Lone Star Long Shot

Better known for his irreverent country songs and mystery novels, Kinky Friedman sets his sights on the governor's mansion.

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Put the 60-year-old on stage in a smoke-filled room, and he tends to wax lyrically about his heroes, those larger-than-life characters whose cigar consumption borders on prodigious. Among his favorites are Winston Churchill, a leader of men, Friedman is wont to point out, who almost never was seen without a cigar during the Second World War; Mark Twain, who smoked up to 40 cigars a day and uttered one of Friedman's favorite quotes, "If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go"; and Thomas Edison, who, according to Friedman, lived to be 84 by "blowing smoke at people who ridiculed his inventions."
Friedman claims he took up cigar smoking for health reasons. "Cigar smokers live longer," he says, singling out octogenarians such as Sigmund Freud and Edison and, of course, Churchill, who lived to be 90. Friedman generally smokes eight cigars a day, though he says 12 is more typical when he's writing. He admits to a particular fixation for Montecristo No. 2s. Lately he's been smoking Bolivars. In typical fashion, he explains his atypical rationale. "Simon Bolivar is the only person in history to be exiled from a country named after him," he says.
Not surprisingly, the candidate is adamant about rolling back any and all smoking bans if he's elected governor. It's the sort of approach he plans to use to distance himself from his only announced opponent, Govenor Perry, whom Friedman derides as "a career politician." Oddly enough, the sole experience that Friedman thinks served Perry well was his years at Texas A&M as a collegiate cheerleader.
"Hell, George Bush was a cheerleader," Friedman says. "And Kay Bailey Hutchison was one as well, and she can probably kick both of their asses. But the one thing you've got to remember is this: They're all going to be cheering for me. 'Cause after next year's election, I'm the one who's going to be carrying the ball."
Texas-based Eric O'Keefe has profiled a variety of entertainment and political figures, including Russell Crowe, Tommy Lee Jones, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
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