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WONDER WOMEN OF TEXAS

By Fred Mittag

 

richardsPolitical fertility bred three magnificent wonder women in Texas. I was saddened by the death of each of them. Ann Richards was the politician who became governor, and a very good one. She said, “Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

Molly Ivins was a writer who had intellect, talent, and even with her terminal cancer, insisted on having fun. Molly said, “I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”

Another Molly quote: “I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn’t actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle.”

My third beloved Texas heroine was Billie Carr, called “The Godmother.” I met her before I knew who she was. It was the ‘92 election and I wanted a Clinton bumper sticker and a few campaign buttons that I could wear and then keep as souvenirs. The Harris County Democrats had a small area on the second floor of a building in Houston. A young man greeted me when I entered. Then I noticed a woman studying me a little bit. “Hey, come here.”

I spent an hour with her and ended up with something akin to a political education about how things work inside a political party. That woman was an energized activist. She introduced herself as Billie Carr, but the name didn’t mean a thing to me. It was only later that I learned how privileged I had been to have so much of her time.

Molly Ivins wrote about Carr after her death “Oh, she was so much fun. Irreverent, and improper, and absolutely fearless. And she had the greatest laugh.”

Nobody worked harder for Bill Clinton’s campaigns than Billie Carr. And as only Molly Ivins could describe it: “When President Clinton got himself into that Monica Lewinsky mess, Billie was pissed off at him as only a woman of a certain age can be about men and their stupidity.”

Molly continued, “Clinton made the mistake of inviting her to the White House in the middle of that deal. Here it is, a big reception line, everyone duded up, ... and Billie came though that line, looked the president of the United States in the eye and said, low and hard, ‘You dumb son of a bitch.’ Clinton laughed and said, ‘Billie, I knew you were gonna do that.’ Which proves he wasn’t all dumb.”

Billie wanted her funeral to be conducted in her political tradition. She asked for a balanced delegation of pall bearers—blacks, browns, gays, and an equal number of women. She requested an open casket “with a sign pasted over my left tit that says: ‘Hi there! My Name Is Billie Carr.’” There were voter registration cards by the guest book. Molly Ivins reported “I haven’t had such a good time at a funeral since Richard Nixon died.”

These three women were famed for their quick wit, and they shared a philosophy of “have fun, kick ass and get things done.” They were at home in a Texas ice house drinking beer, or in the halls of state drinking champagne. God love ‘em.

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