We didn’t know the woman and don’t have any funny or revealing stories, just hazy memories of being in a scrum of journalist types at a Dallas or Austin bar and Ivins’ very loud laughter overriding the ancillary conversations, and of the columnist, a tall and formidable presence, standing by herself at the back of the House chambers and amiably chatting up lawmakers as they slipped off the floor.
At that time Ivins was something new and different. Her column in the Dallas Times Herald was funny, pointed and unapologetically liberal and one of the reasons the pre-Singleton TH of the 1980s was probably as good as it’s going to get as far as daily newspapers in Texas go. (Ivins was a sharp polemicist but we’re pretty sure not even she mistook herself for a great journalist; if we remember correctly her TH columns had more than their share of fact errors.) The Houston Chronicle was said to be dickering with Ivins after the Times Herald disappeared into the post-Singleton maw, but it’s unlikely she would have made a good fit at the home of Thom Marshall.
It’s also difficult to imagine one of the remaining big-city papers taking a chance on someone like Ivins today the way the TH initially did, whether that person would be of the left, right or center. They’ve got their franchises and don’t want to put themselves out too much while they try to figure out how to corner the market on this Web thing (y’know, with their 1001 boring-ass blogs).
As for Ivins, she devolved into a highly marketable act with a well-honed shtick, with predictable results (that is, near-consistent predictability). To her credit, though, she seemed willing to at least occasionally entertain an opposing viewpoint or poke at a fellow liberal and to be aware of a larger world beyond the choir she preached to. And to generally be of good cheer.
At least we think she was. We hadn’t read many of her columns in the last decade or so because we rarely saw them. The only place to find Ivins in her hometown was the Examiner chain of throwaway weeklies in the heavily Republican enclaves of West U, Bellaire, Memorial and River Oaks, where she was paired-up with Bill O’Reilly in left-right tandem. She probably saw the humor in that.