ASPEN, Colo. - Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counter-culture author of books such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself Sunday night at his Aspen-area home, his son said. He was 67.
"Hunter prized his privacy and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family," Juan Thompson said in a statement released to the Aspen Daily News.
Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, a personal friend of Thompson, confirmed the death to the News. Sheriff's officials did not return calls to The Associated Press late Sunday.
Of all ways for HST to die, I never thought he would go out like that
Wondering *why* made me think about it...
"So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun."
- Hunter S. Thompson on Ernest Hemingway
"What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?", National Observer, 1964
Yep, makes perfect sense
(edited by RYDER FAKIN on 20.2.05 2328)
(edited by RYDER FAKIN on 21.2.05 1825) Demonstrations are a drag. Besides, we're much too high
To be quite honest with you I'm surprised he made it this long. Anyone ever read, "Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and The Downward Spiral of Dumbness.", I'd never even heard of this one until now.
You know, I have to say that I'm really not surprised at this. He was one of those guys who had such a "fuck you" attitude towards conventional wisdom that I could see him deciding that he had reached his time and taking care of it himself, rather than letting nature take its course.
That said, this obviously sucks. He's been a wacked-out shell of his former self for about 15 years or so, but goddamn that man could write when he was on his game.
I think that Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972 is the most insightful book on I've ever read on the Presidential election process (joining Ted White's The Making of the President 1960 as the definitive books on the subject).
I've always loved his writing with Hell's Angels and The Great Shark Hunt being books I return to every few years with immense pleasure.
The two anthologies of his personal correspondence from the sixties and seventies are every bit as hilarious as anything he ever did.
His work had been infrequent since the mid-eighties and his writing for ESPN.com was a delightful suprise that allowed him to write about the subjects he loved: politics, sports and gambling.
This is a real drag.
Hunter S. Thompson, 65, Author, Commits Suicide By MICHELLE O'DONNELL February 21, 2005 www.nytimes.com
Hunter S. Thompson, the maverick journalist and author whose savage chronicling of the underbelly of American life and politics embodied a new kind of nonfiction writing he called "gonzo journalism," died yesterday in Colorado. Tricia Louthis, of the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, said Mr. Thompson had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Woody Creek, Colo., yesterday afternoon. He was 65.
Mr. Thompson, a magazine and newspaper writer who also wrote almost a dozen books, was perhaps best known for his book, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which became a Hollywood movie in 1998. But he was better known for his hard-driving lifestyle and acerbic eye for truth which he used in the style of first-person reporting that came to be known as "gonzo" in the 1960's, where the usually-anonymous reporter becomes a central character in the story, a conduit of subjectivity.
"Nobody really knows what it means, but it sounds like an epithet," he said in an interview that, for him, journalism "can be an effective political tool."
Hunter Stockton Thompson was born in Louisville, Ky, on July 18, 1939, the son of an insurance agent. He was educated in the public school system and joined the United States Air Force after high school. There, he was introduced to journalism, covering sports for an Air Force newspaper at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He was honorably discharged in 1958 and then worked a series of jobs writing for small-town newspapers.
It was in the heat of deadline that gonzo journalism was born while he was writing a story about the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan's magazine, he recounted years later in an interview in Playboy magazine.
"I'd blown my mind, couldn't work," he told Playboy. "So finally I just started jerking pages out of my notebook and numbering them and sending them to the printer. I was sure it was the last article I was ever going to do for anybody."
Instead, he said, the story drew raves and he was inundated with letters and phone calls from people calling it "a breakthrough in journalism," an experience he likened to "falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool of mermaids."
He went on to become a counter cultural hero with books and articles that skewered America's hypocrisy.
"He wrote to provoke, shock, protest and annoy," Timothy Crouse wrote in his book "The Boys on the Bus," about the 1972 presidential campaign.
Mr. Thompson influenced a generation of writers who saw in his pioneering first-person, at times over-the-top writing style.
As a young man, he was heavily influenced by Jack Kerouac and wholeheartedly followed Kerouac's approach in which the writer revels in his struggles with writing.
Among his books were "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing on the Campiagn Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "Generation of Swine" and "Songs for the Doomed."
(edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 21.2.05 0222) "Well, you can't involve friendship with business. It has to be one or the other. It's either business or friendship, or hit the bricks!" --Life Lessons from "The Tao of Bobby the Brain Heenan" Uncensored 2000 preview
"As long as the check don't bounce, I guess he's okay with it!" --Former All Pro Giants LB Harry Carson on Bill Parcells joining the hated rival Dallas Cowboys
Originally posted by NickBockwinkelFanI think that Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972 is the most insightful book on I've ever read on the Presidential election process (joining Ted White's The Making of the President 1960 as the definitive books on the subject).
Join the club. His earlier books (Hell's Angels, FaL in Las Vegas) were wonderful, but CT72 was his best work -- a shotgun blast across the dashboard of political journalism and a damn fine read.
"...I'm sorry, I was wrong -- we cannot go back and make it that the Hawaiians killed Christ." -- Jennifer Giroux, professional wingnut
HST's Nixon Obit has been making the rounds today, thought I'd put it up.
"He Was a Crook" By HUNTER S. THOMPSON
MEMO FROM THE NATIONAL AFFAIRS DESK
DATE: MAY 1, 1994
FROM: DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON
SUBJECT: THE DEATH OF RICHARD NIXON:
NOTES ON THE PASSING OF AN AMERICAN MONSTER....HE WAS A LIAR AND A QUITTER, AND HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN BURIED AT SEA. ...BUT HE WAS, AFTER ALL, THE PRESIDENT.
"And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is becoming the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."--REVELATION 18:2
Richard Nixon is gone now and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing--a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that I know, "I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon."
I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.
Nixon laughed when I told him this. "Don't worry," he said. "I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you."
It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he's gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive--and he was, all the way to the end--we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.
That was Nixon's style--and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don't fight fair, bubba. That's why God made dachshunds.
Nixon was a navy man, and he should have been buried at sea. Many of his friends were seagoing people: Bebe Rebozo, Robert Vesco, William F. Buckley Jr., and some of them wanted a full naval burial.
These come in at least two styles, however, and Nixon's immediate family strongly opposed both of them. In the traditionalist style, the dead president's body would be wrapped and sewn loosely in canvas sailcloth and dumped off the stern of a frigate at least 100 miles off the coast and at least 1,000 miles south of San Diego, so the corpse could never wash up on American soil in any recognizable form.
The family opted for cremation until they were advised of the potentially onerous implications of a strictly private, unwitnessed burning of the body of the man who was, after all the President of the United States. Awkward questions might be raised, dark allusions to Hitler and Rasputin. People would be filing lawsuits to get their hands on the dental charts. Long court battles would be inevitable--some with liberal cranks bitching about corpus delicti and habeas corpus and others with giant insurance companies trying not to pay off on his death benefits. Either way, an orgy of greed and duplicity was sure to follow any public hint that Nixon might have somehow faked his own death or been cryogenically transferred to fascist Chinese interests on the Central Asian Mainland.
It would also play into the hands of those millions of self-stigmatized patriots like me who believe these things already.
If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.
These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern--but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.
Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man--evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him--except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.
It is fitting that Richard Nixon's final gesture to the American people was a clearly illegal series of 21 105-mm howitzer blasts that shattered the peace of a residential neighborhood and permanently disturbed many children. Neighbors also complained about another unsanctioned burial in the yard at the old Nixon place, which was brazenly illegal. "It makes the whole neighborhood like a graveyard," said one. "And it fucks up my children's sense of values."
Many were incensed about the howitzers--but they knew there was nothing they could do about it--not with the current president sitting about 50 yards away and laughing at the roar of the cannons. It was Nixon's last war, and he won.
The funeral was a dreary affair, finely staged for TV and shrewdly dominated by ambitious politicians and revisionist historians. The Rev. Billy Graham, still agile and eloquent at the age of 136, was billed as the main speaker, but he was quickly upstaged by two 1996 GOP presidential candidates: Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas and Gov. Pete Wilson of California, who formally hosted the event and saw his poll numbers crippled when he got blown off the stage by Dole, who somehow seized the No. 3 slot on the roster and uttered such a shameless, self-serving eulogy that even he burst into tears at the end of it.
Dole's stock went up like a rocket and cast him as the early GOP front-runner for '96. Wilson, speaking next, sounded like an Engelbert Humperdinck impersonator and probably won't even be re-elected as governor of California in November.
The historians were strongly represented by the No. 2 speaker, Henry Kissinger, Nixon's secretary of state and himself a zealous revisionist with many axes to grind. He set the tone for the day with a maudlin and spectacularly self-serving portrait of Nixon as even more saintly than his mother and as a president of many godlike accomplishments--most of them put together in secret by Kissinger, who came to California as part of a huge publicity tour for his new book on diplomacy, genius, Stalin, H.P. Lovecraft and other great minds of our time, including himself and Richard Nixon.
Kissinger was only one of the many historians who suddenly came to see Nixon as more than the sum of his many squalid parts. He seemed to be saying that History will not have to absolve Nixon, because he has already done it himself in a massive act of will and crazed arrogance that already ranks him supreme, along with other Nietzschean supermen like Hitler, Jesus, Bismarck and the Emperor Hirohito. These revisionists have catapulted Nixon to the status of an American Caesar, claiming that when the definitive history of the 20th century is written, no other president will come close to Nixon in stature. "He will dwarf FDR and Truman," according to one scholar from Duke University.
It was all gibberish, of course. Nixon was no more a Saint than he was a Great President. He was more like Sammy Glick than Winston Churchill. He was a cheap crook and a merciless war criminal who bombed more people to death in Laos and Cambodia than the U.S. Army lost in all of World War II, and he denied it to the day of his death. When students at Kent State University, in Ohio, protested the bombing, he connived to have them attacked and slain by troops from the National Guard.
Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism--which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.
Nixon's meteoric rise from the unemployment line to the vice presidency in six quick years would never have happened if TV had come along 10 years earlier. He got away with his sleazy "my dog Checkers" speech in 1952 because most voters heard it on the radio or read about it in the headlines of their local, Republican newspapers. When Nixon finally had to face the TV cameras for real in the 1960 presidential campaign debates, he got whipped like a red-headed mule. Even die-hard Republican voters were shocked by his cruel and incompetent persona. Interestingly, most people who heard those debates on the radio thought Nixon had won. But the mushrooming TV audience saw him as a truthless used-car salesman, and they voted accordingly. It was the first time in 14 years that Nixon lost an election.
When he arrived in the White House as VP at the age of 40, he was a smart young man on the rise--a hubris-crazed monster from the bowels of the American dream with a heart full of hate and an overweening lust to be President. He had won every office he'd run for and stomped like a Nazi on all of his enemies and even some of his friends.
Nixon had no friends except George Will and J. Edgar Hoover (and they both deserted him.) It was Hoover's shameless death in 1972 that led directly to Nixon's downfall. He felt helpless and alone with Hoover gone. He no longer had access to either the Director or the Director's ghastly bank of Personal Files on almost everybody in Washington.
Hoover was Nixon's right flank, and when he croaked, Nixon knew how Lee felt when Stonewall Jackson got killed at Chancellorsville. It permanently exposed Lee's flank and led to the disaster at Gettysburg.
For Nixon, the loss of Hoover led inevitably to the disaster of Watergate. It meant hiring a New Director--who turned out to be an unfortunate toady named L. Patrick Gray, who squealed like a pig in hot oil the first time Nixon leaned on him. Gray panicked and fingered White House Counsel John Dean, who refused to take the rap and rolled over, instead, on Nixon, who was trapped like a rat by Dean's relentless, vengeful testimony and went all to pieces right in front of our eyes on TV.
That is Watergate, in a nut, for people with seriously diminished attention spans. The real story is a lot longer and reads like a textbook on human treachery. They were all scum, but only Nixon walked free and lived to clear his name. Or at least that's what Bill Clinton says--and he is, after all, the President of the United States.
Nixon liked to remind people of that. He believed it, and that was why he went down. He was not only a crook but a fool. Two years after he quit, he told a TV journalist that "if the president does it, it can't be illegal."
Shit. Not even Spiro Agnew was that dumb. he was a flat-out, knee-crawling thug with the morals of a weasel on speed. But he was Nixon's vice president for five years, and he only resigned when he was caught red-handed taking cash bribes across his desk in the White House.
Unlike Nixon, Agnew didn't argue. He quit his job and fled in the night to Baltimore, where he appeared the next morning in U.S. District Court, which allowed him to stay out of prison for bribery and extortion in exchange for a guilty (no contest) plea on income-tax evasion. After that he became a major celebrity and played golf and tried to get a Coors distributorship. He never spoke to Nixon again and was an unwelcome guest at the funeral. They called him Rude, but he went anyway. It was one of those Biological Imperatives, like salmon swimming up waterfalls to spawn before they die. He knew he was scum, but it didn't bother him.
Agnew was the Joey Buttafuoco of the Nixon administration, and Hoover was its Caligula. They were brutal, brain-damaged degenerates worse than any hit man out of The Godfather, yet they were the men Richard Nixon trusted most. Together they defined his Presidency.
It would be easy to forget and forgive Henry Kissinger of his crimes, just as he forgave Nixon. Yes, we could do that--but it would be wrong. Kissinger is a slippery little devil, a world-class hustler with a thick German accent and a very keen eye for weak spots at the top of the power structure, Nixon was one of these, and Super K exploited him mercilessly, all the way to the end.
Kissinger made the Gang of Four complete: Agnew, Hoover, Kissinger and Nixon. A group photo of these perverts would say all we need to know about the Age of Nixon.
Nixon's spirit will be with us for the rest of our lives--whether you're me or Bill Clinton or you or Kurt Cobain or Bishop Tutu or Keith Richards or Amy Fisher or Boris Yeltsin's daughter or your fiancee's 16-year-old beer-drunk brother with his braided goatee and his whole life like a thundercloud out in front of him. This is not a generational thing. You don't even have to know who Richard Nixon was to be a victim of his ugly, Nazi spirit.
He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.
KICKING NIXON WHILE HE WAS UP
It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie-doll president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string warts, on nights when the moon comes too close....
At the stroke of midnight in Washington, a drooling red-eyed beast with the legs of a man and head of a giant hyena crawls out of its bedroom window in the South Wing of the White House and leaps 50 feet down to the lawn ... pauses briefly to strangle the chow watchdog, then races off into the darkness...toward the Watergate, snarling with lust, loping through the alleys behind Pennsylvania Avenue and trying desperately to remember which one of those 400 iron balconies is the one outside Martha Mitchell's apartment.
Ah...nightmares, nightmares. But I was only kidding. The President of the United States would never act that weird. At least not during football season. But how would the voters react if they knew the President of the United States was, according to a New York Times editorial on Oct. 12, presiding over "a complex, far-reaching and sinister operation on the part of White House aides and the Nixon campaign organization ... involving sabotage, forgery, theft of confidential files, surveillance of Democratic candidates and their families and persistent efforts to lay the basis for possible blackmail and intimidation?"
(edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 21.2.05 1917) "Well, you can't involve friendship with business. It has to be one or the other. It's either business or friendship, or hit the bricks!" --Life Lessons from "The Tao of Bobby the Brain Heenan" Uncensored 2000 preview
"As long as the check don't bounce, I guess he's okay with it!" --Former All Pro Giants LB Harry Carson on Bill Parcells joining the hated rival Dallas Cowboys
I've been talking to a lot of people in the last 48 hours about HST and I'm hearing a lot of my peers say that his death is affecting them. Probably moreso than any other "celebrity" death since Douglas Adams (and really, even moreso than that).
I have been a huge fan of the man since my Uncle (a newsman and political junkie) turned me on to FaL:CT'72 many years ago. I've read it several times since then (every four years, actually ) and still can't get over how insightful and to-the-bone it is. But I've never managed to get any of my largely apolitical Canadian friends to read it.
I wonder how different it would be if the FaL:LV movie hadn't been made before his death. Up until two days ago I though of HST as one of those authors who I knew and loved, but who had drifted so far out of the public eye as to be unknown and possibly even irrelevant in modern pop culture. I didn't know anyone else who'd comb ESPN's Page2 on a weekly basis hoping for a missive from the good Doctor. Evidently, they were out there...
I'm glad to hear so many putting him in the pantheon with Twain and Hemingway, because I believe he belongs there. I'm disappointed to hear people slagging him for doing the deed himself. In general, I don't look at suicide in a favorable light; but to me HST's is entirely consistent with who he was: an uncompromising, pedal-to-the-metal original who was determined to do everything his way. He never figured he'd make it past age 30 anyway.
I know yesterday was President's Day and thus a holiday for many, but I actually was miffed enough as to send an email to RollingStone.com chastising them for not even putting a blurb up on their news page until yesterday evening sometime. RS is a shadow of what it was, and HST and the magazine didn't always have the greatest relationship, but he helped make Rolling Stone and deserved better. Every other news outlet I could think of had something; RS.com has evidently sunk further than I imagined.
I'll be spilling myself a regular scotch in his honor for the forseeable future (it's either that or Wild Turkey and I can't handle my bourbon). I'm actually wishing I had a blender so I could do a proper classic HST Chivas sno-cone.
The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders By Hunter S. Thompson The Nation May 17, 1965
Last Labor Day weekend newspapers all over California gave front-page reports of a heinous gang rape in the moonlit sand dunes near the town of Seaside on the Monterey Peninsula. Two girls, aged 14 and 15, were allegedly taken from their dates by a gang of filthy, frenzied, boozed-up motorcycle hoodlums called "Hell's Angels," and dragged off to be "repeatedly assaulted."
A deputy sheriff, summoned by one of the erstwhile dates, said he "arrived at the beach and saw a huge bonfire surrounded by cyclists of both sexes. Then the two sobbing, near-hysterical girls staggered out of the darkness, begging for help. One was completely nude and the other had on only a torn sweater."
Some 300 Hell's Angels were gathered in the Seaside-Monterey area at the time, having convened, they said, for the purpose of raising funds among themselves to send the body of a former member, killed in an accident, back to his mother in North Carolina. One of the Angels, hip enough to falsely identify himself as "Frenchy of San Bernardino," told a reporter who came out to meet the cyclists: "We chose Monterey because we get treated good here; most other places we get thrown out of town."
But Frenchy spoke too soon. The Angels weren't on the peninsula twenty-four hours before four of them were in jail for rape, and the rest of the troop was being escorted to the county line by a large police contingent. Several were quoted, somewhat derisively, as saying: "That rape charge against our guys is phony and it won't stick."
It turned out to be true, but that was another story and certainly no headliner. The different between the Hell's Angels in the paper and the Hell's Angels for real is enough to make a man wonder what newsprint is for. It also raises a question as to who are the real hell's angels.
Ever since World War II, California has been strangely plagued by wild men on motorcycles. They usually travel in groups of ten to thirty, booming along the highways and stopping here are there to get drunk and raise hell. In 1947, hundreds of them ran amok in the town of Hollister, an hour's fast drive south of San Francisco, and got enough press to inspire a film called The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando. The film had a massive effect on thousands of young California motorcycle buffs; in many ways, it was their version of The Sun Also Rises.
The California climate is perfect for motorcycles, as well as surfboards, swimming pools and convertibles. Most of the cyclists are harmless weekend types, members of the American Motorcycle Association, and no more dangerous than skiers or skin divers. But a few belong to what the others call "outlaw clubs," and these are the ones who--especially on weekends and holidays--are likely to turn up almost anywhere in the state, looking for action. Despite everything the psychiatrists and Freudian casuists have to say about them, they are tough, mean and potentially as dangerous as a pack of wild boar. When push comes to shove, any leather fetishes or inadequacy feelings that may be involved are entirely beside the point, as anyone who has ever tangled with these boys will sadly testify. When you get in an argument with a group of outlaw motorcyclists, you can generally count your chances of emerging unmaimed by the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle. In this league, sportsmanship is for old liberals and young fools. "I smashed his face," one of them said to me of a man he'd never seen until the swinging started. "He got wise. He called me a punk. He must have been stupid."
The most notorious of these outlaw groups is the Hell's Angels, supposedly headquartered in San Bernardino, just east of Los Angeles, and with branches all over the state. As a result of the infamous "Labor Day gang rape," the Attorney General of California has recently issued an official report on the Hell's Angels. According to the report, they are easily identified:
The emblem of the Hell's Angels, termed "colors," consists of an embroidered patch of a winged skull wearing a motorcycle helmet. Just below the wing of the emblem are the letters "MC." Over this is a band bearing the words "Hell's Angels." Below the emblem is another patch bearing the local chapter name, which is usually an abbreviation for the city or locality. These patches are sewn on the back of a usually sleeveless denim jacket. In addition, members have been observed wearing various types of Luftwaffe insignia and reproductions of German iron crosses.* (*Purely for decorative and shock effect. The Hell's Angels are apolitical and no more racist than other ignorant young thugs.) Many affect beards and their hair is usually long and unkempt. Some wear a single earring in a pierced ear lobe. Frequently they have been observed to wear metal belts made of a length of polished motorcycle drive chain which can be unhooked and used as a flexible bludgeon... Probably the most universal common denominator in identification of Hell's Angels is generally their filthy condition. Investigating officers consistently report these people, both club members and their female associates, seem badly in need of a bath. Fingerprints are a very effective means of identification because a high percentage of Hell's Angels have criminal records. In addition to the patches on the back of Hell's Angel's jackets, the "One Percenters" wear a patch reading "1%-er." Another badge worn by some members bears the number "13." It is reported to represent the 13th letter of the alphabet, "M," which in turn stands for marijuana and indicates the wearer thereof is a user of the drug.
The Attorney General's report was colorful, interesting, heavily biased and consistently alarming--just the sort of thing, in fact, to make a clanging good article for a national news magazine. Which it did; in both barrels. Newsweek led with a left hook titled "The Wild Ones," Time crossed right, inevitably titled "The Wilder Ones." The Hell's Angels, cursing the implications of this new attack, retreated to the bar of the DePau Hotel near the San Francisco waterfront and planned a weekend beach party. I showed them the articles. Hell's Angels do not normally read the news magazines. "I'd go nuts if I read that stuff all the time," said one. "It's all bullshit."
Newsweek was relatively circumspect. It offered local color, flashy quotes and "evidence" carefully attributed to the official report but unaccountably said the report accused the Hell's Angels of homosexuality, whereas the report said just the opposite. Time leaped into the fray with a flurry of blood, booze and semen-flecked wordage that amounted, in the end, to a classic of supercharged hokum: "Drug-induced stupors... no act is too degrading... swap girls, drugs and motorcycles with equal abandon... stealing forays... then ride off again to seek some new nadir in sordid behavior..."
Where does all this leave the Hell's Angels and the thousands of shuddering Californians (according to Time) who are worried sick about them? Are these outlaws really going to be busted, routed and cooled, as the news magazines implied? Are California highways any safer as a result of this published uproar? Can honest merchants once again walk the streets in peace? The answer is that nothing has changed except that a few people calling themselves the Hell's Angels have a new sense of identity and importance.
After two weeks of intensive dealings with the Hell's Angels phenomenon, both in print and in person, I'm convinced the net result of the general howl and publicity has been to obscure and avoid the real issues by invoking a savage conspiracy of bogeymen and conning the public into thinking all will be "business as usual" once this fearsome snake is scotched, as it surely will be by hard and ready minions of the Establishment.
Meanwhile, according to Attorney General Thomas C. Lynch's own figures, California's true crime picture makes the Hell's Angels look like a gang of petty jack rollers. The police count 463 Hell's Angels: 205 around L.A. and 233 in the San Francisco-Oakland area. I don't know about L.A. but the real figures for the Bay Area are thirty or so in Oakland and exactly eleven--with one facing expulsion--in San Francisco. This disparity makes it hard to accept other police statistics. The dubious package also shows convictions on 1,023 misdemeanor counts and 151 felonies--primarily vehicle theft, burglary and assault. This is for all years and all alleged members.
California's overall figures for 1963 list 1,116 homicides, 12,448 aggravated assaults, 6,257 sex offenses, and 24,532 burglaries. In 1962, the state listed 4,121 traffic deaths, up from 3,839 in 1961. Drug arrest figures for 1964 showed a 101 percent increase in juvenile marijuana arrests over 1963, and a recent back-page story in the San Francisco Examiner said, "The venereal disease rate among [the city's] teen-agers from 15-19 has more than doubled in the past four years." Even allowing for the annual population jump, juvenile arrests in all categories are rising by 10 per cent or more each year.
Against this background, would it make any difference to the safety and peace of mind of the average Californian if every motorcycle outlaw in the state (all 901, according to the state) were garroted within twenty-four hours? This is not to say that a group like the Hell's Angels has no meaning. The generally bizarre flavor of their offenses and their insistence on identifying themselves make good copy, but usually overwhelm--in print, at least--the unnerving truth that they represent, in colorful microcosm, what is quietly and anonymously growing all around us every day of the week.
"We're bastards to the world and they're bastards to us," one of the Oakland Angels told a Newsweek reporter. "When you walk into a place where people can see you, you want to look as repulsive and repugnant as possible. We are complete social outcasts--outsiders against society."
A lot of this is a pose, but anyone who believes that's all it is has been on thin ice since the death of Jay Gatsby. The vast majority of motorcycle outlaws are uneducated, unskilled men between 20 and 30, and most have no credentials except a police record. So at the root of their sad stance is a lot more than a wistful yearning for acceptance in a world they never made; their real motivation is an instinctive certainty as to what the score really is. They are out of the ball game and they know it--and that is their meaning; for unlike most losers in today's society, the Hell's Angels not only know but spitefully proclaim exactly where they stand.
I went to one of their meetings recently, and half-way through the night I thought of Joe Hill on his way to face a Utah firing squad and saying his final words: "Don't mourn, organize." It is safe to say that no Hell's Angel has ever heard of Joe Hill or would know a Wobbly from a Bushmaster, but nevertheless they are somehow related. The I.W.W. had serious plans for running the world, while the Hell's Angels mean only to defy the world's machinery. But instead of losing quietly, one by one, they have banded together with a mindless kind of loyalty and moved outside the framework, for good or ill. There is nothing particularly romantic or admirable about it; that's just the way it is, strength in unity. They don't mind telling you that running fast and loud on their customized Harley 74s gives them a power and a purpose that nothing else seems to offer.
Beyond that, their position as self-proclaimed outlaws elicits a certain popular appeal, however reluctant. That is especially true in the West and even in California where the outlaw tradition is still honored. The unarticulated link between the Hell's Angels and the millions of losers and outsiders who don't wear any colors is the key to their notoriety and the ambivalent reactions they inspire. There are several other keys, having to do with politicians, policemen and journalists, but for this we have to go back to Monterey and the Labor Day "gang rape."
Politicians, like editors and cops, are very keen on outrage stories, and state Senator Fred S. Farr of Monterey County is no exception. He is a leading light of the Carmel-Pebble Beach set and no friend to hoodlums anywhere, especially gang rapists who invade his constituency. Senator Far demanded an immediate investigation of the Hell's Angels and others of their ilk--Commancheros, Stray Satans, Iron Horsemen, Rattlers (a Negro club), and Booze Fighters--whose lack of status caused them all to be lumped together as "other disreputables." In the cut-off world of big bikes, long runs and classy rumbles, this new, state-sanctioned stratification made the Hell's Angels very big. They were, after all, Number One. Like John Dillinger.
Attorney General Lynch, then new in his job, moved quickly to mount an investigation of sorts. He sent questionnaires to more than 100 sheriffs, district attorneys and police chiefs, asking for more information on the Hell's Angels and those "other disreputables." He also asked for suggestions as to how the law might deal with them.
Six months went by before all the replies where condensed into the fifteen-page report that made new outrage headlines when it was released to the press. (The Hell's Angels also got a copy; one of them stole mine.) As a historical document, it read like a plot synopsis of Mickey Spillane's worst dreams. But in the matter of solutions it was vague, reminiscent in some ways of Madame Nhu's proposals for dealing with the Vietcong. The state was going to centralize information on these thugs, urge more vigorous prosecution, put them all under surveillance whenever possible, etc.
A careful reader got the impression that even if the Hell's Angels had acted out this script--eighteen crimes were specified and dozens of others implied--very little would or could be done about it, and that indeed Mr. Lynch was well aware he'd been put, for political reasons, on a pretty weak scent. There was plenty of mad action, senseless destruction, orgies, brawls, perversions and a strange parade of "innocent victims" that, even on paper and in careful police language, was enough to tax the credulity of the dullest police reporter. Any bundle of information off police blotters is bound to reflect a special viewpoint, and parts of the Attorney General's report are actually humorous, if only for the language. Here is an excerpt:
On November 4, 1961, a San Francisco resident driving through Rodeo, possibly under the influence of alcohol, struck a motorcycle belonging to a Hell's Angel parked outside a bar. A group of Angels pursued the vehicle, pulled the driver from the car and attempted to demolish the rather expensive vehicle. The bartender claimed he had seen nothing, but a cocktail waitress in the bar furnished identification to the officers concerning some of those responsible for the assault. The next day it was reported to officers that a member of the Hell's Angels gang had threatened the life of this waitress as well as another woman waitress. A male witness who definitely identified five participants in the assault including the president of Vallejo Hell's Angels and the Vallejo "Road Rats" advised officers that because of his fear of retaliation by club members he would refuse to testify to the facts he had previously furnished.
That is a representative item in the section of the report titled "Hoodlum Activities." First, it occurred in a small town--Rodeo is on San Pablo Bay just north of Oakland--where the Angels had stopped at a bar without causing any trouble until some offense was committed against them. In this case, a driver whom even the police admit was "possibly" drunk hit one of their motorcycles. The same kind of accident happens every day all over the nation, but when it involves outlaw motorcyclists it is something else again. Instead of settling the thing with an exchange of insurance information or, at the very worst, an argument with a few blows, the Hell's Angels beat the driver and "attempted to demolish the vehicle." I asked one of them if the police exaggerated this aspect, and he said no, they had done the natural thing: smashed headlights, kicked in doors, broken windows and torn various components off the engine.
Of all their habits and predilections that society finds alarming, this departure from the time-honored concept of "an eye for an eye" is the one that most frightens people. The Hell's Angels try not to do anything halfway, and anyone who deals in extremes is bound to cause trouble, whether he means to or not. This, along with a belief in total retaliation for any offense or insult, is what makes the Hell's Angels unmanageable for the police and morbidly fascinating to the general public. Their claim that they "don't start trouble" is probably true more often than not, but their idea of "provocation" is dangerously broad, and their biggest problem is that nobody else seems to understand it. Even dealing with them personally, on the friendliest terms, you can sense their hair-trigger readiness to retaliate.
This is a public thing, and not at all true among themselves. In a meeting, their conversation is totally frank and open. They speak to and about one another with an honesty that more civilized people couldn't bear. At the meeting I attended (and before they realized I was a journalist) one Angel was being publicly evaluated; some members wanted him out of the club and others wanted to keep him in. It sounded like a group-therapy clinic in progress--not exactly what I expected to find when just before midnight I walked into the bar of the De Pau in one of the bleakest neighborhoods in San Francisco, near Hunters Point. By the time I parted company with them--at 6:30 the next morning after an all-night drinking bout in my apartment--I had been impressed by a lot of things, but no one thing about them was as consistently obvious as their group loyalty. This is an admirable quality, but it is also one of the things that gets them in trouble: a fellow Angel is always right when dealing with outsiders. And this sort of reasoning makes a group of "offended" Hell's Angels nearly impossible to deal with. Here is another incident from the Attorney General's report:
On September 19, 1964, a large group of Hell's Angels and "Satan's Slaves" converged on a bar in the South Gate (Los Angeles County), parking their motorcycles and cars in the street in such a fashion as to block one-half of the roadway. They told officers that three members of the club had been recently asked to stay out of the bar and that they had come to tear it down. Upon their approach the bar owner locked the doors and turned off the lights and no entrance was made, but the group did demolish a cement block fence. On arrival of the police, members of the club were lying on the sidewalk and in the street. They were asked to leave the city, which they did reluctantly. As they left, several were heard to say that they would be back and tear down the bar.
Here again is the ethic of total retaliation. If you're "asked to stay out" of a bar, you don't just punch the owner--you come back with your army and destroy the whole edifice. Similar incidents--along with a number of vague rape complaints--make up the bulk of the report. Eighteen incidents in four years, and none except the rape charges are more serious than cases of assaults on citizens who, for their own reasons, had become involved with the Hell's Angels prior to the violence. I could find no cases of unwarranted attacks on wholly innocent victims. There are a few borderline cases, wherein victims of physical attacks seemed innocent, according to police and press reports, but later refused to testify for fear of "retaliation." The report asserts very strongly that Hell's Angels are difficult to prosecute and convict because they make a habit of threatening and intimidating witnesses. That is probably true to a certain extent, but in many cases victims have refused to testify because they were engaged in some legally dubious activity at the time of the attack.
In two of the most widely publicized incidents the prosecution would have fared better if their witnesses and victims had been intimidated into silence. One of these was the Monterey "gang rape," and the other a "rape" in Clovis, near Fresno in the Central Valley. In the latter, a 36-year-old widow and mother of five children claimed she'd been yanked out of a bar where she was having a quiet beer with another woman, then carried to an abandoned shack behind the bar and raped repeatedly for two and a half hours by fifteen or twenty Hell's Angels and finally robbed of $150. That's how the story appeared in the San Francisco newspapers the next day, and it was kept alive for a few more days by the woman's claims that she was getting phone calls threatening her life if she testified against her assailants.
Then, four days after the crime, the victim was arrested on charges of "sexual perversion." The true story emerged, said the Clovis chief of police, when the woman was "confronted by witnesses. Our investigation shows she was not raped," said the chief. "She participated in lewd acts in the tavern with at least three other Hell's Angels before the owners ordered them out. She encouraged their advances in the tavern, then led them to an abandoned house in the rear... She was not robbed but, according to a woman who accompanied her, had left her house early in the evening with $5 to go bar-hopping." That incident did not appear in the Attorney General's report.
But it was impossible not the mention the Monterey "gang rape," because it was the reason for the whole subject to become official. Page one of the report--which Time's editors apparently skipped--says that the Monterey case was dropped because "... further investigation raised questions as to whether forcible rape had been committed or if the identifications made by victims were valid." Charges were dismissed on September 25, with the concurrence of a grand jury. The deputy District Attorney said "a doctor examined the girls and found no evidence" to support the charges. "Besides that, one girl refused to testify," he explained, "and the other was given a lie-detector test and found to be wholly unreliable."
This, in effect, was what the Hell's Angels had been saying all along. Here is their version of what happened, as told by several who were there:
One girl was white and pregnant, the other was colored, and they were with five colored studs. They hung around our bar--Nick's Place on Del Monte Avenue--for about three hours Saturday night, drinking and talking with our riders, then they came out to the beach with us--them and their five boyfriends. Everybody was standing around the fire, drinking wine, and some of the guys were talking to them--hustling 'em, naturally--and soon somebody asked the two chicks if they wanted to be turned on--you know, did they want to smoke some pot? They said yeah, and then they walked off with some of the guys to the dunes. The spade went with a few guys and then she wanted to quit, but the pregnant one was really hot to trot; the first four or five guys she was really dragging into her arms, but after that she cooled off, too. By this time, though, one of their boy friends had got scared and gone for the cops--and that's all it was.
But not quite all. After that there were Senator Farr and Tom Lynch and a hundred cops and dozens of newspaper stories and articles in the national news magazine--and even this article, which is a direct result of the Monterey "gang rape."
When the much-quoted report was released, the local press--primarily the San Francisco Chronicle, which had earlier done a long and fairly objective series on the Hell's Angels--made a point of saying that the Monterey charges against the Hell's Angels had been dropped for lack of evidence. Newsweek was careful not to mention Monterey at all, but the New York Times referred to it as "the alleged gang rape" which, however, left no doubt in a reader's mind that something savage had occurred. It remained for Time, though, to flatly ignore the fact that the Monterey rape charges had been dismissed. Its article leaned heavily on the hairiest and least factual sections of the report, and ignored the rest. It said, for instance, that the Hell's Angels initiation rite "demands that any new member bring a woman or girl [called a 'sheep'] who is willing to submit to sexual intercourse with each member of the club." That is untrue, although, as one Angel explained, "Now and then you get a woman who likes to cover the crowd, and hell, I'm no prude. People don't like to think women go for that stuff, but a lot of them do."
We were talking across a pool table about the rash of publicity and how it had affected the Angel's activities. I was trying to explain to him that the bulk of the press in this country has such a vested interest in the status quo that it can't afford to do much honest probing at the roots, for fear of what they might find.
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "Of course I don't like to read all this bullshit because it brings the heat down on us, but since we got famous we've had more rich fags and sex-hungry women come looking for us that we ever had before. Hell, these days we have more action than we can handle."
(edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 23.2.05 0246)
(edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 23.2.05 0247) "Well, you can't involve friendship with business. It has to be one or the other. It's either business or friendship, or hit the bricks!" --Life Lessons from "The Tao of Bobby the Brain Heenan" Uncensored 2000 preview
"As long as the check don't bounce, I guess he's okay with it!" --Former All Pro Giants LB Harry Carson on Bill Parcells joining the hated rival Dallas Cowboys
Originally posted by Ralph Steadman I knew it was too good to be true. Now I will be expected to build the monstrous cannon in Woody Creek, a 100ft-high column of steel tubes, with the big red fist on its top and his ashes placed in a fire bomb in its palm.
"Two thumbs, Ralph! Don't forget the two thumbs!!" It was the Gonzo fist and he really believes I can do it! Such were his demands as he tipped at his windmills. People were fucking with his beloved Constitution and he was born to banish the geeks who were doing it. In that way he was a real live American. A pioneer, frontiersman, last of the cowboys, even a conservative redneck with a huge and raging mind, taking the easy way out and mythologising himself at the same time.
The family is apparently exploring whether it will indeed be possible for his (cremated) remains to be shot out of a cannon. Here's hoping they give Steadman a shot at arranging for the construction of a proper Gonzo cannon as described above.
I can't think of a better sendoff for the Good Doctor.