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If America had only listened to Molly…

by Ogi Overman

Very few times in life do you get to meet your heroes. You watch them on TV or in the movies, read their books or articles, follow their athletic exploits and admire them from afar.

But I actually got to have dinner with my all-time hero.

Make that heroine. As in Molly Ivins.

I’d been aware of Molly long before the News & Record began running her syndicated column but absolutely fell in love with her during the 2000 election. Week after week she tried to warn us, tried to tell us that Bush was not worthy of the governorship of Texas, much less the presidency of the United States. She’d written a book in 1999 called Shrub about his illogical power grab in the Lone Star State, and his reckless abuse of same once he got it. Then, in the intro to her 2003 book Bushwhacked she wrote of being tempted to begin it with the sentence: “If y’all had’ve read the first book, we wouldn’t’ve had to write this one.”

So, what did America do the following year but go out and re-elect him. We failed to heed her warnings not once but twice and now we’re paying the price.

My brush with fame came about four months before the 2004 election. Molly was in Greensboro to speak at an ACLU fundraiser, something she did monthly at various chapters around the country – gratis, by the way. The moment I heard she was coming I started pulling strings to weasel an invitation to the VIP dinner before her speech. I sent the state ACLU folks in Raleigh a column I’d written the previous October titled “Coffee with Molly,” and they determined that my credentials as a muckraking malcontent (or is that a malcontented muckraker?) were in order.

Now, I’d learned long ago that journalists do not demean the profession by asking for autographs, but I decided to make an exception in this case. I dutifully waited my turn in the meet-and-greet line, and when I finally got to the front started babbling incoherently about unashamedly ripping her off as I shoved items in her face to sign, including the “Coffee with Molly” column in which I’d unashamedly ripped her off.

Then I made my way through the buffet line and found a seat. A few minutes later Molly herself sat down right beside me and we had about 20 minutes of one-on-one time that I’ll cherish forever. No, it was not the 20-minute Bush bash you might expect, but rather a convivial chat about Texas music, fortunately a subject in which I am somewhat conversant. We talked about getting drunk in the Armadillo and getting drunk in Soap Creek Saloon and getting drunk in the Texas Opry House and getting drunk in Threadgill’s. And we talked about how we don’t get drunk anymore.

Then she went out into the Special Events Center and regaled a couple hundred of us with a delightful, hilarious and insightful rant on the perils of four more years under the Duh regime. This was, mind you, during a time when Kerry was enjoying a 4- to 6-point lead in the polls, and the gist of Molly’s speech was “don’t put anything past Bush, that Rove always has something up his sleeve.”

Well, well, well, it wasn’t a couple of weeks later before Rove launched his “Swift Boat” campaign, and the Kerry campaign was effectively sunk. The nightmare continues.

Fast-forward a couple of years and the News & Record bows to public pressure and reinstates the New York Times columnists they’d dumped a year earlier to save a buck. I feared that they were going to drop Molly in the process and e-mailed editorial page editor Allen Johnson a “say it ain’t so, Allen” missive. The moment he replied, confirming my fears, I alerted YES! Weekly editor Brian Clarey that she was available. The blur I saw was him calling Creators Syndicate and Molly was in the next issue of this fine publication.

In the sweetest of ironies, her column and mine often wound up on the same page. As if that were not compliment enough, a couple of weeks ago some right-wing blogger named Shoulung discovered YES! and essentially lumped Molly and me in the same Bush-bashing boat. Of my column, Shoulung opined, “I could generate pablum like this with one hand and a few drinks in me.”

Thank you, dear Shoulung, whoever the hell you are. To be mentioned in the same breath as Molly is the highest praise I could ever hope for.

This morning I pulled out the items I’d had Molly sign that evening. On one she wrote, “You can steal from me anytime. Your fellow columnist, Molly Ivins.” On another, she penned, “Don’t forget to keep laughin’. Best wishes, Molly Ivins.” And on the third she admonished, her signature line, “Raise more hell!”

I intend to, Molly, I intend to.

Ogi may be reached at ogiman100@yahoo.com, heard Tuesdays 9:30-10 am on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen Fridays 6:30-7 am on ABC45 and Sundays 10-10:30 pm on MVY48 on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth.

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