WASHINGTON - As HBO considers making a movie about Marion Barry with Eddie Murphy in the title role, the real Barry is doing something that comes naturally: running for re-election in the nation's capital.
Barry, the former four-term District of Columbia mayor whose legacy will always be tainted by his 1990 arrest after being caught on video smoking crack cocaine in an FBI sting operation, now plays the role of elder statesman on the D.C. Council, where he represents a poor, predominantly black ward.
At 75, Barry walks stiffly and slowly, having survived prostate cancer, a kidney transplant and a gunshot wound he suffered when Hanafi Muslims attacked city hall in 1977. But the man once dubbed the city's "Mayor for Life" says he has more influence than in more than a decade and fully intends to seek a third straight council term this year, even if the prospect makes some wince. He goes so far as to predict his victory margin in Ward 8, the neighborhood east of the Anacostia River where he remains popular, saying he'll capture at least 70 percent in the April Democratic primary.
"I have more white support than people say I do, but I don't worry about that," Barry said, referring to the ward he represents. "That's what frustrates some of these white people out here. They get frustrated, all worked up. They can't do a damn thing to me or about me. Isn't that funny?"
While Barry is quick to dismiss his critics and boast that he's won 10 of 11 election contests, there is one subject he won't discuss: the possible Spike Lee film about Barry that could star Murphy.
Barry's only comment on a project that could largely define his legacy for a younger generation came in the form of a Tweet addressed to Lee: "Please DM me."
And so it goes with Barry, the former 1960s civil rights activist who is a walking embodiment of Washington's complicated legacy of self-rule.
He's the most quotable and least politically correct of the 13 council members, quick to call out his colleagues and unafraid to play the race card. During council hearings, he can seem distracted and disengaged _ more interested in reminding people about his four terms as mayor than dealing with the issue at hand.
But he remains a player in district government.
While Barry initially supported former Mayor Adrian Fenty, he quickly turned on him, accusing him of ignoring Ward 8 to pursue projects in wealthier parts of the city. Barry is much closer, though, to Mayor Vincent Gray and Council Chairman Kwame Brown, who also hail from east of the Anacostia River, long a dividing line between the city's haves and have-nots.