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FEATURE It Only Hurts When He Laughs Kinky’s bravado hides a dark vision of politics and life BY DAVE MANN n early September, a small legion of journalists descended on Kinky Friedman’s South Austin cam paign headquarters. The country singer, mystery writer, essayist, former Texas Monthly columnist, and now Texas gubernatorial candidate planned to unveil wasn’t a whole lot to the KISP plan. In a press release not much more than a page, Kinky outlined his wish to revoke the state’s recently expanded business tax and his pitch to spend $100 million on new Houston cops to reduce the city’s rising crime rate. Kinky attributes the increase in crime to the city’s Hurricane Katrina evacuees. The day before, during a similar news conference in Houston, Kinky had called the refugees of the greatest natural disaster in American history a bunch of “thugs and crackheads.” It caused a bit of a stir. Unconventional is what Kinky does. His campaign sloganfound glued to car bumpers all over Texasis, “Kinky for Governor: Why the Hell not?” His right-hand man answers to the name Little Jewford. In the span of a single speech, Kinky can invoke the wisdom of writer Oscar Wilde and the Rev. Goat Carson. \(The good reverend, it turns out, is a Katrina evacuee himself, a New Orleans musician and street preacher who came to stay at Kinky’s Kerrville ranch A Kinky Friedman press conference is excellent theater. He likes to cast the reporters as the straight people in his act. While the self-proclaimed anti-politician dodges questions as adroitly as any seasoned pol, he at least cracks up the room in the process. Kinky took the podium, and after giving a few sketchy details on the KISP plan, opened the floor to questions. Does he really think, a reporter asked, that the evacuees are crackheads and thugs? Well, not all of them, Kinky said, but enough of them. Another reporter asked what programs he would cut to make up the lost revenue from the business tax he wanted to repeal. A most basic campaign question. “What would I cut?” Kinky said, searching for an answer. “How about that question?” He then launched into a riff on the wonders of casino gambling, which he wants to legalize to fund public education. Not only would casinos bring in money for the state, he said, but they could help revive towns like Corpus Christi. That reminded him of another story: Jimmy Buffett had agreed to come play a benefit concert for Kinky’s campaign. Buffett wanted only one thing in return. “What’s that?” Kinky said he asked. “Port Aransas,” Buffett had said. That sounds like a joke, Kinky admitted to the press, but “what if you ceded Port Aransas to Jimmy Buffett for four 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 3, 2006 Kinky Friedman photo by Troy Fields years?” Talk about a tourism explosion! In fact, he said he’d already talked with some folks in Port A, and they were kind of keen on the idea. At this, R.G. Ratcliffe, the veteran Houston Chronicle reporter, asked, “How are voters to know when you’re joking and when you’re being serious? Like the five Mexican generals is a joke…” Oh no, Kinky interrupted, the five Mexican generals plan might actually work. \(He proposes stemming illegal immigration by giving five Mexican generals $2 million, stationing them on the border, and deducting cash from their take Mexican army knows how to stop emigrationwe just need to give them an incentive. After a moment, Kinky added, “The five Mexican generals is a joke that lies close to the truth.” Kinky has conceded that his campaign for governor began two years ago as something of a larknot unlike his failed 1986 run for justice of the peace in Kerr County \(he promised especially since his campaign collected the more than 45,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot last springit’s become