Archive for ‘Hunter S. Thompson’

July 31, 2009

Everybody’s in Atlanta, why not me?

First it was Little Miss Attila, and now Moe Lane announces his departure to my hometown for this weekend’s big Red State Gathering, where the attendees will celebrate the absence of the conspicuously uninvited Native Son.

Last weekend, after I described my trip to Richmond for Liberty 101 — the Virginia Tea Party Patriots are wonderful people — I got a worried e-mail from Ben Marchi, Virginia state director of Americans For Prosperity, as a result of these paragraphs:

Of course, my feelings were still sore that AFP’s Erik Telford insulted me by leaving me out of next month’s RightOnline National Conference in Pittsburgh with Michelle Malkin. When I mentioned Erik’s name, Ben reminded me that Telford recently made No. 2 on Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” list. As usual, Olbermann gets the facts wrong — Telford’s No. 1.
That surge of registrations for RightOnline the past two days was caused by my friends signing up for a seminar Telford left off the Pittsburgh conference agenda: “I’ve Got T-Shirts Older Than You, Punk: Stacy McCain Explains Why He Just Beat the Crap Out of Erik Telford in the Sheraton Lobby.” But I digress . . .

So I sent an e-mail back to Ben and explained that I wasn’t really angry at Telford. He’s a nice kid and I was only joking about the beating.

Well, probably joking. It’s been years since I’ve risked an assault charge by giving some ungrateful punk the thrashing he so richly deserved, but just because I’ve become a top Hayekian public intellectual — the pinnacle of journalistic respectability — doesn’t mean my enemies should feel they can grossly insult me without fearing the violent consequences.

These kids, they don’t know from Gonzo. Back in the day, when Hunter S. Thompson was living the precarious and poverty-stricken freelancer’s life, it became his habit to respond to rejection notices and unfruitful job applications with outrageous letters full of hyperbolic denunciations and threats.

People who actually knew Thompson understood that these letters were, for the most part, just writing exercises. A writer improves his craft by constant practice, and if you have just been denied the opportunity to get paid for your craft, why not exercise the rejected skill at the expense of the philistine wretch who failed to recognize your genius?

Long after he became famously successful — genius must ultimately have its reward — Thompson never forgot the experience of poverty and obscurity. For example, one reason he took such great delight in becoming a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner in the 1980s was that, 25 years earlier, his application for a reporting job at the rival Chronicle had been rejected. And then there was this 1972 love-note to a good buddy of his:

“Dear John . . .
“You skunk-sucking bastard . . .”

Hunter S. Thompson, letter to John Chancellor of NBC News, Sept. 11, 1972, reprinted in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

Thompson’s unpredictable sense of humor made him a constant source of carnival amusement for his friends. So as Moe and Attila relax and enjoy their cocktails Saturday evening at the Red State Gathering, they should not dismiss the possibility that their conviviality will be disturbed by a sudden Gonzo episode:

“Sweetheart, give me a cold Corona, with lime,” I told the redhead behind the bar, loud enough to be heard by Miss Attila, sitting at a table in the corner with Moe Lane. As usual, Attila was zonked on gin and entirely oblivious. But Moe glanced over and froze with the shock of recognition. I nodded at him and smiled, tossed a $10 on the bar — the redhead was cute and the service was prompt — grabbed my Corona and strolled casually to their table.
Strolling casually was difficult, considering I was jacked up on no fewer than six cups of truck-stop coffee I’d consumed on my 700-mile drive from Hagerstown. I’d made it in just a shade over 14 hours, although I could have done it in less than 11, if I hadn’t been forced to exit I-81 south of Bristol to elude the Tennessee state trooper who blue-lighted me when I flew past him at 110 mph.
With my thorough knowledge of the region’s back roads and a half-mile head-start — the trooper must have been a rookie and was just a tad slow on the jump — I knew he’d never overtake me. But like the moonshiners used to say, you can’t outrun the Motorola, so I’d been forced to park the rented Mustang for half an hour behind a Pentacostal church near Walnut Hill while half the law-enforcement personnel in Sullivan County raced back and forth on the Blountville Highway trying to find me. I sat there on the front steps of the church, reading that morning’s New York Times, smoking Camel Lights and enjoying the show until I was sure they’d called off the pursuit.
Given that the trooper had never gotten close enough to see my tags, I was reasonably safe from further harassment, but now there was a BOLO for the Mustang, so I had to wind my way through backroads until I picked up I-26, then cut back over to I-81 and kept it cool all the way through Knoxville before opening it up again once I made it on I-75.
So it was nearly 8 p.m. when I handed the keys to the valet in front of the Grand Hyatt, grabbed my satchel and tried to be inconspicuous as I pushed through the side door and crossed the lobby to the men’s room.
Quickly washing, shaving and brushing my teeth, I changed clothes and looked as sharp as a CEO when I re-entered the lobby and approached the concierge, handing him the satchel containing my toiletry kit, washcloth and dirty laundry.
“No problem, sir,” he said, handing me a ticket in exchange for a $5 tip.
“You’re a gentleman and a scholar, Reginald,” I replied, with the manic sincerity of a man who’d had nine hours sleep in the past three days, including a fitful 90-minute nap in the front seat of the Mustang in a truckstop parking lot near Adairsville.
Moe Lane knew none of this, of course, and my stroll across the Hyatt bar was supremely casual.
“Stacy!” he said. “What the . . I mean, what’s with the tux?”
Attila stared glassy-eyed, predictably having skipped dinner to start in on the gin at five o’clock. She seemed to be trying to form the words of a greeting, but I just smiled, took a big swig of the Corona and pulled up a chair.
“Oh, my buddy Phil Kent invited me to a state GOP fund-raiser, and I thought I’d swing by over here and see how things were going.”
“Stacy!” said Attila at last, putting her hand on my wrist.
“Sweetheart, how are ya?” I said, but she was too far gone to comprehend even this simple pleasantry, much less formulate an answer.
“Stacy!” she repeated, but then was distracted when the waiter walked past our table. She grabbed him and thrust her empty glass at him, demanding more gin. I turned my attention to Moe.
“Hey, good to see ya, man. Where’s Mr. Erickson?” I said, taking another long drink from the Corona and trying to be as nonchalant as possible.
“Oh, he’s still finishing up at the reception. I’m sure he’ll be here in 10 minutes.”
Still nonchalant, I shook my head and finished the Corona with another long gulp. “Too bad. Can’t stick around. I’ve got to run back over to Phil’s party. But maybe I can drop in and say howdy to Erick on my way out. Where’s the reception?”
Moe told me the name of the ballroom and I nodded as he told me which floor it was on.
“Thanks, buddy,” I said, then reached inside my jacket and pulled out the souvenir Bowie knife I’d bought for $30 at that Adairsville truck stop. Now my eyes gleamed crazily as I briefly brandished the seven-inch blade. “I’ve got some old business to settle with Mr. Erickson tonight . . .”
With that, I stood up and, holding the knife down beside my leg as if to conceal it, walked quickly toward the side door, glancing back just once to see Moe frantically typing a text-message into his Blackberry. Perfect.
Ditching the knife in the nearest trash can — definitely $30 of fun — I headed up the corridor to the pay phones, dropped in some change and made a quick call. After hanging up, I went around the corner, down the hall and turned left, back into the lobby. The concierge spotted me as I strode cheerfully toward him, holding the ticket for my satchel. He took the ticket and handed me the bag with a smiling “thank you, sir.”
When I walked out the door, Phil’s car was waiting. I threw the satchel in the back seat, climbed in and closed the door.
“Stace, old buddy, how’s it going?” Phil said. “It’s been a while.”
“Yeah, too long, Phil. But you know how it is — busy, busy, busy.”
He wheeled the car through the driveway, but stopped when he heard the sirens of the Atlanta P.D. cars that came screaming down Peachtree Street toward us.
“Wow? What’s that?” Phil said.
“Ah, some drunk woman was getting rowdy in the bar. She started talking a lot of crazy stuff about a knife. I guess somebody finally called the cops.”
“Yeah, that happens a lot around here,” Phil said, turning onto Peachtree after the cop cars had roared past.
“Yeah, I said. “It happens . . .”

Merely another hypothetical scenario, you see. No way I would actually do something that crazy. Even if I had time to drive to Atlanta this weekend, the gas alone would chew up the commission check that just came in the mail this morning, and my wife wants to make the overdue car payment with that. On the other hand, if a couple dozen readers were to hit the tip jar today . . .

Well, I probably still wouldn’t drive to Atlanta just for the fun of startling Moe and Attila by my unexpected arrival, but isn’t it important for them to think I could?

(Erick: No need to pay me for promoting the Red State Gathering. It’s entirely my pleasure, you skunk-sucking bastard.)

UPDATE: Thanks to Steve Givler for playing the Grammar Nazi in the comments. “Strode” is just one of those irregular past-tenses that sounds so weird that it doesn’t occur to the ear naturally, and I tend to write by ear, having paid only enough attention in freshman comp class to slide through with a B. Nothing against English majors or Advanced Grammar classes, you understand. Some of my best friends were English majors. NTTAWWT.

July 31, 2009

Strictly a hypothetical beer

Matt Margolis offers a thought experiment, which I found at Jimmie’s Sundries Shack:

If you could have a beer with any politician, living or dead, who would it be?

Easy: Hubert H. Humphrey. So I could punch him in the teeth and say, “That’s on behalf of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, you shallow, contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack!”

Then I’d smash my Corona bottle on the bar, grab that filthy scumbag by his collar and hold the jagged bottle edge to his fat little throat:

“Oh, it’s not just for that shabby little deal with Daley in ’68, you vicious pimp. Don’t think the American people will ever forgive you for being the first major-party presidential candidate to advocate socialized medicine. I could slice you open like a carp, you miserable twerp, but I’m not gonna do it, and you’re probably wondering why. It’s this way, Hube: You’re not even worth the hassle of pleading insanity, so I could spend every evening for the rest of my life porking second-shift nurses at St. Elizabeths. Now, get out of here and don’t come back, punk. If you ever cross my path again, it will be your last day on earth, and the best thing that ever happened to the nursing staff at St. Elizabeths.”

Of course, it’s only a hypothetical . . . Like a cowardly swine, Hube was shrewd enough to die before I ever got my shot at him.

Update: by Smitty
Great POWIP post with dialogue outtakes from the Suds Summit.

May 10, 2009

Fear, Loathing and Smitty in Las Vegas

“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold . . .”
Hunter S. Thompson,
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The photo above was one of several that arrived yesterday in a brown manilla envelope with no return address, accompanied by a cryptic note assembled by some maniac who had cut letters out of magazines and pasted them together to create a message so disgustingly obscene that even I would not reprint it here.

No matter what this anonymous extortionist claims, I refuse to believe that my dear friend Smitty could have engaged in the repulsive acts portrayed by these photographs. As far as I’m aware, for example, there are no teenage Ukrainian albino prostitutes employed in Nevada. Even if there are, I sincerely doubt there could be two of them — identical twins at that and, to judge from the astonishing variety of poses, double-jointed bisexual acrobats who’ve spent years studying the Kama Sutra.

However, if these lurid scenes are genuine, Smitty is either racing toward the Mexican border or headed for a long spell in a federal penitentiary. He has no alibi, because everyone knows he spent the past week in Las Vegas, a place notorious for its decadent hedonism. Certainly I cannot be held accountable because, so far as I knew, he was merely going on holiday with his German in-laws. Granted, one occasionally hears bizarre rumors about elderly German tourists, but . . .

Forgeries or felonies, the photos were certainly interesting, although fearing an inquiry by the Postmaster General’s office — some kind of sting operation? — I immediately destroyed all of them except the one relatively safe picture I scanned in and displayed at the top of this post. That is obviously Smitty at the right side of the photo. I’d recognize the bowtie anywhere, but . . . who is that woman on the left?

Little Miss Attila? Well, certainly some of the tales Matthew Vadum told of their CPAC escapades two years ago might lead me to believe she could do such things. And she does live in L.A., a reasonable driving distance from Vegas, assuming you have a radar detector and you’re driving one of those big Chevy convertibles with a powerful V-8 engine.

For a few minutes, I stared at the photo while smoking a bowl of Kashmir’s finest and decided no, it couldn’t be Attila. Too tall. Which also rules out Cynthia Yockey who was, after all, still in Baltimore so far as anyone knew.

Who could she be? And then it hit me.

One of the photos I’d burned immediately after receiving the package had depicted Smitty participating in altogether despicable behavior with a certain breed of domesticated livestock.

Sheep? No Sheeples? Oh, Carol, you temptress . . .

March 26, 2009

Fear & Loathing in the Hotel Bar

“What happened?” said our friend. “What did they do to her?” He seemed very agitated by what he was hearing.
“Do?” said my attorney. “Jesus Christ man. They chopped her goddamned head off right there in the parking lot! Then they cut all kinds of holes in her and sucked out the blood!”
“God almighty!” the Georgia man exclaimed… “And nobody did anything?”
“What could they do?” I said. “The guy that took the head was about six-seven and maybe three hundred pounds. He was packing two Lugers, and the others had M-16s. They were all veterans…”
“The big guy used to be a major in the Marines,” said my attorney. “We know where he lives, but we can’t get near the house.”
“Naw!” our friend shouted. “Not a major!”
“He wanted the pineal gland,” I said. “That’s how he got so big. When he quit the Marines he was just a little guy.”
“O my god!” said our friend. “That’s horrible!”
“It happens every day,” said my attorney. “Usually it’s whole families. During the night. Most of them don’t even wake up until they feel their heads going — and then of course, it’s too late.”
The bartender had stopped to listen. I’d been watching him. His expression was not calm.
“Three more rums,” I said. “With plenty of ice, and maybe a handful of lime chunks.”
He nodded, but I could see that his mind was not on his work. He was staring at our name-tags. “Are you guys with the police convention upstairs?” he said finally.
“We sure are, my friend,” said the Georgia man with a big smile.
The bartender shook his head sadly. “I thought so,” he said. “I never heard that kind of talk at this bar before. Jesus Christ! How do you guys stand that kind of work?”
My attorney smiled at him. “We like it,” he said. “It’s groovy.”

January 26, 2009

The Gonzo of Coulter

From my latest essay at Splice Today:

Given the Newtonian opposition of their political loyalties, and their vastly different literary ouevres, the fans of Hunter S. Thompson and the fans of Ann Coulter are very near to being mutually exclusive sets. A Venn diagram would show an almost infinitesimal overlap between Set A (those who admire the drug-addled king of gonzo) and Set B (those who admire the acid-tongued right-wing blonde). Yet as one of the few occupants of Set AB, I find striking parallels between the two, and wonder why others don’t also see these parallels.

November 4, 2008

Ready to riot

If McCain wins, good-bye, Toledo:

Toledo police are gearing up for possible “Civil unrest” during and after tomorrow’s elections.
In an internal memo obtained exclusively by NBC 24 News, officers are ordered to “Have their riot equipment with them Tuesday and Wednesday”. Police chief Mike Navarre confirms, officers will have gear similar to the equipment they used during the 2005 race riots. “They have been asked to have their helmets and their gas masks available tomorrow and Wednesday.”, Navarre says, “That’s the equipment they would not normally carry with them on a normal day”.

Beautiful. I’m reminded of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72:

The entire Fort Walton Beach police force is gripped in a state of fear this week; all leaves have been cancelled and Chief Bloor is said to be drilling his men for an Emergency Alert situation on Friday and Saturday night — because those are the nights when ‘Kazika, The Mad Jap,’ a 440-pound sadist from the vile slums of Hiroshima, is scheduled to make his first — and no doubt his last — appearance in Fish-head Auditorium. Local wrestling impressario Lionel Olay is known to have spoken privately with Chief Bloor, urging him to have ‘every available officer’ on duty at ringside this weekend, because of the Mad Jap’s legendary temper and his invariably savage reaction to racial insults. Last week, in Detroit, Kazika ran amok and tore the spleens out of three spectators, one of whom allegedly called him a ‘yellow devil’ . . .

I doubt there will be much rioting out here in rural Maryland or in Alexandria, Va., where I’ll be watching the deal go down tonight with friends at the National Taxpayers Union. But you never know . . .

September 26, 2008

Thoughts on the past 48 hours

“Anything that gets the adrenalin moving like a 440 volt blast in a copper bathtub is good for the reflexes and keeps the veins free of cholesterol … but too many adrenalin rushes in any given time-span has the same bad effect on the nervous system as too many electro-shock treatments are said to have on the brain: after a while you start burning out the circuits.”
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

There was a time — and it was only a couple of months ago, when I measured the success of this blog by the number of days per month with over 1,000 visits. Now? My worst day of September, I had 3,648 visits. Adrenalin jolts . . .

August 21, 2008

Denver ’08: Fear and Loathing?

Hunter S. Thompson’s widow, Anita, linked me today at her Owl Farm Blog, noting this Time magazine feature about the 1972 Eagleton debacle, which features a few choice quotes, including this:

Campaign Manager Gary Hart admits: “There were no formal staff meetings, no requests to check people out. I take the blame for not setting up a committee on selection. I should have thought of that.”

Heh. Too busy toking up with Warren Beatty, I suppose. Not likely Obama will suffer a similar fate; his staff is mostly a bunch of Starbucks junkies. Large quantities of caffeine can make you a bit jittery and push you into a hypomanic state, if you’re prone to that, but you couldn’t drink so much coffee as to completely forget to vet the vice-presidential candidates. Or could you?

Anita supported Hillary in the primaries, but is a loyal Democrat, so now she’s for Obama. Still, like a lot of Clinton supporters, she has deep doubts about Obama’s readiness to face the GOP attack machine. Given the most recent poll results, I’d say those doubts are warranted.

Anita links Cameron Martin‘s review of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, one of the most readable books ever written about politics.

As Martin says:

Next week’s Democratic Convention is in Denver, Colorado, just 220 miles from Thompson’s former home in Aspen. The creator of Gonzo Journalism won’t be there in person, but his addictive spirit will certainly make an appearance.

Just so. Anita will be there with her friend Jeralyn Merritt, and I hope to see them both amid the anarchy in Denver next week. “A Mile High and an Inch Deep.”