“Did you hear? They found a dead student underneath the stage,” Hunter growled, giving me quite the wake up call at the Brown Hotel in Louisville the morning after his “Tribute.”
“This is going to look terrible in the local papers,” I thought, certainly overshadowing the key to the city Hunter had received upon his return to the scene of so many boyhood crimes. But, I wasn’t surprised; after the crowd had gone crazy and set the Green Room on fire at the Memorial Auditorium, the dead student seemed not only possible, but likely. I felt a rush of guilt – a sensation Hunter rarely, if ever, experienced – and knew I shouldn’t have left the venue so quickly.
“Jesus! When did they find the body?” I asked.
“This morning,” Hunter replied with a bit of hesitation, giving me hope.
“What killed him?”
“Nothing! Just kidding. But after you pissed that mob off it could have happened,” confessed the inventor of Gonzo Journalism, employing one of the central devices of his genre: if it “could have” happened in a dramatic fashion, then why not say it actually did if it makes your point? And, if the hyperbole is funny, you must use it.
After the dead student trick, I almost didn’t give the Beast the good news, but I couldn’t help myself.
“I met a woman last night who wants you to autograph her ass. Seriously!”
“Interesting. Tell me more about this woman,” said Hunter.
Raven was her name, at least her stage name. She was a stripper that I met in a club down the street from the Brown Hotel. After the Tribute event my friend Mark and I caught up with Hunter and his sea of admirers in a bar for a couple of drinks, and then parted ways. Hunter left with Sheriff Bob to take a local poetess home, a drive the Sheriff later described fearfully: Hunter made Bob sit in the back while he squired the poetess, driving to her front door at high speed on a narrow sidewalk between stately elm trees and a rock wall
At the same time, Mark and I were admiring the view of Raven on the other side of town. She came over and had a drink with us after her performance and asked what we were doing in town. I explained we were filming an event over at the Memorial Auditorium, a tribute to Louisville anti-hero Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
Raven brightened at the mention of the name. “I love Hunter Thompson,” she cooed. “He’s my favorite author. I’ve always had this fantasy of having his autograph tattooed on my ass. It would be quite something to see when I’m on stage, don’t ya think?”
“I don’t know if Hunter has the patience, or the skill, to do a tattoo,” I ventured, “But you’re talking to the right guy. I’m his Road Manager.” I could see this girl was quite serious about the tattoo, and had thought about this before, given her quick answer.
“All he has to do is sign my butt with a Sharpie, you know, those indelible markers, and then I’ll have a real tattoo person trace over it with the needle,” she countered brightly.
“Call me at the Brown Hotel before noon, and there’s a chance you’ll get your autograph,” I suggested.
The next morning, not long after Hunter’s dead student wake up, Raven called my room. I told her to be in the lobby at 1pm. Hunter planned to visit his Mother in the rest home and said the stripper could ride in the car. He’d do the autograph on her ass along the way.
Raven was in the lobby promptly, clutching a half dozen medium and fine point black and red Sharpies in her hand. Funny how in the light of day, most strippers lose some of their allure. Yet, Raven was still quite attractive, just a bit more zaftig than I remembered. She certainly had a good, broad canvas for the Gonzo autograph.
Sheriff Bob showed up first in the lobby to drive Hunter to see his Mom. I explained Raven’s presence, and while we waited Bob, told me about his dinner bonding with Warren Zevon the night before. They were now the best of friends. Bob would eventually make Warren an honorary Deputy Sheriff after we did the Free Lisl Auman rally in Denver in 2001. You can see the rally in my film Free Llsl: Fear & Loathing in Denver.
“Zevon’s really pissed off about getting old. He’s losing his hair, and he can’t get laid so easy on the road anymore,” Bob reported sympathetically.
“That explains the wig,” I thought. Interestingly, Zevon only wore the odd wig in rehearsal (see Louisville – Part One herein), not for the performance. Perhaps he took a good look at himself in the mirror.
Sheriff Bob related his fearful story of Hunter driving the poetess home the night before, and concluded, “Today, I’m driving!”
Hunter eventually lurched into the lobby. I introduced him to Raven, and loaded them into the car, the Sheriff behind the wheel in the front and Hunter in the back with Raven, her handful of Sharpies at the ready.
“Done deal,” I thought, as they pulled away. Getting Hunter to give autographs, or sign a book, was always problematic. But, with the Beast stuck in the back seat with a girl who wanted to bare her butt for his penmanship, I figured it a sure thing for Raven.
Sheriff Bob told me what happened on that Kentucky drive on the long journey back to Aspen the next day. Rather than going directly to see Hunter’s Mom in the rest home, Hunter first had a secret mission in mind: he wanted to visit an old girl friend many miles away on the Indiana border. After hours of driving to Indiana and back, Bob, Hunter and Raven finally made it to the rest home where Bob sat with Raven in the car trading backgrounds for an hour or so while Hunter visited his Mom. In the end, Raven never got him to autograph her ass, despite riding in the car with him for the whole afternoon and into the evening.
Perhaps Hunter thought he was doing her a favor, not leaving her with the Gonzo Brand to explain to potential suitors for the rest of her life. More likely, he found Sheriff Bob’s presence in the car inhibiting, or he simply enjoyed her company – Hunter always needed a pretty girl at his side – and feared that once he gave the autograph she would be gone.
In Louisville I learned that you find Gonzo fans in the oddest places, and the Gonzo Brand or HST quotes tattooed on more people than you might imagine. I’m just sorry that Raven didn’t get hers. Or maybe she did, and Bob and Hunter, being the gentlemen they are, never told me the truth.
Copyright 2010 by Wayne Ewing