Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Smear-Free Political Ad I Can Get Behind.


That's right kids. 

The late, great Hunter Thompson once ran for Sheriff in Aspen, Colorado.

The year was 1969, and he ran on the 'Freak Power Ticket'.

Here was his manifesto:

  • Sod the streets at once. Rip up all the streets with jack hammers and use the junk asphalt (after melting) to create a huge parking lot and auto-storage lot on the outskirts of town.
  • Change the name "Aspen" by public referendum to "Fat City." This would prevent greedheads, land-rapers and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name "Aspen."
  • Drug sales must be controlled. My first act as Sheriff will be to install, on the courthouse lawn, a bastinado platform and a set of stocks—in order to punish dishonest dope dealers in a proper public fashion.
  • Hunting and fishing should be forbidden to all non-residents, with the exception of those who can obtain the signed endorsement of a resident—who will then be legally responsible for any violation or abuse committed by the non-resident he has "signed for."
  • The Sheriff and his Deputies should never be armed in public. Every urban riot, shoot-out and blood-bath (involving guns) in recent memory has been set off by some trigger-happy cop in a fear frenzy.
  • It will be the policy of the Sheriff's office savagely to harass all those engaged in any form of land-rape. This will be done by acting, with utmost dispatch, on any and all righteous complaints.

  • Thompson lost the Sheriff's election by a grand total of about 400 votes.

    Of course, as you might have suspected, what he really wanted to do was write about the experience (and get paid for it). 

    And write about it he did:

    ...We had run the whole campaign from a long oaken table in the Jerome Tavern on Main Street, working flat out in public so any one could see or even join if they felt ready ... but now, in these final hours, we wanted a bit of privacy; some clean, well-lighted place, as it were, to hunker down and wait

    We also needed vast quantities of ice and rum – and a satchel of brain-rattling drugs for those who wanted to finish the campaign on the highest possible note, regardless of the outcome. But the main thing we needed, with dusk coming down and the polls due to close at 7 PM, was an office with several phone lines, for a blizzard of last-minute calls to those who hadn't yet voted. We'd collected the voting lists just before 5:00–from our poll-watcher teams who'd been checking them off since dawn–and it was obvious, from a very quick count, that the critical Freak Power vote had turned out in force...

    The piece above was published a scant few months after the first piece of true longform Gonzo journalism had already appeared.

    But the Kentucky Derby Is Decadent And Depraved came out in Scanlan's Monthly and it made neither Thompson, nor his partner-in-crime, illustrator Ralph Steadman any money whatsoever. 

    The Freak Power/Battle of Aspen thing, however, was written for Jann Wenner.

    It was the beginning of beautiful relationship that would, in my opinion at least, ultimately lead to Thompson's demise as a serious writer who had made it his life's work, as the 1960's drew to a close, to chase down the death of the American dream.

    Given all that, it is really darned amazing how 'positive' the vibe is from the ad above...Sure, he's a freak, but he's also somehow Peter (and Hank) Fonda, Bob Dylan, and the reincarnation of JFK all rolled up into one.

    Or some such thing.

    Popped into my head in the wake of another great post over at OpenCulture...It's on the Blog Crawl and it's really a fantastic site...Every single post is filled with golden nuggets of real gold.


    1 comment:

    scotty on Denman said...

    Kinky Friedman, famously of the CW band The Texas Jewboys, also writes ably of his trip down gonzo-politics alley, in his case the governorship of the State of Texas. He did not win the office but not with an embarrassingly disrespectful showing.

    Friedman's comic-musician performances, which include such memorable C&W songs as "They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore", is actually an astute social commentator of the political left, despite his Stetson-wearing, cigarillo-chopping, cowboy-booted, twangy-tongued stage persona. His tribute to his father, an Eastern European Jewish immigrant and Chicago rag trade merchant, is some of the most touching writing one could read.