Gonzo Fantasy

I was duped.

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Somewhere in the desert between Barstow & Vegas at the Edge of my adolescence — I was Plumb Lied To.

To wit:

Moments later, my attorney slipped into a drug coma and almost ran a red light on Main Street before I could gain control of the Shark and take the wheel myself. Feeling fine. Extremely sharp.

Total Control Now.

Ahh yes. This is what it is all about. Two Good Old Boys in a fire-apple red convertable on a Saturday Night in Las Vegas. STONED. Ripped. Twisted.

Good People.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote that. He was drinking heavily & for long with his friend Oscar at the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills, one Friday afternoon back in ’71, when a uniformed dwarf cautiously approached their table with a pink telephone on a tray.

“This must be the call you’ve been waiting for this whole time.” said the Dwark.

Indeed. I gobbled the story down like a trunk-load of drugs. Better than drugs! Like a trunk-load of gonzoi doparhythm.

Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas — and Hunter himself — taught me how I alone happen to know precisely what the fuck I am doing. He made me want to bet smartly on me.

Dared me to bet my own life, even.

The call was from Sports Illustrated. That’s verifiably true. They hired Thompson to write a 250-word caption blurb about the Fabulous Mint 4oo motorcycle race in Las Vegas. They would leave at once. And expenses — rented hot-rod, sound-proof sweet, VIP parking — be damned.

The sporting editors also coughed up $300 cash which Doctor & Attorney famously spent on the following:

Two bags of grass. 75 pellets of mescaline. 5 sheets of high-power blotter acid…

I don’t have a copy of the Good Book with me. Am I getting this right? There was a salt shaker half-filled with cocaine, I recall. Plus a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers & laughers. And also a quart of rum. A quart of tequila. A pint of raw ether and a case of Budweiser…

They blew out of LA at dawn, purports the story, and were somewhere around Barstow when the drugs began to take hold. Then they drove around Vegas until their stash was gone. Wrote a couple Rolling Stone articles about it. Random House bought and published the articles as a book.

And that’s the story about how Hunter S. Thompson hit the Big Time — back when any jerk with a typewriter & a headfull of mescaline could do it that way.

But it doesn’t explain why I cried so when I saw the Good Doc’s obituary. I mean I wept wildly. There’s one quality in writers I admire above all; words that bring good folks together as friends.

And Hunter above ’em all was — is, truly — like a cosmically old Friend to me. One I’d long hoped to meet.

You know why I cried? Because I never got a chance to thank my old friend. To say:

I’m proud to call you my Hero.

Oh & yo Doc, one more thing — you are a pansy-eyed Amature Twerp and if you shot yourself — for real –well then I say you eat douches.

Dig this: A 1971 letter — published in 2000, 15 years after I first read Vegas — from Hunter to his Random House editor, Jim Silberman, in response to Jim’s peculiarly keen observation:

What depresses me is your statement that it was “absolutely clear” to you that Raoul Duke & his attorney “were not on drugs [in Las Vegas].” Because my conception of that piece was to write a thing that would tell what it was like to do a magazine assignment with a head full of weird drugs. I didn’t really make up anything — but I did, at times, bring situations & feelings I remember from other scenes to the reality at hand. I might even claim, for that matter, that this was done by consciously tripping the fabled “LSD recall and/or Flashback Mechanism.

Um.

So…the trunk of the Great Red Shark actually didn’t look like a mobile police narcotics lab?

So Hunter Thompson drove sober.

LOSER!

His acid-crazed attorney didn’t want to be electrocuted to death in the bath when the White Rabbit peaked?

Nah — the Samoan just threw a little hissy-fit when he lost his rubber ducky under the tub.

Thompson’s mind didn’t recoil in horror then at the sight of his body parking the Shark — floor-mats soaked in ether — on the sidewalk in front of Circus Circus?

Well. Yes he did park on the sidewalk. But it was an emergency; his attorney spotted an old lady with no one to help her cross the street!

Why not? By his own admission every word in the book was bogus. A fraud on its face. But he was on someone else’s corporate tab. So of course it had to be done.
All this begs the Question: did he — or did he not — drag that fence 30 feet across the Las Vegas Airport runway so his Attorney wouldn’t miss his flight?

Either way I tell you what Buster — don’t FUCK with the Drug Coma on Main Street!

That one is sacred. Let me have my jollies. Don’t mess with a man’s Gonzo Fantasy.

We’re all friends here :)

At the age of 15 I believed every word written in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Down to the last drop of human adrenalcreme!

Why?

Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the storymaker’s art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called the “willing suspension of disbelief.” But this does not seem to me to be a good description of what happens. What really happens is the storymaker proves a successful “subcreator.” He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is “true;” it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it while you are, as it were, inside.

JRR Tolkien

Weird: 15 years after I first read Vegas — and a half decade since it’s been revealed fictional — I don’t believe any less in the truth twoard which Hunter strove. If anything…way more.
I also believe Gandalf smote that Balrog on the snowy mountain and survived. Remember when they found Gandalf with Treebeard? I felt joy. Why? Gandalf is my friend. Must be, since I think it totally rocks, still, the way he didn’t die.

And what of DR. HST? Credit Where Due:

Hunter S. Thompson was a Fantasy man. Surely as Gandalf rode Shadofax fast the Good Doctor wrote some curiously potent fantasy. Most remarkable were his repeated, admirable attempts — sheriff’s race; Rock & Roll vote; unique friendship with and all powerful early endorsement of President Carter — to spike the punch-bowl of Reality.

He duped me in the best possible way. I never doubted a word he wrote. Yet he made it all up. Or did he? Honestly — why would he leave drug infested LA for an all-expense paid Vegas weekend without a trunk full of goodies?

Some suggest Hunter’s work is G-Rated fiction; a Secondary World subcreated from his own, far more depraved Reality…

Did he sample human adrenalcreme? I sure don’t know — and I never will. I’ll wonder though. But always get my best Hoot when I don’t know.

But this is a different subject, & there’s no point in trying to come to grips with it here. What I’m talking about, in essense, is the mechanical Reality of Gonzo Journalism…or Total Subjectivity, as opposed to the bogus demands of Objectivity.
>>HST re: Vegas 1971

To help grasp the Gonzo concept I offer the most succinct yet thorough description Hunter wrote on his self-invented style:

You Cannot Always Find Two “Reliable Sources” to Verify What You Know is True. And that is where I parted company with those bastards a long time ago..

I propose a hybrid genre; one I’ve barely touched on here. What I’m into in essense is Gonzo Fantasy. A kind of neuromolecular Make-Believe; an alternate to the bogus-load o’ bull we’re duped to believe is Reality.

Keep it unreal!

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4 Responses to “Gonzo Fantasy”


  1. 1 dfect802 October 13, 2006 at 10:39 am

    “the Samoan just threw a little hissy-fit when he lost his rubber ducky under the tub.”
    haha. funny stuff.

    was it real? was it all fabricated? to some extent it does not bother me since what was written had the ability to speak certain truths while being one heck of a read.
    “They ” say similar things about authors like Castaneda and ill tell you what , i could care less if the whole darn thing is as real as the tooth fairy because what was written was a masterpiece fiction or not. it had that elusive property, it inspired people , me definitely.
    i mean i guess it doesnt help matters by admitting to embellishments but hunter was the real deal, whether he did or did not do certain things he claims in the book. his job is convincing us the reader that his world is a real one and that he did ..hook-line & sinker.

    ps- what the hell is up with the HST suicide…shady all around imho.

  2. 2 leightoncooke October 16, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    Good ol’ Hunter! The original leaving LA man who was larger than life…and death.

  3. 3 galloway October 18, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    I guess someone must have said once that “all experience, when mediated through language, becomes in some way artificial or corrupt” (if they didn’t then I just did).

    Unless, of course, it was never a material experience at all, in which case it becomes… unmediated fiction?

    Who gives a f**k. The value is, and forever will be, in the language, and through it, the possibility of the truth of the experience.

  4. 4 jesanah September 21, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Juan Thompson and the Aspen Institute hosted a symposium on July 21, 2007 on the work of the late writer Hunter S. Thompson who created his own genre of writing with Gonzo Journalism and changed American political reporting forever with his book Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.

    Thirty-five years later journalists Carl Bernstein, Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, Loren Jenkins of NPR, John Nichols of The Nation and others came together in a symposium moderated by Professor Douglas Brinkley to discuss the effect of Hunter’s work on political reporting and American politics.

    The hour and half event is exclusively available at http://www.HunterThompsonFilms.com in nineteen clips of free, streaming video produced by Wayne Ewing.

    Jennifer Erskine

    Associate Producer


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