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A monthly roundup of people we’d like to have over for drinks, food, and conversation.
Photo-illustration by John Ueland. Photograph of Betzig by Michaela Rehle/Landov; Keilar by Edward M. Pio Roda/CNN; Swedroe by Andrew Goldstein; Tamerat courtesy of Artists for Charity; Dimock by Kaveh Sardari; Onuki courtesy of The Washington Ballet.

1. Eric Betzig

We’d toast the local Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher, whose work on new microscope technology led to a share in this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry.

2. Brianna Keilar

With midterms over, CNN’s senior political correspondent turns to the Hillary 2016 beat. Keilar needs a decent meal before she hits the corn-dog circuit.

3. Robert Swedroe

The Lauren, his new “boutique” condo building in Bethesda, boasts a $10.5-million penthouse. We’d ask this architect for a virtual tour.

4. Abezash Tamerat

The Ethiopian-born founder of Artists for Charity, which benefits HIV-positive orphans, expands her auctions of artist-donated artwork from DC to New York.

5. Michael Dimock

The new Pew Research Center president can tell us whether the long-arc demographic changes still favor the Democrats.

6. Maki Onuki

The dancer whose “shining energy,” says the Washington Post, keyed the Washington Ballet’s fall performances celebrates her tenth season with the company by dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy in its tenth-anniversary Nutcracker.

Photograph by Harry Hamburg/AP Photo.

Disinvited: Andy Harris

Saying no to drugs is admirable, but the congressman from Maryland, who vows to use “all resources” to block DC’s legal-weed measure, seems addicted to meddling in democratic processes, which is less admirable.


This article appears in our December 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 11/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Opinion is split on whether the comedian's face should be painted over. By Kay Wicker
An image of the mural being created. Photograph by Flickr user thisisbossi.

In 2010, Washington artist Aniekan Udofia was approached by the Murals DC project to create a painting for the west side of Ben’s Chili Bowl, the U Street landmark with a rich history in the community. That history includes visits to Ben’s from both Malcolm X and Barack Obama, and a long relationship with Bill Cosby—which is how the now-disgraced comedian and the nation’s President came to share a prominent wall on one of DC’s most traveled thoroughfares.

Now some are asking whether Cosby, accused of sexually abusing women throughout course of his career, deserves to remain in that place of honor, and whether the mural has become awkward for Obama.

The figures on the mural, which also include Chuck Brown, the godfather of go-go, and longtime WPGC deejay Donnie Simpson, were not Udofia’s choice alone. Murals DC is aimed at changing young people’s thinking about graffiti and pointing them toward more edifying street art, so the artist worked with neighborhood children to design and paint the mural. “The first approach was to have 20 people on there,” Udofia told Washingtonian. “So we had to narrow it down to those four, four being visually sound. I wanted to create something that had rhythm.”

It seemed natural to include Cosby, who has come to Ben’s since he was a fledgling comic and who remained loyal to the restaurant even after he’d become a nationally known. “Bill and [his wife] Camille used to come on dates here,” says Ben’s owner Nizam Ali.

The mural’s origin with the community—and the positive nature of murals as homages to a group—protects Obama from any untoward association with Cosby.

“If you look at the history, it was well thought out,” says Udofia. “The allegations shouldn't change anything about why he’s on the wall.”

Chuck Thies, a political consultant and Mayor Vince Gray’s former campaign manager, agrees. “I could see if the mural were going up, perhaps Obama and some of the others wanting to be kept out, but the fact is it’s been up for over five years now,” he says, adding, “I don’t think it’s that awkward for any of them now, especially Obama.”

Even if it discredited Obama, says Thies, painting Cosby out would not be good public relations for the President. “A rush to judgment is always in poor taste. It’s best for Obama to stay out of this.”

But if the community turns against Cosby, says Thies, Ben’s should consider a new mural. “Ben’s is a leader in this city. If the allegations became criminal, and if he’s found guilty, I could see people saying they don’t want to be on it anymore.”

Photograph by Flickr user Ted Eytan.

See also: Read the Smithsonian's Awkward Statement on Its Benefactor Bill Cosby

Posted at 01:30 PM/ET, 11/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
We caught up with her after CLAW's second annual national championship. By Hallie Golden
Photograph by Hallie Golden.

Photograph courtesy of Maida Ives.

Last week, 28-year-old Potomac resident Maida Ives progressed to the semifinals in the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers’ (CLAW) second annual national championship, held at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street, Northeast. Ives, who works for a local farm cooperative, wrestled as her alter-ego, the poised yet fiercely aggressive Jackie O’Nasty, wearing a cream suit, pillbox hat, and a neon-pink face mask. Founded six years ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, CLAW has leagues in more than 25 cities, drawing competitors like Ives who love the sport for its commitment to women’s empowerment. We spoke to her after her quarterfinal win.

What made you decide to get involved with CLAW?

It seemed really fun and all the elements of the event spoke to me—the playful arm wrestling, the theater element, and, most important, its ability to empower women. All of the wrestlers come from such a range of professions and backgrounds, so it’s a really fun way to meet lots of different people. It’s also nice to get dressed up as a character and plan an entrance and have this whole theatrical element to my life. I’m not involved in theater in any other way.

How does CLAW empower women?

The empowerment comes less from being in costume than from truly celebrating physical strength and a competitive spirit, which are often presented as male characteristics, and just having that not be strange for women to fully embrace and embody. I think that’s how I’ve been my whole life, so it’s nice to be able to celebrate that part of myself. I think it helps defy gender norms.

Explain how this athletic event is more like theater.

You have a character, and a lot of people choose historical figures or celebrities that they can make a pun on their name. You can pick any character out of the sky. And then you figure out what they would look like, what they would say to a rival, what kind of theme song they'd want to come out to, and what their entourage would look like. It’s just fun to imagine a new character.

Why Jackie O’Nasty?

I’m from Massachusetts, so I thought it would be nice to represent the Boston area and its link to the Kennedys. I love her style—and by changing her name to Jackie O’Nasty, all bets are off. She was such a dignified woman, and I would like to preserve that, and then have some accents of wildness with it. Some wrestlers will never wrestle under the same name, but I’ve just kept the same one.

Tell me about your entourage.

One I like to employ is having them dress up as Secret Service. But I’ve also had them dressed up with me as Jackie O. In this last competition, I had them dress up as the [Russian punk band] Pussy Riot.

How is CLAW different from the other sports you've done?

There are rules, but because it’s a theater event and we’re trying to raise money, each chapter has its own ways to bend the rules to raise more money. I think everyone feels really proud regardless of whether you go home with the prize. There's a whole other focus besides being the winner.

Posted at 12:10 PM/ET, 11/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Washington Post columnist misses the point on the University of Virginia's sexual assault problem. By Benjamin Freed

Cohen.

Washington Post nag Richard Cohen just read Rolling Stone's damning report on rape at the University of Virginia and the school's systemic inability to adjudicate the crime. Like nearly everyone who's read Sabrina Rubin Ederly's story about an an alleged gang rape at a UVA frat house in 2012 and the victim's struggle to hold her attackers accountable, Cohen came away agahst at the details of what went down in the Phi Kappa Psi house.

Unfortunately for Post readers, Cohen's prescribed solution in his column Tuesday isn't much help.

"Where are the men?" he asks. "I am talking about men who live by a certain code, who know that rape is repugnant, that gang rape is vile and that so-called men who do these things are criminals. I am talking at the moment of the frat boys at the University of Virginia who are accused of raping a young woman. But I am also talking of all those who knew what was happening—at the time or afterward."

None of these people measure up to Cohen's standard of manliness, which he describes later on as some kind of cinematic mashup of John Wayne and Cary Grant. None of the dudes at UVA compare to these two, leading Cohen to conclude that he just does not understand what's happening on campus.

I have been a columnist for many years now. I write on a variety of topics, some of them requiring prodigious amounts of research. But I have been a man all my life, and I don’t have to Google anything about that. And yet I don’t understand what I read about what’s happening on campuses. How can rape thrive? How can a rapist walk to class the next day without other men confronting him? How is the rapist or the witness allowed to feel he has exercised some masculine privilege when, in fact, he has just violated the cardinal rule of masculinity? Be respectful of women.

Except, not even Richard Cohen would live up to Richard Cohen's expectations, considering a 1998 New York Observer report that the columnist was the subject of a workplace complaint stating that he behaved inappropriately toward a 23-year-old, female editorial aide. While Cohen denied the allegations and said he was the target of a "witch-hunt," the Post's management concluded he had contributed to a "hostile working environment." Obviously, this is not nearly on the level of what Rolling Stone describes going on in Charlottesville, but it would seem to disqualify him from the manly man test.

But Cohen's larger beef is that he's frustrated that campus sexual abusers—and people who don't report such crimes—aren't easily identifiable in a crowd. "When I hear President Obama suggest that 1 in 5 college women is a victim of sexual assault, I just don’t get it," he writes. "Who are these creeps who rape? Why do other men put up with such behavior?"

It's good that Cohen's outraged by what he read in Rolling Stone. It's a reaction shared by just about everyone who's read Ederly's article, but Cohen's clearly missing the larger point. On a campus where 30 percent of nearly 15,000 undergraduates participate in Greek life and university administrators have never expelled anyone for sexual assault, solutions will have to run far deeper than instituting a man code based on the on-screen antics of one newspaper columnist's boyhood heroes.

Posted at 10:34 AM/ET, 11/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Greeted by a crowd of boos in 1989, the Mayor for Life responded with a nasty salute. By Benjamin Freed
Screenshot via YouTube.

By September 1989, Marion Barry was in deep political decline. With the District gripped by a blood-drenched drug epidemic and a faltering economy, Barry had turned the support of the white neighborhoods in Northwest DC that formed key parts of his earlier coalitions into enimity and distrust. And with his third term as mayor drawing to a close, his personal faults were becoming their most visible, with the city scorched by rumors of his own drug abuse.

Barry was planning on seeking a fourth term—his arrest at the Vista International Hotel was four months away—and he tried to scrounge up as much support as possible to derail a potential candidacy by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. But he probably should have skipped that year's Adams Morgan Day festival.

Barry strode on stage in the middle of an epic jam by blues guitarist Danny Gatton. But instead of a warm welcome, the track suit-clad mayor was greeted with a sea of lusty jeers. Barry smiled through the whole thing, but in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, stopped pumping his fist to antagonize the crowd right back with an extended middle finger. Television cameras caught the mayoral bird-flipping, which survives today on YouTube.

Here's how the Washington Post first reported the gesture:

D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and Jesse L. Jackson appeared on the same stage at yesterday's Adams-Morgan Day festival, but the reactions they drew from the crowd were miles apart.

Barry, who is running for another term despite continuing allegations of drug use, was greeted with boos and obscene hand gestures from some members of the audience. Smiling, the mayor responded in kind, raising his middle finger toward them.

Moments later, Jackson strode onto the stage. Jackson, who has not declared himself to be a candidate for mayor but is widely seen as positioning himself to run, was cheered loudly. He waved in response.

The finger did not go away quietly, though. Future mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly said it made Barry "essentially politically impotent." Ward 1 voters took offense, with then-Council member Frank Smith writing an angry letter to his fellow civil-rights veteran. Barry eventually issued a public apology, one of many he would make in the later chapters of his career. "If I offended some people—and I'm sure I did—I want to apologize to those I offended," he said three days after his one-fingered salute.

Still, it's hard not to look at the video again and not come away thinking the sentiments from Barry and the crowd were mutual and genuine—watch Barry, who flips off the audience at the 7:14 mark, and you'll notice he never broke his smile.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 03:53 PM/ET, 11/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus—pro tips on how to use them. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph via Shutterstock.

Chesapeake Bay

Basics: The National Park Service’s free directory of more than 400 hiking, boating, and camping spots in the watershed, spanning six states and DC.

Pro tip: Pair this with the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s field guide to plants and animals.


Rock Creek Park

Basics: At $5.99, this should do more than indicate the park’s restrooms, parking lots, and, strangest of all, maintenance sheds. Missing are trailheads and decent picnic spots.

Pro tip: Try a popular (and free) crowd-sourced app like MapMyHike instead.


National Zoo

Basics: This $1.99 GPS-enabled app suggests best walking routes, and it updates you on exhibit openings and closings.

Pro tip: Don’t miss the pandas IRL because you’re watching them on your phone.



National Gallery of Art

Basics: A host of info such as museum hours and current exhibits, plus high-res versions of 130 artworks, all free.

Pro tip: Keep the kids from ruining your visit and let them listen to the app’s children’s audio tour.



DC Restaurant Violations

Basics: The free app culls Department of Health data to show eateries that flunked inspection.

Pro tip: Nix your pals’ favorite greasy spoon with a well-timed health report.


This article appears in our December 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 03:15 PM/ET, 11/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A viewing of a Barry television appearance gone awry turned into an opportunity for Southeast DC residents to share stories about their hero. By Benjamin Freed
Public mourning for Marion Barry started Sunday evening outside the late DC Council member's house. Photograph by Flickr user Ted Eytan.

Not even death could prevent Marion Barry from thowing a party to celebrate a Marion Barry television appearance, as dozens of the late DC icon's friends, supporters, and former staffers piled into the Democracy Prep Public Charter School on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, Southeast, in Congress Heights on Sunday night to watch a Barry interview broadcasted by the Oprah Winfrey Network. That the event would go on was one of the first things Barry's representatives mentioned early Sunday morning, just hours after the District's "Mayor for Life" expired.

Barry recorded his interview with Oprah Winfrey in June, shortly after the publication of his memoir, Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr. That it only aired the day of his death was a morbid coincidence, but that turned what would have been an ordinary scene of a local official congratulating himself into a preview of the public memorials for Barry that are likely to envelop Washington in the coming weeks.

"He lived life by his own terms," said Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser, an occasional Barry foe when the two served on the DC Council together, but who became politically aligned during this year's mayoral election. Bowser also recalled what Barry would say in his own eulogies.

"It doesn't matter what you do the day you're born, it doesn't matter what you do the day you die," she said, "it's what you do with the dash in between, and ladies and gentlemen, what a dash!"

Another thing that didn't seem to matter: that the party's planners couldn't actually get a working feed of the Oprah channel on a laptop hooked up to a projector. Stalled video and broken audio did not thin the crowd much; instead, people lingered to trade their own Barry memories. While a few people were still bristling over TMZ's send-off that referred to Barry as the "Crack Mayor" in boldfaced type, the stories told last night described a neighborhood hero.

"We knew him better than anyone else," said former Barry staffer Robin Simpson-Wharton, who stood near the door wearing a T-shirt featuring Barry's face with text reading "In loving memory, mayor for life."

Like many other Washingtonians, Simpson-Wharton, 48, also credits Barry with landing her first job—doing clerical work in Howard University's engineering department in the summer of 1987 when she was 15 years old. Simpson-Wharton, who now works for the Internal Revenue Service, still carries her card from the Summer Youth Employment Program, one of Barry's most visible accomplishments as mayor.

"He had unconditional love for everyone," she said. "He wanted the best for everyone."

Congress Heights resident Robin Simpson-Wharton had a T-shirt remembering the "Mayor for Life" made on Sunday morning. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

Ron Moten, a Ward 8 neighborhood activist and political gadfly, remembered Barry for more than just his political moxie. As a Council member, Barry staked out a role as an advocate for the rights people being released from prison, a position Moten said Barry held "more than most," in part because Moten credits Barry with keeping him out of jail in 1995.

"Who writes a letter for a guy on the streets?" Moten said. "Boy, did he write a letter."

Even with the video faltering and the food running out, the Barry stories continued in the crowd. While Barry's written obituaries remember him as a skilled, but personally burdened politician with lifelong resiliency, his legend in Southeast DC runs far deeper as someone who devoted his life to building up the black community in a divided city.

"There would be no Marion Barry in politics if there was no Marion Barry in the movement," Moten said.

And while details for what will certainly be a large, spectacular funeral are still underway, Barry's community outreach continues even without his presence. His annual turkey giveaway will go on as planned Tuesday at Anacostia's Union Temple Baptist Church, distributing 3,000 birds to people looking to complete their Thanksgiving meals.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 12:33 PM/ET, 11/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Colwell reflects on his time as every Washington teen’s cool big brother. By James Michael Causey
Cerphe Colwell on fellow WHFS deejay Josh Brooks’s porch in Frederick. Photograph by Deborah Jaffe.

In its heydey in the 1970s and ’80s, radio station WHFS functioned as a barometer for cool: Devotees were too hip for Top 40, too edgy for DC101. HFS promoted local bands while helping launch national acts like Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and Blondie. For the past year, North Potomac filmmaker Jay Schlossberg has been assembling Feast Your Ears: The Story of WHFS 102.3 FM, interviewing former deejays Cerphe Colwell, Jonathan “Weasel” Gilbert, and Josh Brooks, plus musicians who fed—and fed off—the HFS phenomenon: Marshall Crenshaw, members of Little Feat, Bill Payne, and David Bromberg. Here Colwell talks about his time as every Washington teen’s cool big brother.

What was so special about WHFS?

HFS made eye contact with the audience. The deejays were creative. My set list might start with John Coltrane, the Moody Blues, the Beatles, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Joni Mitchell, Sonny Rollins, then bluegrass that segued into Frank Zappa. You had to kind of come along for the ride. Now [at radio stations] the sets are on a hard drive. You go off the list, you get fired. You have a car payment and mortgage, so you play “Free Bird” and go home.

How did you make connections with so many prominent musicians?

In 1976, George Harrison was promoting his album Thirty Three & ⅓at a press junket. I was wearing a tantric-yoga button on my lapel. He looked at it, then headed toward me. The crowd parted. He came up and said, “I’m going to get a cup of tea—would you like one?”

Who did WHFS bring to the Washington market?

Local acts like the Night-hawks but also Springsteen, Zappa, Nils Lofgren. Springsteen was playing the old Childe Harold in Dupont Circle in front of 60 people when we put his first record, Greetings From Asbury Park N.J., into heavy rotation. He was on my show many times.

What do you think is interesting about a WHFS documentary after all these years?

I was on WAVA, DC101, WJFK, Classic Rock 94.7, but the thing everybody wants to talk about is HFS. We were able to get up close and personal with acts, the club scene was powerful, there were beautiful girls, fights in bathrooms, surly managers—that whole thing. It was rock ’n’ roll.


This article appears in the December 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 11:30 AM/ET, 11/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The "Mayor for Life" was flashy, imperious, and full of personal weaknesses. That's what made him human. By David Carr
Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

From a distance, it was always hard to understand the appeal, even the tolerance, of Marion Barry. For the rest of the nation, he embodied all that was sick and corrupt about the District of Columbia. He was a walking indictment of the people who live there, a totem that suggested that people in DC would stand for nothing and fall for anything.

I shared that take when I moved to the District in 1995 to edit Washington City Paper just as Barry was elected, yet again, to serve as mayor, for what would be his fourth term. What, I asked, was wrong with these people? How could they pull the lever for someone as self-seeking and uninterested in the actual mechanics of the government?

He was, as it turned out, not a very good mayor, yet again. But he was a very good politician. Among the best.

The handsome son of a sharecropper who bootstrapped his way to a master’s degree in chemistry, he was plenty smart, but deeply flawed. He loved people, loved a party, perhaps too much. He was laid low, not by his opponents as he would like to suggest, but by own his own hand. In 1990—in a city reeling from the effects of an epidemic of crack cocaine—he became one more casualty, captured on film taking a hit on a glass pipe. He said, over and over, that he was set up, but still it was there for all to see. No one had a gun to his head. He saw a chance to get high, one more time, and he took it. He was convicted of a single count of drug possession and served six months in a federal prison.

It slowed him down, but it did not stop him, and he used his intact gifts as a politician to rise again quickly, returning to the city council in 1992. He was back, damaged but unrepentant.

In a town of people who owned a room when they walked, no one could touch the entrance magic of Marion Barry. Chronically late, the tension and anticipation would build. Will he show? When will he show?

And then he would walk in, with a stride that was a combination of pimp-roll and politician, flanked by his familiars. He knew and understood the stardom of political office, its regal components, and comported himself with both ease and majesty that was remarkable to behold. He was more emperor than bureaucrat, a rock star working his fan base in wholesale and then retail ways.

He knew everyone, remembered everyone, and was sincere in his connection with all of them. He may have failed the District time and again, but he looked after the people who lived there, if that makes any sense. There was always room for a daughter or nephew in a public works job, or the cousin who was lost in the corrections vortex. He did not make government work in large and important ways, but on a retail level, he could always fix things, reach in and come to the behalf of his supporters.

I never actually saw him govern. In his fourth term, he walked smack dab into a huge budget deficit approaching $1 billion dollars and the city’s credit in shambles with its efforts to find money reduced to junk bond status. Cornered, he solicited Congress to take over responsibility for vast swaths of city services. They took over the city instead. In what he called “a rape of democracy,” Congress agreed to bail the city out, but in return, they instituted a control board that had authority for every aspect of governance. The mayor for life ended up in charge of not much—parks and recreation, tourism, and the libraries. He no longer had his hands on the levers of government and he could not deliver goodies to his base as he once did.

It was a rebuke to the city, but it was most specifically a rebuke to him. He knew that as long as he was mayor, there would be no return of self-rule and declined to run for a fifth term.

Congress could not take away the trappings of his office or his ability to punch up, to speak on behalf of the forgotten. Never mind that he and his administration were mired in a no man’s land that was mostly of his own making, and that their dispossession was the result of a culture of fecklessness he perpetuated. He was still the people’s champion even though he never came to their behalf as mayor in a meaningful way.

In that way, he became a giant middle finger that would close to a fist of black empowerment when he took the dais. No one, not Al Sharpton, not Jesse Jackson, could articulate grievance as well as Barry. The defiance his fourth term represented meant he spent his term punching up against an opponent who had all the cards.

Everyone who covered Barry will shake their head at his ward heeler ways, his smoke-and-mirror budgeting, his inability to bring any of his employees or departments to account. Those failures, he was always quick to point out, did not belong to the District alone. Even as he stood on two decades of smoking rubble, he would suggest that the answer to all the ailed the District had to do with a chronic disregard from its overseers, a lack of anything approaching independence.

Those same people, including me, would tell you that on a personal level, no one was more fun to talk to. Self-aware, in on every joke, conspiratorial in hilarious ways, his magnetism only amplified the closer you got. His frankness around race was bracing and served as a corrective to the general practice of many others who always chose to walk around the elephant in the room. He was, it should be said, a bit of a racist and an intolerant of difference, going after Asians and, in his late years, campaigning against gay marriage despite having been an early champion of gay rights. But it none of it hurt his appeal to the people of DC's disenfranchised Ward 8.

Whenever we talked, alone or in a small group, he loved to engage, to debate and was adroit in defense of himself and the city he loved, but lacked the tools to govern.

And his personal weaknesses, his brokenness, were part of his appeal, at least to me. In an era of plastic, over-managed political image, he was all too human. We knew who he was, he knew who he was, and yet he was still nascent, still rising. His appeal was less about forgiveness than a gut acknowledgement by many that we all are not always who we would like to be, that temptation and weakness were baked into human existence. To everyone who would point to him as a symbol of the failures of black leadership, of the gullibility of his base, might want to keep in mind two words: Rob Ford.

Barry went on to serve on the DC Council, still getting in jams—taxes, traffic stops, an on-again, off-again relationship with sobriety—but continued to shadow box all who would lay him low.

In a fundamental way, Barry was not wrong about what might happen if there was a change in who actually held power. In the past decade, there has been a huge in-migration of new money, new people, and a new aesthetic. And while the city may be thriving in that sense, many people who lived there in Barry's prime have been pushed out, pushed aside, and dispossessed anew in a rapidly gentrifying city. The conspiracy that his admirers always talked about—The Plan—the one where rich white people would take the city over, turned out to be more real than not.

We are left, in today's made-over, upscaled Washington, with not much of a legacy apart from Barry's statue in the DC version of Madame Tussauds’ wax museum where he stands among other District icons. The statue is regal, with a nice suit and a twinkle in the eye. It’s a good likeness, a reminder that he knew what others did not, that though he was far from perfect, he was perfectly capable of surviving tall waves that would have crushed many others. He was, as it turned out, unstoppable, answering not to overlords or opponents, but only to God and nature. Those forces, to which every man and woman are subject, called him home on Sunday morning.

David Carr writes the Media Equation column for the New York Times and was editor of Washington City Paper from 1995-2000.

Posted at 01:36 PM/ET, 11/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Read highlights from the magazine's archives on DC's mayor-for-life. By Benjamin Freed

Washingtonian's December 1984 issue focused on Marion Barry's seeming invincibility.

Through Washingtonian's 49-year history, few people have had a much written about them as Marion Barry. The District's "Mayor for Life," who died Sunday morning at 78, was a fixture in this magazine's pages and website since he entered the local political scene. Across his four terms as mayor and postscript as the DC Council member for Ward 8, Washingtonian chronicled Barry's ambition, pitfalls, and survival.

In May 1980, John Sansing and Howard Means profiled "Boss Barry" and his unshakable political charm:

In person, the Mayor has presence. He has learned to look you in the eye, is softer and smoother. Up close, he is more a rangy center-fielder than a boxer, more an up-town lawyer than a union boss. Up close , you might mistake him for a banker, a diplomat, cocaine dealer, or the sort of academic that undergraduates find attractive. Up close, he is protean, slick, attractive—the hint of a caged animal wrestling inside him so he bounces into his secretary's office as soon as he shows you out of his own, snaps his fingers time and again, and says, "Okay, what's happening? What's happening!"

By the middle of Barry's second term, in 1984, he was cementing his place in DC history, but also starting to attract the attention of federal prosecutors interested in him and his inner circle. Sansing, Robert Pack, and Debra L. Green teamed up for a lengthy cover story about a mayor at the height of his power:

[Mary] Treadwell was convicted of conspiring to defraud the federal government and making false statements to federal officials about Clifton Terrace. She received three years in prison and a fine of $40,000, a sentence she is now appealing. And Marion Barry emerged untouched—neither indicted by the government nor implicated by testimony. One law-enforcement officer who managed to infiltrate Pride with an undercover informant in hopes of getting the goods on Barry had this to say: "Above all, remember that Barry lands on his feet. He's done it time after time.

By April 1989, with DC gripped by a crack cocaine epidemic and a soaring homicide rate, Barry had become deeply unpopular with the white voters who were a crucial part of his earlier coalition. He was also dogged by questions about his own, then-rumored, drug use. But, as Barbara Matusow wrote, Barry was here to stay:

For most of 1989, the dominant news outlets in Washington have been pounding away at Mayor Barry, who found himself once again having to deny that he uses drugs. At the center of the tale was Charles Lewis, a Virgin Islands resident and friend of the mayor. He was staying at the downtown Ramada Inn in December, and a maid there told the management that he offered her cocaine for sex. Two detectives were on their way to Lewis's room to investigate when the manager called them off. The reason: Marion Barry was up there with Lewis.

In November 2012, Barry, about to win his fourth—and final—term on the DC Council, was starting to fade physically and turning into a semi-regular gaffe machine. (Earlier that year, he made his infamous remarks about "dirty shops" owned by Asian residents.) But, as Harry Jaffe wrote, Barry was also fixated on his legacy, and making sure it was written on his own terms:

He’s spending much of his time tending to his legacy—and rewriting history along the way. In speeches and newsletters, he’s taking credit for things he was responsible for only when showing up to cut the ribbons. He calls himself the “job czar” in a ward where nearly a quarter of the residents are unemployed. He has adopted the “mayor for life” moniker bestowed as a joke by Washington City Paper columnist Ken Cummins in the 1990s. His summer newsletter, the Liberator, paints Ward 8 as a garden spot.


While the news industry fills up with remembrances of Barry, it's worth going back to some of the other great profiles written during his life. The New Yorker's David Remnick explained in 1994 why Barry, fresh out of a six-month jail stint following his Vista International Hotel incident, was primed for a political comeback. The Los Angeles Times, profiling Barry just before his January 1990 arrest, captured a mayor who, despite a failing scene, was in peak strutting form. "Jesse don't wanna run nothing but his mouth," Barry said, referring to his sometimes critic, the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Many years later, the Weekly Standard—of all magazines—ran the most deeply sympathetic look at Barry when Matt Labash spent a Sunday morning with him in 2009. Washington City Paper was less forgiving in 2012 when it questioned why Barry, by then in poor health and beset by embarrassing personal scandals, would run for his DC Council seat again. Labash, revisiting his profile in a bit of Barry encomia today, remembers the longtime mayor as "more human than the rest of us."

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 12:03 PM/ET, 11/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()