Home / Kinky Friedman: Singer-Songwriter-Novelist, Governor?

Kinky Friedman: Singer-Songwriter-Novelist, Governor?

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Many years ago in a galaxy far, far away known as the seventies I remember watching television one Saturday night in anticipation of that new late show Saturday Night Live. I had watched a couple of their shows already and had loved both the comedy and the fact that you could see some great music performed live; and not just the music that was being played on the radio.

Well this night I hadn’t known who was going to be the musical guest so it was some shock to my system when one of the cast got up and asked everybody to welcome Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys onto stage. Kinky was wearing one of the biggest Stetsons I’ve ever seen and the most amazing collection of Rhinestones adorned his jacket. I’m not sure if it was one of his famous message jackets, and I can’t even remember what song he sang that night.

All I remember is being blown away by the audacity of an obviously Jewish man getting up on stage and thumbing his nose at convention and bigots by singing genuine country music with lyrics that would make Ray Acuff and the rest of Nashville run for the hills. But while some of his albums may have titles like Asshole From El Paso, and songs like “They Don’t Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” he has always had an obvious love of country and western music.

He may have been born in Chicago, but he moved to Texas early enough in life to soak up the spirit of individuality that Texans pride themselves in. I don’t think anyone but a Texan Jew would have the chutzpah to stand up on stage dressed like him and dare anybody to do something about it.

Kinky was born in Chicago in 1944 and his family left there for Texas when he was smaller than he is now and he’s been growing ever since. Obviously he’s no slouch in the brain department, because at the age of seven he was chosen to be one of 50 opponents picked to challenge a chess grand master simultaneously. After graduating from the University of Texas in 1966 he did a couple of years with the Peace Corps in Borneo.

The 1970s were his heyday as a musical performer, appearing with Bob Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Review tour, and to date he has released ten albums. His musical career started to slow down after 1980, and he turned to another means of creative expression, mystery writing.

That’s how I stumbled across him again, by tripping over his long legs sticking out from my local library shelf. When I saw the name Kinky Friedman on the spine of a detective novel, I was shocked to think there were two people in the world with that name. Thankfully there aren’t: it was the same Kinky who I’d seen on television almost twenty years prior to that close encounter in the library.

His books are off-colour, non-politically correct, iconoclastic, irreverent, (he refers to Garth Brooks as the “anti-Hank”) and some of the funniest stuff I had read in years. As hard-boiled as 40-minute eggs, he cruises the streets of New York City as a fictionalized version of himself. His real life friends show up in the pages along with villains ranging from Columbian drug gangs to crazed booking agents. With the help of his motley gang of irregulars he does his bit to keep the streets of New York weird and safe, or at least safely weird.

Sticking his nose, and cigar, into far too many places, and people, where they don’t belong, he dodges bullets and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with equal aplomb. He’s a man’s man who is only ever outwitted by his cat and his hankering for Peruvian Marching Powder.

But there comes a time in every man’s life where he has to shoulder the burden of responsibility and since Kinky has no desire to get married, he’s decided to throw his sizable hat into the ring to run as an Independent candidate for the office of Governor of Texas in the 2006 election.

The first I heard about this campaign was when I was interviewing Arlo Guthrie and asked him about the conditions for migrant workers in the United States and how they compared today with the days of the United Farm Workers boycotts. Arlo said the best plan he’d heard of for dealing with illegal immigration was the one his friend Kinky Friedman was proposing as part of his campaign for the office of Governor in Texas.

I was impressed by two things: the plan itself made a lot of sense, and secondly, that a person like Arlo Guthrie, who is not politically naïve by any stretch of the imagination, was very serious about his support for both the plan and the person. One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed Kinky’s irreverent attitude is that there is always thought behind everything he does.

His garish costumes on stage, his song titles, and the contents of his books aren’t just juvenile attempts at humour, but carefully aimed jabs of a sharp knife at the pretensions and expectations of a great many people. His targets are never those who don’t deserve what they get, and he’s never been afraid of including himself in the list of people needing to be taken down a peg or two when the moment warrants.

So, the news that Kinky was running for governor piqued my interest and I’ve been meaning to find our more ever since that interview. The first piece I read was a background article at blogcritics.org about the Texas race that does a nice job of introducing all the players and some of the issues that Texans are wrestling with right now. But sometimes you need to get the word from the horse’s mouth, so I went to the corral to see what I could find out.

The Kinky Friedman for Governor site provides you with everything you need to know about where Kinky stands on hot button issues from gay marriage (“they have as much right to be miserable as the rest of us”), education (“Texas has the 8th largest economy in the world, but we’re 1st in drop-out rates”), health care (“the message we’re sending our kids is that if you’re going to be born poor, you’d better not be born in Texas”), and renewable energy (“biodiesel is fuel you can grow. That’s good for farmers, good for the air, good for the Texas energy industry and good for Texans”).

Now obviously, a lot of his opinions are not ones that are going to win him friends among big business or the religious right. The oil companies are not going to be thrilled with a governor who is encouraging the utilization of something other than their products to run automobiles, nor with his idea of a one percent tax on gas and oil products produced in Texas to pay for his “Fund for the Heroes of Texas” that will pay for salary increases for teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

But he’s running as a populist, an anti-politician political candidate who wants to do things differently than they’ve been done up until now. The thing is, if his statistics are accurate, there are a lot of people in Texas who feel disenfranchised. According to his figures the two major parties spent 100 million dollars campaigning for a job that pays $100,000 per year, and only 30% of the population voted in the last election.

There’s a huge chunk of people out there who Kinky feels are just waiting for the right person to come along who will appeal to them, and not the people with the deep pockets who contribute all that money to the Republicans and the Democrats. Of course Kinky has his own special interest group, headed up by Willie Nelson and all his other old buddies in the music industry. But I think it’s safe to say that they won’t be looking for any favours along the lines of relaxing environmental regulations, or cutting corporate taxes.

I’m sure the biggest question people will have about this campaign is, is it serious? After reading what I had to say about Kinky initially that’s a fair question. One look at his site and his issues page will be more than enough to convince you of his legitimacy. He’s thought out careful positions on each of what he considers the important issues facing Texans. You might be a little taken aback by his approach of course, because he doesn’t resort to the usual political clichés that you so often hear from politicians.

He’s not catering to anyone’s political ideology, either; he’s tackled each issue individually, not based on what he’s supposed to say because he represents this or that group of people. He’s blunt and forthright and doesn’t equivocate by hiding behind spin-doctors or spokespeople. With Kinky, what you see is what you get.

Kinky’s first challenge in his quest to win the governor’s mansion is to get his name on the ballot. In order to do this he has to hand in a petition with 45,000 signatures by May 11th, 2006. Once he’s past that hurdle the real race can begin.

In Canada where I live we had four legitimate parties competing in our last federal election. People need to have more than just two options when they are voting for public office; otherwise it becomes far too easy to lose interest in the proceedings. Neither candidate is willing to deviate far from the tried and true and risk alienating the regular voters and the money behind the scenes. A third candidate introduces fresh ideas and new life to a campaign, gives voters a genuine option for change, and can generate fresh interest among the voters.

In Kinky Friedman the people of Texas are not only being given the opportunity to look over new ideas to old problems, but also have the chance to put life into a system that is threatening to become moribund. At the very least Kinky deserves to be on the ballot for this November’s race for the governor’s mansion, after that, well it will be interesting to see where the chips fall, that’s for sure.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • Dawn

    Ahhh, good old Kinky. Eric played a few records (yes, records) thinking that I too, a Jewish person of southern roots, could appreaciate him. Good times…good times.

    I hope his books are better than Jimmy Buffett’s.

    So if he wins, would that make him “the Kinkinator”?

  • The Kinkster (which is what he’s called, Dawn) needs 45,540 signatures to get on the ballot, but they must be from registered Texas voters who did not vote in the primary election.

    They’re trying to collect 150,000 so that there can be no confusion, but I don’t know how close they are. They’ve got my signature, and I’m trying to get a coworker in touch with a signature collecter this week, which is the unofficial deadline for signing so all the paperwork gets checked over before being submitted prior to the deadline.

    I have high hopes for the guy getting into office, and his “five Mexican generals” immigration plan isn’t all of why, but it’s an amusing start.

    Campaign slogans:
    Kinky for Governor — How hard can it be?
    Kinky for Governor — Why the hell not?

    Get Kinky!

  • Travis

    Not sure I can talk Lubbock into loving Kinky, but I still send Kinky love from Lubbock. (He’s coming this week!)

    Feeling left out on the “My cherry is for Kerry” bit, I considered, “My winky is for Kinky” but I’m not sure it has the same impact. Regardless, my governor is a Jewish Cowboy.

  • He’s not some crazy liberal like some people think. He’s a real thinking man’s candidate.

    He voted for Bush in 2004 and he hasn’t voted for any Democrats for over a decade (google kinky friedman voted for bush in 2004 and thinks he is handling the middle east well).

    His website says “Kinky is not anti-death-penalty” (google that quote).

    He wants to build a wall between Texas and Mexico and he has a great plan to hire Mexican generals to control Texas’ border with Mexico’s army (google “the five mexican generals plan”).

    Kinky has a hilarious video from the Donny Deutsch show on MSNBC (google kinky donny deutsch).

    Kinky has got some pro-abortion people buffaloed but Kinky’s website confirms his true feeling that abortion is a joke: “I’m not pro-choice, I’m not pro-life, I’m pro-football!” (google that quote, too).

    Finally, Kinky wants prayer in school and the Ten Commandments posted in every classroom (google kinky supports school prayer and ten commandments).

    We should all support Kinky!

  • Scott Butki

    Go, Kinko, Go.

  • C

    Please, how moronic can you be???
    ‘The Kinkster’ voted for BUSH, no, not ONCE – TWICE!!

    Do you find that “hilarious,” too???

    If you’re going to be that stupid, at least DON’T VOTE.

  • Gee, C, more than half of eligible Americans took your advice and didn’t vote, but I don’t see anybody lining up to call that the smart move.

    But it turns out that enough “stupid” people voted for Bush to make him President. Ask yourself, are those people all really that stupid? Or is it possible you’re missing something?

  • Kinky is NOT the namby-pamby liberal that some knee-jerk liberals think he is.

    Kinky spoke with Ruminator Magazine about his thoughts on Bush’s foreign policy:

    Ruminator: So does this idea of the honorable cowboy have anything to do with why you threw your support behind President Bush in this last election? You did, didn’t you?

    Kinky: Yes. I did in this last election, but I didn’t vote for him the first time….I was not for Bush that time. Since then, though, we’ve become friends. And that’s what’s changed things.

    Ruminator: So it’s your friendship with him that’s changed your mind about having him as president more than his specific political positions?

    Kinky: Well, actually, I agree with most of his political positions overseas, his foreign policy….I basically think he played a poor hand well after September 11. What he’s been doing in the Near East and in the Middle East, he’s handling that well, I think.

    This interview is available on-line if anyone is curious. It is well worth checking out!

  • From what I’ve been able to tell Kinky is basically an ecologically conscious libertarian, so that makes him likely to vote Republican in national elections. There are a lot of us like that, and we’re behind Kinky here in Texas, not least because our mainstream Republican leadership in this state has failed so abyssmally to protect the people from rapacious developers.

    Dave

  • I wouldn’t read too much into Kinkey’s friendship with George, he’s also friends with Clinton. He has always had a lot of praise for the Bush family personally because they have been big supporters of his animal rescue ranch since the days that Laura was first lady of Texas and George was Governor.

    Before anybody on the left or the right starts claiming Kinky for themselves, I think it might be good to think about why he does appeal to such a broad cross section of people.

    I don’t think anyone should read much into his comments on school prayer, because if you go to his site, he says he believes in non-denominationial, interfaith prayer. “A kid should believe in something even if it’s a rock or a tree”…

    As Dave said he is an Independant/Libertarian, and people shouldn’t try and impose their own political views overtop of his. They will be sorely disapointed.

    I think if one wants to find out where he stands on the issues you’re best bet is to go to the link in the article and get the facts from the Matzah Ball Soup bowl itself.

  • Kinky is making politics fun again… MotherPie.com, watching from the sidelines in NYC…
    Great article, Cheers from a Texas Transplant.

  • Rich Eggleston

    He’s already a Kinkitician.

    If we wins, he’ll be the Kinkinator.

    I hope he does, for the sake of Texas politics and American politics. He would bring the wit and perspective to Texas politics that Jesse Ventura never delivered in Minnesota.

  • What a breath of fresh air!!!! You could be the one who gets the non-voters to register. Everyone saya to vote it’s your right! Vote for what? The next liar? So far in the past, no politition has been honest. They point their finger at each other and make fools of themselves. I think you are the best thing that could happen to whats left of America. I believe that we are on the verge of losing America. I would register today to vote for you. Just one problem. I live in Alaska. So, if you don’t win in Texas come on up here. We’re bigger than Texas and we have plenty of room for you. If you do win, do you have any friends that would like to relocate? All our polititions are greedy for themselves. Make more news appearances so we all can see ya way up here. Maybe you will catch on. I went to school with prayer and the 10 commandments plus the Bible. I wore uniforms to school. I had to respect my teacher. I DID NOT GROW UP DAMAGED! Let the children smoke, and do drugs too. This way they will die before they’re 30 and there’ll be more Social Security for me. Keep up the good work. Don’t forget your new friends up here in Alaska. WE LIKE YOU!
    Joanie

  • marc ziegler

    i would love to move to texas so i could vote for the kinkenator you go go get them kinkey and kick some political a…….
    a fan for forever marc

  • Lindsey

    I think Kinky is a great songwriter and an exceptiona guy all around. I’m not too political, but I think he’s very talented. I really like the work he did on Kacey Jones’ latest KACEY JONES SINGS MICKEY NEWBURY.