Here Today, Gonzo Tomorrow
An Interview with Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Everything you’ve heard is true: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is an electric charge of almost superhuman wattage, and energizes as many people around him as he drains. Naturally, he’s also as human as the next person—only perhaps just a whole lot more brutal, kind, macho and in need of nurturing than the average person, all at once.
It’s difﬁcult to capture him, in more ways than one. Our taped interview with him yielded hours of unintelligible mumbling, as well as impenetrable static, the roar of car engines, and a background soundtrack of television and loud music—much of it orchestrated by Thompson himself, depending on his interest in having certain information recorded, it seemed.
In any case, we were able to salvage a few of the Doctor’s thoughts, some of them even pertaining to the subjects in which he is considered to be expert. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s fans may have to struggle to reconcile his myth to his manhood, but it’s good to know that in this world of compromised lives, a life of gonzohood can be lived with complete integrity.
On President Clinton
Norma Jean Thompson: Do you ever speak with Bill Clinton? Does he know what you’re saying about him?
Hunter S. Thompson: Oh, yeah. I got into the Clinton thing with the idea that we could inﬂuence people … Yeah. The rock and roll president … He stands for everything I hate, violating the third amendment, search and seizure … I’ve said worse things about Clinton than I’m saying now … I think the worse thing I’ve ever said about him is that he has the redneck taste of a man who would go on a double date with the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart. That’s a nasty thing to say. I’ve also said he has the morals of a lizard. He’s a hiccup of history.
NJT: You really don’t like him. Do you feel a responsibility to the people who take your opinions seriously? Doesn’t it just help people rally around the right when you put him down?
HST: That’s no reason why I should spend another four years getting tangled up by a treacherous asshole like Clinton. There are limits … He’s further to the right than George Bush.
On General Politics
Alma García: You said in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail that traditional liberalism is dying or is dead. Is Clinton exemplifying that?
HST: They should have done some ethnic cleansing of liberals a long time ago.
AG: What are the top three things that should be on the presidential agenda?
AG: Aside from resignation, is there any thing in particular you think should be at the top of the presidential agenda?
HST: It doesn’t matter right now, because (Clinton) won’t ﬁght for it … If people rallied behind him and decided to get something done, some agenda he endorsed, he would abandon it. It’s a no-win situation, a serious character ﬂaw.
AG: Who are the politicians you like?
HST: Not many. I’d like Gore in the House. Clinton you really can’t turn your back on. If the Gores stayed in the cabin (on Thompson’s property), they’d ﬁt it. I wouldn’t have to worry about them stealing anything. Now if the Clintons stayed there …
AG: Who are the other bad politicians?
HST: Well, it’s a crooked class.
AG: Who are the worst ones?
HST: Fewer and fewer good people are getting into politics.
AG: Who would you like to see as president? Next election, if it were possible, even if it’s not someone who could possibly have a chance.
HST: I think Mohammed Ali would be good.
AG: Anyone who’s a politician?
HST: If you’re interested in generality … Gore. He’s pretty interesting. He’s the only one I’d vote for.
AG: And then we would have First Lady Tipper.
HST: Well, that’s realistic. What if Clinton got sick? Tipper’s not that terrifying compared to the Clintons.
On the Right to Bear Arms
NJT: Do you think that our constitution is aging in the sense that it is not appropriate to this time anymore? Particularly in regard to the Right to Bear Arms. Do you think it had a different intention when it was originally written?
HST: Are you suggesting that we trade it in for something new?
HST: No. I think it’s pretty good.
NJT: You think the Constitution still holds up?
NJT: Even through time like that?
NJT: Even though the people who wrote it might have had something else in mind?
HST: Well, to answer a question like that, you have to take considerable options. So what would you have done?
NJT: Well, it’s a real problem. Think about guns today in gangs and with 12-year-olds in school. I mean, that was not the original intention. Wasn’t originally bearing arms the way of protecting the democracy?
HST: Yeah. Well-armed militia.
NJT: I was just wondering if there are aspects of the constitution, then, that are aging.
HST: Well, probably so. It’s more than 200 years old.
NJT: Well, you have said the next ﬁve years will be like 50 years passing, and we’re still trying to use a system that …
HST: What do you have in mind? What program are you pushing? The constitution’s done pretty well … I’m just giving my opinion. You have a special agenda. You have a grudge against the Second Amendment.
On Life in the ’90s
AG: If the ’80s was the Generation of Swine (referring to Thompson’s book by the same name), what is the ’90s?
HST: The ’90s is the ’80s without money.
AG: Do you know what will come after the ’90s?
HST: I can’t really guess. Something will of course. But I don’t foresee all of this. (Gestures at the world at large around him.) It’s not my business to foretell the future anyway.
On Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail
AG: Are the people who were involved in, say, the ’92 presidential campaign—the press people, the aides—are they still getting as trashed as they were in ’72? Or is this now the age of restraint?
David St. Albans
HST: (Standing up to plant a kiss on García’s cheek) Thank you so much for asking that question! No. That was a different kind of campaign … The ﬁrst campaign without sex was ’88. That’s when things changed. This one was no fun, if drugs and sex is what you’re talking about.
AG: What brought about that different approach?
HST: I think AIDS.
AG: AIDS and the Just Say No age?
HST: Yeah. Clinton is more anti-drug than Bush ever was.
AG: Although this may be an obvious question, how is media coverage of that kind of stuff evolving?
HST: I think it’s disgraceful. Political coverage is getting worse.
AG: If you were to do another campaign, like the way you did in ’72, what would you focus on this time?
HST: I wouldn’t. It’s something you do once … I have more access than I ever did, but with this whole rock and roll thing … it’s not the educational experience it was the ﬁrst time. The presidential campaign from the inside … now, that was an adult dose … And that was a different role, covering a campaign. I realize my role has changed. I sign more autographs now.
On Drug Legalization and Addiction
AG: Do you think that drug legalization will ever be a viable prospect?
HST: Yeah, it’ll have to be.
AG: For everything, or just for certain substances?
HST: It should be pretty much across the board. Not in Clinton’s time. He’d give up anything that had to do with his brother (alluding to Roger Clinton’s drug convictions).
NJT: Do you think of yourself as a sex addict? Like you’re a drug addict and alcoholic?
HST: I don’t really consider myself an addict of any kind.
NJT: Have you ever gone a single day without taking a substance of any kind?
HST: This is the ﬁrst day in a long time I haven’t had sex.
On His Work
AG: Are you writing pretty much what you want to write? Or is there something else that you haven’t gotten to yet?
HST: I like the surreal part of a story … Now I want to see what it’s like to follow a storyline.
AG: Are you interested in writing again something in the style of Hells Angels?
HST: Yeah, I’m a professional. Yeah. I’m a hitman. I like to think it that way from the start.
AG: Since you’ve done straight journalism, are you interested in doing something totally ﬁctional?
HST: Yeah. That’s what Polo is My Life is supposed to be. Characters are a problem. And I keep running into reality. It follows me.
AG: Is your approach to writing a book the same each time?
HST: Feels the same. The details are different.
AG: What’s your favorite book that you’ve done?
HST: This one’s my favorite now. (Holding up a copy of The Curse of Lono) I don’t know why.
AG: Norma Jean told me that you and Ralph Steadman (the artist who has collaborated with Thompson since 1971) are an incredible team. She said that he’s very different from you—a very quiet little British man—but that his shadow expresses the same outrage and expresses the same beliefs as your active voice.
HST: Yeah. With Ralph, you can take anything on. He’s incredible.
On Sex, Love and Marriage
NJT: What is the attraction to girls between 18 and 23, since that seems to be your age of preference as far as sexual activity goes.
HST: Well, yeah, there are reasons … 22 is a very good age.
AG: How so? Physically?
HST: At 22 you can afford to fuck around a little bit … 22 years old is a nice resilient age.
NJT: Do you think a 22-year-old would be capable of understanding and loving you?
HST: That’s a different thing entirely you’re talking about.
NJT: You have a secret reputation as being a pretty sexy guy. Do you know about this?
HST: (rolls eyes) Yeah. I’ve heard I have that reputation … Well, I don’t know what to say …
NJT: I think it’s because you’re sort of ultra-masculine.
HST: A right-wing nazi …
NJT: Yeah, and you bring out the real feminine in women.
HST: This S&M kick is all my idea …
AG: Somebody in Aspen told us that you were getting married. To a 21-year-old cocktail waitress.
HST: (chuckling) Well, that’s interesting, isn’t it?
NJT: Do you think you’ll ever get married again?
HST: I suppose it’s always possible.
NJT: Is it possible you could still father a child again and want to be the father of a young child?
HST: That would be hard. I’d have to be a little bit addled to do that.
NJT: From personal experience, I know you to be very romantic and committed with the right woman. Do you believe in monogamy, true love, staying with one person?
HST: (enthusiastically): Oh, yeah. It’s a nice idea. Yeah. And I never inhaled. Never inhaled. Even Gore admitted he inhaled. I ﬁnd the idea interesting.
On Being a Hawaiian God
AG: Are you Lono? (Referring to Thompson’s insistence in The Curse of Lono that he is, in fact, the ancient Hawaiian god Lono.)
HST: Yeah. Oh yeah.
AG: Is there any way to qualify that at all?
HST: No. You’re Alma, right?
HST: Well, I’m Lono.
On "The Fear"
AG: Do you still get The Fear? (referring to an emotional state Thompson frequently expresses in his writings)
HST: Oh yeah.
AG: Is there a way to describe what it is? I know it seems pretty self-evident, but I wondered if you had another way to describe it.
HST: Fear is a sensation you recognize. People who’ve had it know The Fear.
On Good and Evil
AG: Since a lot of your writing seems to touch on these themes, what do you believe is true evil? What is true good?
HST: That’s impossible. Interesting question, though, in a shoddy sense.
AG: Are there any speciﬁc actions that you see as pure evil or pure good?
HST: I think treachery is pretty close to evil. Now we’re getting back to Clinton.
AG: Treachery in terms of broken promises, false intentions?
HST: Yeah. Don’t see much pure good.
NJT: Do you think that O.J. Simpson is going to get a fair trial?
HST: Yeah, I believe that in the sense of what passes for a fair trial, it’ll be as fair as trials get, I suppose … I’m not concerned about the fair or unfair aspect.
NJT: What is the most interesting aspect of the case to you?
HST: Well, I’m not sure what happened and who did what. But if he could have done that double murder, got rid of the gloves, got rid of all the blood and appeared on a plane to Chicago an hour later, leaving no clues except what the cops say he left … I’d be scared of him. I think its impossible … If you kill two people, one of them being your wife, it gets the adrenaline moving in strange ways.
On the End of the World
NJT: You said that by the year 2000, the world would be unrecognizable as we now know it. Does that include an abolishment of government as we know it? Do you really have an apocalyptic vision of the year 2000?
HST: That’s pretty clear. That has been my dictum.
AG: An actual physical apocalypse?
NJT: Like in the Book of Revelations?
HST: No, it won’t come like that. But it’ll seem to, for a lot of people.
AG: How do you think it will manifest itself?
HST: Oh, many ways. I can’t qualify my statement. It stands by itself.
NJT: Is it an economic or a moral thing? I want to know if you really believe that ﬁve years from now its going to be so radically different that it’ll be like 50 years have passed.
AG: And are the ways just too numerous to go into?
HST: Yeah. I’d have to make a list.
AG: What’s at the top of the list?
HST: Let’s go on to something else. If it’s going to snow tomorrow, I don’t think I want to sit around and list the 57 reasons why or maybe.
AG: Will people recognize it for what it is?
On the Past (With or Without Regrets)
NJT: Do you remember that time in San Luis Obispo? It was ’78. I was with you on one of your lecture tours. There was this girl who was in charge of tending to your needs, and she was driving us around and she asked, "Is there anything you need?" And you said, "Yes. Bring me some fat children to fuck!" She was so horriﬁed that she quit her job that day, and we never saw her again.
HST: That’s not true. None of it. (long pause) That may have been true—given the tenor of the times.
NJT: You got arrested that trip. It was really bad.
HST: I don’t remember that at all.
NJT: You don’t remember being in handcuffs and tossing me your address book as you were being run out of the room and saying: "Think, bitch! Think!"? I was screaming because we were on acid and I was having so much fun—and a couple in the next room thought I was being murdered. The police thought I was a minor. They called though the door: "Are you all right, miss?" Then they came into the room with their guns drawn and they arrested you! And Sandy (Thompson’s ex-wife) saw the report. And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That was the beginning of the end for you.
HST: Sandy didn’t see it.
(The phone rings, and Thompson holds a brief phone conversation.)
HST: She just called. That was Sandy.
NJT: Is that her up there? (pointing to photo)
NJT: She’s like your soulmate, isn’t she?
HST: Weird question.
NJT: That’s not a weird question. She was with you 20 years. If that’s not a soulmate, then what is?
HST: I don’t know. You’ve got your opinion, and you insist on raising your opinion.
NJT: (Sandy) actually really divulged a lot about you in Jean Carroll’s unauthorized biography.
HST: I didn’t read it. It made my life much more peaceful.
NJT: (Carroll) did a pretty good job.
HST: Well, it passed as whatever it was. It was awkward having people talking to my friends, pursuing them.
NJT: I think she did a really good job of revealing, as a woman, more than just the "guy stuff" that so many people talk about with you. She viewed you in a more whole way. And Sandy’s insights were so beautiful.
NJ: Are you afraid of death?
HST: No … No. There is no death.