Thoughts on Marion Barry’s New Memoir, “Mayor for Life”

Marion Barry (Linda Davidson/The Washignton Post, via Getty)
Marion Barry (Linda Davidson/The Washignton Post, via Getty)

Marion Barry, the former four-time mayor of Washington D.C., notorious for being filmed smoking crack, is the archetypal survivor. Mishearing a question, he even constructs an argument for a “yogurt tax.”

There was a lull in the media dinner, so Marion Barry–ever the entertainer–put a microphone to his lips and belted out an old blues standard.

“They call it stormy Monday, Tuesday’s just as bad,” Washington, D.C.’s longtime city councilman and four-term mayor crooned huskily, singing the T-Bone Walker classic to 20 startled reporters who had been invited on Friday night to interrogate him about his just-published memoir, Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr. 

“Wednesday’s worse, Thursday, oh so sad,” Hizzoner continued, adding embellishments along the way, undeterred by the ear-splitting din of mingling singles at downtown Washington’s Look Supper Club. “The eagle flies of Friday–that’s payday!–and Saturday I go out to play…Then come Sunday morning–what do I do?–get down on my knees and pray…Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy on me…If you see my baby, send her back home to me.”

At which Barry put down the mic and basked in a round of applause.

At 78, Washington’s notorious former mayor has survived several lifetimes and near-death experiences in his rise from Itta Bena, Mississippi, where his parents picked cotton, to his status in high cotton as the chief executive of the nation’s capital: Four marriages and four divorces; getting almost fatally shot, inches from his heart, by Hanafi Muslim terrorists staging an attack on City Hall; suffering through diabetes, prostate cancer and a kidney transplant; getting addicted to alcohol and cocaine; becoming the target of an FBI sting in which he was videotaped smoking crack in a hotel room with a former girlfriend, Rasheeda Moore, about whom he coined the T-shirt-ready epigram, “Bitch set me up”; and spending six months in prison, after which he was elected to a fourth term as mayor. (Today, Monday, Barry actually claimed, “Never smoked crack — as simple as that,” appearing on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown. “The federal government never proved there was crack in that pipe. Jurors didn’t believe it.”)

For the past decade since declining to run for a fifth term as mayor, Barry has served as a D.C. councilman representing economically challenged, violence- and drug-plagued Ward 8, Washington’s perennial wrong side of the tracks where he’s a figure of affection and admiration. “I don’t think you can write this, but I know a woman who says Marion Barry could crawl down the street buck-naked, and she would still vote for him,” Barry’s close friend, Charles Moreland, told me at the dinner. “In every adversity there’s opportunity–that’s the lesson of Marion Barry.”

In other words, he’s taken a licking and keeps on ticking.

Click here to continue reading…

SOURCE: Lloyd Grove 
The Daily Beast

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