Winging It

Marla Wing is a political activist and a lot of other things. You figure it out.

Marla Wing begins talking before we actually meet. She comes huffing up the stairs at Nixon's Lounge, trailing scraps of paper and shiny pamphlets that sneak out from the pile of mangled folders she's got clutched to her chest. We settle into an upstairs booth, and, surrounded by the bar's vast collection of political paraphernalia, Marla (who's wearing a red-white-and-blue-sequined visor and has pink plastic thumbnails) launches into a nonstop discourse on her political career. Until lately, she's contented herself with collecting signatures for politicians of every stripe. Today, she's running for office herself, as a write-in candidate for one of 252 Precinct Committee seats.

Marla likes to talk. Her normal speaking voice is pitched high and loud, as if she's hollering into a wind tunnel. She'll respond to any query, but her answers don't always match the question she's been asked. A discussion about gubernatorial candidate Alfredo Gutierrez veers quickly into a reminiscence about Alice Cooper; a question about Proposition 203 elicits a story about a Bruce Springsteen concert Marla attended in 1976. We talk for more than an hour, and I'm never entirely sure whether Marla is a crackpot politico or a wacko who collects signatures for a living. I finally decide that, because she talks and talks and never really says anything, Marla Wing is the consummate politician.

New Times: You've got a lot of folders there.

Marla Wing: I brought you some blank petitions. Here's one on the new tax act, here's a ballot for John Keegan, here's one for medical marijuana. My whole car is filled with this stuff. Political propaganda. It's what I do.

NT: Right. You work as a political advocate for nonpartisan politicians, initiatives and referendums.

Wing: Here's one on the tobacco tax initiative. Have an Alfredo for Governor bumper sticker. Oh, here's a pamphlet on the Indian gaming petition, and here's one about John Keegan.

NT: I've already got the Keegan one. You're running in the election primaries as a write-in candidate for a seat as a District 6 Precinct Committee person. Why?

Wing: District 6 has 252 spots open for Precinct Committeemen, but they only have 20 spots filled, and 10 of those guys moved. So they said, "Will you be a Committee man?" I'm also a music therapist.

NT: What's a music therapist? Someone who counsels sick songs?

Wing: Music therapy is rehabilitation through music. I studied the effects of music on human behavior at ASU. I was at ASU today, I went there to ask them if I could mention them in this interview, and I got a flat tire, that's why I was late today, I'm driving on a spare, and . . .

NT: Stop. So you're one of those people with the clipboard who stands outside the library and collects signatures.

Wing: I'm what's called a canvasser. I hate sitting in front of a Bashas' or a post office, though. How boring is that! I wait until there's a big event at America West Arena. I get the cops called on me at every place I go.

NT: Well, you're not supposed to collect signatures on private property.

Wing: Yeah, but it's always the same six cops! I start crying and they usually let me go. You know, I even got Ralph Nader on the ballot for president.

NT: Single-handedly?

Wing: No. But I walked with Dick Mahoney last week in the Payson Rodeo Parade. I was so honored.

NT: I heard about that. He was scooping up horseshit as some kind of metaphor for cleaning up Arizona politics. So, you have to have 10 signatures to become a Precinct Committee person. Can you swing it?

Wing: When I'm out registering people to vote, I can ask them to vote for me. So I'm sure I'll get way more than enough. Aren't you going to ask me my platform?

NT: I didn't realize that a Precinct Committee person needed a platform. Uh, what's your platform, Marla?

Wing: Since I'm a safe-sex advocate, it's "Love thy neighbor, but use protection." I e-mailed Bill Clinton and said, "Since you like to cheat on your wife, can I be next?" And his secretary wrote back, "If this is how you feel, I feel sorry for you!" I think they thought I was kidding.

NT: I understand that you support Proposition 203, which promotes the use of medicinal marijuana.

Wing: Marijuana is good for cancer, AIDS and leukemia. AIDS is a digestive disorder. It definitely hits your intestines. People are dying because they can't digest their food. People . . . it's not a gay disease anymore. I'm heterosexual, I'm a mom, I have HIV, you know what I mean?

NT: No. We were talking about Prop 203. Medical marijuana?

Wing: I went to this Bruce Springsteen concert in 1976 with this cute blond guy, and we got high on marijuana. I'll admit it. Okay? And on the way home, he flipped the car, and I was comatose for two weeks. I broke all my ribs, I punctured my lungs, my heart, my spleen, they took my liver out. They called me dead on arrival. I had the near-death experience, going up the tube and I saw God and all that.

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