel. He will work tirelessly through the campaign: "I can sleep when I'm governor." And he promises, "I'll never leave the governor's mansion except to go to Vegas."

The Republican incumbent in Austin, a frequent foil, is hardly spared. Mr. Friedman confides that he hired a private investigator "to dig up some dirt on Rick Perry."

"He was unable to," Mr. Friedman reports. "He did, however, find a considerable amount of dust."

The Perry campaign, in turn, has rejected Mr. Friedman's demand for "unconditional surrender," retorting, "The Democrats are not the only ones smoking something."

Mr. Friedman has no problem with recognition. His worn, goateed visage, trademark black garb and ever-present cigar make him instantly identifiable in the remotest corners of Texas, where cars sport bumper stickers reading, "He Ain't Kinky, He's My Governor." (He wears black, he explains, "as a great sacrifice for the people of Texas," and adds, "Anyone stupid enough to wear a black outfit to a Fourth of July picnic is a perfect governor of Texas.")

But to get on the ballot in November, Mr. Friedman has only from March to May to gather 45,000 signatures from independent voters who did not cast ballots in the Republican or Democratic primaries. And then he would face a crowded field of partisan candidates and another maverick running as an independent: the Texas comptroller, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, apostate Republican and mother of President Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan.

But winning may be beside the point, as the CMT show suggests. This is performance art of a high order, with Mr. Friedman bumbling across the landscape, frequently lost, pledging allegiance to "the little fellas, not the Rockefellers" and spouting one-liners like "I'm not pro-choice, I'm not pro-life, I'm pro-football."
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He ponders the honor of being asked to head a big parade. "It requires great skill, ability and focus to be a grand marshal," he declares, only to be informed, "You're not the grand marshal."

He assures one follower, "You're the son I never had," drawing a hurt protest from another: "I thought I was the son you never had."

"You're also the son I never had," Mr. Friedman mollifies him.

He's thinks gays should be allowed to marry: "They have every right to be as miserable as the rest of us."

Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies come to mind.

Although he tested the waters as far back as 2003 with a slogan inspired by his columnist friend Molly Ivins, "Why the hell not?," he officially threw his black hat into the ring in February 2005, declaring his candidacy on the radio and television program of Don Imus (another friend) while standing in front of what else? the Alamo.

The choice facing Texans, he declared, went beyond paper or plastic. Here, he said, was a chance to recreate the glory days of the Old West, when the cowboys all sang and the horses were smart.

Clearly he is putting us on, for behind the buffoonish facade is an inspired satirist, which has long been evident from his 1970's country troupe Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys and their classic "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore" a crie de coeur against bigotry as well as his several dozen mystery novels starring, naturally, himself, with titles like "The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover."

There may be little hope or risk of a Kinky governorship at this crucial juncture in Texas history, with the state staring down the barrel of a judge's order to reform its collapsing educational financing system, Republican leaders at swords' points and citizens regularly ranking near the national bottom in social indicators, from high school graduates to children with health insurance.

To which Mr. Friedman has a ready answer. Considering his predecessors, he asks: "How hard could it be?

"I can't screw things up worse than they already are."

"Go Kinky" has its premiere tonight on Country Music Television at 11 and 11:30 Eastern and Pacific time, 10 and 10:30 Central.

When this story was posted in March 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issues Executive Order #10924, establishing the Peace Corps as a new agency: "Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed--doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language. But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps--who works in a foreign land--will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace. "

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170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.

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