Marion Barry, His Book Tour and a Unique Media Dinner
"Read the book first," said Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, better known as "Mayor For Life," the title of his autobiography, written with Omar Tyree. Barry was Mayor of Washington, D.C., from 1979 to 1991 and 1995 to 1999, and he was talking about the story of his life and his side of the story.
The colorful and controversial Barry is on a book tour and said of his "Mayor For Life": "It's an honest book -- with the good, the bad and the ugly -- more good than anything else."
About 20 journalists attended a unique media "on-the-record" dinner with Barry June 20 at Look Supper Club on K Street. It was hosted by proprietor Michael Kosmides and Janet Donovan of Hollywood on the Potomac, and writers and editors got a chance to ask the former mayor questions about his political and personal life.
The 78-year-old Barry displayed the different sides of his personality, saying he was an overcomer and a people person and saw himself as someone fighting to give "help and hope." He also said he saw himself "as a example to others," displaying "courage, tenacity and vision." "That's Marion Barry in a nutshell," he said.
As quickly as Barry would note that he has always been a champion for black America, he said: "I should not have gone to that hotel." He was referring to his January 1990 arrest at the Vista Hotel by the FBI on drug charges. Barry served six months in jail. This is the part of the Barry story the nation recalls and laughs about. Nevertheless, a few years after that, he was re-elected as mayor. Barry's commitment to the black community runs deep, and it has forgiven him because of his support.
Barry's answers to the news publications or websites ranged from talking about Christian forgiveness -- "70 times 70 times" -- to not eating beef and other advice about nutrition. (Barry is a diabetic and was hospitalized last year for a blood infection.)
He gave advice to Bill Clinton, Barry said. "Bill is a overcomer." There's no time for "a pity party," he added. "Correct your mistakes."
While Barry can offer opinions on reparations (yes, but "not enough support") or the Washington Redskins ("They should change that name."), he remembers where he came from. His mother was the strongest influence during his early life. "She gave me stick-to-it-ness," he said. As for today, of his son Christopher, he said: "I want to be a grandfather before I die."
Toward the end of the dinner, if we did not already know, he told the media: D.C. will never have "another mayor like Marion Barry."