By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
He claimed to have been on the phone with Hart’s campaign manager when his beeper went off with the news that the MiamiHeraldwas about to break the Rice story. (“I was so far ahead of the story that I couldn’t confirm it,” Thompson told me. A day before the Heraldhit the streets, he learned that Hart had met Rice at the home of his neighbor, Don Henley. “Two hours later, I had a picture of her, which I’d gotten from Henley’s bodyguard.”) In the ‘80s, Thompson got so hooked on the rush of covering national politics — “like a jack rabbit gets addicted to road-running” — that he began betting on the outcome of each primary. He liked to think of himself as the Jimmy the Greek of the presidential campaigns. “I’m a handicapper. That’s how I see my business — as a gambler rather than as a wisdom-giver. But if you want to know who’s going to be president next year, I’m probably the best person to ask.” It wasn’t an idle boast, either. In a SanFranciscoExaminercolumn on the 1986 midterm elections, Thompson correctly picked 15 of 17 Senate races. (He sat out the 1980 and 1984 campaigns because no one paid him to write about them.) My meeting with Thompson took place just as Texas producer Ross Milloy (Alamo Bay,TheTriptoBountiful)and Aspen independent filmmaker Wayne Ewing were creating a cinéma vérité biographical picture about and starring Thompson. “We want to look at the cultural journey Hunter’s made over the last 20 years,” Ewing told me, “within the context of the 1988 presidential campaign.” Thompson considered the project a pain in the ass for the most part, though he was flattered by the attention — as he was by his newfound fame on college campuses. “It’s very queer. I can’t grasp it,” he noted. “It’s not so much a resurgence of interest in me as a total awareness.” He told me with weary finality he got bored looking back on his past. “What should be done is not to look back at the ‘60s or ‘70s with great nostalgia.
It’s to get out and participate in the present.” But when it came to Thompson, the past was always prologue. I remember the time he was calmly and cogently presenting his views on national politics while ordering lunch. Socalmly, in fact, that he didn’t even bother to harass the waitress when she informed him there was no more tuna salad.
Then, he stopped in mid-sentence and emitted a sharp shriek.
He had detected a strand of hair on the lip of his drinking glass. Not just a small hair, mind you, but a “large, ugly, black-rooted hair” that was spoiling his liquor. Soon, everyone in the saloon — from the manager to the barfly — was holding the glass up to the light and examining it with the concentration of government health inspectors. No one could see any foreign matter except for Thompson, who had worked himself into a snarling fever trying to get someoneto admit that he was not hallucinating.
“Why, yes,” bartender Mary Harris finally said as she turned the glass around and around, “I can see the hair now.” Vindicated, Thompson placidly returned to his discourse. For a few moments, I’d glimpsed Gonzo. May he, and Hunter, rest in peace.
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