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Dogster Interviews Kinky Friedman — Cowboy, Musician, Politician, Dog Lover

We sit down with the Governor of the Heart of Texas and founder of the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch.

Julia Szabo  |  Aug 15th 2012


So what if Kinky Friedman lost his bid for the Texas governor’s seat in 2006? He came in fourth out of six candidates, but election or not, Republicans and Democrats agree that he is now, and always will be, the Governor of the Heart of Texas.

Wearing many cowboy hats — all of them black — he’s a singer, songwriter, mystery novelist, sometime politician, in-demand keynote speaker, and the 21st century’s answer to Will Rogers and Mark Twain. And he’s throwing his black hat in the ring again for the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race.

It’s impossible not to love this indefatigable man. Friends with both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Kinky is known for his irreverent humor; especially when he’s hawking one of his many signature products (they include cigars, tequila, gourmet coffee, and four flavors of Private Stock Salsa, in addition to President Clinton’s fave whodunnits).

Nothing escapes Kinky’s scathing wit. But there’s one subject he’s absolutely serious about, and that is dogs and cats. In the epilogue to his novel Elvis, Jesus and Coca Cola, he wrote, “Dogs have a depth of loyalty that often we seem unworthy of.”

And at the center of his heart is a sanctuary for rescued animals: The Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, “Where the men are men and the rescued dogs enjoy first-class accommodations.”

The Ranch has saved thousands of animals’ lives, but Kinky wants to do more. “I’d like to have a Utopia in every county in Texas,” he says, “and I recommend a visit to anybody who wants to see adoptable animals in big, wide-open pens with trees. It’s a very upbeat place — you won’t find another like it.”

In July, he returned home from his cross-country “Bipolar Tour,” but the Kinkster hits the road again this week, saddling up for another round of performances to raise funds for the Rescue Ranch. August 15 to 19, Kinky embarks on a five-day tour — he calls it a “Tour-Ette” — across the Lone Star State, accompanied by his faithful sidekick Little Jewford. (For info on venues, visit Kinky’s web site.) “It ought to be a financial pleasure for Utopia, and if it does well, we’ll add more cities,” Kinky promises.

As Kinky’s web site puts it: “Come along for the fun, the frolic, the music, and the laughs, and help support one of the worthiest causes known to man or beast. Yip, yip, yip, yip, yippee-kay-yay!” But if you can’t make it to any of the “Tour-Ette” dates, know that Kinky donates his entire share of his salsa sales to Utopia Rescue Ranch — so get out your credit cards, and get those corn chips ready to dip!

Some very famous people have visited the Utopia ranch and made friends with the animals in residence; people with names like Bob (Dylan), Willie (Nelson), Billy Bob (Thornton), and Abbie (Hoffman).

Kinky’s beloved dog, Mr. Magoo, aka Gooey (who crossed the Rainbow Bridge — or, as Kinky calls it, “stepped on a rainbow” — four years ago), once displayed a little too much enthusiasm when greeting his Dad’s friend Willie Nelson. “Mr. Magoo once ran up to Willie at 90 miles per hour and hit him in the scrotum — he ran and jumped on him, and pow.”

The Kinkster is also a major cat lover; readers of his crime novels are on a first-name basis with the late, great Cuddles. On the difference between dogs and cats, Kinky explains, “Dogs are cowboys and cats are Indians. That’s the spiritual difference between the two. Both are vanishing breeds, so let’s cherish ’em while we can.”

Currently, Kinky shares his life with a 17-year-old mutt named Chumley, the patriarch of his animal clan, and the young’uns Winston, a Beagle/Chihuahua mix, and Sophie, a Cocker Spaniel.

His love of dogs and cats (and, in fact, all creatures, including armadillos!) was kindled “as a child, when my parents bought this big ranch down here in Texas,” he recalls. “We had a lot of animals: Dogs, cats, horses, pigs, chickens, goats …. I have a garden where seven of my friends are buried. After I’m cremated, that’s where my ashes will go.”

Well, not all of his ashes. Some of those, he concludes with characteristic Kinkyness, “will be thrown in Rick Perry’s hair.”

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