The Observer is not much on campaign rallies and all the attendant posturing and hoorahing and bunting. But we made an exception last Friday for Dwight David Honeycutt's “Sweet Tea Party” at Juanita's. For one, it wasn't a campaign rally per se. Which is to say, Honeycutt wasn't running for anything. He'd already lost the Conway School Board election, but won a good deal of notoriety for a campaign video gone awry along the way. Too, we were eager to see the type of folks who turn out for a Dwight David Honeycutt rally.
Demographically, they were fairly hard to peg. On the liberal side of things, we counted one former Oscar winner, the campaign chief of a Democratic state Senate candidate and a bunch of pretty girls in nice dresses who talked to scraggly dudes who drank tallboy Pabst Blue Ribbons. There were fewer obviously representing the other side, though we did spot a Chamber of Commerce bigwig and someone wearing a college Republicans T-shirt with a picture of Ronald Reagan drinking a cocktail on the front. There were at least three pregnant ladies, too.
Most all stood at attention when Dwight D. entered the room. He looked much like he did in the video. Tall. Solidly built, if not obviously “bear strong.” Bespectacled. Generally peeved-looking. And profoundly sweaty. Because he feared the spotlight? Because of the small band of vocal protesters out front, brandishing signs like “Up With Decency, Down With Honeysmutt”? Because he spent the early part of the evening doing George Dickel shots with two spandex-clad strippers? A little bit of all of the above The Observer guesses.
But, though drops of perspiration rained off him and he spoke with the halting cadence of someone trying to beat back drunkenness, when he started into his speech, he managed a kind of gravitas that quiets a room ? or at least the half of a room that's not the bar.
He began down a familiar path: tales from a hard life. One that he said had seen him nearly blinded by a pneumatic drill, circumcised at 47 and crippled by Type-2 diabetes. But one that still inspired him to wake up every morning, look in the mirror and say to himself: “Dwight David Honeycutt, the sun is in the sky, God is in his heaven, and it's time to get out there once again and f*ck mortality.”
“Badassitude,” he called his philosophy, and reeled off a supporting resume that included fist-fighting Norman Mailer, throwing Robert Byrd's “annoying old ass” down the Capitol steps and going on a four-day mescaline-and-sex binge with Linda Ronstadt.
His school board loss had brought him new understanding, he told the crowd.
“I'm no politician. A politician tells you that exceptionalism is always rewarded, that morality, fairness, hard work and dedication alone will lead you to the greatest rewards our country has to offer, and that bird-doggin' the wife of your local dry-cleaner will have no effect on your political future whatsoever.”
Instead, he positioned himself to the crowd as a true public servant, whose truth-telling would never make him “acceptable enough to be elect-able.”
“Go to that Blanche Lincoln/Bill Halter debate,” he said. “Neither one of them are gonna tell you the truth. That they love reefer, and XBox and sex. But they do! How could they not?! They're awesome!
Then the speech took a nihilistic turn down populism lane that, as much as The Observer would like to push the boundaries, ain't gonna cut the mustard in print. We'll just say that there was an elaborate metaphor involving Capitol rotunda-shaped condoms, more information than we cared to know about Dwight D's nether region and a lost quote from Thomas Jefferson's profane days.
Then came the big “Network”-style finish. “I'm not runnin' for anything, but I want you to write me in,” Honeycutt told a cheering crowd, pointing it to stickers and T-shirts adorned with the slogan at a back table. “More importantly,” he said. “Carry magic markers with you. Carry spray paint. WRITE ME IN! Whenever you see bullshit in this world WRITE ME IN! Put my name on whatever pisses you off. You see a Blanche Lincoln or John Boozman poster, stop your car and WRITE ME IN!”
Then, very nearly panting, he closed with a big finish.
“I am your frustration. I am your quiet suburban desperation. I am your rural rage. I'm Dwight David Honeycutt. WRITE ME IN!”