HST & Friends
About HST+ Who is HST?
Biographies+ E. Jean Carroll
+ William McKeen
+ P. Paul Perry
+ Peter O. Whitmer
Rolling Stone College Papers 1980
Woo! This just arrived yesterday [April 14, 1999] and I only had the chance to scan all the pictures with the article inside. Rolling Stone College Papers was a project that Jann Wenner gave his sister to handle. It was quite shortlived, but at least, this issue was quite good with articles on violence and Chevy Chase. The story about HST is "Hunter Thompson Has Cashed his Check" by Dave Felton. This issue is #2. Originally this section was broken into four parts, but I have glomped it into two. There is a weird flaw with my template that I haven't been able to figure out - if the text is too long, it tends to break the page. The parts are not native to the original article.Pictures
HST at home
HST sleeping circa 1972
HST getting made up for the Tomorrow show (what lovely eyelashes!)
We were on a mission, photographer Annie Leibovitz and I. Hunter S. Thompson, a.k.a Raoul Duke, the creator of gonzo journalism, the bold and free-wheeling Gabriel who blew down the ancient, stifling walls of political writing in the seventies, had reportedly gone mad. After knocking off three explosive books - Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 - the so called "quintessential outlaw journalist" had become more outlaw than journalist, ripping off the bored and gullible of the land for outrageous sums of money. And rumor had it that he'd indulged in drugs and other hedonistic vices so excessively they'd apparently rendered him incapable of writing anything of substance for the past six years or anything at all for the past two. yet presently he was more popular and sought after than ever. Producers, agents and students flocked to Aspen, Colorado, to his Woody Creek, "Owl Farm" hideaway where he lives in idleness - richer than a king and more worshipped than a god. Our job was to track him down and terminate his myth "with extreme prejudice."
As Annie and I flew from New York to Aspen, on a Wednesday early in December, I examined my dossiers and my memory. The evidence was disturbing.
Yet the very nature of gonzo may have created a problem for Hunter. Because it required him to be both an actor and a writer, fans were captivated by his persona as much as his literary style. In short, he became a folk hero,. But whether is was gonzo, the stardom, the drugs (his newest choice being scotch and Nyquil), the money or the mysterious disappearance - and presumed death - of his friend Oscar, Hunter started losing it. His writing turned into frantic last-minute attempts at writing, never fully realized, and finally it stopped altogether.
So my question, as we headed for Colorado, was this: how could Hunter maintain? And for how long? And I remembered a great gonzo documentary about Hunter produced and directed by Nigel Finch for the BBC that implied he had a death wish. It showed him discussing plans to erect a giant stone monument to himself, a two-thumbed gonzo fist rising out of the Rockies. Indeed. Would his last work be his next work?
Annie and I arrived in Aspen that afternoon and met up with Hunter that night. Since I had been given $250 in expenses for three days, I figured I could afford to buy him dinner. Unfortunately, I let Hunter order. The bill came to $250. It was then I sensed that this mission was not going to be easy.
After dinner we drove to Hunter's house, but I couldn't interview him because he insisted on playing his stereo full blast. I couldn't interview him on Thursday night because he suddenly had to make an urgent trip to Los Angeles to take care of some secret "dirty business". When he returned on Friday night, he was so stoned and deranged he could hardly walk, let alone talk.
That weekend I left Annie in Aspen and flew to Salem, Oregon to visit my two children. It didn't look good for the interview, but I decided to try one more shot and flew back to Aspen Monday. To my surprise, Annie was at the airport. She was heading back to New York and she was in tears. Seems she'd spent part of Sunday shooting Hunter, and when she showed him a Polaroid of what she was doing, he threw all her film into the fire. (All except - ha, ha, Hunter, you evil bastard - one roll which she had hidden.) When I asked him later why he did it, he simply explained, "It eliminated arguments."
By one a.m. that night, Hunter was drunk and I was resigned. We were both exhausted. Then, for some reason, he capitulated. We were out of drugs but we made some coffee. Hunter insisted the interview be recorded on his tape recorder as well as mine. He made one last desperate search around his house for some speed and came back with two pills. "I think this one's speed," he said, pointing to a green and black capsule, "'cause I know the other one's a downer and I usually try to keep the two together." I suggested we look it up in his Physician's Desk Reference. It was Librium.
We sat down by the fire and, in the flickering light of his strange, dark living room, surrounded by animals' skulls, stuffed owls, an eighty-speaker sound system, a lamp with hooves on it, five peacocks and a hideous five-foot-high sculpture of some rotting creature with its mouth agape, we began.
David Felton interviews HST about The Great Shark Hunt --Christine O
I have here a copy of your best-selling anthology, and I notice above the title it says, Gonzo Papers, Vol. I. My question is, who's kidding who?
What do you mean?
I'm wondering where Volume II is going to come from. I mean, I think it's generally agreed that you're pretty much washed up as a writer and a thinker and to some extent, a human being.
Hmmm...Jesus. Well, then there's really no point in doing this, is there?
Oh, I think there's a lot of point to it. For example, this anthology. It's probably the worst-edited and most self-indulgent book since the Bible. There doesn't seem to be any order. One-fourth of the book is either stuff that's been in previous books of yours or old, hack, pre gonzo stuff that reads rather flat and uninspired.
That's the way I wanted it.
For what reason?
I just thought it should be a permanent record. I thought it would be pretty fun to see the development from the air force to the Ali piece. It seems like I've been writing the same thing since I was eighteen years old. Looking back on it, I was surprised at the consistency of even the style, in terms of the attitude.
I never even thought about Volume II, frankly, I decided it would be nice to have Volume I on it.
I think you said earlier that at fifteen dollars, you thought the book was a good bargain.
Yeah, I like it.
Can you tell me why?
Hmmm....I haven't read it. No, I couldn't.
How could you like it if you haven't read it?
It looks good. You won't get ripped off when you read it; a bargain at fifty dollars.
Well, since you're happy with the book, let me ask you about a couple of points I don't understand. In Part One, for instance, you have "Author's Note" and "Fear and Loathing in the Bunker" and "Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" - all good introductions to gonzo. And then the fourth piece is "A Southern City with Northern Problems," a straight, pregonzo story from The Reporter. It should have been in Part Three, the pregonzo stuff. Why does it come ni that spot?
It shouldn't. It's in Part One? Jesus. Well, it's a terrible mistake. I'm not sure it should be in the book at all. I'm amazed they put that in the first section. [Hunter farts twice.] I don't think the book was edited.
I don't either.
No, I was supposed to. I didn't.
And then, in the Super Bowl piece, there's a part where you talk about -
Wait a minute. There's two Super Bowl pieces.
There's only one that I know of. It's called "Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl."
I can see you've read the book very carefully. [Hunter takes the book and starts scanning it.] Page forty-six is "Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl," right? [He finds a rambling, five-page essay on Nixon's 1969 inauguration; it includes occasional metaphorical references to another Super Bowl game.] Page 233, "Epitaph," the story of the 1973 Super Bowl. It was the end of the campaign book. Now, is it a Super Bowl piece or not? You just fucked up badly. It's on the tape.
Well, you fooled me. But the point I was trying to make is, in the long piece, the real Super Bowl piece, there's a part where you say, "What follows, then, is a random commentary by some pro-football players...watching a film of a game between two teams." Then nothing follows. There's no dialogue. It just stops; it goes on to the next section.
There's no transcript there at all.
Not there? The game film? Jesus! I spent fucking weeks stealing that game film. [He grows more agitated.] That can't be true. It was a big part of the article. [He locates the spot, page fifty-nine.] Holy shit! My God. Well, you're right about the editing. Well, clearly somebody edited the fucking thing.
It just seems like the book was slapped together.
Well, you're right.
I'm sure some people would say, well, so what? It's making a lot of money. But this is your textbook, this is what you'll go down in history with.
I'll stand by this. It's messy, it's fucked up; it's not a bad book.
Well, let's talk a little about the Buffalo movie that's about to come out. How did you get involved in that?
I got a call from Lynn Nesbit, my agent. She said there's this person, Tom [sic - spelt Thom in Hunter; Carroll] Mount, who wants to buy the magazine article about the Brown Buffalo ["The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat," a eulogy for Oscar Acosta] for $100,000 and make a movie. I thought, "Well, shit, that's wonderful."
They wanted to make a movie about whatever they perceived to be the relationship between these two characters. It was a weird idea. Actually, it was weird that it never occurred to me that it would be made.
But didn't it cross your mind that if the movie did get made, it would reflect on you and your legend or your personality?
Probably. Yeah, if I'd thought about it. But, you know, I probably would have done it. I don't know why people are so concerned about my image. I'm an egomaniac. I should be the one concerned about my image! Why are you and Garry Trudeau so worried about this film hurting me? I'm not.
So at the time, without seeing a script, you signed the contract?
I've been dealing with these yo-yos buying options on things for years. Options have been essentially paying the rent. The Las Vegas book has been optioned several times. So to me it [the Buffalo Story] was just another option job. Then all of a sudden there was some moment of terrible horror when I realized they were going to make the movie. Last summer, when I actually saw the fucking set on the lot, I thought, "Whoa! Good God!"
But way before then, hadn't John Kaye, the scriptwriter, talked to you?
Yeah, he seemed to understand a lot more than came through in the script. I was very disappointed in the script. It sucks - a bad, dumb, low-level, low-rent script. And what's been happening ever since is trying to overcome it.
Well, in this contract, do you have any kind of control or leverage?
No. That was the first thing we agreed on. I just thought it would be safer not to have any.
I don't quite understand the reasoning, but...
Well, if you have one percent leverage, you might be blamed for eighty percent. Since I have none, I can't be blamed for any of it. I signed away all editorial control at the beginning. I am executive consultant, which means I wandered around, fired machine guns on the set, drove a boat.