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Archive for Friday, June 20, 2008

Getting Kinky: Songwriter, novelist and political candidate Friedman not one to blow smoke

June 20, 2008

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Kinky Friedman + Bob Dylan - Sold American

Past Event
Kinky Friedman

  • When: Friday, June 20, 2008, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Where: Centro Cigars, 1520 Wakarusa Drive., Lawrence
  • Cost: Free
  • More on this event....

Kinky Friedman is probably more comfortable holding a cigar in his hand than he is a guitar or microphone.

"I smoke eight to 10 a day, and I hope to live forever," Friedman says.

Even so, the iconic Texan can't quite recall the first time he ever puffed on a cigar.

"I forgot the first half of my life," he admits. "But I would bet it was a King Edward or a rum Crooks in high school."

Friedman, a songwriter, novelist, humorist and one-time Texas gubernatorial candidate, has evolved considerably in his appreciation of cigars. Today he'll appear at Centro Cigars, 1520 Wakarusa Drive, to promote his new Kinky Friedman Cigar line. He'll autograph cigar boxes, discuss politics and possibly perform a few songs.

And he'll do it in a town that has enforced a smoking ban since 2004.

"I think these rules and regulations and political correctness - like smoking bans - are turning this country into a condo association," Friedman says.

"It's destroying our most precious gift to the world, which is freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom to be different, freedom to be who we are. You should be able to set up a bar in which you say, 'No smoking allowed in my bar.' And I should be able to set up a bar next door that says, 'Smoking allowed.' That's what America should be."

He adds, "If you ask these bureaucratic, officious little boogers that are behind all this why they're doing this, they'll tell you it is your health. But the fact is the countries of Spain, Portugal, Israel, Japan, France and Italy all have much higher smoking rates per capita than America, and much longer life expectancy. All we can conclude is that speaking English is killing us."

Least serious vice

Centro Cigars proprietors Rich and Rus Spangler say they are delighted to bring such a "colorful character" to Lawrence.

"We first became aware of Kinky through our father, who was a big fan of his mystery novels and irreverent songs. When Kinky started his own cigar line we had to sell them, and we are currently the only reseller in Kansas and Missouri," Rus Spangler says.

Friedman launched his signature product last year with a line of "very good cigars" blended from Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos. They come in five sizes: the Governor, Kinkycristo, Willie (named for musical pal Willie Nelson), Texas Jewboy and Utopian - the latter's proceeds benefit Friedman's Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch located in his hometown of Medina, Texas.

"If I could get off the Cubans and smoke exclusively Kinky Friedman Cigars, then I could save a fortune. It's not my most expensive habit, but it's right up there," he says of the items, which retail between $8 and $12.

"Gambling and women are where I spend most of my money. Of those three, I spend the most on Vegas. Cigars are my least serious vice. Plus I think cigars give you longevity by reducing stress."

Musical rise

Today will mark Friedman's first appearance in Lawrence - from what he can remember conclusively - since performing on a shared bill with English rock act Mott the Hoople somewhere between '73 and '75.

Friedman came to prominence as the result of his music career. Born Richard S. Friedman, he was given his infamous nickname by songwriter Chinga Chavin in regard to his kinky hair.

In the early '70s his band Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys found a unique niche in pop culture as a satirical country-western act.

Songs such as "The Ballad of Charles Whitman," "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore" and "Get Your Biscuits In The Oven and Your Buns In Bed" turned into cult classics, impressing heavyweights such as Bob Dylan, who joined Friedman on tour.

Friedman earned his widest audience in 1976 when he was the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," which was notable as the first episode in which comedian Steve Martin served as host. ("I remember very little about it because I was doing a lot of Peruvian Marching Powder with John Belushi," Friedman says.)

The artist is continually surprised that his material has cultivated a fan base of people who are often younger than the tunes themselves.

"My songs that come in vogue and out of vogue, an example being 'They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore,' which has a lot of racial epithets in it, but it's really an anthem against bigotry. But you can't do that song without people jumpin' on you these days - it's got the 'N' word. On the other hand, 'Sold American' is about a songwriter who dies, but it's taken on a deep political meaning. People hear it and they say, 'Oh man, everyone's been sold American,'" he explains.

Political kinks

Friedman expanded his repertoire in the 1980s to include writing mystery novels and "advice" books. He'll have a new satirical tome that hits stores next week titled "What Would Kinky Do? How to Unscrew a Screwed Up World."

This project is peppered with bits of wisdom he learned from his 2006 campaign as an independent candidate for governor of Texas. Backed by the slogans "How Hard Could It Be?" and "Why The Hell Not?," Friedman earned 12.6 percent of the vote and placed fourth in a five-party race.

"I got more votes than Ralph Nader got nationally," he says. "It's a lot of votes considering we got screwed in a lot of ways running as an independent. I think you got to be a Crip or a Blood. If I'd run as a Democrat, I'd be governor."

His experiences coupled with his pithy commentary have made him a staple on TV and radio talk shows. (He counts polarizing hosts Bill O'Reilly and Don Imus as close friends.) But he concedes his words often go unheeded.

"No one ever takes good advice. We take pop advice and glib advice and bad advice, but not good advice. The only way you can get any advice across is obliquely, accidentally - like in a song. If you set out to write the great American novel, you're not going to. It's written by a guy who's trying to pay the rent or someone like Dostoevsky, who's paying gambling debts," he says.

Friedman can now add cigar entrepreneur to his list of writing, musical and political accomplishments. Too bad these feats rarely intersect, he claims.

"It's the curse of being multitalented: No one takes you seriously," he says. "The people who love my books and take them seriously don't even know I write music, and vice versa. If I could have gotten those audiences together ... but now it's too late. I'm 63 years old, which is too young for Medicare and too old for women to care."

Comments

Marion Lynn 5 years, 10 months ago

Rationalanimal (Anonymous) says: Typical Texan-all hat and no cattle. Fools crave wisdom and mistake a man's cynicsm for Solomon. In days of greater enlightenment, the circles of such men were appropriately society's base and common."Marion writes:Is that pathetic peice of biosolids post all that you have?Woo Hoo!Shows that you ascribe to a primitive Bronze Age superstition!Wanna sacrifice a small animal and burn it, thus to make a "pleasing odour" to SOME people's Lo-ord?Hey, I got the firewood and a machete!You bring the animal!oh waitAfter slaughtering the animal and puting it on the fire, can we eat it or do we just have to completely carbonise the thing to satisfy YOUR Lo-ord?Tell us!Enquring minds want to know!

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Rationalanimal 5 years, 10 months ago

Typical Texan--all hat and no cattle. Fools crave wisdom and mistake a man's cynicsm for Solomon. In days of greater enlightenment, the circles of such men were appropriately society's base and common.

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The_Original_Bob 5 years, 10 months ago

Ostrich -How was it? I believe BlueHarley was heading down there and I was going to ask him for a report. I'm stuck at my dang house packing and doing nonsense in order to move.

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Alison Carter 5 years, 10 months ago

What treat it was to meet Kinky Friedman!

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thebcman 5 years, 10 months ago

Wow. the Kinkster's in town. Anybody got any inside info on any live performances in town tonight?

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Azure_Attitude 5 years, 10 months ago

If it had been a snake it would have bit me!!Thank, TOB

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The_Original_Bob 5 years, 10 months ago

When: Friday, June 20, 2008, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Where: Centro Cigars, 1520 Wakarusa Drive., Lawrence Cost: Free

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Azure_Attitude 5 years, 10 months ago

So, when is this giong on? Is he going to be there all day or what?

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The_Original_Bob 5 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Poell -I see what you are saying. Sort of. Anyhow, the smoking argument is dead and done as far as I'm concerned. It's only a matter of time before the whole State is smoke-free and that will be that. Not worth bickering about anymore.

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Nate Poell 5 years, 10 months ago

TOB: I disagree. He really is disregarding the negative health effects of smoking. See this quote: "If you ask these bureaucratic, officious little boogers that are behind all this why they're doing this, they'll tell you it is your health." Thing is, it is absolutely about public health and the harm proven to be caused by secondhand smoke, but Kinky Friedman just chooses to disregard absolute tons of research and instead -- to continue selling his good ol' boy schtick, I imagine -- make it about "political correctness". You know you can still smoke at Free State and pretty much every other bar in town that has a porch or outdoor seating area, right? In that regard, your freedom of choice is not really limited.

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autie 5 years, 10 months ago

Kinky said booger?Kinky also said:"When it's cotton pickin time in Texas,boys it's booger pickin time for Ben.He'd raise that finger, mean and hostile,stick it in that waiting nostril.Here he comes with a green one once again".oh pick it, Eric.

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JM Andy 5 years, 10 months ago

FALSE: "Today will mark Friedman's first appearance in Lawrence - from what he can remember conclusively - since performing on a shared bill with English rock act Mott the Hoople somewhere between '73 and '75."I saw him at the Bottleneck...probably about 1990. Got his autograph, too.

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The_Original_Bob 5 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Poell -Kinky's point was that you have freedom of choice to do what you want to do and go where you want to go and that freedom of choice is eroding. I don't think he is going argue with you that smoking causes cancer. If he does, then I'll assume he is back on the Peruvian Marching Powder.

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Nate Poell 5 years, 10 months ago

"political correctness - like smoking bans"Yeah, except that it's not political correctness at all. It's a widely publicly supported response to mountains of research that proves that secondhand smoke causes cancer. See: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/secondhandsmoke.html and http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/Factsheets/LungCancer.htm. Kinky Friedman's entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

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Marion Lynn 5 years, 10 months ago

Guys like Kinky will never be elected to public office because they support personal liberty and oppose big government.

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Kyle Neuer 5 years, 10 months ago

The show with Mott The Hoople was at Cowtown Ballroom in KC. I was there.

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conservativepunker 5 years, 10 months ago

He SHOULD be Governor right now. Kinky rules.

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barrypenders 5 years, 10 months ago

I forget about Lawrence everytime I leave it.

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centralcalifhawk 5 years, 10 months ago

Yes, in about 1991 or 1992, Kinky did a book signing at the Raven and then did a concert at the Bottleneck. I know, I was there

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autie 5 years, 10 months ago

Anybody who can do a song like "Old Ben Lucas" can't be all bad. I used to sing that one to my nieces when they were little and they loved it! There mom wanted to kill me, however. My other sister was/still is a big Kinky supportor in Texas..they were really thinking he could win at one point. Definitely and interesting character.

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Marion Lynn 5 years, 10 months ago

"You should be able to set up a bar in which you say, 'No smoking allowed in my bar.' And I should be able to set up a bar next door that says, 'Smoking allowed.' That's what America should be."He adds, "If you ask these bureaucratic, officious little boogers that are behind all this why they're doing this, they'll tell you it is your health."Marion writes:Kinky said "Booger"!

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Marion Lynn 5 years, 10 months ago

The Raven is an easy place to forget.

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blue73harley 5 years, 10 months ago

Kinky for President...or at least Mayor of Lawrence!

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Keith 5 years, 10 months ago

"Today will mark Friedman's first appearance in Lawrence - from what he can remember conclusively - since performing on a shared bill with English rock act Mott the Hoople somewhere between '73 and '75."So Kinky doesn't remember signing books at the Raven a few years ago?

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