• Raise Hell Like Molly Ivins

    February 8, 2019 | News
  • SUNDANCE never disappoints when it comes to documentary premieres. If laughter is the best medicine, Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins nailed it. Director Janice Engel resurrected the larger than life spirit of Molly at the right political place and time in 2019. It documents the kick-ass journalistic career of a woman who poked at politicians and their hoo-hah with a Texas twang and this maxim: “The best way to get the sons of bitches is to make people laugh at them.” That was her style as an astute political activist right up until the day she succumbed to breast cancer in 2007, at age 62. I am among the legion of her admirers, though I didn’t know it until now. 

    Like Robin (the main character in Brides of 1941), Molly attended Smith College. There the traditions Robin experienced in the class of ’41 held true for Molly in the class of 1966 – Mountain Day, Float Night, Spring Dance, Rally Day, to name a few. Molly’s image on the big screen celebrated Ivy Day, the day before commencement, when seniors adorn themselves in pearls and white dresses and carry roses in a procession around campus. Unlike Robin, who earned “the most serious warning that Smith College gives” and nearly flunked out, Molly was a quick-witted superstar. 

    If there is a common theme for all “Smithies,” it is the long-held belief that women are capable of anything. And in the #TimesUp era that theme is finally rocking politics. (Knock Down the House, another Sundance 2019 documentary premiere, proves it. Watch it on Netflix.)  

    To match her indomitable spirit, Molly stood six big-boned feet tall with flaming red hair, a huge smile and vivacity that loomed larger than the Lone Star state she loved. Her gift? To crush political spin and deception with humor as sharp as a pointed stick: “Good thing we’ve got politics in Texas – finest form of free entertainment ever invented.” Based on six years of watching George W. Bush as governor, she co-authored the book Shrub (her nickname for “Dubya”) published in 2000. The sequel, Bushwhacked: Life in George Bush’s America, rolled out two years into his presidency, in 2003. To that she quipped, “If y’all had read the first book, we wouldn’t have had to write this one.” 

    The year before Molly passed, she penned this sage advice in her column: “It’s all about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.” 

    That is a Molly mantra to resurrect and repeat if for no other reason than to tickle the muse posted in my first blog: Just when did America get so messy?