MAYOR FOR LIFE

06.18.14

Speed Read: Marion Barry’s Crazy Memoir

From giving advice to Bill Clinton to the FBI trying to kill him, the juiciest bits from Marion Barry’s new memoir.

When it comes to iconic crack-smoking mayors, Rob Ford is a pale imitation when compared to former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry Jr. Barry was not only caught on video smoking crack and arrested by the FBI, but he was then reelected to the position of mayor after being released from jail.

Barry, who now serves on the D.C. City Council, has just published a tell-all memoir, Mayor For Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr. Here are the juiciest bits.

Bill Clinton called him for advice.

According to Barry, in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, then-President Bill Clinton turned to him for advice. Barry claims that Clinton talked to him for 20 minutes about what to do when you’re mired in controversy. Barry told him to “stop digging the hole” that put him in the situation. He ends the anecdote with a line sure to make Clinton camp cringe, declaring, “He could identify with me.”

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Barry Thumma/AP

He tried cocaine for sexual reasons.

In the memoir, Barry recounts one of his drug encounters in memorable fashion. He was at a house party when a good-looking woman came out of the bathroom and told him about the cocaine she was doing. “You want some?” she apparently asked him. “This makes my pussy hot.”

And because he was a grown-up male in a position of power, he walked away.

Just kidding.

Barry says he wanted to know how “it would make me feel” and so thought “What the hell? Why not?” But when he tried to snort the cocaine off a business card, he blew the wrong way and knocked the powder off the card. Barry tried again, and shares the experience with no detail left out. It “went straight to my penis,” he writes, and then he had sex with the woman.

White people were out to get him.

One of the major sources of Barry’s power over the decades was playing off of simmering racial resentment in a majority-black city that had long been controlled by white people. According to Barry, the changes he brought about as mayor are the reasons for his downfall.

Barry claims the FBI went after him at the Vista Hotel because powerful white people did not like him “creating all these opportunities for black folks.” Even more incendiary, Barry asserts the FBI was actually trying to kill him.

Also, if you’re white, put down the book.

Perhaps aware that his book may make white readers uncomfortable, Barry makes it clear his response to that potential question. “Well, let me tell you,” he writes, “I’m black and my life has been about uplifting black folks.” He then goes on to say, sure, there’s a spot for white people in his fight, but the books have left out black people, so he’s making amends.

His relationship with ex-wife Effi Barry is squirm-inducing.

Effi Barry, the former first lady of Washington and Barry’s former wife who stood by him during the scandal, is described in two different ways. First, when it came to Barry’s roving eye and his drinking, “Effi would ignore it all and never let it bother her. She wasn’t a jealous woman.”

Then there is the Effie who emptied one of their bank accounts because she “liked to shop and look nice.”

About those womanizing charges, they’re untrue, except, not really.

Barry described the reports of him having affairs as “unfounded” and “crazy.” To Barry, they were attempts to smear a black mayor.

Except, pages later, he defends those unfounded accusations by saying men have “need of companionship” and that he did in fact get involved with women. His actions with women led him to write the bizarre line that “I have to forgive myself, even in my older age, from being a normal man with feelings for a woman.” 

Also contradicting his claims about not womanizing, is that his very reason for doing crack with Rasheeda Moore the night of his arrest was that he thought she would have sex with him if he did it with her.

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‘Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.’ by Marion Barry Jr. (Author), Omar Tyree (Contributor). 336 p. Strebor Books. $18.75 ()

He takes shots at his successors.

Unsurprisingly, the mayors who have come after Barry don’t quite live up to his legacy. Vincent Gray, the current mayor Barry supported, has messed up worse than anybody Barry has ever seen, which, of course, “could have been avoided had Mayor Gray “consulted with other mayors and me.”

As for Adrian Fenty, who Barry once supported and then turned on, he was “arrogant,” a “disappointment,” and guilty of cronyism.

Sharon Pratt Kelly, the woman who won after Barry’s conviction, left the District in dire financial straits. Barry also blames her for losing the Redskins’ stadium.