ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Now to Austin, Texas, where columnist and bestselling author Molly Ivins died of breast cancer at the age 62. As editor of the Texas Observer during the 1970s, Ivins became famous for her biting wit as she chronicled the political antics of the good old boy Texas legislature. Her best selling book about President Bush titled "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" became a best seller.
NPR's Wade Goodwyn is with us. And, Wade, Molly Ivins became famous writing about Texas, but I understand that she really got her early seasoning in Minnesota as a police reporter for the Minneapolis Star.
WAGE GOODWYN: Ivins was one of those who I think who were called from an early age to be an investigative reporter. I think that's all she ever wanted to do. Her first newspaper job was on the complaint department of the Houston Chronicle. She worked her way up there and then got an offer from the Star Tribune. And wherever she went, she made a big impression. She was this big beautiful woman with untamed hair that flew in all directions.
And she was relentlessly funny. One of her great gifts was that even if she skewering a politician in print, she was so funny that even the politicians would get a measure of pleasure from the piece. And her work became so widely read that state legislators in Texas would buy to get a mention, even if it wasn't, you know, in the most flattering light. It was enough just to get noticed.
And one of her most priced awards was that while she was the police beat reporter in Minneapolis, the police department named its mascot a pig, Molly Ivins. Bet she knew - she knew that honor cut both ways and she loved that.
SIEGEL: Well, Molly Ivins made her name in Texas as an editor of the Texas Observer, an independent political journal in the early '70s. And here's what she told NPR about her memories of those days covering the Texas legislature.
Ms. MOLLY IVINS: For around six months after I joined the Observer, I still wrote like a reporter for the Associated Press. And then I - of course, I'm looking at pictures, politics, and I remember this so well. The first day of the 71st session, I'm on the floor of the House, which on those days you could do, and one of the boys says to another, hey, you should see where did I found myself last night, and she don't talk neither, (unintelligible).
And I thought these are the people who write the laws. And to me, it was just the funniest thing in the whole world. I - you see, it's though you have given me the circus or a football game to cover. I never saw anything funnier than Texas politics.
GOODWYN: You know, Robert, her coverage -
SIEGEL: Wade, yeah.
GOODWYN: Her coverage of the Texas legislature was stunning. Her co-editor at the time was Kay Northcott. And Northcott would spend her day dutifully putting together the magazines, while Ivins spent the morning in bed. But about four o'clock, Molly would leave the Observer office and head over to the state capitol where she would proceed to sit down, and talk and drink whisky in the office of this state's leading politicians.
And that was the thing about Molly Ivins. She was a good old boy in that way. She love politics, she love writing about the schemes behind the scenes in Austin. And the thing about Ivins, well, she could drink all these politicians under the table. She was smart and she told funny stories. And after about the third drink, you know, these good old boys would want to start telling some stories of their own, to impress her. And even after she would skewer them under the table the next day, and write the next day a piece full of damning quotes, you know, these politicians wanted to impress her.
They wanted to spill the beans about what was really going on. In 2002, she wrote, naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hairs, breath worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question, why bother.
SIEGEL: Wade Goodwyn, thank you very much for -
GOODWYN: You're quite welcome.
SIEGEL: - talking about the late Molly Ivins.