The call from Hunter woke me up at 1am. I had been expecting it, but had fallen asleep in my cabin on the Frying Pan River. We had finished The Rum Diary in the summer of 1998, and the marketing of the novel was starting in late August. A journalist from the London Observer was expected to interview Hunter that night, but he was sick with the flu and did not get up until almost midnight.
“I feel like hell, but you might as well come up and shoot this,” he sneezed, more than said.
I headed out for Woody Creek quickly. In those days my cameras were always loaded, charged, and ready to go. If I had hesitated, this scene would never have been captured. In the morning when I returned home I found a new phone message from Hunter waving me off, saying he was too sick to film and not to come. But I was already half way there.
Marianne Macdonald – the writer for the London Observer -provided quite a bit of fodder, not just for this series of webisodes, but also for my first film about Hunter – Breakfast with Hunter – where he describes to her his early life as “The Billy the Kid of Louisville.” For that I am grateful to her. But after her piece was published, both Hunter and I considered her to be a treacherous violator of the rules of the Owl Farm kitchen. The cardinal precept – along with “Never Call 911 – was “What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen” unless otherwise authorized by Hunter to be revealed. He specifically asked Ms. Macdonald not to write about his open use of a certain white powder at times during the night. Otherwise the interview would be over before it started. She agreed, and then went on to make his use of the substance the lead of her piece in the Observer. I guess she thought it was big news that Hunter Thompson did drugs.
Ms. Macdonald then went on to describe me as a “camp-follower” which is a euphemism for a “whore.” While that may be true, I’m not sure how she came to that conclusion so quickly.
Unfortunately, I can’t find her original 1997 article on line, but did find this recap of that night written by her in the Sunday Times after Hunter died. She’s still writing about the white powder, and I’ve risen to the stature of “a sort of camp-follower.” Yet, her recollections of that evening are still interesting in a Roshomon sort of way.
If nothing else, Ms. Macdonald is a good reader of orgiastic scenes, and this particular one and the character involved – Chennault – will continue as a theme in The Rum Diary Back-Story.
Stand by for more