Thursday, October 27, 2011

Merry Molly Ivins

UPDATE 9/22/2019: "Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins" is now playing in theaters. See her deliver many of her great lines, and so much more.

After she died, people sent in letters from across the country that said, "twice a week [when her syndicated column ran] I felt like I wasn't alone in my ideas." For those of us who feel the same, and miss her voice, this film is a must see.

Molly Ivins was one of a kind, a brilliant columnist and “connoisseur of political lunacy” who told it like it was from Texas and beyond. It was she who dubbed George W. Bush “Shrub” and said of Dan Quayle, "If you put that man’s brain in a bumble bee it would fly backwards.”

When she wrote of a local politician, “If his IQ slips any lower they’ll have to water him twice a day,” her newspaper took out ads saying, “Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?"

The line became the title of her first book.

John Leonard, who hired Ivins to do freelance book reviews for the New York Times, “marveled at her work, thought it somewhere beyond unique—a mixture of Lenny Bruce, Rabelais, Lily Tomlin, and Mark Twain [all connoisseurs of cannabis]."

According to Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life by Bill Minutaglio and W. Michael Smith, “In her final year at Smith, her love for alcohol deepened and she developed a willingness to experiment with other things. A college friend sent her a crackling, conspiratorial note asking if her mother had found her ‘stash.’”

Ivins struggled with alcoholism all her life, writing herself notes like, “Alcohol is a drug. It is destroying my brain and my life.” Even her friend Ann Richards couldn’t stand her sometimes when she drank.

It’s too bad Ivins didn’t find her way to a less harmful substance more often. Richards's campouts, write Minutaglo and Smith, "were almost like annual, informal political conventions in the woods--with some heavy drinking, a bit of pot smoking, and many tales spun around the fire."

According to her biographers, when she worked in Austin "there were protests, student activists, underground cartoonists, and easy-to-find pot shipped across the Rio Grande." Ivins liked the fact that Austin “had all but enshrined Willie Nelson as its patron saint—and that Willie was giggling in a smoky haze out along the Pedernales River, skinny dipping with his posse, playing rounds of stoned golf on his private course that took all day long because people were laughing their asses off, singing songs, drinking more beer, and lighting up fat doobies.”

Ivins publicized the case of Lee Otis, a black student activist who faced 30 years in prison for passing a joint to an undercover cop, by writing in 1970 that Governor Preston Smith was confused by a crowd yelling “Free Lee Otis.” Smith thought they were saying, “Frijoles!”

In a March 1999 column Ivins wrote,

“It's an odd country, really. Our largest growth industries are gambling and prisons. But as you may have heard, crimes rates are dropping. We're not putting people into prison for hurting other people. We're putting them into prison for using drugs, and as we already know, that doesn't help them or us. . . . Last year, more than 600,000 people in this country were arrested for possession of marijuana, a drug less harmful for adults than alcohol.”

Ivins concluded, “But none of this — not all the new drug laws and new prisons or incredible incarceration rates — has reduced illicit drug use....

“Unless you are a drug user or know somebody in the joint, all this may seem far removed from your life. It's not. They're taking money away from your kids' schools to pay for all this, from helping people who are mentally retarded and mentally ill, from mass transit and public housing and more parkland and ...”

Ivins died of breast cancer in 2007, but her beat goes on.

See Molly in a Letterman interview

And watch the recent commentary by Lawrence O’Donnell on marijuana vs. alcohol

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