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"Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins
Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, a one-woman show starring Kathleen Turner, written by twin sisters Margaret Engel and Allison Engel, slings together some of Molly Ivins’s best bons mots along with biographical details a reader or theatergoer might not have been aware of. Her Dad, known as the General, was a bully and her mother hated President Nixon not because he issued the orders to invade Cambodia but because he had bad manners. Hers was the childhood and upbringing of oil-rich upper middle class Texas — George W. Bush, a lifelong foe, was a high school classmate.
Molly Ivins would have none of that conservative, narrow minded, and provincial life. She was a liberal who named the ACLU in her will. She left Texas to go to Smith College, but returned afterwards to work in journalism. A five-year stint at The New York Times, where, she claims, her copy was “de-clawed and gutted. One of the first pieces she wrote for the Times was an obituary of Elvis Presley. Her final piece for the newspaper of record was about a chicken plucking contest, which she headlined “A Gang Pluck.” Ivins’s irreverence and wicked, some might say dirty, wit did not go well with the editors at the Times. She was fired.
Red Hot Patriot gives some explanation as to why Ivins never married — both of her best beau died young — and her midlife melancholy and heavy drinking. By the time she sobered up, the next challenge, which proved fatal, was upon her: breast cancer. The show ends with her final column, an obit of sorts for herself and for the brave, irre Kathleen Turner’s solo performance includes an assistant who enters from time to time to take new stories off the teletype machine (oh, yes, for those nostalgic for old time journalism, there’s nothing like hearing the ping of a teletype machine’s bell.) It begins strongly enough but her energy seemed to lag before the 75-minute show ends. Admittedly after laughing with Ivins at the foibles of her fellow Texans, friend and foe alike, witnessing her alcoholism and life-ending breast cancer is a downer.
Red Hot Patriot serves as a good introduction to one of journalism’s late great iconic figures but it isn’t half as good as reading her books: Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?, Who Let the Dogs In? Incredible Political Animals I Have Known, You Got To Dance with Them What Brung You and Bushwacked, Life in George W. Bush’s America.