A glass of Chivas Regal and a few Dunhills, followed by cocaine, more Chivas, coffee, a Dunhill, more cocaine, orange juice, a Dunhill, more cocaine, more cocaine, coffee, a Dunhill, cocaine, more ice in the Chivas, cocaine, Grass to take the edge off. And so on.
From 3pm until 8am. The alleged working day diet of Hunter S Thompson.
I saw this diet posted on Twitter and it reminded me of something I had to write something about the Hell’s Angels a few years ago. English-based Hell’s Angels to be specific. I spent a bit a time with them, got to know them, in fact I’m friends with a few of them via Facebook.
These men (and their women) now in or nearing their 60s, still living the life. In fact, one had a cut on his head the first time I met him, a good cut. Of the eight or nine subjects I interviewed, almost all of them related their inspiration for getting into this motorcycle phenonemon as Hunter S Thompson’s book: Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. OK, these people were looking for something to believe in at the time. Few of the people I spoke to were particularly well-educated (although one is a university lecturer), one confessed to me it was the only book he’d ever read. So I read it to try to understand what in late 60s Britain would make you want to ride a motorcycle and hang around with a gang who operated on their own rules and beliefs.
This following passage stuck in my mind. I tried to riff from it in my feature. But this is the real thing. Hunter S Thompson at the heart of the action, not only there, but capturing it in words on the scale of a motion picture:
“California, Labor Day weekend…early, with ocean fog still in the streets, outlaw motorcyclists wearing chains, shades and greasy Levis roll out from damp garages, all-night diners and cast-off one-night pads in Fricso, Hollywood, Berdoo and East Oakland, heading for the Monterey peninsula, north of Big Sur…The Menace is loose again, the Hell’s Angels, the hundred-carat headline, running fast and loud on the early morning freeway, low in the saddle, nobody smiles, jamming crazy through traffic and ninety miles an hour down the center stripe, missing by inches…like Genghis Khan on an iron horse, a monster steed with a fiery anus, flat out through the eye of a beer can and up your daughter’s leg with no quarter asked and non given; show the squares some class, give em a whiff of those kicks they’ll never know…Ah, these righteous dudes, they love to screw it on…Little Jesus, the Gimp, Chocolate George, Buzzard, Zorro, Hambone, Clean Cut, Tiny, Terry the Tramp, Frenchy, Mouldy Marvin, Mother Miles, Dirty Ed, Chuck the Duck, Fat Freddy, Filthy Phil, Charger Charley the Child Molester, Crazy Cross, Puff, Magoo, Animal and at least a hundred more…tense for the action, long hair in the wind, beards and bandanas flapping, earrings, armpits, chain whips, swastikas and stripped-down Harleys flashing chrome as traffic on 101 moves over, nervous, to let the formation pass like a burst of dirty thunder…”
Every now and again, you read things that inspire you to write, this is an inspiration on how to write. It’s exciting. There’s also the Vincent Mulchrone quote of the scene he witnessed on the eve of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral. “Two rivers run though London tonight, and one of them is made of people.” Short, sharp, also illuminating. An eye-witness.
What singles Hunter S Thompson out is his reputation for immersion in the subject, living the life, telling it how you see it. He is described as a founder of gonzo journalism.
According to wikipedia, this is what Gonzo journalism is:
“… a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word “gonzo” is believed to be first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style. The term has since been applied to other subjective artistic endeavors.
Gonzo journalism tends to utilize personal experiences and emotions to achieve an accurate representation of a phenomenon, as compared to traditional journalism that favors using a detached writing style and relies on facts or quotations that can be verified by third parties. Gonzo journalism disregards the strictly edited product favored by newspaper media and strives for a more gritty, personal approach—the personality of a piece is just as important as the event the piece is on.”
Right now, newspaper sales in Britain are in sharp decline, jobs are being lost and I should now, I took voluntary redundancy for this reason. And maybe I’ll write about this sometime in true Gonzo fashion. On the other side of the coin, the reputation of bloggers is soaring, and indeed is the number of bloggers. Many of these are, by definition, a new generation of Gonzo journalists.
The decline of newspapers on a local level is heart-breaking and, in my opinion, a serious threat to democracy. Right now, we need two things. One, a solution to save impartial local media from its current decline, and two, more Gonzo bloggers who can tell it like it is as well as Hunter S Thompson. Ideally working for newspapers.