Capturing Friedman

Texas's renaissance man waxes political and philosophical

I'm not going to kiss babies; I'm going to kiss their mothers. -- Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman is serious. Well, just about as serious as anyone named Kinky can be. "The governor's race appears to be picking up some steam," he says. For those of you who don't dabble in statewide politics or Texas Jewboy music, now you know: Kinky Friedman is running for governor. That's right -- governor. "I'd probably be a pretty good governor," says the writer, musician and all-around Renaissance man. "It'd be Texas's loss and my loss if it doesn't happen, especially considering what we've had recently."

What we've had recently is Rick Perry, a.k.a. Guv Goodhair. So serious is Friedman about giving Perry a run for his money, the Kinkster declined to comment when we asked him about the recent rumors floating around concerning Perry's marital infidelity. (Perry told the Austin American-Statesmanthat the rumors were "not correct in any shape, form or fashion.") Come on, Kinky! These rumors are perfect fodder for your trademark wit. "I'll just state my same stance with Rick," he says. "I've got a better head of hair than he does, it's just not in a place I can show you." Spoken like a true politician.

Friedman is also serious about his literary career. As the author of more than a dozen novels, he's carved his own niche in the mystery genre. His latest, The Prisoner of Vandam Street, pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock by giving Rear Window a kick in the rear. Gone are James Stewart and Grace Kelly; in are the Kinkster himself and his band of Village Irregulars, a group of characters based on his real-life friends.

In the book, Friedman's literary alter ego is laid up with a vicious case of malaria. While amusing himself with a pair of opera glasses, he spies what he takes to be an instance of domestic violence. Problem is, no one believes him in his stupefied state. "I think this is the best I've done," he says of the book. "It's more of a dark, existential novel."

And existential it is. Not only does Friedman's character dream of "Kafka being bull-fucked by a kangaroo," he also drifts into meta-narrative. For example, his character thinks "that our lives are works of fiction, and that it hardly matters in what manner you lived or died or shat through a typewriter."

"We are all prisoners of Vandam Street," says Friedman the man. "I'm a prisoner of genre, and it wouldn't matter what I wrote. I could write fucking Ulysses or I could write any goddamn, great earth-breaking work of art right now, and it would still be seen as a diverting little mystery to read on a plane by some people."

This gubernatorial candidate and serious novelist is the subject of a new documentary by Dutch filmmaker Simone de Vries, Kinky Friedman: Proud to Be an Asshole from El Paso. "You'll be, as people always are with my work, pleasantly surprised," promises Friedman. "It's done real well. Bill Clinton, Lyle Lovett and the Village Irregulars -- a lot of those people are terrific in this." The Kinkster signs The Prisoner of Vandam Street at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 24. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet, 713-524-8597. Free. Kinky Friedman: Proud to Be an Asshole from El Pasoscreens at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 27, and 5 p.m. Sunday, March 28. MFAH'S Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7515. $6.

 
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