Kinky Friedman played an unexpected somber note at last week’s (Nov. 6) celebratory Lone Star Café Reunion Party II at New York’s Cutting Room—but not without his customary humor and humanity.
“The Irish and the Jews do not share a culture. They share a psychosis!” Friedman said in between songs, a lead-in to a heartfelt tribute to his dearly departed friend Mike McGovern—also dearly departed to many of the other reunited Lone Star musicians and many others in the SRO room.
A key member of the closely-knit group of “Village Irregulars” who populate Friedman’s acclaimed series of murder mystery novels, Mike McGovern, whom Friedman credits with loaning the old Smith-Corona typewriter on which he wrote his first book Greenwich Killing Time (1986), died the morning of Sept. 11--“breaking the hearts of all who ever met him,” said Friedman, reciting his Facebook entry “A Death in the Family” posted later that day.
McGovern, who in Friedman’s remembrance “once combed his hair before meeting a racehorse,” was 80.
“They say he died from a from a fall, but I think he died because God picks his most beautiful flowers first,” said Friedman, who recounted how McGovern grew up in Chicago and worked for a man named Leanin’ Jesus, “who happened to be Al Capone’s chef. [McGovern] also remembered helping Martin Luther King walk across a field with people throwing rocks and bottles at them.”
Following service in the Marines, McGovern returned to Chicago and a reporting gig at the Chicago American newspaper, for which he went undercover to ride with the Hells Angels. As an investigative reporter, he also participated in Chicago police raid. He was eventually offered a job writing columns for New York’s Daily News, moving there after breaking up with a girl he had planned to marry.
Friedman recalled that 50 years later, while riding his “ubiquitous bicycle,” the two former lovers accidentally ran into each other in New York—where she had also moved.
“They spent five glorious, happy years together,” he said. “Almost a Hollywood ending.”
A Nieman Fellow at Harvard, McGovern was also a cookbook author, his Eat, Drink, and Be Kinky a cookbook tribute to his friend drawn from and inspired by his mystery novels.
“Mike was probably the only Marine who could cook Bananas Foster!” Friedman observed after his performance. He had ended his tribute thusly: “Never above you, Brother Mike. Never below you. Always by your side.”