His favorite TV show is "The Jeffersons," and when he walks around his Hillcrest neighborhood in Southeast Washington, he says, the kids call him Mr. Jefferson because they think he looks and walks like George Jefferson, the show's loud-mouthed businessman who has just become rich and moved uptown.
In the last few years, his favorite drink has become Black Bull, the 100 proof Scotch whiskey, which he likes to sip at the end of the day.
His wife says one of his problems is that some people think he's dumb and can't talk properly. These days he is getting professional help with his speech.
No matter, he says. He and his wife make between $80,000 and $90,000 a year -- more than all but a few blacks in this town and more than most of those who say that he isn't smart enough or classy enough to be mayor of the nation's capital.
He's Marion Barry, who after nearly four years as mayor and with only four years to go until he turns 50, is grayer, heavier (15 pounds overweight at 215) and more at home in the mayor's office than many would have expected.
As Barry runs for nomination to a second term in Tuesday's primary, his friends and his campaign are getting out the word that he has changed. The official, Barry-approved word is "grown."
Professionally, he hast in the District to an old-fashioned big city political power broker. In personal terms, this former street activist now says he never was as militant as people thought. He has grown into an establishment figure.
"They say I've grown because I think people see the depth of me now that they didn't see before," Barry said during an interview last week. "Since I've been the mayor, they have a new vantage point on me." And he gives an example: "The other day I was speaking somewhere and a lady came up to me afterward and said 'Mr. Mayor, I never knew you had a college degree.' "
"People still remember me from Pride [the self-help job-training group for hard-core street dudes that he cofounded more than a decade ago]," Barry adds. "I was in there with murderers, ex-murderers and robbers. They'd kill a guy in a minute. I couldn't be a pussycat up there. Now as the mayor, I go up to the Rev. John Wheeler's church Vermont Avenue Baptist, one of the largest in the city and I'm the men's day speaker."
The newest Marion Barry is trying to look top-drawer. In 1978, for instance, he had gone from dashikis to three-piece suits. In 1982, he has gone from just any three-piece suit to the dark blue and gray "power tones" prescribed by a close friend who has told him to stop dressing like a countrified 'Bama (as in the state of Ala----) just up from the South. The Black Bull goes with the "power tone" suits.
Barry's friends describe him as a shy, insecure man in private; a man forever worrying about his weight even as he empties half the honey jar into his tea, and a man still looking to be fully accepted by black Washington society as more than some street worker.
They say he is a man who gets his energy, his sense of worth from being recognized, treated as an authority, reading about himself in the newspaper, being told he is a role model for youth.
Yet the insecurity remains. He has found out, for instance, that many of his peers play tennis, so he recently bought the latest model wide head tennis racket and has been practicing in secret, refusing to play with his friends until he feels he can beat them.
He still doesn't trust his own taste in clothes, preferring to shop with his best friend, Jim Palmer, the deputy U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia.
"I've been taking him to Bloomingdale's, Garfinckel's," Palmer said the other day. "When Marion first told me he was running for mayor, we went to Garfinckel's and he bought a trench coat identical to mine."
Many of Barry's closest friends are well-to-do, stylish and sometimes debonair older men like Palmer, savings and loan president William B. Fitzgerald, developer Theodore R. Hagans Jr., and lawyer Herbert O. Reid. Palmer and Reid say they think Barry regards them in some ways as father figures.
In this new ambiance, it is virtually impossible to separate Barry the mayor from Barry the man. It's as if he simply changed his name, from Marion Barry to Mayor Barry -- just as his campaign posters say.
Marion Barry had been mayor less than a year when he and his wife bought a $125,000, four-bedroom antebellum-style home on a hillside in Southeast Washington. Its previous owners were a Barry friend who worked for the City Council and her husband.
By this time, Effi Barry, the District's first lady, had assumed a seat on the board of Independence Federal Savings and Loan Association, William B. Fitzgerald, president.
Even though Fitzgerald was the principal partner in a group seeking development rights to a prime tract of city-owned land (which it eventually won), Barry saw nothing wrong with his wife sitting on the board or with getting his mortgage from Independence.
When asked if Barry had received favorable treatment, Barry and Fitzgerald at first said no. But after repeated inquiries from reporters, Barry grudgingly acknowledged that he and his wife had taken an employe discount of 3 1/4 points. He said he would relinquish the discount and take the loan at the going 12 percent rate, which meant additional monthly payments of $242.
The event set a tone for Barry and his administration that still clouds his new image and in the view of many, hampers his reelection campaign.
During his first term in office, Barry's appointee to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the board's staff director were convicted on charges of conspiracy and bribery in a scheme to trade a liquor license for profits in a liquor store.
In another case, a building permit examiner in the housing department pleaded guilty to bribery charges for lowering fees for renovation permits after receiving money from people seeking permits.
Barry was never even remotely linked to either incident, yet his own attitude toward the perquisites of power often prompted criticism about his leadership image.
As mayor, Barry took dozens of trips, some at city expense, others at the expense of those who invited him and still others at the expense of persons he refused to name.
In 1981, he went to Las Vegas for the Sugar Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns fight. The D.C. Armory Board, which then consisted of Barry and an old campaign fund-raiser and poker partner, Stuart J. Long, voted to pay some of the expenses.
At first Barry said he had gone to Las Vegas seeking to lure top prizefights to Washington. Later, he acknowledged that he simply had gone to see the fight at the taxpayers' expense.
For his part, Barry dismisses the rumors by remarking that there is always talk about public officials, and saying that his administration has been "relatively scandal free."
To be sure, living the life of the mayor, even at a salary of $64,000 a year, has been difficult for Barry. At times he has fallen behind on his mortgage payments. And, Palmer and other friends said, the house on Suitland Road is so sparsely furnished that the Barrys rarely entertain, except in the back yard.
Fitzgerald has complained to reporters that Barry is underpaid at $64,000 a year and has supported the idea of the city buying a house for the mayor's official residence.
Barry says he shares the sentiment, but rejected the idea because aides told him it would be a political liability.
"In Gary, Indiana," he says, "where the whole city is on hard economic times with factories leaving, unemployment, if Dick Hatcher [the mayor] turned in his Cadillac people there would be outraged. If someone donated a Cadillac to me here the city would be outraged."
Barry declined to be interviewed in his home, and he would not permit his wife to be interviewed without him. So the Barry family interview was conducted in the mayor's office on the east end of the top floor of the District Building.
Effi Barry was late, "like she always is," her husband remarked as she arrived.
Mrs. Barry had trouble moving her chair up to the small round table where he was sitting. Another chair was in the way. She struggled, trying to move the chair as Barry looked on, and then told her to take another seat. Finally a photographer offered to lift the chair out of her way and move her chair up to the table.
Marion Barry says he has heard the talk. "Some people will say anything about me," he says. "They say I use drugs . . . women. I've heard them say Effi and I are breaking up. Three months ago, I heard Effi had left me and moved into the Washington Hilton."
"People can say so much about us," said Effi Barry. "But I only talk to two or three people on the phone and I'm not out in the community. I'm a private person. So how do they know so much? The people I talk to on the phone are personal friends."
Ivanhoe Donaldson, Barry's close friend and political confidant, has heard the talk, too, and says there's nothing to it. "Marion is a big flirt with women," Donaldson says. "He loves people, likes to mix it up."
But Marion and Effi Barry are still married; she spends time on the campaign trail with him -- though at times their cordiality toward one another appears strained -- and the first contribution listed in his campaign finance reports was a $1,000 donation from Effi. And their son, Marion Christopher, is now 2 years old.
"We got pregnant in Vermont on a Labor Day weekend," Barry says, smiling broadly as he recalls one of many trips he and his wife took that had especially fond memories. How do you know, a reporter asks?
Making a fist and shaking it in the air, Barry responds, "I got that feeling. I knew I'd hit it."
The "growth" that the Barry campaign is advertising is meant to counter the old image of Barry as an unpolished street tough who came here with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1965.
Barry earned that image in the late 1960s when he stalked the city's streets sometimes carrying a gun, working with the poor and downtrodden and requesting donations from merchants for his "Free D.C. Movement" voting rights campaign.
The reference to "growth" also is a reminder that the man with the chauffeur and bodyguards was born to a field laborer in the Mississippi Delta and grew up chopping cotton and delivering newspapers to help his family after his father died. He was an Eagle Scout, but not necessarily an outstanding scholar, which some supporters consider admirable.
"You don't have to worry about the A students in the world," says Palmer. "Pat Harris [a lawyer, former presidential cabinet member and Barry's leading contender for the Democratic nomination] is an A student.
"The students you have to worry about in this world are the C students, the average children. Marion is a C student, and that's why it's important that he win. It shows people that anyone can make it."
Barry has made it very well politically. In 1971 he was elected to the city's school board and served as its president. In 1974 he was elected an at-large member of the City Council, headed its finance and revenue committee and was reelected in 1976. And in 1978, he was elected mayor.
Indeed, Barry has grown most as a politician. His peers, opponents and supporters agree on that.
He easily won the campaign fund-raising derby with shrewd use of the powers of incumbency. He has even turned the most often mentioned problems of his administration into political assets, saying that his handling of tough crises taught him well and now he is the only candidate with experience at running city government.
For people who think him unsophisticated or a poor speaker, Barry retorts that he is the black candidate in the race, the one who can, as campaign manager Donaldson puts it, relate to the underprivileged.
Barry's evolution into the smooth, shrewd politician who won union endorsements with last-minute lucrative contracts despite layoffs of workers during his administration is another part of the political transformation that Barry has undergone in the last four years.
When he took over in 1979, he viewed his role as almost a ceremonial one. He traveled to Africa on a mission of goodwill and brotherhood, and he visited throughout the city bureaucracy, hoping to set the tone for the people who managed the city.
A year later, however, reality in the form of the budget crisis forced Barry to get involved with day-to-day management as the city verged on sinking under a huge deficit.
"I remember we'd be in there late at night looking at the books," recalled Elijah B. Rogers, Barry's city administrator, "and Marion would stop and say he didn't run for mayor to pore over budget sheets and RIF rolls."
Barry tells the story of visiting the city's Municipal Center and finding that an aide had to bang on the door to the elevator to summon the elevator because the button on the wall did not work.
When the elevator came, Barry said he asked the operator why the button did not work. Not recognizing who he was, the woman said it was because the mayor wouldn't pay for a new fuse.
"Since people were going to attribute things to me anyway," said Barry, "things as minute as a bad fuse, I decided I'd have to change and get involved, learn the budget from bottom to top."
The budget crisis became the single event defining Barry's administration and changing the man, his view of the city and of governing.
The budget also changed his political fortunes when he was routinely booed at many places where he spoke. In time, however, Barry was able to stem the financial hemorrhage.
And although there are still debates over whether all is as well as Barry claims, he has succeeded in preventing his handling of city finances from becoming a major issue -- indeed, his downfall -- in this campaign.
So Barry says he now feels like an executive receiving information. He has the time to campaign, to be out in the city to bask in the new popularity that being mayor has given him. To maintain that life, he must first win Tuesday's primary election, and he has always insisted that he will.
If you lose, a reporter once asked him at a party, who will be there with you?
Barry looked around the room.
"I know there wouldn't be too many people there if I lose," he said, looking away. "Just a few. Maybe 10, maybe Effi, Ivanhoe." CAPTION: Picture 1, Mayor Barry poses informally in his fifth-floor office in the District Building. By Larry Morris -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, Barry and his wife Effi at home. They paid $125,000 for the four-bedroom house. By Gary A. Cameron -- The Washington Post