Friedman brings ‘Texas Liberation’ to Hawaii

Nov. 29, 2013 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition

Comedic speaker Kinky Friedman will perform Thursday at Hawaiian Brian's. --John Berger / jberger@staradvertiser.com

Kinky Friedman will perform Thursday, Dec. 5, at Crossroads at Hawaiian Brian’s. (Star-Advertiser photo by John Berger)


BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

Kinky Friedman strides across the hotel lobby, dressed in black Western attire, ready for action. From a distance the resemblance to Richard Boone in character as Paladin is unmistakable.

KINKY FRIEDMAN

Where: Crossroads at Hawaiian Brian’s, 1680 Kapiolani Blvd.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5
Cost: $30, $50 (Gold Circle)
Info: 946-1343 or lazarbear.com

As he gets closer I see that his eyes have the same level, appraising squint that made Lee Van Cleef one of the great villains of Western films and television shows in the early ’60s, and then an iconic hero in “spaghetti Westerns.”

I introduce myself.

“Jewboy or German?” he asks.

The term “Jewboy” is not often heard in Hawaii, but the question regarding ethnicity is understandable. Berger has been an ethnic German family name for centuries, but Jews lived in Germany for so long that there are many Jewish Bergers as well.

Friedman is Jewish.

I’m German.

I would discover during our conversation that Germans are Friedman’s second-favorite people in the whole world.

His favorite people in the world are …

Wait for it, folks …

“Everybody else!”

Moments after I met him it felt like we’d been friends for years.

And so, Friedman and I sat on a Waikiki park bench for 45 minutes, bikini babes cavorting on the beach in front of us, the tantalizing smells of someone’s cooking on a hibachi wafting through the air from somewhere behind.

He talked. I listened.

AT TIMES it sounded like Friedman was sharing stand-up comedy material from his recent “BiPolar World Tour” in Europe. At others he sounded like one of the most down-to-earth and visionary politicians in America.

Fans of the self-styled “Jewboy” know that he is both.

Friedman brings his “Texas Liberation Tour” to Hawaii next week with stops at Hawaiian Brian’s here in Honolulu on Thursday, the Honokaa People’s Theatre on Hawaii island Dec. 6 and Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon in Paia, Maui, Dec. 7.

From the stage, Hawaii will experience Friedman as a musician, singer-songwriter, social commentator and comedian — a combination of Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Johnny Cash and Lenny Bruce — but that’s only the tip of a much larger body of work. He is also a recording artist, record producer, author, columnist and contributor to publications ranging from The New York Times to Playboy.

“There’s a lot of humor in the show,” Friedman said. “It’s mixed with politics, songs and a reading from my latest book, ‘Heroes of a Texas Childhood,’ (about) 23 heroes of mine when I was a kid.

“When I’m on stage I’m doing this Lenny Bruce kind of stream-of-nervousness (stuff) along with the songs, along with the reading and a little political stump speech.

“The question is if the audience can figure out what is profound and what is profane.”

BORN Richard Samet Friedman in Chicago but raised in Texas — “Kinky” is a nickname from his college days at the University of Texas — Friedman first achieved widespread fame/notoriety in 1971 as the leader of a country/comedy group, Kinky Friedman & the Texas Jewboys. The name was a riff on the iconic Western swing band Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, but Friedman’s father warned him it was a bad idea.

“My dad was right. In many ways it’s a horrible name. It’s a name designed to never be commercial, to always be a Warren Zevon,” Friedman acknowledged. “It made and killed my career simultaneously.”

Songs in his early repertoire include “Ride ‘Em Jewboy” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.”

After establishing himself as an author and comedic speaker in the ’80s and ’90s, Friedman ran for governor in Texas in 2006. He placed fourth out of six.

He recently announced his candidacy for the office of agricultural commissioner as a Democrat; he’s waiting to see whether party regulars are going to draft one of their own to oppose him in the primary.

“We’re saying that if you elect me, it’s a referendum on legalizing marijuana in the state of Texas, which, if you calibrate the numbers, would (generate) about 200 times the revenue that Colorado enjoys” from legalization, Friedman said.

“This is not about dope-smoking hippies,” he continued. “This is about having the revenues to be something better than 48th in education. This is to clear out the prison cells. The prisons are full of people doing two- and three-year terms for nonviolent pot arrests.”

“When Prohibition was lifted (in 1933), the turf wars stopped almost immediately,” he said. “Today, do you think the liquor industry is doing well? I would say it is, so it was the right move. (Legalizing) marijuana could be bigger — and you’ve got the medicinal marijuana. One in 3 of us is going to get cancer. This is the biggest enemy we face, and we’re not looking into (medicinal marijuana)?”

FRIEDMAN’S three shows in Hawaii will follow 14 consecutive shows in Australia.

“It’s something Willie Nelson suggested to me,” he said. (And by the way, Friedman wrote the introduction to Nelson’s 2012 book, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road.”)

“If you’re on the road, you might as well work every night. … You travel light, it’s like Jesus or Johnny Appleseed,” Friedman said. “Woody Guthrie was another one that traveled like that, a guitar and a suitcase.”

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