Volume 74, Number 42 | February 23 - March 01, 2005


A night in New Orleans with Hunter Thompson

By Andrei Codrescu

I remember fondly a night in the late ’90s when I hung out with him at Lucky’s on St. Charles Ave. in New Orleans. Hunter wore an impeccable suit and drank whiskey all night, explicating complex mysteries in a gravelly unitone of which I understood little but loved it all. Stories of Hunter’s legendary drinking mixed in my head with Ken Kesey’s legendary drinking and followed naturally into the lore of other bohemian drinking legends like Richard Brautigan and Charles Bukowski. And before that, you could go to Hemingway and you didn’t have to stop there, but that’s a good place to stop.

Like Hemingway, Thompson took his own life with a gun. It’s the macho tradition in American literature, whiskey and guns. And individualism. After my fifth drink or so, I kind of abandoned Hunter to take a look around. Present also were Amy Carter and Doug Brinkley, and a few other folks, celebrating the end, I think, of the 20th century. As the night wore on, I flirted with Amy and played pool with Doug.

Now and then I snuck back looks at a ramrod straight Hunter holding on to his whiskey glass, looking both wise and wistful, and still talking, as far as I could tell, to a fascinated Tulane student. I thought it best not to disturb his equilibrium with any sudden moves. I told Amy Carter that I thought her mom Rosalyn was very sexy, and she blushed so hard all her freckles lit up like a Christmas tree.

A few days later, Doug Brinkley gave Exquisite Corpse a text by Hunter that we published on the front page; it was a rant-to-the-editor of Time magazine, written in the 1950s, a lovely mix of acid amusement and bracing veracity that was already pure vintage Dr. Gonzo; it was part of the letter collection Doug Brinkley edited and later published. I remember the delight of all the waves of laughter that seized me when I first read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” a delight similar to that of first reading Husak’s “The Good Soldier Sweik,” another book of vertiginous outfoxing of a hypocritical establishment by a shameless bon vivant. Hunter S. Thompson had more of a political conscience than Sweik, who just tried to survive, but both of them loved life more than their bosses. Whoever they may have happened to be.

There are a million Hunter. S. Thompson stories being told as I scribble this, and they’ll doubtlessly swell his lore and the legend. I applaud his life and his courage in ending it. Like those of his kindred spirits I mentioned before, Hunter will go on making life bigger and livelier. He played, inspired, suffered and showed us how writing is done. That’s pretty damn good.


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