Fear and Loathing.

Hunter S. Thompson shot himself. Really, could it have ended any other way. Gonzo was a folk hero in my social set, we were all trying to emulate him….vying for the reputation as the craziest. I was a contender. Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas was one of the most influential books of my youth. What does that say about me?

Thompson is forever connected in my mind with one of my very favorite artists, Ralph Steadman who gained fame with his illustrations of Thompson’s work in Rolling Stone. His crazed style captured perfectly the booze and drug driven insanity that was fear and loathing. Those ink spatters (a little graphic trick I’ve stolen for myself) just seemed to say that we were walking the edge of psychotic violence.

While some of my contemporaries read Siddartha and Casteneda, I was most influenced by Joyce Carey’s The Horses Mouth,the story of a wastrel artist, Thompson, and Dharma Bums.

The late sixties and early seventies…ok all the seventies are a blur.

Steve Gilliard writes an excellent tribute to the founder and greatest component of Gonzo Journalism which includes this eulogy of Richard Nixon.

Rolling Stone
‘He was a crook’
Jun 16, 1994


DATE: MAY 1, 1994




“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 Iwill 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, andI 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 hatedNixon 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 theway 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 instinctsof 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 thehead 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.


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.

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.

4 thoughts on “

  1. No one had a clearer view of the real threat of the American right, of evil in politics in general, than HST. He was an absolute giant as a reporter. As much as we all might love “Las Vegas” his political stuff blows that away in depth and quality.

    ryc: Ray Williams was one of those Mount Vernon boys we “grew up” with, and his brother Gus, and Maurice Lucas, and…

  2. You’re right about the late sixties and early seventies… a blur. But we remember the books. The Dharma Bums (even better than On the Road)… Fear and Loathing… Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test…Another Roadside Attraction… Vonnegut, Kotzwinkle, Brautigan, Castaneda, Thompson.

  3. This is amazing. I’ve admitted this to a select few, I’ve never read Hunter’s work. Okay, you and my husband, that’s it. Those are the only people I’m admitting this to. I don’t know about his work, though I recognized his name in the media reports.

    Please I want to say, I was just a baby in the 70’s, but I have no excuse. I know dylan right? Not to suddenly “jump” on the bandwagon, but, if this guy said the most influential words of your youth, I must go now and hear them.


  4. I, like Lisa, have not read any of his work either.  A friend of mine just bought some of his older works…perhaps I’ll catch up with the rest of the world and bury my nose in some of that literature as soon as I finish the Hitchhiker’s Guide series.  He sounds too amazing to miss out on, and I always listen to my elders anyway.


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