God broke His mold after He created Molly Ivins. There will never be another like her.
And one of the true highlights of my life will always be the time I met her in the company of Governor Ann Richards, shook both of their hands, and laughed my sides apart at the repartee between the two of them, renown close friends.
I have been a fan of Molly’s since the first few weeks of my moving to Texas in early 1982. I read in the long-gone Dallas Times Herald a warm welcome to Molly in returning home to Motherland Texas. The article went on to describe how the paper was able to nab Molly back after she had infuriated the editors and publisher of the NY Times where she worked with a story she had written about a “chicken-killing festival” somewhere in New Mexico and had referred to the entire matter as a “gang pluck.” I still remember nearly doubling over in laughter! The reference was too much for the NY Times, who made life miserable for her until she quit. But the genius of satirical humor from which Molly birthed the phrase soundly reestablished Molly in the hearts of Texans forever more. Hell, it made her a true celebrity for years and years and years.
And for the next 20-plus years – with her last column published just three weeks ago, as dictated from her bed – Molly showed Texas and our nation how to have fun as a political satirist, as a political activist, whose targets never fail to deliver fodder too good to possibly be made up.
In her bestselling book, “Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?” Molly told about her beginning days at the Texas Observer, a quite “liberal” magazine and an absolute treasured institution in our State. She related how she would “denounce some sorry sum-bitch in the Lege (her pet name for our Texas Legislature) as an egg-suckin’ child-molester who ran on all fours and had the brains of an adolescent pissant” and prepare to be “horsewhipped at the least.” But when she would see the object of her comments the next day in the Capitol, “he’d beam, spread his arms, and say ‘Baby! Yew put mah name in yore paper!’ Who could resist working in a place like that?”
I am proud to own an autographed copy.
For the last six years, since her first diagnosis in 1999, Molly has battled Stage III Breast Cancer off and on, and it returned with a vengeance in the Fall of 2005. And from the time her cancer went public, Molly was flooded with cards, emails and gifts from an adoring fan base. She also quipped how everyone started “laying on” the lifetime achievement awards.
Always humble, Molly was known to use the plaques received in commemoration of her work as trivets on her dining table during parties she would hold in her Austin home. “What else am I gonna do with them?” she would say with her warm, jaunty smirk.
Just last November, a very weak and ill Molly traveled to Harvard’s JFK School of Government to receive perhaps her most treasured acknowledgment, the David Nyhan Prize for Political Journalism. During the event, questions to Molly were posed from visitors in attendance. One young college student from Dallas named David Eskey asked Molly if she thought Dallas’ voting Democratic in the last election was indicative of a state-wide trend. Molly replied that she thought not, that this was merely an urban phenomenon that wouldn’t have a long future and that Texas nowadays “has jumped the shark, as they say. I think it (Texas) has just gone off on a political toot that doesn’t resemble anyone else’s reality.”
And in true Molly style, she went on to talk about our incumbent Governor Rick Perry, whom she has always referred to as “Governor GoodHair.”
Quoth Molly about his reelection and early days in his return to office:
“Now let me explain, it’s possible to make progress with Rick Perry as governor. He needed a new person on the state regulatory board and chose for this purpose a former Enron executive, which didn’t strike everybody as a great idea, but it struck the governor as a great idea. So he appoints this guy. And we don’t have, in Texas, a sunshine law…we have kind of a partly cloudy law.
“So we went and found out that he had, while on a hunting trip on a year earlier accidentally shot a whooping crane, which is, as we say in Texas, an In-Dangered species. He not only shot the whooping crane, he accidentally buried the whooping crane.
“And he had to pay a huge fine. So we put this in the papers…and Texas is a state full of hunters, and they’re all sitting there going, ‘Son of a bitch, poor guy, he accidentally shot a whooper, hell anybody could accidentally shoot a whooper’ and they didn’t give a damn. But we printed the next day, we stayed with the story. This is where relentless pursuit will get the young reporter ahead: He shot the whooper while on a duck hunt.
Continues Molly, “Now the whooper is a large bird. A whooper actually runs to about five feet tall. Your duck… Now we’ve got a whole state full of hunters saying, ‘Well, G-Damn! This son of a bitch is too dumb to tell a duck from a whooper…’
“And he was forced to resign.”
Molly never lost her humor, her genius for getting a point about corruption and stupidity across with acerbic grace. She will be remembered and treasured by every politician she ever exposed, and by devoted readers spanning two generations.
I find it only fitting that the skies above Dallas right now are slowly weeping.
Goodbye, Molly. Give ‘em Hell in Heaven.