But Seriously, Folks

The humorist and musician takes a nip at his Austin campaign headquarters:
The humorist and musician takes a nip at his Austin campaign headquarters: "All politicians speak in one-liners and sound bites. They're just not as funny as mine." (By Thao Nguyen -- Austin American-statesman Via Associated Press)

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By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

FORT WORTH

Smoking an illegal substance, Kinky Friedman heads for the Flying Saucer.

Kinky -- nobody calls him Friedman -- is a comic country singer, mystery novelist and Texas humorist. The illegal substance is a fat, stinky Cuban cigar. The Flying Saucer is the Fort Worth bar where Kinky is about to deliver a speech in his campaign for governor.

But first he removes the cigar from his mouth and reveals the wisdom that his old friend, country icon Willie Nelson, imparted when Kinky began his campaign: "No pedophile jokes till after the election."

So far, Kinky has followed that advice, and it has served him well. The pols and the pundits said he was a clown who could never collect the 45,540 signatures necessary to get on the November ballot as an independent candidate. But Kinky showed them: He got 137,154 certified signatures.

He ambles down the sunny street, wearing his trademark outfit: black cowboy hat, black shirt, black leather vest, bluejeans and black cowboy boots. Those duds, along with the Frank Zappa facial hair and the Groucho Marx cigar, make Kinky look like the bad guy in a bad western. They also make him instantly recognizable all over Texas.

"Kinky!" yells a guy who recognizes him from across the street. He gives a thumbs-up sign. "I'm votin' for you!"

"May the God of your choice bless you," Kinky replies.

When Kinky steps into the Flying Saucer, the crowd erupts in cheers. The place is packed, with several hundred people sitting at tables and others filling the aisles. Nearly everybody is drinking beer, which is good preparation for any political speech, particularly one of Kinky's.

"Well, folks, it looks like the election is getting more and more interesting," he says. "The other three candidates seem to have humor bypasses. If you're a politically correct person, you should vote for one of them. You have to be politically correct to be a politician, and the three of them are. Me, I'm a compassionate redneck."

The crowd cheers, and the man President Bush once called "a Texas legend" launches into his stump speech, a zippy combination of Borscht Belt humor and populist politics.

"As you know, I'm 61 years old, which is too young for Medicare and too old for women to care," he says. "But I care about Texas and I want to fix what's wrong with it. We are probably the richest state in the country, but we got potholes in the roads, we can't pay our teachers, we can't provide health insurance for our kids and they're trying to sell off the state parks!"


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