Thursday, February 1, 2007

Here's to Molly Ivins, a Texas Grande Dame

I miss her already.

Molly Ivins died yesterday after a long fight with breast cancer. She was an incredible writer who had her own distinct voice.

Molly Ivins lived, breathed and loved Texas and Texas politics. Molly was a reporter and worked for many years at different papers and even worked for a few years for the New York Times. She readily admitted that she was miserable while working for the Times because they didn't get her humor. She found her columns heavily edited and one turn of phrase she had submitted which was "a beergut that belongs in the Smithsonian" was transformed into "a man with a protuberant abdomen." She was fired by the Times when she used the term "gang-pluck" to describe a community's chicken-killing festival.

She returned to Texas to work for the Dallas Times-Herald and began emerging as the star she was. They gave her free reign to write about what she wanted in the style she wanted. Because she used humor and she wrote about Texas politics, she did rile a few feathers. There was an effort to pressure the Times-Herald to fire her when she made the observation about one legislator that "if his IQ slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice a day." Instead they stuck by her and rented billboards around town with the slogan, "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?" Later that was the title of her first book which was a collection of her newspaper columns.

She wrote in a manner that allowed people to hear how Texans sound. She chose to write the word "bidness" rather than business because that's how the word sounds when spoken in Texas. She'd write about Texas bidnessmen and politicians in the "Lege" (pronounced like ledge) which was short for the state legislature. You could hear Molly's voice while you were reading her columns and people grew to love her.

Her columns became syndicated and appeared in over 300 newspapers. Molly was unlike most political columnists who people read because they feel they ought to. People read Molly because they loved her.

I remember the first time I had ever heard of Molly was back in 1991 when I was working the afternoon shift and happened to hear a program on my local National Public Radio station. It was one of their pledge drives and they aired a talk by her. I was enchanted by her voice, her manner, her wit and above all her style.

About a week later I was in a book store and was waiting in line to check out with an armload of books when I started looking around. I saw the bookshelf with new releases and saw her book Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? I stepped out of line, grabbed a copy and when I got home I promptly forgot all the titles I had so carefully chosen to purchase and dived into the impulse buy.

I sat in bed reading her columns, howling with laughter and then read passages to my husband. We became Molly Ivins fans and at Christmas I gave copies of her book to both my parents and to my in-laws. They were also won over by her charm.

Here is a small slice of her observations about Texas politics:

"Texas politicians aren't crooks: it's just they tend to have an overdeveloped sense of the extenuatin' circumstance. As they say around the legislature, if you can't drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in office."

Here is a link to one of her columns called Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh.
That will give you an insight as to how much she loved Texas and how much it showed.

I was fortunate to see her speak twice in person at sold out venues. She was just as witty, charming and personable as one could hope.

I heard Lou Dubose today being interviewed on Pat Thurston's radio program. Lou and Molly co-wrote two books together about George W. Bush. Lou spoke of Molly with fondness and said that she was conversant in French and felt just as comfortable in a salon on the West Bank of Paris as she was in watering holes in East Texas.

She was an incredible woman and will be sorely missed. The world benefited from her wit, wisdom and mighty pen.

Thanks Molly for everything.


Devon Ellington said...

Yes, she will be terribly missed. She is certainly someone who made the world a better place via action.

Holly Kennedy said...

I never got to see her speak in person, but I would've loved the opportunity to do so... Very sad to have lost her voice in this crazy world.

(P.S. I'll answer your ? re: foreign rights offline tomorrow, ok? It won't be a short email and I've got company tonight).