For years, Effi Barry stayed quiet. She stood by her man through the drink and the girlfriends, through the FBI drug sting and the humiliating publication of that grainy videotape, through the drug and perjury trial that ended in a federal prison term. And when it all was over, she divorced former Mayor Marion Barry (D) and quietly disappeared.
Now, more than a decade later, Effi Barry is back. She spoke by phone Monday on talk show host Joe Madison's show on WOL radio, defending her ex-husband's latest attempt at a political comeback and calling him "one of the most intelligent men that I have ever known."
"If anyone has been hurt in the whole scenario of Marion's downfall, for certain, it was his family, [son] Christopher and me," she said. But "over the years, we have been able to heal and to carry on with our lives."
Despite the pain Barry caused his third wife by smoking crack cocaine and carrying on with Rasheeda Moore, an alleged girlfriend who became an FBI informant, Effi Barry said she and her ex-husband are now "friends . . . bound by our son." The two have been seen together in public recently, since the former mayor separated from his fourth wife, Cora Masters Barry.
But while Marion Barry "will always be family," Effi Barry said she is "very, very objective" about him. As he mounts a challenge to Ward 8 council member Sandy Allen (D), rumors are spreading that his health is failing, that he's back on drugs, that he's short on cash. All of it's vicious, Effi Barry said, and only part of it is true.
The true part: His health is not great.
"Unfortunately, you men don't necessarily take care of yourselves as you should," she told Madison. "Consequently, Marion has high blood pressure and he has diabetes. Two very, very serious chronic illnesses. . . . We are adamantly asking him every day: What are you eating? Are you taking your medicine? Are you taking your insulin?"
But "anybody who knows Marion knows that public service is the adrenaline that keeps him going. He is up for the task because serving people is what he loves," Effi Barry said. "Look at his history. You can't deny the fact that his life has been about serving others. The people of Ward 8 love him, and they need him."
On the matter of finances, Effi Barry said her ex-husband is doing fine. "He has some money, but money has never been important to Marion. When we were married, I used to complain to him all the time: People who work for you are living better than we are.
"He made a lot of people wealthy. I am not talking about black neighborhood wealthy. I am talking about extremely wealthy," she said. "He increased the financial status of black people, white people, yellow people and brown people. He made several billionaires and many millionaires." But "Barry-bashing has made it difficult" for Barry himself to "earn the kind of money that he deserves, because people do not want to necessarily connect themselves with Marion Barry," she said.
As for drugs, Effi Barry declined to respond directly to Madison's question about rumors "being circulated in high levels" of the city that the former mayor still has a drug problem.
"I do not know Marion Barry as a drug addict. I have never seen Marion take drugs," she said. "I know when we were married he had a drinking problem, which allowed him to become the victim of his so-called friends who, as it came out in court, did supply him with drugs and women. But I don't know Marion Barry as a man with a drug problem."
In sum, Effi Barry said she believes her ex-husband would be good for Ward 8.
"He brings hope. He personifies determination because, even though he has been beaten down, he is like a phoenix and still he rises," she said. "He is a strong man and he will be a strong fighter for the people of that ward."