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DON’T KVETCH WITH TEXAS: A Q&A With Kinky Friedman, The Last Of The Jewish Cowboys

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This rollicking interview was originally published on June 12th, 2012. We are reprising it here in advance of Kinky Friedman and Dale Watson performing at the Locks At Sona on Monday March 18th. Enjoy!

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Kinky Friedman has worn a lot of hats over the years, both literally and figuratively: Satirical cowboy singer-songwriter (“They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore” and “Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed”); serial detective fiction novelist; friend to animals; scourge of the phony, the corrupt and the ignorant; purveyor of fine tequila/salsa/cigars, and failed gubernatorial candidate from the great state of Texas. In advance of his appearance at The Sellersville Theater tonight and we got Kinky on the horn to explain himself. Discussed: the crimes of Michael Vick; the sexual orientation of Rick Perry; his good time buddies Willie Nelson and Billy Bob Thornton; the disappointing difference between candidate Obama and President Obama; why he wants to bomb Syria; how he almost was killed onstage by a pack of angry lesbians back in the ’70s. And more. Much more. Enjoy.

PHAWKER: So let’s start with a hypothetical.  I’m a dumb, 22-year-old goy Yankee who doesn’t believe he is responsible for knowing anything that happened before he was born.  How would you explain Kinky Friedman to me in a sentence or two?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Well, I think that that would be probably impossible.  I would just tell him that I suffer from the curse of being multi-talented and that I am a defender of strays, that’s probably what I’m most proud of.

PHAWKER: We’re going to talk about that in a sec.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: I had to think of how I could compete with Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber.  We don’t know why this is the case, but I’m still able to be out on the road in my advanced years,  particularly for something like the Bi-Polar Tour which is 25 shows in 26 days.  I am 67 years old though I read at the 69-year-old level and I’ve got my last will and testament worked out which is, when I die I’m to be cremated and the ashes are to be thrown in Rick Perry’s hair.  I would just say, Jonathan, for the 22-year-old, a lot of them by the way seem to be in my audience over the past few years, that really this is not up to me, it’s up to him, or he, or she.  I think there will be a lot of people in this crowd, let me say that, who will be younger than the songs.  In other words, I wrote the songs before they were born.  And that is a blessing.  That’s a real privilege to have such an eclectic audience.  Then there will be people who were music fans of mine in the 70’s, those people I refer to as the insects trapped in amber.  And then there will be people who have read the books.  There’s 32 books that I’ve churned out…er…I mean carefully crafted.  And then there’s the politics, the running for governor of Texas, and that was a race we won every place but Texas.  So you’ll see lots of folks coming because of that and I will submit that there will be a lot of people who were jumpin’ rope in the schoolyard when I wrote these songs.  And, of course, I was selling dope in the schoolyard.

PHAWKER: Very nice, very nice.  OK, next question.  To paraphrase one of your most infamous songs, are they still not making Jews like Jesus anymore?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Yeah, that one has become a real anti-PC anthem. I just point out that today if a young Richard Pryor were to walk into the room we couldn’t make him a big star in America.  He would be like me.  He’d be playin’ clubs and he’d be doing well as a cult act, but he would not find mainstream success today.  Neither would a young George Carlin, or Mel Brooks, or Lenny Bruce.  And, of course, we couldn’t make the movie “Blazing Saddles” today.  So thank the lord we still have “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.”  That song I think is being well understood these days.  It wasn’t always, but now it is.  And something like, “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed”, which really created a very ugly riot at the University of Buffalo in 1973, where the lesbians actually attacked the stage.  A group of cranked-up lesbians attacked the Jewboys.  They were smashing the equipment and everything, and the lesbians were winning.  The police were called and the Texas Jewboys got a police escort off of campus right in the middle of the set.  But that song goes down extremely well now.  Now people sing along.  So, I’m finding it very interesting and that’s why I’m kind of doing the tour in the Townes Van Sant spirit.  It’s a solo tour.  Jewish troubadour strikes again and it’s kind of in the Woody Guthrie spirit, and maybe the Will Rogers spirit.  I also do a reading as well as the songs.  I do a reading from the new book Heroes of a Sexless Childhood, about 23 heroes of mine when I was a kid.  I’ll sign books after the show and before the show and, of course Jonathan, I will sign anything but bad legislation.

PHAWKER: I’m not going to even ask you if that Buffalo story is true.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Oh, it absolutely is.  That can be checked out.  You know, it sounds humorous to the audience but it was a really ugly, pretty violent deal.  And it was all over that song, you understand, that song “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed”, which is hard to imagine.  But that’s how the attitudes were then.  That same year I received the Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year Award from the National Organization for Women, an award I’m still very proud of.

PHAWKER: So now I want to know, why are you calling it the Bi-Polar Tour?  Is that referring to the routing of the tour?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Well no.  Some of it’s that, and some if it is it’s insane to do 25 shows in 26 days at any age.  I kinda borrowed a page from Willie Nelson ‘cause he doesn’t believe much in taking time off.  He thinks it kind of throws you off your feed and I think he’s right.  You get in a groove when you’re doing it.  You get an adrenaline thing going and the shows get better and better as you move along.  Of course doing it solo like this is something I haven’t really done that much but it seems to really, really connect and that’s what entertainment is — to catch a glimpse of who the person really is when a string breaks or they forget a lyric, no matter what happens and, plus, after pretending to be a politician in Texas this is a very high calling, being a musician on the road.

PHAWKER: You’ve recently introduced your own line of cigars, salsa and tequila.  I want to go through those real quick and ask you what makes a good cigar, what makes a good tequila, etc.  What’s the key to a good cigar?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Well, I have about two taste buds left so, well, you know, they are having a hell of a party.  Anything that cuts through them I know is good.  My cigar business is entirely run by Little Jewford.  He runs it, they’re called Kinky Friedman Cigars — KFC — and they’re made in Honduras by the finest Cubans money can buy.  It’s kind of an oral fixation with me.  On the last tour I was going through the Austin airport, passing through TSA, and I had an unlit cigar in my hand and the TSA women said “Is that thing lit?”, and I said to which thing madam are you referring?  She was not amused.  That’s my cigar story.  The tequila? The looks like it’s really happening.  Kinky Friedman’s Man in Black Tequila.  Man in Black salutes Zorro, Palladin and Johnny Cash.  It’s the best Mexican mouthwash you’ve ever gargled.  We like to say this is not your father’s tequila; this is your grandfather’s gardener’s tequila.  And it’s doing very, very well.  It’s only been out for three months and now I think we’re in about 400 stores in Texas, but it’s really selling.  So, I think I could become a tequila magnate if I never become governor of Texas.

PHAWKER: There is gold in them thar hills. Look at Sammy Hagar with Cabo Wabo.

KINKY FRIEDMAN:  That guy.  He sold it for about $180 million.  But he’d been working on it for about 15 years.  I don’t think we have that much time to work.  By the time I see you, Jonathan, I could be wheeled in on a gurney to the show with a gooseneck microphone or something, singing on my back.  But I don’t think so.  I think there’s a lot to people.  Like Gram Parsons.  You know who he was?

PHAWKER: Sure, of course.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Well, I mean like a Gram Parsons, like a Warren Zevon.  People like that.  Van Dyke Parks who toured Australia with me.  He’s the one who orchestrated the cello on the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations”.

PHAWKER: He wrote the lyrics to “Smile.”  I’m well acquainted with him.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: That’s right.  You know Van Dyke. But guys like that, and I would include myself amongst them, and I would include Jesus, too. We are a group of people who did not quite make it.  You know what the crowd shouted.  They shouted ‘Free Barabbas, kill Jesus,’ and they’ve been doing that ever since.  The crowd always picks Barabbas, so I don’t feel bad about losing the governor’s race to Rick Perry.

PHAWKER:  We’ll get to Rick Perry in a minute.  You are a friend to animals.  Twelve years ago you started the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Yes.  www.utopiarescue.com

PHAWKER: Our hat is off to you.  That’s a very decent, humane thing to do.  But I wanted to ask you about a very specific Philadelphia related question.  That is, do you believe Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick deserves a second chance?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: I always believe in second chances, although I’ll never be a Michael Vick fan because I think that guy really destroyed it.  I mean I don’t think he was fighting dogs.  I think he was torturing and killing dogs.  That’s what he was doing.  He did it extensively, many, many different ways and he is a very sick fuck.  There’s no question about it.  I do enjoy seeing him crushed, you know.  Alright, I’m not a Michael Vick fan but as far as having another chance, I’ll give him one.  Everybody deserves one.  But I’ll always root against the Eagles from now on.

PHAWKER: You famously ran for Governor in 2006, as you referenced previously, but lost to Rick Perry. If you had won, how would the great state of Texas be a different place than it is today?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Well, I will tell you, Jonathan, although the campaign had its humorous and colorful moments it was well understood, by many people in our country and the world, the significance of having an independent elected.  I think the state would have been transformed overnight to being the hippest state in the country.  I think a lot of people would have moved down here.  I think the transformation would have been big.  You see, a lot of the stuff, this is what’s wrong with our politicians these days, is that they have no IQ.  Obama has intelligence quotient, he doesn’t have inspirational quotient.  I mean if Obama were to give a fireside chat the fire would go out.  The guy just doesn’t have the chops to inspire people.  I’m not saying that Romney does.  So that’s really the key to being governor.  You have to inspire people.  It’s not legislation and crap like that.  Obama thinks it is.  It is what JFK had, to inspire millions of young people to work for 11 cents an hour on the other side of the world, and I mean the Peace Corps.  That was great.  Churchill was somebody who had it.  Reagan had it.  FDR had it.  Ann Richards had a little bit of sparkle.  So this is what I think it’s really all about.

PHAWKER:  I get the sense that you won’t be voting for him this time?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: I’m voting against him this time because of the perception I believe he has given about Israel, and what he’s done to NASA.  Going back to JFK, look what JFK was able to do with NASA.  He not only inspired everybody in the country and made us proud but he made the world look up to America.  He did all that with NASA.  Look what Obama’s been able to do.  He scuttled it.

PHAWKER: But I find this hard to believe that you’re going to be able to vote for a man who once strapped his dog to the roof of his car and drove a thousand miles or so?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Well, that’s the way things were in the 50s and I do believe the dog enjoyed it.  I buy Romney’s thing because I don’t trust Obama at this point.  I mean I’ve seen enough to believe that he is what he is, a Harvard instructor, and I think he’s been trading on his ethnicity for about 35 years, 40 years.  I’m not buying any of the bullshit.  He should be limited to two terms like all the politicians; one in office and one in prison.  In Obama’s case, he does not deserve another term.  I can only imagine what a JFK, or a Churchill or a Reagan would have done with the Iranian young people’s Green Revolution.  That would be pure inspiration.  That would be an opportunity.  It almost begs for our support and again, he followed his lifelong pattern of being ‘not present’ or whatever.  Yeah, great.  He opted not to be present.  He does not deserve to be re-elected and, the other thing is, if you’re a Jew, if you’re a fellow Red Sea pedestrian, you should not vote for this man because the perception he has given, and this is all very rational, I’m not trying to incite anything, I’m just saying that most of the Ahmadinejads of the world prefer to work with a guy like Obama.  They would love him to be re-elected.  He has strengthened their hand all across the board.  I mean he’s done that unconsciously.  That wasn’t his goal.

PHAWKER:  Hosni Mubarak, Moammar Gadhafi, Kim John il, Osama bin Laden — they did all prefer to work with Obama. Now, I hear this about Obama and Israel all the time — that he’s somehow undermining U.S. policy with Israel in favor of the Palestinians.  As far as being disappointed about the difference between President Obama and candidate Obama, I’m with you.  But I don’t quite see that Israel has ever failed to get any less of a blank check from the United States under Barack Obama than it has under previous administrations.

KINKY FRIEDMAN:  I would say, Jonathan, that it’s all perception.   Everything is perception, and if it’s perceived that way by the bad guys that’s the way it’s gonna be.

PHAWKER: I would say it’s perceived that way by the very powerful Israeli lobby in this country, or that’s the perception they’re projecting and have projected from day one, that somehow he’s the second coming of Yasir Arafat, but I just don’t see it in the way things have played out.  I don’t see that Israel’s lost the upper hand.  I still think their boot is firmly on the throat of the Palestininians.  I don’t see that there’s any more existential threat to Israel today than under any previous administration. And  just to be clear, I’m not anti-Israel by any stretch.  I love the Jews. But I just don’t see this change, that I hear you and other people talking about, in American policy.  And just to respond to the Iran thing, and I don’t mean to be the defender of Barack Obama here, but this is a big thing that the right likes to repeat ad nauseum, that we let the Green Revolution die on the vine. My understanding is that Obama was asked to stand down by the Green Revolution leadership lest it play into the hands of the regime that was claiming the whole uprising was a CIA scam. I can’t prove that, but it makes sense to me.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: You’re seeing the same thing replayed in Syria right now.  The point I’m making Jonathan is that you can’t have a policy of doing nothing.  That’s not a good policy, and I’ll tell you really where I’m coming from.  I’ve been reading a lot of Churchill, and a lot of books by him and about Churchill, and I see I guy who clearly could see beyond the horizon.  I mean here was a guy who was grappling with the problems of the future.  And I’m telling you, Ron Paul’s foreign policy has Neville Chamberlain written all over it.  I mean it’s just a fact.  I kind of like Ron Paul, by the way, but he stayed at the party too long.  The fact is he’s a scrappy little guy.  Obama’s foreign policy is not that much different than Ron Paul.  Let’s see what happens.  Let’s see where the chips fall.  Let [the Syrian regime] execute three-year-olds all across their country.  I mean we’ve got these drones and these genius video game kids.  Why don’t we take out a few of those Syrian tanks and you’ll see a pretty speedy retreat I think.

PHAWKER: On an emotional level I would certainly agree with you.  Fuck the Assad regime. They are butchers. On a realistic level after 10 years of Iraq I think Colin Powell’s right.  You break it you bought it. I say let them shoot it out amongst themselves and do what America did, shoot their way to independence. Freedom helps those who help themselves.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: I was talking about drones.

PHAWKER: It doesn’t just end with drones. That’s just the beginning, what about everything that comes after?  Look at Iraq for what happens when you behead a regime.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Well, there’s that.  No doubt about it.  The general level of politicians, I think they’re all former hall monitors, you know?  I’m not seeing anybody from the outside coming in very much these days.  So, rather than arguing over whether Obama’s done a wonderful job or whether he’s done a terrible job, well that’s something we can discuss but basically politics itself is, which I’ve said through my whole campaign, is poly, meaning more than one, and tics, meaning bloodsucking parasites.  That’s what we really have in Washington, Austin and the capital cities of the country.  It’s too bad, and a lot of it’s our fault because we do always vote for Barabbas.

PHAWKER: I would argue that until we take private and corporate money out of elections and they’re publicly financed you really only have a choice between two puppets on the same rich man’s hand.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: You’ve got the choice.  You’ve got the choice between Obama and Romney.  We could argue it all day but I would still say that after Obama’s three and a half years it’s a pretty pathetic choice either way you make it.  It’s not the best choice Jonathan.  There has to be some people in our country who could run for office and be worthy of our respect.

PHAWKER: Now in the Daily Beast you seemed to have endorsed Rick Perry for president?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: No, no.  As I say, I was influenced, and I still am, by Churchill so I’m reading it and in a very Churchillian mode I decided I’m going to do a positive piece because everybody was hammering the guy.  This is when he was up.  He was at 36 points just coming in.  Then he dropped down to about 2 points.  So I said let me do what Churchill or Lincoln would have done and emphasize the good things, so I put in some good things.  I wrote what was basically a humorous piece but was the positive side of things, and I called it ‘Another Side of Rick Perry.’  So they changed that to ‘Kinky for Perry,’ and then that got picked up as Kinky endorses Perry which could not be further from the truth.  I really despise politicians.  I love musicians.  I’ve said before that musicians could better run our country than politicians.  We don’t get a hell of a lot done in the morning but we’d work late and we’d be honest.  So this resulted in thousands of emails which I don’t get anyway because I don’t have the Internet, but my endorsing Perry never happened.  And Obama, as Billy Bob has raised in the new book The Billy Bob Tapes, that I helped him on, one of the main points that Billy Bob makes is that the audience has become the show because of the Internet and that, once I accuse you, Jonathan, of being a hit and run driver, or a wife beater and I get my blog cranking out there you really can’t defend yourself.  You can do a bunch of interviews, you can sue me, but we’ll all say “there’s Jonathan the hit and run driver”.  And that’s already happened to Billy a number of times.  It happens, and that’s not a good thing but there’s no court of last resort anymore.

PHAWKER: This Billy Bob book.  Is it about to come out?  Has it already come out?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: It came out last week.

PHAWKER: I was in Iceland last week.  I missed that.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Jerry Jeff Walker called me yesterday and said it was one of the best books he’s ever read.  You see, Billy Bob is a real musician.  He always has been.  But he became a star first so people may think he’s a Kevin Costner impersonator but musically that’s just not true.  He’s a fine musician and that’s his first love.  He has a real interesting take on our society that is totally apolitical, Jonathan.  Still, it’s right on the money.  I mean all this You Tube, iPad, MySpace whatever, all these appeal to our narcissism.  You know; you, me, mine; this is a scam to control us and to make a lot of money off us.  Anyway, he’s the only other person I could find that doesn’t even have email.

PHAWKER: You do not have email?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: No.  Even Willie says I’m an idiot not to have email.  I don’t have any of that shit.

PHAWKER: I’m glad that you set the record straight on the Daily Beast. I read the piece.  I hear you.  You never say ‘I’m endorsing him.’  You did say I’m going to say some good things about him and everybody’s got something redeeming, right?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: I’m trying to be Churchillian here.

PHAWKER:  Churchillian.  Very good.  By the way, my favorite Churchill line is that one about the woman coming up to him at the party and saying “You’re drunk” and Churchill turning around and saying, “I may be drunk but you Ma’am are ugly, and tomorrow I’ll wake up and be sober.”

KINKY FRIEDMAN: He was also drunk with his zipper down, meeting one of his enemies coming out of a men’s room in this hall and his enemy, a politician said, ‘Your fly is unzipped’ to Sir Winston,” and he said, “No problem, a dead bird never leaves its nest.”

PHAWKER: That’s great. But getting back to the Rick Perry thing — when he was in the process of proving how just brutally right wing he can be to appease the far right fringe in Iowa, he resorted to the age old trick of beating up on gay people, which is curious, I find, since there have been so many rumors over the years of Rick Perry himself being gay.  And I wanted to ask you, surely, having run against him and lived in Texas all this time you are not unaware of these allegations.  I’m curious.  What do you make of them?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Well, I believe where there’s smoke there’s fire.  Of course, Jonathan, I believe in the traditional Mormon marriage, and that is not same sex, it’s same six.

PHAWKER: (Laughs) That’s pretty good.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: I’ve almost never gotten a laugh with that line.  What I think happened is that God has punished Rick Perry, because now there’s a whole different atmosphere in Texas.  Now we have all the aggies and the blonds telling Rick Perry jokes.

PHAWKER: Do you think he kind of turned himself into a laughing stock in Texas?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: That’s what his base keeps telling me.  Every time I travel to talk to a deputy in East Texas someplace they’re furious with him.  They’ll never forgive him for embarrassing Texas like that.  That’s what I mean.  I’m not hearing that from a Democrat.  The Democrats are rubbing their hands together like little insects.  They’re happy with it.   They think it’s funny, but they’re not as furious as his base is so I think he’s had it.  I think he’s in denial.

PHAWKER: That was quite some flameout.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: I mean what’s wrong with our system is that a guy like that can snap his fingers and get $17 million to do this.

PHAWKER: Agreed.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Also, that performance in New Hampshire, I don’t know what that was all about.

PHAWKER: They’re saying he had back surgery three weeks before he ran and that he may, or may not have been overly medicated during the campaign. Either way that New Hampshire speech was bizarre.  To me he seems not only mincing, but he seems zonked out of his head on some kind of recreational psychedelic, frankly.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: The guy is just another packaged politician.  That’s what he is.  He’s put together by Karl Rove, or whoever put him together and groomed him, and that’s all we’ve had.  George W. was the same.  I will say one thing.  This guy running for president has made me look real good down here.  He’s also made George W.  look like Thomas friggin’ Jefferson.  He’s had two positive effects for two people. By the way, there are a lot of great people who aren’t visionaries, like Mark Twain who fought for the South for two weeks in the Civil War with this little militia and was convinced the whole thing would be over in the matter of a few weeks.

PHAWKER: Seriously? I was not aware of that.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Yeah, that’s true.  He skadoodled out to California but he’s got a lot of written evidence, and he commented on it quite a bit, that he and his circle of friends all believed this thing was nothing.  Of course [first governor of Texas] Sam Houston was the one warning the Texans, don’t join the Confederacy.  It will destroy all of our young people, it will be tragedy, and Sam Houston was, of course, correct.  Well, you’ve got to agree with a guy like that; a guy that can see beyond the horizon.  We have had visionaries and we usually haven’t treated them very well.

PHAWKER: True enough.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Jonathan, are you going to make one of these shows so I can share some Mexican mouthwash?  I will have some Man in Black there with me.

PHAWKER: I’ll be there at the World Café.  I’ll be there on Friday, yes, I would love to have some Mexican mouthwash with you.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: We’ll do that.  We’ll have a tequila drinking contest.

PHAWKER:  For real, are you bringing your tequila with you on the road?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Yes, yes and yes.  Let me tell you, tequila is a great stage drink because it gives you that great mellow, feel-good-for-a-short-period-of-time thing.  It’s perfect.  I used to drink Guinness, the drink that kept the Irish from taking over the world.  But now, definitely, I’m a Mexican mouthwash kind of guy.

PHAWKER: In my college days I would drink awful tequila, you know Mescal and whatnot, and wind up kicking out the back window of a police car or something like that.  As I’ve mellowed, I’ve come to appreciate fine top shelf tequila for just straight up sippin’.  It’s a fine, fine drink.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Absolutely correct.  And this stuff appears to be really filling which could help me achieve my goal as a younger man which is to be fat, famous, financially fixed and a faggot by 50.  Some of those I’ve achieved and others still elude me.  You know the slogan I’m proposing for the Man in Black company, which I think I’ve got them going with which is, “Find what you like and let it kill you.”

PHAWKER: Nice.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Isn’t that good?  “Find what you like and let it kill you.”

PHAWKER: Man In Black isn’t some copyrighted phrase?

KINKY FRIEDMAN: No, it’s all good.  I own part of the company buy the guys that’s doing it lives in El Paso.  He’s a friend of mine.  I’ll hold some back for you in Philly.

PHAWKER: I will definitely come and say ‘hi’ after the show.

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Very good.  And then we can argue about the Palestinians and the Israelis, a situation that’s only been going on for thousands of years.

PHAWKER: I’m sure you and I could solve it in a couple hours.

KINKY FRIEDMAN & DALE WATSON @ THE LOCKS @ SONA MON. MARCH 18TH

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