Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Real Birth Of Gonzo.....



I read huge chunks of what the author himself once called the 'failed attempt' that was The Rum Diary a long, long time ago.

And, like I've said before....

Despite my great admiration for his best work, Hunter Thompson was no Earnest Hemingway.

Or even a cut-rate F. Scott Fitzgerald.

So, I reckon I'll hold onto my own money until he who would be Raoul Duke (ie. the former kid from Lotusland's 21 Jump St.) is able to bamboozle somebody else into giving him even more moola to make the real Gonzo origin story.

Which, I reckon, will be a movie that has little to do with either Puerto Rico or 'El Sportivo'....

Instead, it will be about South America and Thompson's time there as a so-called stringer for the 'National Observer'.

Because those were the days, as near as I can figure it, when Thompson, working all on his own and, essentially, unchecked, really started making stuff up.

Stuff that sometimes turned out to be truer than the real truth could ever be.

And that includes that piece he wrote about a then still somewhat obscure gang of East Bay hoodlums for Carey McWilliams and 'The Nation' that would later become his almost, but not quite ever, meal ticket.

Truth like this:

"...One of my most vivid memories of South America is that of a man with a golf club - a five-iron, if memory serves - driving golf balls off a penthouse terrace in Cali, Columbia. He was a tall Britisher, and had what the British call 'a stylish pot' instead of a waistline. Beside him on a small patio table was a long gin-and-tonic, which he refilled from time to time at the nearby bar.

He had a good swing, and each of his shots carried low and long out over the city. Where they fell, neither he nor anyone else on the terrrace that day had the vaguest idea.....Somewhere below us, in the narrow streets that are lined by the white adobe blockhouses of the urban peasantry, a strange hail was rattling down on the roofs - golf balls, 'old practice duds,' so the Britisher told me, that were 'hardly worth driving away'.

It is doubtful that the same man would drive golf balls off a rooftop apartment in the middle of London. But (it) is not really surprising to see it done in South America. There, where the distance between the rich and the poor is so very great, and where Anglo-Saxons are automatically among the elite, the concept of noblesse oblige is subject to odd interpretations.

The attitude, however, does not go unnoticed; the natives consider it bad form indeed for a foreigner to stand on a rootop and drive golf balls into their midst. Perhaps they lack sporting blood, or maybe a sense of humor, but the fact is that they resent it, and it is easy to see why they might go to the polls at the next opportunity and vote for the man who promises to rid the nation of 'arrogant gringo imperialists'...."

Hunter S Thompson, The National Observer, August 1963
Reprinted in: "The Great Shark Hunt, Warner Books, 1979, pp 404-405

99 percenters, indeed.


Interestingly, my most far-flung visitors come calling after they've searched the string looking for another, later, National Observer piece titled "What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum" which takes them to this post.....Last night it flew somebody in from, get this.....Estonia....Imagine that!
And please note: That is most certainly no stinkin' selectric with a kick bigger than an elephant gun in the image at the top of the post....
All this has me once again thinking....What if....As in....What if Thompson had never taken a break from the Salazar piece to ostensibly get paid to write about the Mint 400?...Would that have kept him from getting stupid?...Would more people be reading the Derby piece today?...Would Thompson have worked harder through the '70's to actually write a 'real' novel?...Or, at the very least, would he have gotten to that place where the Death of the American Dream was, allegedly, hiding in plain sight...Nobody knows for sure...But this much I do know....If he hadn't written the Vegas piece we may never have had the BooHoo or Ibogaine, or midnight calls to the night clerk in Milwaukee soon thereafter...And I may never have come so close to actually reading Coltrane on the page...Now do you see why I want nothing whatsoever to do with the callow Mr. Kemp anymore?....Prince Jellyfish, maybe...But not Kemp....At least not now...However, if you're a kid who doesn't yet really know Thompson?...Well, that's a different matter entirely...Still, if you go and you get bamboozled into buying Wenner's latest HST-fed cash cow....Well... make sure you get yourself 'The Great Shark Hunt' too, to make sure you get a chance to read the real thing in utero....It's got all the stuff that matters, or at least the stuff that will take a digger where they want to go....Like back to that Nation piece linked to above, which I reckon was Thompson's last real shot at 'straight' journalism done by bending the rules within the confines of the lines, just like he did it in both the Air Force and with Kennedy in PR...The NO pieces, where he was ALL on his own, as he later always would be, even with Steadman and Acosta in tow, were something very different, indeed...But....I ranteth too much...Sorry.



Rev.Paperboy said...

Au contrare mon frere! As a acolyte of The Doctor, I quite enjoyed reading Rum Diary and I think Mr. 21jumpstreet, being a of a similar Kentucky heritage as old Doc T., does a fairly good job of aping him in the Fear and Loathing movie and is a decent actor when he is allowed to act in real movies as opposed to cavorting in costume at the direction of Tim Burton or goofing on mr. Richards in bucaneer drag. Thompson was no Hemmingway or Fitzgerald, but neither of them wrote "The Great Shark Hunt." He was no Twain or Salinger either, but neither of them could have written "Strange Rumblings in Azatlan" or any of "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72" or "Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl" or "Screwjack."

I look forward to seeing the Rum Diary movie sometime on late night cable tv with large bottle of Bacardi Amber and other sundry accoutrements.
"Prince Jellyfish" sadly,never really got off the ground. Nor did "Polo is My Life"
I miss HST every day.
I can only imagine what he would say about the Obama administration and the current GOP leadership goat rodeo

RossK said...

Late night is fine by me Rev.

And do not forget that the Rum Diary you read was not the actual Rum Diary

Real money for more of it, though?....No.

After all, you and I bothhave already given too much moola to that weasel Wenner and now, soon, we are likely to do so again.

And, just to be clear here, I, too, do not begrudge the former Jumping one at thing for I feel that he is doing a fine job with the Legacy protection program...I just wish they had gone with fictional realism and based it, instead, on the NO adventures in South America where they would have been freer to take it to a more far flung and fearless place...Regardless, clearly, if they are going to go anywhere next, it will be political, which is sad because it means we will not get the Derby day(s)...Although they could work as the pre-amble to climbing board the Campaign bus with the former Sheriff, I suppose...

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Don't often see a movie in the local rundown cinema myself. Glad I took time out of my day to catch Rum Diary yesterday though. Gave me an excuse knock back a few mid-day. Was not The Notebook or anything but I came close to shedding a Hollywood tear as the movie came to a close.

And why, by the way, doesn't Canada have a country where we can go and knock golf balls from atop palaces in the sky off non-gringo noggins? Oh, that's right, the non-gringos can too easily pull us off their tee-pees or our Winnebagos if tried that crap.

RossK said...

Fair enough Beer.

Coming from you, I might just have to reconsider...

I've added to the post-script of the post to further explain why I wish they'd gone for broke and done the time in SAmerica as a lone stringer instead...