Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ann Richards

image:Ann Richards on bike from the Texas state library archive, b&w photo
from the Texas state library archives*.

from Liz Smith's Salon piece on Ann Richards:

I recall now a glorious moment onstage at the St. James Theatre when Ann and I appeared as "cowgirls" in a musical number for the Broadway benefit to help the Women's Health Initiative of the Actors' Fund. We came out in ridiculous garb with huge brown felt chaps, hats, boots, the works. We were later castigated by the New York Times critic as women who could neither sing nor dance. What did they know? Ann and I thought we had done great imitating Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance performing "I'm an Old Cowhand From the Rio Grande." In our patter I blamed Ann for George W. Bush's rise and her failure to stop him. She said, "That's not funny, Liz!" and shot me with her cap pistol.
She had been in and out of M.D. Anderson hospital in Houston and they had pronounced her cancer gone. But even the mighty, the feisty and the brilliant Ann couldn't come back from this terrible illness. She left this world only blocks from the big white mansion in Austin where she had been such a successful and unusual governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995. The combination of Karl Rove and George Bush put her out of office in 1995. She became a famous speaker and fundraiser for the Democrats but refused to run again herself. Many people urged her to try for the presidency, but Ann said she needed to make some money. "I don't want to end up living in a trailer parked in my daughter's driveway in Austin."
Only recently when I asked Ann her point of view about granting some kind of amnesty to illegal Latins in the United States, she just laughed: "They better grant them some way to stay here because otherwise our hospitals and nursing homes will never have the staff to take care of all of us who are growing older. The people caring for me at Anderson are almost all Mexican, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and they are simply wonderful."

I realize this may sound strange, but when I heard about Ann Richard's death the first thing I thought of was of a car I once owned, an'85 Olds 98. I sold the car in 1998(as it so happens) to Carmax, and apparently they turned around and sold it at auction, never transferring the title. I know this because in '99 I got a letter from a wrecking yard in Phoenix telling me that they were going to sell "my" Oldsmobile if I didn't come and pay the fees owed on it by such-and-such a date.(The letter was postmarked that same date. Is this in fact legal, or just one of those things businesses know they can get away with doing to poor people? I wonder. )

Anyway: I found myself wondering if the car was still out there somewhere, and if the owner wondered about the Ann Richards bumper sticker from her '94 reelection campaign, and maybe was sitting in traffic in Phoenix or Tuscon or somewhere when the car radio mentioned her passing. I'm guessing the car's already been crushed and this didn't occur-- but who knows? It was running o.k. when I sold it. I recall, dimly, that the sticker didn't even mention 1994, just "Ann Richards: Texas governor", in blue and white. Now she is also timeless.

*And she didn't look half as ridiculous as either Kerry or Junior doing a Harley photo-op.