Richard S. "Kinky" Friedman (born October 31 or November 1, 1944) is an American singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, politician and former columnist for Texas Monthly who styles himself in the mold of popular American satirists Will Rogers and Mark Twain. He was one of two independent candidates in the 2006 election for the office of Governor of Texas. Receiving 12.6% of the vote, Friedman placed fourth in the five-person race.
Friedman graduated from Austin High School in Austin, Texas in 1962 and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1966 with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology while participating in the Plan II Honors program. He is also a member of the Tau Delta Phi fraternity. It was during his freshman year at the university that Chinga Chavin gave Friedman the nickname "Kinky," in reference to Friedman's curly hair.
Friedman then served two years with the Peace Corps on the island of Borneo in Malaysia with John Gross. He has been featured in the news including 60 Minutes on CBS and made an appearance as one of Jay Leno's guests. Friedman lives at Echo Hill Ranch, his family's summer camp near Kerrville, Texas. He also founded Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, the mission of which is to care for stray, abused and aging animals; more than 1,000 dogs have been saved from animal euthanasia.
By 1971, Friedman had formed his second band, Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys. In keeping with the band's satirical nature, each member had a comical name: in addition to Kinky there was Little Jewford, Big Nig, Panama Red, Wichita Culpepper, Sky Cap Adams, Rainbow Colours, and Snakebite Jacobs. Friedman's father objected to the name of the band, calling it a "negative, hostile, peculiar thing", which gave Kinky even more reason to choose the name.
Arriving on the wave of country rock following on from Gram Parsons, The Band, and the Eagles, Friedman originally found cult fame as a country and western singer. His break came in 1973 thanks to Commander Cody, who contacted Vanguard Music on his behalf. Friedman released Kinky Friedman in 1974 for ABC Records, then toured with Bob Dylan in 1975-6. His repertoire mixed social commentary ("We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To You") and maudlin ballads ("Western Union Wire") with raucous humor (such as "Get Your Biscuits In The Oven and Your Buns In Bed"). His "Ride' em Jewboy" was an extended tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.
He made a race baiting song, "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore," a song in which Kinky verbally and physically beats up a drunken white person he deems "racist" who fictitiously berates African Americans, Jews, Greeks, and Sigma Nus in a bar.
Other Friedman tunes include "The Ballad of Charles Whitman," in which Friedman lampooned Whitman's sniper attack from the University of Texas tower on August 1, 1966. His cover of Chinga Chavin's "Asshole from El Paso", a parody of Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee" is, perhaps, his most famous song.
Friedman was a musical guest on Saturday Night Live in October 1976.
It has been reported by Mr. Friedman himself that he is the only artist known to have taped an unaired episode of Austin City Limits. He has also claimed to have been the first full-blooded Jew to take the stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
In February, 2007 Sustain Records released a compilation of the songs of Kinky Friedman sung by other artists called Why the Hell not... The compilation includes contributions by Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Kelly Willis.
On July 20, 2007 Kinky Friedman hosted the "Concert to Save Town Lake" to honor the memory of Lady Bird Johnson and her efforts to protect and preserve the shores of Town Lake in Austin, Texas.
Friedman has also written a regular column for the magazine Texas Monthly since April 2001, although it has been suspended during his run for governor of Texas; his last essay appeared in the March 2005 issue. In 2008, Texas Monthly brought his column back on a bimonthly basis.
Two books have been published collecting some of these nonfiction writings, as well as previously unpublished ones: 'Scuse Me While I Whip This Out and Texas Hold'em. He has also published a travelog (The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic) and an etiquette guide.
The recurring character "Rambam", a New York private investigator and friend of the Friedman character in the books, is based on the real-life investigator, Steven Rombom, who acts as a technical advisor for the real Friedman.
In 2004, Friedman began a serious, though colorful, campaign to become the Governor of Texas in 2006. One of his stated goals is the "dewussification" of Texas Among his campaign slogans are "How Hard Could It Be?", "Why The Hell Not?", "My Governor is a Jewish Cowboy" and "He ain't Kinky, he's my Governor".
Friedman had hoped to follow in the footsteps of other entertainers-turned-governors, including Jimmie Davis, Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Ronald Reagan. When the campaign finance reports came out after the second quarter had ended, Friedman had raised more funds than the Democratic nominee, former Congressman Chris Bell.
On election day, November 7, Friedman was defeated by a wide margin, having received less than 13% of the state's votes in the five-candidate matchup.
On capital punishment, he previously summed up his position, "I am not anti-death penalty, but I'm damn sure anti-the-wrong-guy-getting-executed". More recently, he has clarified his position: "The system is not perfect. Until it's perfect, let's do away with the death penalty".
On illegal immigration, Kinky wants to increase the number of Texas National Guard troops on the border (from the current 1,500 to 10,000), impose $25,000 and $50,000 fines on companies that hire illegal immigrants and require foreign nationals seeking employment to purchase a foreign taxpayer ID card once they have passed a criminal background check. "Texas can no longer wait for our federal government to solve our illegal immigration problem," Friedman said. "These are steps that Texas can immediately take to help stem the tide of illegal immigrants penetrating our border." Had he been elected, he had promised to meet regularly with Governors Bill Richardson (New Mexico) and Janet Napolitano (Arizona) to develop a coordinated border state plan to supplement federal efforts to curb illegal immigration. Previously, Kinky put forth the "Five Mexican Generals" Plan, to pay Mexican officials to halt immigration on their side of the border. Although he originally stated "When I talk about the five Mexican generals, people think I’m joking but I’m dead serious", Friedman later told the Dallas Morning News that the plan, never meant to be carried out, was a joke with an element of seriousness.
According to his official Web site, Friedman's answer to the question "How does Kinky feel about abortion?" is "Kinky believes in a woman's right to choose." In person, he hedges his bet, saying "I'm not pro-life, and I'm not pro-choice. I'm pro-football". On social issues he has supported gay marriage, answering an Associated Press reporter's question on the subject on Feb. 3, 2005, "I support gay marriage. I believe they have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us" (Friedman himself is not married).
According to Cigar Aficionado magazine, Friedman plans to roll back "any and all smoking bans" if elected. One of his favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain: "If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go". Friedman supports the decriminalization of marijuana, though he doesn't advocate making its sale legal. "I'm not talking about like Amsterdam," he noted, "We've got to clear some of the room out of the prisons so we can put the bad guys in there, like the pedophiles and the politicians".
In an August 23, 2007 interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Friedman stated that if he did run in 2010, he would run as a Democrat, citing that "God probably couldn't have won as an independent".
Friedman's persona as a politically incorrect raconteur has been likened to that of movie critic and commentator John Irving Bloom, better known in print as Joe Bob Briggs, with whom he appeared in the B-movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
Friedman prefers to smoke Montecristo No. 2 Cigars, the same brand once smoked by Fidel Castro. However, he also smokes Bolivars, noting that "Simón Bolívar is the only person in history to be exiled from a country named after him".. Friedman now makes eponymous cigars under the name Kinky Friedman Cigars.
Friedman is given brief praise in Joseph Heller's 1976 novel, Good as Gold, in which a governor (meant to satirize Lyndon B. Johnson), tells the main character, Bruce Gold: "Gold, I like you. You remind me a lot of this famous country singer from Texas I'm crazy about, a fellow calls himself Kinky Friedman, the Original Texas Jewboy. Kinky's smarter, but I like you more."
Friedman is friends with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and he has visited both at the White House. He wrote about his friendships with them in his November 2001 column ("Hail to the Kinkster") for Texas Monthly.