A night in the life of Hunter
rah at shipwright.com
Tue Feb 22 12:58:11 PST 2005
A night in the life of Hunter
The day Hunter S Thompson introduced Hugh Davies to Wild Turkey bourbon,
guns and his Rocky Mountain wilderness
We started drinking Wild Turkey at noon. The Woody Creek Tavern had only
just opened and Hunter S Thompson swung round on his usual stool at the
bar, just across from the pool table he had tried to blow up the week
"Hey Dude, what's up?" he said in a voice matured by a lifetime of drug and
alcohol abuse. He spoke in a stop-start, throaty rasp, occasionally missing
out words in sentences. At times, it was hard to understand him.
We had first met years before when he was a sports reporter in Washington
DC. We kept in touch through his riotous years as the Mad Doctor of Gonzo
Journalism, author of Kerouac-like screeds such as Fear and Loathing in Las
Vegas and Rolling Stone's most individual writer.
His reputation for being difficult rarely spilled over to his relations
with the media because he loved drinking with reporters.
This time, we met as he was being sued for allegedly groping a former porn
queen, Gail Palmer, in a hot tub at his home, Owl Farm, up Buttermilk
Mountain near Aspen, Colorado. He was alleged to have snarled to the
woman's companion: "Get her out of here, or I'll blow her head off."
This I could have believed as his love for bourbon, cocaine and
mind-numbing pharmaceuticals was only matched by his addiction to munitions.
I noticed that the barman, ordinarily used to the mad doctor's eccentric
behaviour, was keeping his distance, pouring large measures of whisky into
his shot glass and then retreating swiftly to the other end of the bar.
Hunter said he'd upset the proprietor by testing a detonator and explosives
on a table leg, scattering cues and pool balls, and smoking out the bar.
As usual, his voice was on fast-forward, as he sped past the incident to
rant on about "the generation of swine" now running Aspen, where he had
lived since the 1960s.
As I was trying to elicit details about the porn queen's visit, Hunter
raced on, confessing that he had opened fire late at night on the house of
a multi-millionaire neighbour, Floyd Watkins, because he didn't like his
attitude. There had been some altercation over Hunter's environmental
concerns. Watkins said the mad doctor's brain was "fried with drugs".
Hunter called him "crazy".
The mad doctor jabbed a Dunhill into his cigarette holder and plucked two
Mexican peppers from a bowl on the bar. Handing me one he said: "Try this.
It helps when you're as mad as hell."
He lumped Watkins, who kept three tigers in a cage at the gate of his home
as well as swans on a man-made lake, with the Hollywood figures who had
second homes in Aspen, worth millions of dollars.
"The greed-heads are taking over," he said. He recalled his early years in
Aspen when he arrived with Jack Nicholson, Bob Rafelson of Easy Rider and
Five Easy Pieces fame, Glen Frey and Don Henley of The Eagles and Jimmy
Buffett, to "cool out" in the Rockies.
"Now, it's all networking, corporate money and day-glo fur," he said. "It's
fat cat money - and I hate the swine."
As he spoke, his best friend, Bob Braudis, dropped into the bar to say
hello. Bob, the sheriff of Aspen, was almost Hunter's literary equal. As he
sipped beer, he quoted Homer from his days as a student at Harvard. Hunter
said: "Bob and I go back 20 years. He's had to arrest me more than once."
The sheriff, I later learned, periodically rounded up friends to help the
mad doctor clean up his house.
At 6pm, Hunter said it was time to go. He ordered up a last Wild Turkey
and, clutching it in one hand with his other on the wheel of his Chrysler
pick-up, we went up the mountain road.
Owl Farm, covering 127 acres, was at the top of a bluff. The entrance was
hung with steel models of vultures and three gargoyles. Inside, on a desk,
was his old Apple Power Book computer. Hanging over it was a rubber bust of
Richard Nixon wearing a scout hat. I got him to talk about the porn queen.
"Ungrateful swine, the lot of them," he muttered, unravelling a parcel.
Inside was a *44 Magnum. "Come into the garden," he said. We went out into
the gloom. There were two targets. He said: "Look, I'll try for the target
with the Mickey Mouse face. I'll imagine it's Michael Eisner, the Disney
chief. You try and hit the old television set."
He loaded the gun and handed it to me. It was so heavy that I needed both
hands to steady the barrel. I missed. Hunter, despite a day on the bourbon,
blew the target away. Once again, as he once wrote, the Lord of the Karma
enjoying an activity he said was "better than sex".
R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
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