Celebrating the late, great Hunter Thompson on his birthday with some drinks and ink in New York.
A few years ago, I wrote about a symposium called “Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills,” held at a bar in New York City and dedicated to the life and legacy of Hunter S. Thompson (Almost Infamous, Dec. ’11). The event featured a panel of speakers that included our associate publisher Rick Cusick, gun enthusiast Darren Leung and Penthouse Pet Valentina Vaughn, and it was organized by two friends of mine—former HT editor Eric Danville and former Penthouse promotions director Lainie Speiser. Last July, during the week of Hunter’s birthday, the pair revived that tribute and invited me to participate.
Arriving at the East Village bar 2A, I headed upstairs to greet Eric and Lainie, who introduced me to my fellow participants: adult-film star Brittany Andrews, actor/writer Jeffrey Emerson and writer Robert Rosen. After an introduction by Danville, each guest did a reading from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. First came Emerson, who read from Chapter 12—the passage where Hunter confronts a deranged patrolman on Highway 61. Next up was Brittany, who read the passage in which Hunter’s partner Dr. Gonzo threatens his life in the hotel room while tripping balls.
As each guest read, a larger-than-life live feed of their performance (sans sound) was projected onto the brick building across the street—a badass broadcast rigged up by the bar’s manager. There was even a round of Thompson trivia, with a prize pack given out to the winner. When it was my turn to take the mic, I started with a toast.
“I’d like to begin with a very short quote that I found … so I would like everyone to raise their glass while I read a toast that Hunter himself wrote. It’s from The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, and it goes:
‘Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives … and to the ‘good life,’ whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.’”
Rather than having me do a reading, Eric opted instead to cap the night off with an interview about Hunter, drugs and other sordid topics. I discussed my introduction to his work by former HT scribe Chris “Pot Star” Eudaley, my love for Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Fear and Loathing, and my homage to Hunter in High Times entitled “Beer & Bloating on the Campaign Trail 2008,” in which I traveled across the country on a mock presidential run (on Hunter’s former Freak Power Party ticket) to promote NORML’s Smoke the Vote campaign (Almost Infamous, Nov.–Dec. ’08). It was an awesome evening—so much so that, the next day, I was inspired to finally do something I’d been contemplating for a long time: I phoned my friend Kevin Fox down in Philly and asked if he’d drive up the following weekend to pay me a very special visit.
I was introduced to Kevin by my wife at Amsterdam’s Coffeeshop Amnesia during the 2011 Cannabis Cup. He was a CS Travel customer, as well as a big fan of both Hunter’s and mine. He also happens to be a tattoo artist and had offered to work on me for free. Now, sitting in my living room over a few dabs and a six-pack of Flying Dog Ale (which is brewed in Hunter’s hometown of Woody Creek by his friend George Stranahan, and whose packaging features artwork by Thompson’s famed collaborator Ralph Steadman), Fox proceeded to emblazon the infamous “Gonzo” dagger logo onto my calf in glorious, eternal black-and-red ink. Now this tattooed tribute serves as a proud proclamation of my allegiance to Hunter’s literary legacy: I’m gonzo for life, baby.