08 November 2004

The hyaena in winter

Y'all may have noticed how, in deference to a friend's request, I'm trying to take it easy on the politics here and emphaise the popkultur side of my blog some more. Very difficult, in these trying times. As a step in the right direction, I offer you a profile of Hunter S. Thomson.
Thompson, 67, who is a friend of Benicio Del Toro, Bob Dylan and Johnny Depp, and the only one of that illustrious quartet who openly uses a spittoon, clears his throat and expectorates into the receptacle below his desk. His chair is surrounded by work spaces on three sides, like a mission-control centre. Across the living-room, the huge television set, which is never turned off, is showing highlights of a football game from Seattle. Stuck to the screen is a yellowed piece of paper that reads: "No music + Bad TV = Bad Mood + No Pages."
"Interviewing Hunter," Loren Jenkins [Newsweek bureau chief in Saigon, currently based in Baghdad] told me, "was the most excruciating experience of my life."

It's a combination of things, really: the ubiquitous firearms and narcotics; his nocturnal regime and sudden mood swings. I first encountered him in the early 1990s when I was working for another newspaper which had decided to send him to join the Royal press corps for the Highland Games. I met Thompson at Gatwick, at 6am. He lit his hash pipe while we were still in sight of the customs hall and insisted on being driven to Smithfield Market for whisky. When we reached his hotel, he barricaded himself in his suite for 36 hours, then fled back to Aspen in the middle of the night. His subsequent faxes referred to me as an "evil treacherous dingbat" and a "weird limey freak".

"In a strange way," says Ralph Steadman, "insults are Hunter's way of articulating affection."

Going up the driveway to his ranch --- before you see the wandering peacocks and the Cadillac convertible commemorated in his writing as the Red Shark --- you pass incrementally threatening signs such as "Keep Out" and "Danger Zone", culminating in: "Guns in Constant Use".

There is, however, a little bit about politics in there, I'm afraid.

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