"If a guy wants to beat his wife and his dog bites him, that's between the three of 'em."
July 13, 2010 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Hunter S. Thompson vs. a Hell's Angel. On a talk show. (SLYT). The audience reactions are sort of horrifying.
posted by Bookhouse (89 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's awesome. The motorcycle's belching smoke and HST is lighting up, while the crowd cheers. It's like a very special Canada Celebrates Cancer! episode.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 AM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


We always show beatniks nowadays in turtlenecks, but every time I see a document of the actual countercultures of the 50s and 60s, there always seems to be a healthy representation of those black and white horizontal striped sweaters.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Did HST come to this interview directly from the dentist's office?
posted by griphus at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2010


I can only presume the audience was unfamiliar with the book. The institutionalized violence toward women, which Thompson documents (including gang rape as a form of punishment), is not funny. It's terrifying.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:47 AM on July 13, 2010


I don't see anything wrong with this.

*beats wife while 1967 audience cheers me on*
posted by weezy at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2010


Wow, that was a different time. Apparently spousal abuse wasn't frowned upon back then?

Hell's Angel: "To keep a woman in line you gotta beat 'em like a rug once in a while."
Audience: [laughter, applause]
posted by mullingitover at 10:49 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The biker seems genuinely upset about not getting beer as promised. Also, is there any reason for those "ape hanger" handlebars? They look silly and compromise road handling. Are they just an expression of Darwinian law?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2010


Is it just me or - and I say this with no glibness at all - was this segment designed and staged in the exact same manner as your typical Jerry Springer segment?

Take two antagonists with an old beef. One is introduced. The second arrives on stage in a preposterous manner designed to highlight his hickishness. Antagonists are coached to have at each other and establish their amusingly hickish goals, because desire is the root of drama. ("I just want her out of the trailer / I just want you to be my girl again / I just want my two kegs of beer!") Audience roars in patronising delight at the spectacle. Ho ho, beat her like a rug! Jerr-ry! Jerr-ry!

It's heartening to be reminded that trash TV is not a modern invention.
posted by bicyclefish at 10:51 AM on July 13, 2010 [14 favorites]


yeah, the audience, and the show, are the significant pieces of that video now. that the show actually had a hells angel ride onto the set dramatically to harangue thompson for a couple straight minutes, say those things to that reaction and then to cut thompson off as he tries and fails to get 15 straight seconds of response in is... well shit I don't know.
posted by shmegegge at 10:51 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Apehangers give you a way to pull your ass off the seat of a hard-tail bike. If it's got rear shocks, it's just a fashion statement or a way to air out the 'pits.
posted by warbaby at 10:55 AM on July 13, 2010


This is a good post but man, what a terribly obnoxious TV segment.

I sincerely hope it did go down like that POS biker described. Only a punk does beat his dog and his wife.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:56 AM on July 13, 2010


i get the feeling that hunter was set up and wasn't expecting something quite like this - and i also get the feeling that he didn't give a damn because he knew damn well he was right

he took it pretty calmly
posted by pyramid termite at 10:56 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every time I watch these old clips I am struck at how well Depp captured the essence of the man, both the good sides (the humor and unfazability) and the bad (the sullen, non-confrontational aspect that seems like a coping mechanism to deal with a bad temper). Thompson's involvement came prior to the somewhat ideological split between them and the Left. In a kernel of what would later become his known style, in Hell's Angels, he reports on his own actions in a somewhat detached manner in a flagrant disregard of separating oneself from the story:
One of the worst incidents of that era caused no complaints at all: this was a sort of good-natured firepower demonstration, which occured one Sunday morning about three-thirty. For reasons that were never made clear, I blew out my back windows with five blasts of a 12 gauge shotgun, followed moments later by six rounds from a .44 Magnum. It was a prolonged outburst of heavy firing, drunken laughter, and crashing glass. Yet the neighbors reacted with total silence. For a while I assumed that some freakish wind pocket had absorbed all the noise and carried it out to sea, but after my eviction I learned otherwise. Every one of the shots had been duly recorded on the gossip log. Another tenant in the building told me the landlord was convinced, by all the tales he'd heard, that the interior of my apartment was reduced to rubble by orgies, brawls, fires, and wanton shooting. He had even heard stories about motorcycles being driven in and out the front door.
Clearly a man who knows that he's treading a line even while he's having a good time mixing it up with the "outlaw bikers."

By Thompson's own account, the Angels felt that there was money in Thompson's book, a great deal of it, and in their perpetual sense of that someone, somewhere was shafting them, wanted to deal out a good thrashing, as their sudden fame didn't translate into cash rankled. Thompson got stomped, possibly for other reasons, possibly not.

The Angels had a different attitude to violence that Hunter didn't share (see Tiny and the pliers), at least not while he was on the receiving end of it. Thompson, glancing away in between quick glares, looks like a man remembering a bad time and now is surprised by the school bully laying it out as if he is still owed next week's milk money, struggling with an urge to lash out, because he knows he has been set up and must not do a thing: losing his cool means that he loses, period.
posted by adipocere at 11:03 AM on July 13, 2010 [17 favorites]


But there was also:

Hell's Angel: "To keep a woman in line you gotta beat 'em like a rug once in a while."
HST: "I agree."

Which seemed odd. Just trying to get the guy to shut up for a few seconds, maybe.
posted by kingbenny at 11:04 AM on July 13, 2010


Am I the only one who was a little bit putoff by Hunter's "agreement" with the comment "to keep a woman in line, sometimes ya gotta beat her"... Hunter's like "oh yeah yeah.." And maybe it was just to get him to shut up and move on to a bigger point. But still... It just seemed... Sad.
posted by symbioid at 11:04 AM on July 13, 2010


"I'd hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." -Hunter S. Thompson

(Thanks for helping to create Flying Dog brewery Dr. Gonzo)
posted by zephyr_words at 11:05 AM on July 13, 2010


That said - Hunter's got bigger balls than I would ever have.
posted by symbioid at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2010


Wow, that was a different time. Apparently spousal abuse wasn't frowned upon back then?

The crowd reaction reminded me of the talk show scene reenacted in I Shot Andy Warhol. It really was a different time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2010


I didn't know Tom Smothers used to go around impersonating Hunter S. Thompson...
posted by GavinR at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2010


I have the weird feeling that all the people cracking up at the wife-beating jokes in that CBC audience in 1967 are the parents of all the people leaving comments on the CBC news site today.
posted by Shepherd at 11:07 AM on July 13, 2010 [13 favorites]


Am I the only one who was a little bit putoff by Hunter's "agreement" with the comment "to keep a woman in line, sometimes ya gotta beat her"... Hunter's like "oh yeah yeah.." And maybe it was just to get him to shut up and move on to a bigger point. But still... It just seemed... Sad.
posted by symbioid


Thompson's one of those cases where admiring him also means accepting that he has some serious, serious faults. He's got several entries in my Top 10 Favorite Books of All Time, and there are parts of his life that I find immensely admirable. But I've read a couple of references to him hitting his first wife, Sandy, occasionally. There's no way to excuse it; he was a great artist and an interesting man, but he had a definite shitty streak.
posted by COBRA! at 11:10 AM on July 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


That's kind of a bizarre ambush, where Hunter doesn't get to respond?

And all the people laughing. I guess they were all upper class thinking "Oh ho ho, what a funny gag this is"? I mean, how else do you grok the beating his wife line to be a room killer?

1967, where were you!
posted by cavalier at 11:14 AM on July 13, 2010


It's heartening to be reminded that trash TV is not a modern invention.

The Morton Downey, Jr. Show
posted by zarq at 11:16 AM on July 13, 2010


What COBRA! said. I love the legend of HST, and the accusations of wife-beating are part of the strange and savage saga. See the biography "Fear and Loathing: The Strange and Terrible saga of Hunter S. Thompson" for a review of Thompson's life that emphasizes alleged instances of spousal abuse, verbal and otherwise.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:17 AM on July 13, 2010


Am I the only one who was a little bit putoff by Hunter's "agreement" with the comment "to keep a woman in line, sometimes ya gotta beat her"... Hunter's like "oh yeah yeah.." And maybe it was just to get him to shut up and move on to a bigger point. But still... It just seemed... Sad.
posted by symbioid at 2:04 PM on July 13


Am I the only one not surprised by it? HST was basically a suicidal misogynistic asshole drug-addict with massive rage and authority problems throughout his life. He was only able to live with Hells Angels as long as he could because he was exactly the same kind of person they are, except that he could write moderately well.

Gonzo journalism my ass. Why don't you stretch your skills a bit and tell us what it's like to live as a normal socially well adjusted adult male capable of meaningful and deep relationships?
posted by Pastabagel at 11:19 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gonzo journalism my ass. Why don't you stretch your skills a bit and tell us what it's like to live as a normal socially well adjusted adult male capable of meaningful and deep relationships?

Eh, it's been done.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:21 AM on July 13, 2010 [24 favorites]


Wow, that was a different time. Apparently spousal abuse wasn't frowned upon back then?

The phrases "spousal abuse" and "domestic violence" were not part of the English language in 1967. It was indeed thought of as a part of life by many. I remember reading a short story set in the mid-Sixties (I wish I could remember who wrote it) called "Mistake" in which a young and naive man decides to go in to confront a man (bizarrely, with the "flippers" of a thalidomide baby) who was beating his wife. His roommate, a good ten years older than him, warned him against it, saying "It was just something married people do."
posted by kozad at 11:22 AM on July 13, 2010


Gonzo journalism my ass. Why don't you stretch your skills a bit and tell us what it's like to live as a normal socially well adjusted adult male capable of meaningful and deep relationships?

Okay. You've established yourself as a square.
posted by cavalier at 11:23 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gonzo journalism my ass.

Oh come on, the drugs and violence and craziness are really only part of it. Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 is why I started to pay attention to the inside-baseball aspects of primaries, campaigns, etc. He had terrific political insight and some occasionally brilliant writing.
posted by echo target at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


People, especially the Hell's Angels, attributed the end of the book to Hunter trying to build his own legend, but every time I've seen this video clip, I've felt that his portrayal was reasonable.

The part that the biker doesn't get here is that Hunter never wanted to be part of their group, and his code of conduct is not theirs. He told a guy to stop beating his wife, and they viewed that as hostility and followed their all-on-one rule. Saying that he should have come by the next day and cleared the air over a few beers is bullshit, since that'd be approval of their code. What was he supposed to do, come over and admit he shouldn't have said that, and they would apologize for having to hit him? Fuck that. He eventually drew the line in the sand, probably too late, of what he would and wouldn't tolerate. He didn't go back because he wasn't going to apologize for telling a guy not to beat his wife and dog!

The gang mentality of letting your own objections go when they run against the groupthink didn't apply to him.
posted by mikeh at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2010


Actually, Hunter was known to beat on his wife, Sandy, quite often, and often for no more reason than not making his sandwich fast enough or getting him the newspaper fast enough.
posted by peewinkle at 11:25 AM on July 13, 2010


Thompson's one of those cases where admiring him also means accepting that he has some serious, serious faults. He's got several entries in my Top 10 Favorite Books of All Time, and there are parts of his life that I find immensely admirable. But I've read a couple of references to him hitting his first wife, Sandy, occasionally. There's no way to excuse it; he was a great artist and an interesting man, but he had a definite shitty streak.
posted by COBRA! at 11:10 AM on July 13 [+] [!]


And yet he got beat up for defending a woman from violence.
posted by basicchannel at 11:25 AM on July 13, 2010


Ah, you're missing what Thompson's up to. One of his prime interviewing skills was being agreeable. You get a sense of this in most of his accounts of interactions with anyone who either was not in uniform or who was not actively trying to screw him at that very second. He's not there to promote your agenda or even his own. What he wants is talk, either for more material or just so you can make a fool of yourself. Despite his complete loathing of Nixon (which was almost epic), he still managed to have a pleasant chat with the man about football, of all things.

That's how you get interview material out of people. Were he still alive and active, he probably would sit down in a room with Bernie Madoff and agree that most people he swindled simply had too much money. He'd nod and say "sure" and make sympathetic noises, and then, like any good interviewer, go home and dissect the man in great detail. This particular talent allowed him to wander through almost every conceivable landscape and talk with anyone about anything, which was his vocation.

Try interviewing someone and just immediately judging them on everything that they say, and then voicing it. You won't get much material or many callbacks.
posted by adipocere at 11:26 AM on July 13, 2010 [24 favorites]


Pastabagel, don't you think it's a little strange to ask an author to be well-adjusted and challenge him to write a book about meaningful relationships...especially a dead author?
posted by kozad at 11:26 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pastabagel: "Gonzo journalism my ass. Why don't you stretch your skills a bit and tell us what it's like to live as a normal socially well adjusted adult male capable of meaningful and deep relationships?"

I am giggling at the idea that, thirty years ago, HST decided to stretch his talents, bought a wig and a pair of glasses and began to moonlight as unknown journalist Ira Glass.
posted by griphus at 11:28 AM on July 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


Gonzo journalism my ass. Why don't you stretch your skills a bit and tell us what it's like to live as a normal socially well adjusted adult male capable of meaningful and deep relationships?

sure thing. thompson's writing is terrible because he's writing stuff about people like him instead of people like you. ok. great point, there, dude.
posted by shmegegge at 11:31 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gonzo journalism my ass. Why don't you stretch your skills a bit and tell us what it's like to live as a normal socially well adjusted adult male capable of meaningful and deep relationships robot?
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:32 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's kind of a bizarre ambush, where Hunter doesn't get to respond?

He does get to respond. He could have interrupted the biker any number of times with a joke or an quip or any number of things. He could have said "That's a good point, now run a rag through your hair and shine my shoes."

The problem is he can't respond. Not because doing so would open him up to having the biker lay out all the shitty things that HST did while he was with them, but because he has precisely the same low-self-esteem personality that only allows him to argue the way the biker is against an opponent as meek as HST is being here, or preferably against an opponent who isn't actually present. But get guys like this in a real heated argument, and they retreat like a worm.

Okay. You've established yourself as a square.
posted by cavalier at 2:23 PM on July 13


Square? I'm a tesseract, motherfucker.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:32 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thinking that 1967 is a different time that we've left well behind us (on many levels, including this one) is a mistake.
posted by blucevalo at 11:34 AM on July 13, 2010


a young and naive man decides to go in to confront a man (bizarrely, with the "flippers" of a thalidomide baby) who was beating his wife

Truth, still stranger than fiction.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:36 AM on July 13, 2010


Pastabagel, what kind of personality does it take to procedurally rip up anything that disagrees with your lifestyle on a series of threads with little backing material? Are you feeling especially like a devil's advocate, or is this self-justification?
posted by mikeh at 11:37 AM on July 13, 2010



Pastabagel, don't you think it's a little strange to ask an author to be well-adjusted and challenge him to write a book about meaningful relationships...especially a dead author?
posted by kozad at 2:26 PM on July 13


True, but imagine how much stranger it would be if that author committed suicide while his daughter and grandson were in the next room, and his suicide note basically complained that he couldn't have any more fun and was boring. I guess in those circumstances it would be pretty strange.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:38 AM on July 13, 2010


"Gonzo journalism my ass. Why don't you stretch your skills a bit and tell us what it's like to live as a normal socially well adjusted adult male capable of meaningful and deep relationships?"


Too... many.... jokes.... *head asplodes*
posted by lumpenprole at 11:40 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


True, but imagine how much stranger it would be if that author committed suicide while his daughter and grandson were in the next room, and his suicide note basically complained that he couldn't have any more fun and was boring. I guess in those circumstances it would be pretty strange.

Wow. I don't know what Hunter did do you while he was living, but apparently how he lived has rightly shit on your parade and you're now returning the favor. I'm not used to this, Mr. Bagel. It's kind of ugly of you.
posted by cavalier at 11:41 AM on July 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Pastabagel, what kind of personality does it take to procedurally rip up anything that disagrees with your lifestyle on a series of threads with little backing material? Are you feeling especially like a devil's advocate, or is this self-justification?
posted by mikeh at 2:37 PM on July 13


It's true that wife-beating disagrees with my lifestyle. But unless I'm mistaken, this is the first time I've commented on HST on mefi (but I very well could be mistaken).
posted by Pastabagel at 11:41 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It so difficult for me to understand the audience's reaction to the biker's comments. Are they just in on the joke? Or is that really the low-rent crowd of the '60s?

That's my parent's generation there, laughing away.
posted by shino-boy at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2010


Sorry about that, I was flinging shit a little, but I don't think anyone here is apologizing for wife beating, so it's a strange thing to show up and pick apart HST's character when no one here is saying he was a perfect upstanding guy. I think the majority of people who enjoy his work, who are reasonably intelligent and of a maturity that puts them past the stage of idolizing everything a writer does, think that this is loathsome. You can accept that someone was (or is) deeply flawed and express enjoyment of their work without being an apologist for all behavior.
posted by mikeh at 11:47 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


The HAs claim that HST made up most of what was in his book. My sense is that none of the parties involved are believable.
posted by QIbHom at 11:52 AM on July 13, 2010


Wow. I don't know what Hunter did do you while he was living, but apparently how he lived has rightly shit on your parade and you're now returning the favor. I'm not used to this, Mr. Bagel. It's kind of ugly of you.
posted by cavalier at 2:41 PM on July 13


Okay, now I'm sort of confused because I thought the other guy was joking upthread and I responded in what I thought was a similar manner, but apparently I've gauged it wrong.

So let's reset. People are surprised that HST agreed with the biker's offhand wife-beating comment. I responded questioning how anyone could be surprised by this knowing what a shitty human being this guy was. There is no such thing as "gonzo journalism." What he wrote are biographical accounts of him doing things and living life the way he wanted to live it regardless, but behind the cover of journalism. He didn't live among bikers, he was a biker. Maybe he had troupble coming to terms with the fact that all of his writing was simply biographical, not journalism.

What's worse is the pose he struck - like he's doing great work. I'm living this life so I can write this story, etc. He would have lived that life anyway.

If you like his work, fine, but this isn't a clip of his work, it's a clip of him.

Have you heard those Me Gibson tapes? If not, go listen to them, and then come back to this thread.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:58 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


QIbHom: "The HAs claim that HST made up most of what was in his book. My sense is that none of the parties involved are believable."

Hab SoSlI' Quch!
posted by Splunge at 11:58 AM on July 13, 2010


FWIW, Tom Wolfe used accounts from the party that brought the Hell's Angels to Ken Kesey's place in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. He relied on tapes that Thompson loaned him -- HST was fairly known for using a tape recorder, both for dictation and for recording interviews and documenting scenes. Thompson's wife was there as well, and the documentation and anecdotes from everyone involved seems to line up.

Outside of specific incidents in the book that may or may not have been embellished, everything really tends to line up with known behavior of the group. The widely-embellished magical realism of Gonzo journalism didn't really come into play until post-1970, although that's my understanding of things.
posted by mikeh at 12:02 PM on July 13, 2010


It's easy to make judgment calls from our particular place in history, but let's remember that it was a different world, and for fuck's sake, Thompson had the rather massive cojones to hang with those guys - not mellow hippies, for chrissakes, but some seriously badass bikers - and hold his own. He didn't exactly want to get into a fist fight on the air, so he said what he needed to in order to keep the moment moving. Angels are brutal fucks, and Hunter did what he needed to do when he saw something that went over the line for him, got busted up for it, and cut his losses. For those of you who have never spent time around the Angels, or bikers in general, well, you can certainly offer up your opinions, but Hunter was there, did the time with those guys, and wrote an enduring classic. The book was a big hit, and the beginning of an important voice documenting the dark underbelly of the American nightmare. Audience reaction issues aside, I think Hunter should have offered up the beer right there on the air, and the books, that would have been perfect, but I don't have a working time machine, and if I did, I'd be off using it for other stuff. Those of you hatin' on Hunter, whatever, take your favorite sports idol, or musician, writer, hero, whatever, peel away the varnished exterior and you're gonna find some dark, dank shit. Hunter didn't hide his, the dirt and the fire were right at the top, there for all to see and feel, and the fucker lived more life than most of the folks you've ever known, put together.
posted by dbiedny at 12:09 PM on July 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


There is no such thing as "gonzo journalism."

what

Objective journalism is the myth...Thompson was just more honest about his subjective framing.

Have you heard those Me Gibson tapes? If not, go listen to them, and then come back to this thread.

what
posted by thescientificmethhead at 12:11 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's my parent's generation there, laughing away.

It doesn't surprise me. The older I get, the less respect I have for my parent's generation, as much in their youth as in their old age.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 12:11 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


It so difficult for me to understand the audience's reaction to the biker's comments. Are they just in on the joke? Or is that really the low-rent crowd of the '60s?
I see today's hipsters laughing at obscenely racist jokes all the time--it's kind of a thing apparently. Supposedly, they're laughing at the idea that someone would tell these jokes seriously, or at the irony that they, in all their hipness, could possibly be racists, or maybe there's some sort of re-appropriation of stereotypes, or some metacommentary thing. I and my African-American wife have had nice, smart, friendly people tell nigger jokes right to our faces, then be shocked when we expressed offence.

That's sort of the vibe I get from the crowd in the video--they're laughing at the biker, not with him, but, really, they shouldn't be laughing at all.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:13 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having read the HST's Hell's Angels book, and his later works, I can say with certainty that, compared Fear and Loathing and later works, the HA book is as straightforward a piece of journalism as I have read. Having researched the Angels via other sources, I don't think anything he wrote about them was remotely implausible. The whole hyberbolic surrealism thing he became more famous for later was not part of the HA book.

"Admiring" HST would be like admiring a flaming train wreck for the beauty of its fire, without recognizing that there's someone's goods and money burning in there. He is not someone to be admired as a human being, but as an immense talent, an influential writer, and a cultural icon.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


This whole clip seems absurd.

Why does HST say that the biker wasn't a normal biker? The moderator seems to imply he has a lot of schooling.

I could make out that the biker's name was Cliff, and that he was the Treasurer of the club. He seems to be Clifford Skip Workman still alive at 72 and an internet user. This seems to be his Myspace page, his photos, and possibly his facebook page.

I can't however find any biographical information.

I don't understand how Thompson getting beat up for trying to stop a guy beating his wife makes him a bad guy. This whole interview seems like a setup, but how does the biker come out ahead to the audience and the moderator?
posted by GregorWill at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Burhanistan: "Also, is there any reason for those "ape hanger" handlebars?"

Ah, there's an interesting story behind those bars. My story begins in nineteen-dickety-two. We had to say "dickety" because Kruschev had stolen our word "sixty". I chased that rascal to get it back, but gave up in nineteen dickety-six when he began calling himself 'Brezhnev.' Then in 1967, I remember it was, I got up in the morning and made myself a piece of toast. I set the toaster to three: medium brown. Because that's how we liked it! I needed a new wheel for my hog, so, I decided to go to Louisville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to fill your tank cost a quarter, and in those days, quarters had pictures of geckos on 'em. "Give me four geckos for a dollar," you'd say. And a new wheel for a chopper cost eight gnus, but that's a whole other ball of wax. People stored their money in large wax balls, to prevent tarnish. This worked well for us, except for the occasional laundry-related tragedies.

Now where were we? Oh yeah: Eight presidents back we called motorcycles "choppers" and we called choppers "kitchen utensils" and we called Japanese bikes "mopeds" and back then a flapjack was known as a "Belgian Waffle." Of course, nobody knew that but me. Anyway, the important thing was I needed a curve on my bars, which was the style at the time. They didn't have chrome bars because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big cast iron ones, which we'd coat in linseed oil on account of the rust. When I got to the shop I was hungry and had a bug in my eye, which was the hazard at the time, and misread the label on the chocolates under the counter. So I says to the guy at the service station, "Give me a new biscuit and some Smell Me bars." He misunderstood. When I regained consciousness he apologized and soon I had a new biscuit and new curvy handlebars to boot.

"Long story short" ...is a phrase whose origins are complicated and rambling. If I'd had the internet back then I'd have known what 'Smell Me' bars were (and would have heard of sunglasses to keep the bugs out.) But we didn't have blogs back then; we had to make do with old people and their wandering stories, prized for their potent effects on insomnia. Short-talkers were reviled - anyone who talked in sentences less than 140 letters long was called 'twitterpated.'

And that's everything which happened in my life right up to the time I read your comment.

I'm hungry! Ew, what smells like cilantro? There sure are a lot of ugly pictures in these profiles. Ooh, look at that one. Ow, my bursitis just got worse. The president is a Democrat! Hello? I can't find the 'Post' button. Hello?
posted by Hardcore Poser at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2010 [14 favorites]


That's sort of the vibe I get from the crowd in the video--they're laughing at the biker, not with him, but, really, they shouldn't be laughing at all.

That was my take as well MrMoonPie. The audience seems to be laughing as much about a guy named Junkie George as they are about the fact that he beats his wife and dog. I mean, what do you expect from someone named Junkie George?
And it's interesting that at first, Hunter doesn't seem to recognize the name. Seems like a set up.
posted by Sailormom at 12:29 PM on July 13, 2010


There is no such thing as gonzo journalism
Thompson, if he is to be believed, has sampled the entire rainbow of legal and
illegal drugs in heroic efforts to feel better than he does.

As for the truth about his health: I have asked around about it. I am told that
he appears to be strong and rosy, and steadily sane. But we will be doing what
he wants us to do, I think, if we consider his exterior a sort of Dorian Gray
facade. Inwardly, he is being eaten alive by tinhorn politicians.

The disease is fatal. There is no known cure. The most we can do for the poor
devil, it seems to me, is to name his disease in his honor. From this moment
on, let all those who feel that Americans can be as easily led to beauty as to
ugliness, to truth as to public relations, to joy as to bitterness, be said to
be suffering from Hunter Thompson's disease. I don't have it this morning.
It comes and goes. This morning I don't have Hunter Thompson's disease.

-- Kurt Vonnegut Jr. on Dr. Hunter S. Thompson: Excerpt from "A Political Disease", Vonnegut's review of "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72"
posted by namewithoutwords at 12:34 PM on July 13, 2010 [20 favorites]


"a woman, a dog, a walnut tree,
the more you beat'em,
the better they be"

-as heard on the "Two Fat Ladies" cooking show...
posted by 445supermag at 12:38 PM on July 13, 2010


"A dog, a woman, an' a walnut tree
Th' more yeh beat 'em, th' better they be!"

The Red Badge of Courage
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:49 PM on July 13, 2010


Is this where I get into inject 2010 societal norms into a review of an event 43 years ago? Dismiss a man's work because you spent 60 seconds perusing a Wikipedia article and doing google searches?

Get off your high horses and stop pounding Hunter for how he should have acted in the 60s. It's this self-righteous moral absolutism that makes Metafilter a worse place.

As some who's actually read HST's work, including to Hell's Angels, it clear that Hunter wasn't advocating bad behavior, even while he did participate in it. His work was revolutionary at the time _because_ in reporting on controversial subjects he didn't take a 'traditional' disconnected journalist role. He got in deep for better or worse so that he could speak about people not as a zookeeper, but as one of the animals in the zoo.

Are you so full of moralistic certitude that you can't see how his work was extraordinary?
posted by Argyle at 12:59 PM on July 13, 2010 [12 favorites]


Wow, that was a different time. Apparently spousal abuse wasn't frowned upon back then?

Check out the Beatles' song, "It's Getting Better" from Sgt Pepper (1967), arguably the definitive pop music masterpiece album of the time. It's a jaunty little number that goes:

"It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better.
It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better.

I used to be cruel to my woman
I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved
Man, I was mean but I'm changing my scene
And I'm doing the best that I can (ooh)"

The song sounds completely inappropriate today, not so much for the lyrics themselves but the combination of the lyric and the upbeat tempo which effectively treats the subject as a lark. Nowadays it sounds sinister and creepy. Back in '67 it was a hit.
posted by storybored at 1:02 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love HST but part of his tragedy is that I imagine he could see in himself the horrible cowardliness and senselessness of beating a wife but may not have understood how to change his own behavior.

To anyone who would write him off, preferring that he "live as a normal socially well adjusted adult male capable of meaningful and deep relationships" consider that not everyone is capable of that and that you yourself are imperfect in your implementation thereof.

Give Hunter the benefit of a doubt: he was doing the best he could to be the best Hunter Thompson he could be.

He succeeded admirably in some areas and failed in others. As we all do.

It's the tragedy of all humanity that so often we do what we know is wrong or suboptimal in spite of ourselves, and I would suggest that anyone who thinks they are never in the wrong and never act against a principle they hold is dangerously self-deluded.

I know Hunter understood that from his writing, which is why flaws and all I consider him an admirable human being.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 1:04 PM on July 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


There is no such thing as "gonzo journalism." What he wrote are biographical accounts of him doing things and living life the way he wanted to live it regardless, but behind the cover of journalism.

This sounds like saying, "There is no punk rock; there's kids screaming and spitting, behind the cover of rock music." No one's asking you to like Thompson - I'm hardly one of his biggest fans - but this seems a bit of a stretch in looking for reasons not to like the guy. I don't know, maybe you're trying to play the foil to those who absolutely adore this guy and think he can do no wrong or something.

But this kind of dismissive remark shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what Thompson was doing. In my experiences in journalism, an intern shows up at least every year who thinks he (it's always a guy) is the next Thompson. This means that when he's sent on assignments, and instead of covering them, he gets wasted and makes an ass of himself, writes about the experience in a whacky, hyperbolic fashion, and then submits it with some obstinate tone of entitlement.

This wasn't what Thompson was doing; it's what he appears to be doing to people who aren't really paying attention. Thompson did stray from assignments (Fear and Loathing was initially just supposed to be about covering a bike race), and there are assignments he missed altogether (such as the Ali v. Foreman fight), but what he was trying to do overall was chronicle the American experience. To do this, he got really personal, he dug deep, he bared his soul. The drugs were incidental. He extracted from his surroundings the material to understand better the times he was living in, and that's what he shared with his readers.

He was often reprehensible in character, arrogant, self-aggrandizing and abusive. But god damn, he could write.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:11 PM on July 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


"A dog, a woman, an' a walnut tree
Th' more yeh beat 'em, th' better they be!"


A tangent: with regards to the third item on the list, this is supposedly true. If you beat the trunk of a walnut tree in fall when the sap is beginning to recede to the roots, it causes the outer layer of the trunk to swell up and block the flow of sap. More sap in the branches for longer leads to larger and better-tasting walnuts.
posted by echo target at 1:32 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


> That's sort of the vibe I get from the crowd in the video--they're laughing at the biker, not with him, but, really, they shouldn't be laughing at all.

That was my impression as well.

There's not a lot of context to the video - motorbiker comes onstage, harangues Thompson who does a bad job of defending himself, and the TV host acts more like a passive moderator rather than the show's presenter.

But we can see that both Thompson and the moderator are speaking in low, measured sentences. The audience is dressed well, a variety of backgrounds but largely middle-aged. Few of them look like rough characters. I imagine that before the motorcycle roar, Thompson and his host have been having a literary chat about a book, possibly about journalism generally. The audience, sufficiently educated and curious, have volunteered to attend a talk show with a book author rather than a performer of some kind. And then the unholy roar of a chopper sounds back stage, and the audience sees the show fall into Bizarro-World. There's nothing to do but laugh. The chopper, the loud, confrontational thug, the ranting about wife-beating and beer. There's nothing to do but laugh. It's as incongruous as if your boss's boss suddenly jumps on the table at a business meeting and screams GEEBA-GEEBA-GEEBA.

What they were discussing was reprehensible. But this segment of the show was a set-up, and the audience couldn't necessarily tell what was real any more.
posted by ardgedee at 1:45 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What ardgedee is saying. This is a 1967 CBC audience, worlds away from Jerry Springer. These people probably have never seen "a biker" before.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:50 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Get off your high horses and stop pounding Hunter for how he should have acted in the 60s.

Yea, if you compare Hunter to any of his contemporaries you realise how moral a man he was. In his writing you see the signs that he deplored a lot of the behaviour that surrounded him, though I won't say he couldn't have distanced himself from it an awful lot more. He wouldn't have been there to write about the people and situations he did were he not to delve into the dangerous and seedy at times, and his entire life's work is worth it a thousand times over for the wave speech, if nothing else (and it's not like nigh on every word apart from that isn't sublime).
posted by opsin at 2:15 PM on July 13, 2010


I guess it's also worth noting that while our public opinions regarding things like domestic violence have improved over the past forty years, our standards of public conduct on talkshows has plummeted.

Check this talk show with Marshall McLuhan and legendary hothead Norman Mailer. Even when they're arguing, neither are shouting, and both of them are given the room not only to get their shots in, but to speak in complete sentences and complete their thoughts on-camera.

For that show segment with Thompson and the Hell's Angel, the biker is completely out of line. He's shouting, he's crude, he's not giving Thompson the room to reply. If it's mild stuff for our time, it was pretty extreme for television of that era.
posted by ardgedee at 2:18 PM on July 13, 2010


He is not someone to be admired as a human being, but as an immense talent, an influential writer, and a cultural icon.

This makes no sense to me. If you mean that his lifestyle should not be emulated or imitated, than I might agree. In the words of the man himself:

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

Aren't being a talent, a writer, and an icon all aspects of his being as a human?
posted by thescientificmethhead at 3:08 PM on July 13, 2010


Gonzo journalism my ass. Why don't you stretch your skills a bit and tell us what it's like to live as a normal socially well adjusted adult male capable of meaningful and deep relationships?

How many Saul Bellows do we really need?

(I love HST and Saul Bellow)
posted by clarknova at 3:23 PM on July 13, 2010


His work was revolutionary at the time _because_ in reporting on controversial subjects he didn't take a 'traditional' disconnected journalist role. He got in deep for better or worse so that he could speak about people not as a zookeeper, but as one of the animals in the zoo.

either that or he had a penchant for addictive substances & chose to douse himself in those instead of covering the damn race & hence! fear & loathing was born. because even though it's been 20+ years since i've read his stuff, that's pretty much how i remember it.

and injecting oneself into a story is pretty much the antithesis of journalism. or at least it was back when i got my b.a. in journalism.

and marissa, i don't think the drugs were incidental at all. i think he was probably a very insecure individual who had trouble facing difficult situations; he hit on a wildly popular formula (get as fucked up as you can & write what you remember) and rode that horse way past it's useful years. he admitted that he was no longer able to cover a story because when he showed up, he *was* the story; he talked about having to kill off the duke & invent a new character, one that would allow him to continue to work in some fashion.
posted by msconduct at 3:59 PM on July 13, 2010


he hit on a wildly popular formula (get as fucked up as you can & write what you remember) and rode that horse way past it's useful years

There's some truth to that and I've said so here before, the man clowned himself, he was devoured by his own persona.

But as far as "the antithesis of journalism"- not so fucking much. What Thompson did was take a finely-honed journalistic skillset (seriously, his earlier straight reportage was excellent) and then combine it with this 'drug-crazed madman' schtick in order to be able to say the things that *everyone* knew to be true, but nobody else was allowed to say. Because, hey he's some crazy hippie writing for some rock mag nobody cares about. His political reporting in the 70's - and to some extent even into the 90's- was brilliant, and is still readable in a way that no 40-year-old journalism has the right to expect to be.

I don't know- as far as I can tell, he ended up being lifelong friends with guys like Ed Bradley and Tom Brokaw not just because he was a fun dude at parties, but because - at least at one point- he wrote about US politics about as well as anyone got to, and they respected him for it.
posted by hap_hazard at 4:40 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Junkie George's mistake was his failure to apply the rule of thumb. If he'd been beating his old lady with a stick no bigger than his thumb, instead of beating her head in with a rock, everything would have been copacetic, obviously.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:02 PM on July 13, 2010


He could have said "That's a good point, now run a rag through your hair and shine my shoes."

Why don't you find a 1%er biker and say that to him? We'll a wait your reply from your hospital bed.
posted by jonmc at 5:27 PM on July 13, 2010


If you look at the crowd you see they are laughing and shaking their heads in what I presume to be disbelief.

Thompson spent most of that segment passively looking down and away. Objectively we're looking at a scared and skinny man defending himself against another who is twice his size, and has affiliations with a violent gang that the first has already crossed the line with. Perhaps snappy comebacks were not used for a reason.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:27 PM on July 13, 2010


The striped jumper is a Lee Marvin thing. Thompson mentions it in his book. (Sonny Barger wore the real thing).
posted by GeckoDundee at 7:08 PM on July 13, 2010


Wasn't that was Joan Baez 4 minutes 23 seconds in?

As if this wasn't surreal enough...
posted by mondaygreens at 8:02 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What ardgedee is saying. This is a 1967 CBC audience, worlds away from Jerry Springer. These people probably have never seen "a biker" before.

What stinkycheese said about what ardgedee said; these people were probably there just because they couldn't get tickets to Front Page Challenge. The biker really plays to the crowd, being sort of gross without being scary, more like a cartoon than anything. 'Quite the character, eh, Merthel?'

Anyhoo, here's an excerpt from Thompson's letter to Sonny Barger regarding the beating, if anyone is curious:
... Anyway, I assume you heard about the stomping up there and I'm sorry you weren't around to cut it off any quicker. As it was, I figure Tiny did me a hell of a favor by getting me on my feet before I got kicked to death - so when you see him tell him I say "thanks" and if he needs a good favor some day, tell him to get a hold of me.
There's not much sense in talking about it except to say it was a copmpletely "no class" piece of action and I'm glad none of the guys I liked and trusted were part of it.
I'm not sure how or why the thing got started and I never even saw the first thump that got me, but I have to assume it was a sort of drunken spontaneous outburst that I had the bad lick to get in the middle of. Earlier that day I'd noticed some resentment about my taking pictures, but I didn't worry about it because I figured you were straight enough to tell me to my face if we had any real problems. We've never bullshitted each other and I'd grown sort of accustomed to taking you at face value.
In all, I had no reason to expect that sort of action - as I'm sure you realize - and in general it disapointed me about the Angles. Not everybody, but at least a few. Obviously, I wouldn't be writing this letter if I was down on the whole club. Like I said, if Tiny hadn't been there to help me I'd probably be in a graveyard right now...
And from later letter to a friend:
... There must be an easier and less painful way to make a living. You asked about the Angels stomping me. Indeed. It came as a total surprise, with no waring, but it pput me in the emrgency ward of the Santa Rosa hospital and caused me to look with new affection on my .44 Magnum. Sonny wasn't around and I didn't talk to him about it afterwards, so all I know is what little I can piece together from the day thjat led up to the outburst....Labor Day run, I wanted a book cover photo to counter Random's idea of using some phony design work, vaguely uneasy reception at the gathering point, Fat Freddy trying to run me down with his bike about noon, then 5 or 6 hours of loose and easy talk [...] but all the wile a mean undertone from a lot of new Angels I didn't know....I guess my mistake was thinking Sonny, Tiny, Terry & Co. would keep the uglies from giving me a hard time. I forgot bylaw No. 10: "When an Angel punches and non-angel . . . " So when somebody teed off on me, whammo!
Everybody else joined in. Not a hint of a warning. tiny got me on my feet after a while and probably saved my life. [...] If you talk to Sonny and he offers an explanation, I'd be curious to hear it. But I'm not about to ask for one myself. As far as I'm concerned I've already written it.
For what that's worth.

"That's a good point, now run a rag through your hair and shine my shoes."

That is too good a line not to use. My inevitable, indubitably painful death is on your head.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:48 PM on July 13, 2010


mondaygreens, you just beat me to pointing out Joan Baez. That fact that she's laughing as much as everybody else certainly reinforces the notion that it was a different time with different mores.
posted by newmoistness at 10:22 PM on July 13, 2010


It is a testament to the man that people still feel strongly about him, positive and negative.

He was a monster and a bastard according to about as many people as claim he was a genius and a friend. I think like most of us, he was all of those things -- but he stayed high and he stayed weird and he did all those good and bad things with the full force of his will, always.

That's something, damn it. It's something. I'm glad we had him as long as we did.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:54 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seeing how young and tender HST was in that interview made me even more amazed that he was able to do the research for that book. I've known a few bikers; they eat smooth-faced young lads for breakfast. Takes some fast thinking and brass balls to stay on your feet in that company.

As far as Thompson and his flaws go, all I know is that his writing was alive, irresistible, crackling with weird energy. I read Hell's Angels while in high school and was blown away--the man was using the same alphabet as everyone else, but in a completely fresh and astonishing way. I've worn out several copies, and had to read everything else the guy wrote. I was rarely disappointed.

Some of my favorite art/music/writing was created by deeply flawed humans. Much as I love Thompson's work, I still find it tough to watch video of the guy--he always seemed uncomfortable in his own skin.

But I cried the morning I learned he was gone. And I don't often cry for folks I don't know.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:26 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you beat the trunk of a walnut tree in fall when the sap is beginning to recede to the roots, it causes the outer layer of the trunk to swell up and block the flow of sap. More sap in the branches for longer leads to larger and better-tasting walnuts.

To follow the tangent - while that may be true, wouldn't it also be not good for the tree and shorten its life?
posted by kingbenny at 7:07 AM on July 14, 2010


I'm sorry. I never paid any attention to Thompson before. The biker just seemed mostly ordinary to me. But Hunter, oh shit. He was hot.
posted by Goofyy at 7:18 AM on July 14, 2010


Wow, that was depressing. What a shit host. Moderation... F.
posted by JBennett at 7:53 AM on July 14, 2010


That fact that she's laughing as much as everybody else certainly reinforces the notion that it was a different time with different mores.

Couldn't it be just as easily reinforce the notion that there is more going on in the clip than we think we understand from our vantage point 43 years later?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:50 AM on July 14, 2010


I see no point in laying out my own opinions about Thompson, his work and the difference between them. Especially at this point, and because I disagree with everyone.

What's really interesting to me is that everyone, regardless of their feelings about the guy, adopts some if his mannerism and style when speaking or writing about him.
posted by cmoj at 9:45 PM on July 15, 2010


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