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Regarding the Gonzos: 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 an early 20th century 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. A favorite item from the day was the time Hunter rented a car on Scanlan’s credit card. He then parked it next to one of his North Beach Beatnik bimbo’s apartments and went to and fro with it for a number of months. When the time came to return the car it was discovered that the rental fee would be much much more than Hinkle and Scanlan’s wanted to spend. Their solution? After a night of beer, bourbon, and bongs, they drove the car out to the end of a pier in San Francisco, stepped out, and let it drive itself into the bay. Then they reported it stolen.

Beer. Bourbon. Bongs. Bay.  What can I say? Good times.

Sometimes the small staff working with me at Organ 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.

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 blasted 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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 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.

    • Terry May 6, 2022, 7:58 PM

      A little late, but yes, Eric Hoffer. I remember most of those characters mentioned by Gerard.

      That is back when SF was a fun place to be. However to find fun, beautiful women, a guy had to go south a bit and hit the meeting places on the peninsula. Or better yet Santa Cruz.

      A good friend of mine was a “courier” for a now gun grabbing woman Senator’s husband (jewelry store operator in SF). This friend carried a brief case chained to his wrist filled with “paper” to S. Africa. Turned out to be extremely dangerous work and not worth the “pay’s good” job description advertised on the get rich quick circuit. I could write a book on this particular string of events, but I would possibly be risking a heart attack or other unexplained fatal heath issue. SF Bay self cleans. Throw something in by the Golden Gate and it gets flushed out to the Farallon’s. Convenient.

    • gwbnyc May 6, 2022, 10:18 PM

      Hoffer got called out a bit as to his authenticity IIRC. Who to judge…

      I could not find a place to grab hold of his writing. Too, several exes described me as “less than dimensional.”

  • 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.

    • gwbnyc May 6, 2022, 10:20 PM

      “…with John Kerry as Ashcatcher”

  • 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.

    • hooodathunkit May 6, 2022, 6:01 PM

      Ain’t nobody ‘ending up like Hugh Glass’ because there ain’t nobody like Hugh Glass.

      On-topic, that was a man; what a man. The Revenant confines itself to the incident with the bear in Glass’ life, but he was shot, knifed, tomahawked, and clubbed a dozen recorded times, almost always sending a handful of others to their grave before escaping and recovering. Glass was finally killed around 1833 by a Arikara (Sahnish) arrow somewhere in the upper Yellowstone basin while trapping beaver.

  • 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

  • Highland Stripmall Foodcourt Pizza May 6, 2022, 12:35 PM

    I love the photochop of Putin and Orange Man Bad driving through “bat country” right out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
    Adrenochrome was in that movie long before hot pizza.

  • James ONeil May 6, 2022, 1:15 PM

    Thumb sucking pig fucker? Never heard anyone called that before. I’ve, and I’m sure, you’ve been called worst, but I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as at that one.

    TSPF, I’ll have to keep that acronym in mind for future use.

  • Sunny May 6, 2022, 2:15 PM
  • PA Cat May 6, 2022, 2:25 PM

    Can’t help wondering whether Hunter Biden was named in honor of HST.

    • nunnya bidnez, jr May 6, 2022, 2:42 PM

      probably, after all wasn’t Hilary! named after Sir Edmund?

    • gwbnyc May 6, 2022, 7:13 PM

      uh, it’s “Humper”…

  • Joe May 6, 2022, 2:50 PM

    Wonder if this is where ole O’Biden got the name for his alcoholic/drugged asshole son and I wonder if he would have been anything but an asshole if his name was frank?

    • Vanderleun May 6, 2022, 3:05 PM

      It would be poetic if true, but it is not. Hunter Thompson’s first noticed bit of writing was for Scanlons in 1970. Hunter Biden was born in 1970. Joe’s not THAT avant-garde.

  • Mike Austin May 6, 2022, 4:46 PM

    One can think of Hunter Thompson in whatever fashion pleases. My two-bits worth is Thompson and V. S. Naipaul riding around in a Jeep in Granada after the US invasion. America’s gonzo writer and the finest writer in the English language hanging out together.


    Not even the ruminations of Hemmingway and Fitzgerald can beat that.

    To get a handle on American culture 1955 – 1995 read Naipaul, Hemmingway, Thompson and Fitzgerald. It will be good for you.

  • Jim in Oxford May 7, 2022, 3:12 AM

    Sorry to sound like an outlier here, but I have never understood the appeal surrounding Hunter Thompson. Maybe it’s like the way The French adore Jerry Lewis (do they really?). Doesn’t it say something about our culture (“arts” & “media”) how we have come to celebrate ridiculous excesses in our “celebrities”? If the current coverage of the Depp/Heard trial is any example, I’d say that’s a yes.

    I don’t remember who said it, but it stuck: “What is the good of moving from one untenable position to another, of seeking justification always on the same plane?”

    • Mike Austin May 7, 2022, 5:18 AM

      The Depp / Heard trial shows once again that our entertainment class is not just weird, but completely depraved. They have no redeeming moral qualities at all. Their intellectual capacity is about the same as your run-of-the-mill NFL player.

      Incidentally, it was Depp who ponied up the $3 million to cover the funeral of Thompson (2005). Thompson had blown his own brains out while on the phone with his wife. Swell guy. Depp made sure that Thompson’s ashes were shot out of a cannon.

      Weirdness overload.

  • Snakepit Kansas May 7, 2022, 6:26 AM

    When will the public interest in the Depp/Whats-her-face trial end? The entertainment value is less than People Magazine.

    As for folks shooting themselves, do it outside. I work at a gun range and Misguided Dude#4 shot himself on lane 10 a few weeks back. Nobody from the city with a wet/dry shop vac comes to clean it up. The guys at the range have to mop up blood, brains and bone fragments. A week after the clean up, one of the guys shut off the lights and went out to lane 10 with a UV light. Yep, still spattered remnants of Dude#4 there.

    • Mike Austin May 7, 2022, 7:15 AM

      I haven’t heard any testimony from those two pieces of dung, but I have read some of the transcripts. They are fine examples of what booze, drugs, fame, money and weird sex can do to a person. The “wages of sin” and all that.

      I have never understood the ghastly urge to self-destruction, though it runs in my family. Father, grandfather, grandmother—all suicides. My half-brother tried twice to kill himself but failed both times.

      No suicide for me. I’m going out by one of the old fashioned ways. But not just yet.

    • Gordon Scott May 7, 2022, 10:00 AM

      People can be really inconsiderate.

      Then there’s the guy who committed accidental suicide at a gun range by letting a 10 -year old girl pull the trigger on a full-auto rifle she was holding. It took about a second for the muzzle climb to end his life.

  • Anonymous White Male May 7, 2022, 9:36 AM

    Opinions obviously differ on Thompson. But then, opinions are like assholes, right? Everybody’s got one and they think the other person’s stinks. My feeling about Hunter Thompson is that he wouldn’t be considered the icon he was if everyone in the 60’s and 70’s weren’t doing drugs. Its sort of how I think of the Grateful Dead’s music. Some of it is good, but a little bit goes a long way. Really long. Like, hours long. It always helped their mystique that their audience was tripping. You can find meaning in duck farts while you’re on acid. Artists love drugs because it guarantees someone will like their stuff.

    • Mike Austin May 7, 2022, 10:31 AM

      The 1960s can scarcely be imagined without the ever-present drug use. Thompson, Hendrix, the Dead, the Doors, Joplin—and all the rest—were defined by their drug and alcohol abuse. One result was the much-used headline, “Rock Star Found Dead”.

      During the 1950s the drug of choice was heroin. There was hardly a jazz musician or “beat” writer to be found who was not addicted to it.

  • tommy May 8, 2022, 9:26 AM

    I just thought Hunter S was a jerk. My oldest sister married someone who seems to wish to emulate him in many ways. He seemed to get off on placing a shotgun muzzle in his oral orifice, scaring my sister beyond anything else in her lifetime. Sadly, she knew enough to divorce him, but not enough to refrain from re-marrying. He’s the kind of person that will take the equity from selling their home, expected to be used as a down payment on the next home, and squandering it by buying rounds for strangers at a local bar (in SF) and spending thousands on repairs on a Datsun that wasn’t worth $500. Hurtful in so many ways. His days now consist of making his way downstairs from the bedroom, a wander around the first floor carrying his O2 concentrator bottle, and finally making his way back upstairs to bed, not to be seen until tomorrow. I suspect fun and exciting at first, a whole Marine enlistment of stories of ‘traveling around the world’, yet nothing of substance in any endeavor. Hence, the adjective, jerk.