Seriously Kinky

This Texas Jewboy wants to be the next governor of Texas, and if you think he's kidding, the joke may be on you

They giggle at his Five Mexican Generals proposal--"I like the name, too," he says, grinning broadly--and applaud his proposal to transfer sports out of the school districts' educational budget and put them in the hands of the corporate sector. Friedman, wandering through the crowd with a wireless microphone, "like a Jewish mariachi," even reads a short story, "The Hummingbird Man," about his mother, father and Echo Hill.

Perhaps there is indeed a message to his madness after all.

"That was the first time I heard his stump speech," Barkley says on the drive back to the Adolphus. "I liked it. He's got a similar style that Ventura had. He connects to the audience. He has that ability to make you feel like he's listening to you. He can do the one-on-one connection to audience people, which Ventura could do very well, too. So, they have very, very similar communications ability of connection to audiences, which was the key to Jesse. But he's obviously much more funny and more entertaining than Jesse ever dreamed of being. I wouldn't change a thing."

Reflections of a Texas Jewboy: Kinky Friedman wants you to know that "Friedman's just another word for nothing left to lose."
Mark Graham
Reflections of a Texas Jewboy: Kinky Friedman wants you to know that "Friedman's just another word for nothing left to lose."
Friedman addresses the Texas Press Association.
Mark Graham
Friedman addresses the Texas Press Association.

A few hours later, he sits behind a long table at Borders Books and Music in Preston Royal, where some 200 folks snake through the aisles to get their books and posters and bumper stickers signed. Barkley surveys the crowd and is confounded by the fact it's filled with young and old alike; he figured Friedman had a shot with the kids, not their parents. "Ya know, at this point," Barkley says, grinning, "I'm concerned about doing too well too early." Friedman sits and grins for almost three hours, spending as much as five minutes with each person, signing their copies of his new book Texas Hold 'Em, snapping a photo or two, just shooting the shit.

Among those in line is Sandi Soffar, wife of Max Soffar, who confessed to a triple murder in a Houston bowling alley almost 25 years ago and who is, most likely, innocent. Despite his confession, which came at the end of three days of interrogation without an attorney, there has never been any evidence to prove Soffar committed the murder and no witness to put him at the scene. In April 2004, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Soffar hadn't received effective assistance of counsel in his criminal trial and ordered that the state either release or retry him. He's still awaiting a new trial. Friedman has written about the case twice, in Texas Monthlyand The Jerusalem Post, and has become friends with Soffar. Sandi says Max used to want Friedman present at his execution, but now hopes he'll be able to make the release party. "I just hope he's not on the road campaigning," she says, adding, of course, that Kinky has her vote.

"When George W. was governor, we executed a man every two weeks on average," Friedman says. "I want to put an end to that. I hate for you to have to hear this from a Jew, but what would Jesus do about this? Would Jesus be interested in these men's death or their salvation? That's what you've got to ask yourself if you're a Christian."

If nothing else, you will never be in doubt about where Friedman stands on an issue. The writer possesses no internal editor.

After the book signing, at about 10 p.m., Friedman and Barkley and Little Jewford and a few others head to Al Biernat's steak house, where the gracious owner treats Kinky as though he's already the governor. It's during the second round of drinks that Friedman gets the call that Hutchison has announced she will not be running after all and, instead, will seek re-election to the Senate. Drinks are raised, and toasts are made. There's still the chance Texas Comptroller Carolyn Keeton Strayhorn will announce--and she does, the very next morning--but that doesn't matter at this moment.

"Good," Friedman says. "Rick's the one we want. I was kinda looking forward to a Texas death match between Kay Bailey and Perry, but I'm relieved. Rick Perry's people are feeling good tonight, and we're feeling good tonight--and one of us is wrong."

Friedman looks at Barkley and speaks as if talking only to him.

"We're one step closer," he says, tipping his scotch glass to take a long, deep sip.

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