The Barry in Winter Marion Barry is running for re-election. Is anyone paying attention?

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Campaigning on a February Saturday, Barry finds his element. Of course, it doesn’t involve seeking votes for a measly council seat. Today, the city’s Democratic Party activists have gathered at University of the District of Columbia to pick delegates for this summer’s Democratic National Convention.

There are a several dozen people outside the school auditorium when Barry shows up. He immediately becomes the star attraction, slowly making his way through the crowd with his 22-year-old godson Dennis Harvey, who keeps a hand on Barry’s back. His girlfriend, Sandy Bellamy, is also here, and Barry gets snippy when she wonders off. “Now you stay with me,” Barry orders Bellamy, a bankruptcy lawyer in Prince George’s County.

Well-wishers and old friends greet Barry at every turn: “You’re my friend, Mr. Barry!” “I voted for you! You got me my first job and I voted for you!” “Can I introduce my daughter to you?”

I’m shadowing Barry for this article. At this point, he says he’s still undecided about whether he’ll cooperate with me (eventually he’ll say no, saying Washington City Paper has done him wrong too many times.) But when the praise from old friends gets to be a little repetitive and I stop paying attention, Barry notices. “You get that, Alan?”

Other reporters are there this time, too. Some try to provoke a reaction out of Barry by asking about the sordid mess of the last convention, when Barry’s then-girlfriend, according to a recording made by her husband, said he tossed her out of their hotel room after she refused to fellate him.


The Washington Post’s Tim Craig asks Barry if he’ll be taking a “female friend” to the convention in Charlotte if he wins.

“Man, go to hell,” Barry snaps back.

A group of Barry’s supporters cry foul, saying Craig is asking about “personal business.” A supporter, somewhat off-message, jokes that Barry is going to take 15 women. Barry tells Craig to go to hell a few more times before threatening to cut off future access if he “keeps that shit up.”

“Quote me on that,” Barry says.

There’s something about Barry that turns reporters into little boys who poke bears with sticks at the zoo. Later on, I can’t help myself, and join Craig in trying to wave over political consultant Chuck Thies, who has just written a scathing column about what an embarrassment it would be if Barry were a delegate. Barry ignores Thies, then scolds me and Craig for trying to cause trouble. “Are you crazy?” Barry says. “Don’t call him over here, dammit.”

Eventually, Barry makes his way inside the auditorium, where he gives a full-throated defense of his right to be a delegate.

“Many have asked me what do I have to do to convince people to vote for me,” Barry tells the crowd. “You got the wrong question; it’s what have I not done for the people of Washington and the people of this nation.” He easily wins a delegate spot.

As we’re leaving, Barry—who actually finished second to a well-organized young hopeful backed by the gay community—explains his win. “I’m a very brilliant politician,” Barry tells me. “I’m not being egotistical about it. It’s a statement of facts. Like Friday says, ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ You remember that show? You’re too young for that.”

Barry’s star power isn’t limited to the group of hardcore Democrats who spend their Saturday morning electing convention delegates. Word broke late last year that HBO had bought the rights to Dream City, Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe’s book on Barry’s role in D.C.’s history. Spike Lee is said to be directing, with Eddie Murphy in the title role.

Closer to home, Barry’s fame—or his notoriety—make him a draw in even the most incongruous corners. Consider his reception a few years ago at a party featuring some of the country’s media elites. The event was a party celebrating Matt Labash’s book of profiles, Fly Fishing with Darth Vader, which features a mostly positive turn on Barry circa 2009. The party was held at the Palisades home of Tucker Carlson, the editor of the Daily Caller. Luminaries on hand included conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham and the late Christopher Hitchens. According to Labash, Barry was a hit among the normally jaded crowd.

After showing up 90 minutes late, Barry gave an impromptu speech and later started signing copies of Labash’s book for a grateful crowd, the author recalls. “They were practically speaking in tongues for him,” emails Labash. “To say he was warmly received would be a gross understatement. He immediately became the star attraction. I almost felt bad for crashing his party.”

Barry says what’s interesting about social events involving mostly well-to-do white people is how often the women want to hang out with him and have their picture taken. “If God gave it to you,” Barry says, laughing, “use it.”

Barry the star is clearly more fun than Barry the councilmember.

Our Readers Say

Can you elaborate on this: "when Council Chairman Kwame Brown stripped Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells of his committee last year, the move was partially orchestrated by Barry as an effort to form an all-African-American voting bloc."

How would stripping Wells of his position help to form an all-African-American voting bloc? Why was Barry interested in the move? Or did Barry just help line up votes for Kwame's plan?
Only the grave is stopping MB.

Sorry City Paper, you ain't singing to the crowd and, as Cap City Records Panhandler noted, "only the grave will stop Marion Barry".
@Todd -- Great question, I was wondering that too. Come on, Suderman -- explain!
I am not fooled by the Travon case. Whites don't give a shit about that boy as too many black kids are killed every day by whites. This media coverage of Travon is acting as a distraction as blacks whether good or bad are being pushed out of cities all over by any means necessary.

Barry should leave on his own so the whites can destroy the rest of the black council that did not protect the black residents who were there and who are there now.

Much love Mayor Barry!!!
Iz you iz or iz you ain't the Mayor?
'Cuz if you wuz you ain't the Mayor now.
But ah be very sure.
That you be Mayor once more.
And then you my Mayor always be!

Marion, you be the fo'ever Mayor!
The fact that this fool has been re-elected so many times, and he has 100 year old grannies talking about a summer program in the 80's shows that blacks in DC have no power to think on their own

This joker has done nothing but make black DC look like buffoons for the last 30 years. Get rid of him

Mayor Marion Barry was a civil rights activist,long time serving mayor of D.C. i have a great deal of respect for, right now he's the under dog and thats who i root for each time he has come back despite what the establisment want, the establisment has never given respect to black leaders in this country , Look how clean President Obama is well educated married father and some of the evil racist republicans yell out in meeting and have seen their power fading fast and as long as the tea party who dont have a clue of how goverment work hold the republicans hostage they will never win , Barry has had his faults but he's done it his way he's been knocked down but has gotton back up and won the fight ,May God contiue to bless him and this great country we live in !
These white people thinking that they're are gonna take dc away, but blacks are pretty much aware of whats going on. They arent fooling anyone.
Its because people like marion barry whites hate,simply because he stands up in making sure blacks gets their share of the pie. Now because of that he is a bad person.Poor white people, Sick!!!
I think christopher should consider a career in politics, becase there is a lot he could learn from his father.He could began by taking over ward 8. His father could be his coach.

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