This from Dave Mona, a founder of Mona Meyer McGrath & Gavin, now Weber Shandwick, a WCCO broadcaster and damn fine human being. Benidt saw him a few days ago and asked what’s up. It was this:
As I mentioned when we visited, I’m working on a book which I hope to get out by the end of the year. I’m approaching some 40 chapters, but the next few months will provide the narrative thread. It features a number of the people I’ve had a chance to work with including Sid Hartman, Halsey Hall, Billy Martin and others. It’s not really a sports book, but I’ll have to fight off that image. I did do a short chapter on what it was like to work with Molly Ivins. She certainly changed the sight and sound of the Tribune newsroom when she arrived. I promised I’d share that chapter with you. Enjoy! Dave.
Molly Ivins Teaches Us New Words
She was totally unlike any new hire in recent memory. When The Minneapolis Tribune hired someone from “outside the market,” it was a good bet they were talking about Fargo, Des Moines or Madison.
Molly was from Texas and you couldn’t miss her.
She was loud. She didn’t sound like anyone else in the newsroom and she was tall. If she were a basketball player, which legend said she was, she would have been a power forward.
Molly taught us all how to swear.
She was good at it, and she knew words we’d never heard before.
It was difficult for Molly to complete a sentence without swearing. Her favorite word was “sumbitch,” which we learned could be either good or bad. For instance: “That dumb sumbitch was so stupid he could dive off the dock and not find water.” Or, “…you had to admire the way that sumbitch could put words together.”
For much of her brief tenure with The Tribune, she was assigned to the police beat. They clearly didn’t know what to make of her, but legend had it that they named a pet pig “Molly” in her honor.
There was little factual support for stories about Molly. She became a bit of an instant legend.
Stu Baird, the genial City Editor, once claimed that he had gotten a complaint from the police that her language was too salty. He never offered any proof, but there was little reason to doubt it.
After graduating from Smith College, getting a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University and spending a year in France, she joined the Tribune in the fall of the year, arriving from Texas without an overcoat.
A few weeks later she entered the newsroom in a floor-length reddish orange maxi coat which nicely matched her red hair. As she walked slowly through the newsroom, Frank Premack shouted, “My, God, it looks like a bad paint job on the Foshay Tower!”
Molly’s response to one of the most senior members of the newsroom staff was that he perform an impossible anatomical feat upon himself.
There were a lot of rumors about Molly. She once admitted to shoving Linda Johnson (the President’s daughter) into a lake at summer camp.
When Molly left the Tribune she wrote a magazine article called “The Minneapolis Tribune Is a Stone Wall Drag.” It chronicled her three years at the paper and the reasons so many people left. Today, many of us still have copies of that story, and we were saddened in January 2007 to learn of her death at age 62 from an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Her columns were carried in more than 400 newspapers, and her numerous obituaries carried a number of her better quotes.
She loved to attack Texas politicians and once wrote of one, “If his IQ slips any lower we’ll have to water him twice a day.”
While covering emerging politicians in Texas she began to refer to President George W. Bush alternately as “Shrub” or “Dubya.” Upon his election as President she referred to him as President Billy Bob Forehead.
To Ivins, Arnold Schwarzenegger was “a condom filled with walnuts.”
Writing about Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky affair, she referred to his character as “weaker than bus station chili.”
Molly was one of the great characters to grace this region, and she left us far too soon.