Possessed by Pryor

Stir It Up

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I've seen state Sen. Virgil Smith quite a few times. He tends to show up at neighborhood meetings and events. He makes his way through a crowd with leisure, chatting amiably and generally not calling a lot of attention his way. He presents a clean-cut image and a sober personality — often wearing a suit and tie. Not the person you would expect to have a Richard Pryor moment.

When you mix an ex-wife, a girlfriend, a naked man, and a gun together in the middle of the night — well, that's a recipe for a vintage Pryor moment. About the only thing not mentioned in this mix is alcohol.

Pryor famously shot his wife's car in the heat of an argument and got arrested for it. He went on to tell everybody about it in one of his comedy routines. Pryor was adept at taking personal, even embarrassing, incidents and turning them into fodder for his incisive, genius comedy. Smith on the other hand is a politician, and publicity like this will not be good for his career. If he learns how to stand in front of a microphone and make people laugh, he might have a different career ahead of him. People are laughing already, and Smith's not even trying. Pulling that trigger is the worst of judgment, no matter how angry he was.

What I can discern from news reports is that Smith was at his home with a female friend when the former wife showed up about 1 a.m. Apparently Smith answered the door naked. I doubt he answers the door naked for just anyone who comes knocking in the middle of the night. But then this was the ex-wife, who we can assume has seen all the goods.

Then, Smith claims, she pushed past him into the house and headed for the bedroom. And it was not to complete a ménage. Smith says that the ex-wife tried to go after the girlfriend in his bed. Smith and the ex-wife began to wrestle and punch. They knocked over a television. She allegedly tried to throw a chair through a window. Then Smith was able to force her out of the house.

This is where something that never should've started should have ended. She's out the door. Smith is presumably inside. He could have gone back to the girlfriend, made some angry comment about his crazy ex-wife, and we wouldn't be talking about it now. However, then Smith was apparently possessed by Pryor's spirit. There's no other explanation for what happens next.

Still naked, the Senator grabs a gun. Now I'm guessing, but he must have had to go outside for the next move. Smith is in his birthday suit (no staid jacket and tie for this kind of business) outdoors with his long gun sticking out and the ex-wife pulling away in her new 2015 Mercedes Benz. The gun discharges 10 times — pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop — putting several bullet holes into the vehicle but entirely missing the ex-wife, and, luckily, not hitting anyone else either.

I hope he really wasn't shooting at her and just intended to fuck up a nice car. He did that, but also succeeded in fucking up pretty much everything else for himself. The ex-wife called the police, which most people who just had their car riddled with bullets would do. Smith was arrested and charged with domestic violence, felonious assault, malicious destruction of personal property, and use of a firearm in commission of a felony. I'm assuming he'd put his clothes on by the time police showed up. He spent the night in jail rather than frolicking with any woman.

At a hearing, Smith's lawyer referred to it as a "he said, she said" kind of thing and that she "is obviously the aggressor in this." But she did not shoot a gun 10 times, which I find to be the overriding offense in all of this.

In Lansing, where I'm guessing Smith wishes he had stayed that night, he has been removed from his committees and caucus responsibilities. Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley has called for him to resign from his office. A history of intoxicated driving arrests (how Pryor-like) has been dredged up. This is just the beginning in what will probably be a long, nasty slog for Smith that could well end up with him out of office and in jail.

If he were Richard Pryor, this would be just another in a string of incidents that punctuated a life lived on the edge. But Smith is a young man with political ambition. His father is a judge in the Wayne County Circuit Court. Right now his career has run off the tracks.

Police report that Smith said the shooting was the stupidest thing he's done in his life. Probably, it's surely the stupidest thing a politician has done around here since Kwame Kilpatrick roamed the halls of the Manoogian Mansion. I'm guessing Smith's case is going to be resolved much more quickly than the Kwame mess.

In Pryor's routine about his own car-shooting incident, he says, "I don't want to never see no more police in my life ... at my house ... taking my ass to jail ... for killing my car."

I'm pretty sure that Smith is ready to double down on that.

Larry Gabriel writes the Stir It Up and Higher Ground columns for the Detroit Metro Times and is editor of The American Cultivator.

About The Author

Larry Gabriel

Larry Gabriel covers cannabis for Metro Times. He also writes the Detroit Watch in the monthly Michigan Cannabis Industries Report. Larry's chapter "Rebirth of Tribe" in the book Heaven Was Detroit, from jazz to hip-hop and beyond chronicles the involvement of Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Harold McKinney,...
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