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The Louisville Homecoming
Page added: 1997
Last updated: 2002
by J. Erin McCabe
Since I can't be everywhere, and while I toil away in my Northern Socialist Utopia (as some say), I really appreciate it when I hear from others who've been there. If you've been to a booksigning or lecture, recently or long ago, let me know!. It doesn't have to be anything fancy; just don't send poor imitation gonzo.
The author describes himself as "a money manager, has a beagle, waves the gonzo flag, and loves to drink and rage. His life's goal is to interview Hunter at Woody Creek Tavern for the latest issue of Guns and Ammo." Currently, he is on a run to Las Vegas, but can be reached at Erin@fuse.net. --Christine O
TO: Christine Othitis
FROM: Erin McCabe
SUBJECT: Hunter S. Thompson returns to Louisville, KY, 25th Anniversary release of Fear and Loathing. 12/12/96 University of Louisville.
Most memories fade somewhat over time. Some don't. I am not a cheer leader or a member of the Hunter fan club. I don't proclaim to be anything other than an occasional weekend writer who barely made it through college with an English Degree, as you will soon understand. Then Big Bob read excerpts from some unknown freak out of a book called, The Great Shark Hunt, in the deep woods of BIG-BONE PARK in Northern Kentucky. This was way more than a decade ago. The bottle was uncorked. Nothing's ever been the same.
A typical crappy December night. Forty degrees and raining. I busted out of Cincinnati, South-bound I-71 around 6:30, on my way to Memorial Auditorium to see the good doctor. Tickets were 10 bucks, pretty cheap. I saw Hunter on three other occasions, once in Chicago and twice in New Orleans. Pretty good entertainment. The drive to Louisville is only about 90 minutes. I stopped and picked up a pack of smokes, some beef jerky for dinner and several quarts of Bud Light. This drive is reaaally boring. I was already late as I drove into downtown and found a space to park. I walked in, oddly, without anyone taking my ticket.
I managed to find a decent seat and watched as Douglas Brinkley (Author/Prof of English or something at the Univ. of New Orleans [also editor of TPH]) moderated from a podium. In true Hunter fashion, I knew this was going to be a long night, if he even showed up at all. Another gentleman came out on stage dressed in "Johnny Cash black", sat in front of the piano. " Send Lawyers, Guns and Money, dad get me out of this...I am the innocent bystander ...Somehow I got stuck..." Warren Zevon played on...Roland the Thompson Gunner...I had heard many of these songs before, but now they took on a new meaning. [ There is a great picture of Hunter and Warren at Woody Creek on the back of the liner notes from "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead}]
Others followed, including Harry Dean Stanton, Harvey Sloane and other local friends and politicians. Each telling some wild story about Hunter's antics growing up in this town. The crowd laughed and gasped, yelled, some screamed... . Oh yes!.. the crowd,... old folks, students, punks, fat, skinny and here I am. My head spinning faster and faster and faster. Some other guy came out and played a saxophone. Ron Whitehead (U of Louisville Professor) read some very passionate poetry that got me out of my seat only to be "hushed" at by a rather large woman with a halter-top on that read "honk if you like Harleys". Honk. Then he read some of Las Vegas. The crowd's silence gave way to cheers.....When have you heard people cheer about readings from a book? "Hunter....Hunter.....Hunter...." the chants began. Palm Beach's little darling and atomic vixen Roxanne Pulitzer came out and expressed her fondness for Hunter. She read from a letter she wrote. Doug Brinkley introduced Hunter's son.
Wait..... "Son?" I didn't know Hunter had a shadow. He did resemble him, but seemed...well...different ... polite.
There I said it. "People always ask me what's it like to be Hunter's Son?"......
"Well, he was different from my friends' dads"..."unconventional...." The crowd ate it up. Finally, with one hand on a fire extinguisher, ripped from the wall, shooting CO2 over everyone on stage, out came Hunter.....
The crowd came to their feet.
I was six years old when Fear and Loathing came out on November 11, 1971, meanwhile bombs rained down on Vietnam, Nixon was giving a speech on something called "cable". I was playing with my GI Joe with Kung-Fu Grip. Bill Gates was smoking pot . My dad was going broke; for the first time. My mom was on the patio drinking gin and juice. The American Dream.
Hunter sat in a chair that was sort of like a large throne, probably from some cheesy Shakespeare play. But, it fit the moment. He looked moderately in control... not too drunk or stoned . They opened the microphone to the outside world for questions. Some were abusive, some people left disappointed or disgusted, we were well into the second hour...Some were funny. One young female with several attractive piercing asked Hunter about his favorite drug, so she could "try it."
From stage left brought in one final visitor who sat in another throne; Johnny Depp. With a bottle in one hand. I guess he was touring with Hunter, maybe getting into that method acting, ala Robert DeNiro like, for his up coming movie about the legend. They both fended off more questions. Anywhere from "Where the Buffalo Roam, "what's a great self-defense weapon"...to "would you like to spend the night at my house?"... The pom-pom girls came out and gave a cheer. I love this Freak show. The night slowly ended. The Hunter "book signing" never occurred.
As I climbed back into my car, my head still humming of insanity, I laughed. Hunter is a unlike no other. An original. Take him or leave him.
Heading on I-71 north, I was blinded by bright lights as I was overtaken by a super-stretch white Lincoln Limo at a high speed. The sun roof was open. It was after midnight. The windows were fogged and there seemed to be many people stuffed inside. Possibly naked. A tall man was hanging wildly out of the extra large sunroof screaming something, holding what looked like a bottle of Chivas Regal, spitting foam like a rabid dog out of his mouth. The left hand was fisted around a long cane, which thrashed madly above his head. Lono Was Home.