The first time I got Kinky was in China in 2006. I was traveling alone on a train to Beijing, drinking baijiu in the dining car. It had been nearly two days since I heard fluent English, and then suddenly I heard the words “Kinky Friedman.” A Texas couple had just sat down behind me, and of all the things to talk about at that very moment, they were discussing their state’s gubernatorial race. The woman was saying that Kinky, one of the candidates, was charming and she loved that he was a Jewish cowboy. Her husband repeatedly declared he was an asshole, and nothing more. Kinky, I learned, was quite the man. As a musician, his band, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, hit it big in the 1970s. It was a satirical country rock act penning songs with titles like “Ride ’em Jewboy” and “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in Bed.” With a cult following, Friedman toured with Bob Dylan and claims he was the first full-blooded Jew to take the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. In the’80s, Kinky tried his hand at writing detective novels. He fashioned a protagonist as his namesake who solved wacky crimes in New York City and has issued more than 30 novels. Recently he wrote the intro to Willie Nelson’s book Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die. He finished fourth in the 2006 Texas governor’s race as an independent candidate. Lately though, he’s been revving up on politics and may just throw his cowboy hat in the political ring again and run for governor of Texas in 2014. “Find what you like and let it kill you,” has been one of Kinky’s favorite quotes over the years. As he embarks on his Bi-Polar Tour, which comes to Zoey’s in Ventura on Sunday, Dec. 9, it seems there are many things killing Kinky these days. Aside from playing classic Kinky songs on tour, he’ll also be promoting his new tequila, cigar, Live from Woodstock album, politics and books.
VCR: How have you been?
Kinky Friedman: I’m hangin’ by spit.
What is this Bi-Polar tour all about? You’ve said it is a fact-finding mission.
It is. I’m a greeter type and I’ll be with the audience before and after the show, signing anything but bad legislation. I want to talk to the people and learn a lot. I’m doing 28 shows in 27 days and traveling very light with just a guitar and a book. It’s a very high calling to be a musician, a big step down from being a musician to a politician.
I have some interest in running for governor again in 2014. . . . In Texas we need a rainmaker and that’s me.
You’ve said you respect the old cowboy way, which is to ride, shoot straight and tell the truth. But will you be able to do that in politics?
I have my last will and testament worked out so that my ashes will be thrown in Rick Perry’s hair. All the aggies and blondes now are telling Rick Perry jokes. People are worried. The last time I ran in 2006, people were saying we don’t want a comedian in the governor’s mansion. Well we’ve had one for 12 years. People are ready for fundamental change.
What will come first? Female president or Jewish president?
(Laughs). Well, if it’s not me or, what’s his name, Sleazerman?
Yeah, if it’s not me or Sleazerman, I don’t see anybody else on the horizon. The big thing about being a president is perception and leadership. It’s what Truman, Barbara Jordan, Reagan, JFK and Churchill all had. It’s the ability to inspire. It’s not even legislation that counts. Obama just doesn’t have it.
Let’s talk more about the tour. You have a new record and new book, right?
Yeah, they’re selling really well. The album is Live at Woodstock. And I’m telling everybody to buy Willie’s new book, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die. The book turned out really good . . . Willie plays with pain. He’s very wise. He says some great things like, “If there is no solution, there is no problem.” He also gave me great advice before my campaign. He said, “If you’re gonna have sex with an animal, do it with a horse. If things don’t work out you have a ride home.” That has served me well in politics and life.
Tell me about Kinky Freidman’s Man in Black tequila.
We’ll have it at the show, and everybody will get a taste. It’s the best Mexican mouthwash you’ll ever swallow. It’s made in the honor of Zorro, Paladin, Johnny Cash and Barbara Jordan. We salute them. If we had people like that running our country, we’d be in good shape.
Is your parting advice really “Find what you like and let it kill you”?
That’s a good one. But I’ve changed it now to, “ ‘Jesus loves you’ can be comforting words unless you hear them in a Mexican prison.”
Kinky Friedman will perform at Zoey’s on Sunday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.zoeyscafe.com.