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Hunter Thompson: What a man. Yeah, right.

[Note: An astute reader notices an off-hand remark of mine concerning hanging out with Hunter Thompson back in the dawn of time and asks for more detail. Wish granted]

I USED TO RUN A MAGAZINE  (Organ) IN SAN FRANCISCO BACK IN THE 70s. I ran it out of the basement of a firehouse in North Beach under the offices of Scanlan’s magazine. Scanlan’s was the scam magazine of Warren Hinckle, a man whose record of conning money out of Bay Area millionaires stood unbroken for decades until the arrival of David Talbot and Salon and silly philanthropists that mistakenly married fanatic feminists.

Warren liked to drink and spend other people’s money on himself and writers. Naturally, such a honey pot was going to attract Hunter Thompson. Thompson liked to drink, snort coke, and spend other people’s money on articles he might or might not write. Sometimes the small staff working with me and the larger staff working the con with Warren at Scanlan’s would decide to drink together. We liked to drink at our bar of choice up at the end of the alley, Andre’s.

And so one night, when Hunter was in town, we all went up to Andre’s for a non-stop night of drinking.

Andre was an elegant French-Canadian who ran an elegant bar and restaurant. He was old-school and could mix any drink anyone could name and it was always perfect. He was polished, polite, and a good listener. But he was a pro and usually knew when you’d had enough. Then he politely asked you to leave. If you ignored him, he had a very large mallet with a three-foot handle behind the bar and you didn’t ignore that.

So there we were, eight or ten of us I think, hanging around and drinking with “Hunter S. Thompson, man!” And, as they would, Warren and Hunter got into a drinking contest — sort of like watching a match between Ali and Frazier in their prime.

It went on and on long past the point where I could or would keep up. It was getting late and Andre announced to the assembled cross-eyed drunks, that he was giving us our last round. The regulars took him at his word, but Hunter had to push the envelope. Except with Andre there was no envelope. Just a polite, “Non.”

The next thing I know there’s a gun in Hunter’s hand and three rounds into the ceiling of the bar. (Did I mention that there were apartments where people were sleeping above the bar?)

Then I think there was a blur of Andre, in suit and tie, coming over the bar with the mallet. Then more blurs and everybody is out on the street dragging a semi-conscious Hunter back down the alley mumbling something about getting his gun back. After that I don’t remember much and, frankly, haven’t thought all that much about Thompson in the nearly 50 years that have intervened.

Later Hunter left this Earth  in the same way that he lived — gun-crazy, thoughtless, self-obsessed and selfish to the last second. A gunshot suicide at home, leaving his wife and son to discover and deal with his ruined corpse and clean up the room.

What a man.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Skorpion November 26, 2019, 10:33 AM

    I’ve always maintained that HST’s celebrity ruined him as a writer. Why sweat blood over a few thousand words, due yesterday, when you can get FAR more money, fun, drugs, and sex by touring college campuses with a standup-freak act? By the Eighties he and Garry Trudeau’s “Uncle Duke” comic caricature had merged into the same entity; no wonder he hated the cartoonist. And when old age, searing physical pain, and the realization he’d squandered his talent finally arrived, he responded like the narcissistic nihilist he’d always been under the outraged-hip-moralist pose: he took the Night Train to the Big Nowhere with zero regard for the loved ones he left behind.

  • Cletus Socrates November 26, 2019, 1:35 PM

    You hinted at that story when we had a beer.

  • Gordon Scott November 26, 2019, 2:26 PM

    It’s funny Thompson never wrote about that, but perhaps it was too much just desserts for him to bear. I always thought his writing was entertaining. I was always glad I never had to deal with him in person. And the suicide was very very typical of his style.

  • Terry November 26, 2019, 2:45 PM

    Warren Hinckle. I remember that character well. Do you remember the longshoreman who was a writer and was published in the SF Chronicle (if my memory serves me correctly)? I cannot recall his name.

    You have definitely been around, as they say! My ex had an older sister who lived in an apartment on Haight Street at that time, just two buildings from Ashbury Street. One wild place that was!

  • Gordon Scott November 26, 2019, 2:52 PM

    Oh, and a good story about Talbot and Salon would not go unappreciated.

  • Phil Fraering November 26, 2019, 4:34 PM

    The longshoreman/writer you are thinking of, might be Eric Hoffer, who was the author of (among other books) _The True Believer_ and _The Ordeal of Change_. I’ve never read Hunter Thompson, but I’d like to think Hoffer is at a higher level of writing.

  • ghostsniper November 26, 2019, 4:47 PM

    “…his ashes were fired out of a cannon in a ceremony funded by his friend Johnny Depp and attended by friends including then-Senator John Kerry and Jack Nicholson.”
    ========

    Sounds like a wonderful person surrounded by other wonderful people.

  • Terry November 26, 2019, 5:21 PM

    Phil- Yes, Eric Hoffer is the name of the man I could not remember. He had his head screwed on pretty well.

    There was another person of interest nick named the Zodiac Killer of that era. He was a writer of sorts as well. Another Bay Area celebrity.

  • Gordon Scott November 26, 2019, 5:32 PM

    Wow, San Francisco must have been interesting then. Now, it’s shit, piss, crazies and dopers, and guys and girls running around delivering stuff to the Silicon Valley types who imagine that the little closet they live in at $4000/month is way cool. Toilet and bath down the hall.

  • BillinDaytona November 26, 2019, 5:53 PM

    Great story. I try not to be too hard on suicides because I’ve spent such a big part of my life with suicidal thoughts and my exit has not yet happened. And I’m unemployed with no retirement at 56.

    As for HST, I got sober in 1988 and that was that.

  • Jeff Brokaw November 26, 2019, 6:00 PM

    Hunter S Thompson got super drunk, made an ass of himself, fired weapons indoors and almost got people killed? No way!

  • Phil Fraering November 26, 2019, 8:57 PM

    It’s pretty much a ‘dog bites man’ sort of story, Jeff.

  • John Venlet November 27, 2019, 4:18 AM

    What a man. Yeah, right.

    Bit of hard earned wisdom.

  • Rob November 27, 2019, 6:38 AM

    HST could write, and it was entertaining, if not coherent or informative. I used to regularly read his musings at Hey Rube! I’m glad I did not have to pay for access, because I surely would never have done so. Still and all, there is nothing admirable about his ending. At least go outside, Raoul. Leave your mess to be cleaned up by the buzzards, etc.

    I watched my dad pass away in a hospital bed after they had whittled his legs off and worked on his kidneys for years. I’m not doing that. I’m going hunting bear or a mountain lion with a Bowie knife – dying with my boots on.

  • Bunny November 27, 2019, 8:39 AM

    Don’t do it, Rob. You could end up like Hugh Glass, i.e., not dead.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GOlVRHsVzE4

  • Dave J November 27, 2019, 8:41 AM

    I admit that I read a couple of his books when I was a kid. All that did was provide a little fear and loathing of the drug and alcohol culture. A little but evidently not enough.

  • Michael ODonnell November 27, 2019, 2:17 PM

    All true, I’m sure, but “squandered his talent”?—if any of you have read what he wrote and don’t realize he was the best journalist of his generation, you should grasp that’s your failing, not his. Tibetan Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa was the great spiritual genius of his time—and a first class reprobate and drunk. And the suggestion his personal shortcomings somehow means he was a political hypocrite is ridiculous.

  • captflee November 27, 2019, 5:15 PM

    Thank you, sir!
    My travels have oft followed in Hunter’s wake, albeit at the remove of a decade and more, from Old San Juan to San Fran, so the devastation in his path throughout his days was familiar to me. Picaresque misadventures aside, to those of us out in the hustings, he loomed rather large in the zeitgeist. He was…something, wasn’t he?

  • Lawrence Alan Whiteside November 27, 2019, 6:24 PM

    Indifferent are we? Not sure what your point is in regards to Hunter. You’ve obviously never came close to the edge on your own. The crap you just spewed suggests this. What about his family? They obviously loved him. Best to write about an indefensible dead man I guess. Thumb sucking pig fucker!

  • ghostsniper November 28, 2019, 10:39 AM

    Both ya’ll can go smoke a scotch bonnet.
    google says that number belongs to a zimbabwe fag factory

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