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tv   Peter Richardson Savage Journey  CSPAN  April 21, 2022 2:29pm-3:36pm EDT

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information for c-span's tv networks and c-span radio plus a variety of compelling podcast. c-span now is available at the apple store and google play. downloaded for free today. c-span now, your front row seat to anywhere. >> c-span brings you an unfiltered view of government. our newsletter word for word recaps the day for you from the halls of congress to daily press briefings to remarks from the president. scan the qr code at the right bottom to sign-up for this email and stay stay up-to-date on everything happening in washington each day. subscribe today using the qr code or visit to subscribe anytime. >> tonight we are celebrating a of gonzo journalism hunter s thompson at the launch of a new book by peter richardson. it's titled "savage journey:
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hunter s. thompson and the weird raod to gonzo." is published by our friends at university of california press, focusing on hunter s. thompson influence of development and unique model of authorship. richardson argues the formation was largely a san francisco story and indeed those of us can attest to this. thompson was a regular at the café just across the street from city lights so we would seem on a regular basis. his life was intertwined with northeast culture and you also you wanted on the street of hinkle from ramparts or peter has done a stellar job piecing together the trace elements of thompson's literary influences in a really compelling read we are thrilled he can grace our holster peter richardson has the critically acclaimed books about the economic rock band the grateful dead come also "ramparts" magazine, legendary magazine and carey mcwilliams
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the editor of the "nation" magazine. they will be joined tonight by none other than david talbot. i can't to give anybody better to be doing the honors david is the esteemed author of four popular history books and the founder and editor in chief of salon magazine. former senior editor of "mother jones" magazine. he is a journalist, a columnist, he's written for the new yorker, for rolling stone, the guardian, much, much more. his season of the witch is a legendary, bestseller for many years because most recent book is titled why the light of burning drinks the trance and tragedies of the second american revolution. it was co-authored with hisar sister margaret said david is a neighbor of ours. city lights. so you can easily say it is all in the family tonight. please join step in getting ani warm welcome to our evenings guests, peter richardson, david talbot. it is a great pleasure to have you both gracing our virtual halls. welcome to city lights live.
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>> thank you, peter. >> mini peters tunica with peter richardson, peter maravelis from city lights, and it's a great honor for me to be here with the author of savage journey, peter richardson. i'm very pleased to be heree tonight. i've been a big fan of peter's for some time now. i read with great interest his history of "ramparts" magazine which played a big role in my development as the young journalist. and hunter thompson did, too, i have to say. i first read hunter thompson when i was a student at santa cruz, uc santa cruz back in the early 1970s. later his coverage of the 1972 presidential campaign had a huge impact on me as a young journalist. so i read with great interest peter richardson new book about hunter. i do hunter a little bit later
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on as an editor of "the san francisco examiner." i actually had the great pleasure of editing a couple columns by hunter thompson that was late in his career of course but to me he was an icon, still is an icon. m had a huge impact on me and many other young writers and journalists in america. so delighted to be a tonight with peter. i will jump in with a few questions and then we're going to open up i think and take questions from some of you, peter maravelis will help out there, but peter, good to see you. you look like you are in colorado. where are you? >> i'm actuallyy in glen allen which is not far from where you are, but it is another spot where hunter thompson lived briefly before he decamped for colorado. actually before he moved to san francisco. >> let's talk about his san
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francisco roots. since were being sponsored tonight by the iconic city lights bookstore ins northeast, let's talk about what drew hunter to san francisco back in what, the late, the early '60s, late '50s? what. are wee talking about? >> he arrived for the first fire at san francisco in 1960, and it hitchhiked -- he had driven a rental car, or he had driven a a car across country and dropped it off at that hitchhiked from seattle down to san francisco. cs books. he was very into what the beats were doing. he didn't idolize the beats, but he really respected. especially what jack kerouac could do in terms of getting a new kind of writing. not only published by a major publisher, but you know to become a kind of publishing phenomenon. so he was very strongly attracted to san francisco.
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wanted to learn more about it by this time. he was out of the air force and had written for some newspapers. and when he arrived in san francisco, he applied for work at the at the san francisco chronicle francisco examiner fruitlessly. and he almost immediately decamped to a big sur, which was another kind of beat outpost and was also the home of henry miller who was one of one of his real heroes, but but the original poll i think was was the kind of impulse which was hadn't quite crested yet, but was was starting to give way already. neil cassidy would go to san quentin and and karawak would move back east and and alan ginsburg would would move away as well, but what they accomplished while they were in san francisco was very important to hunter thompson. and since you did write a great
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book about ramparts the legendary and very important magazine added by warren hinkle and bob shearer two great beer the area journalistic figures heroes of mine, and your book was fascinating about ramparts, you know, that was also a very important magazine from hunters development in those years wasn't early on. yeah, it was i mean really more after he had written right around the time. he published tells angels that that was in a very important magazine for him and that was a very important kind of social nexus for him. he never published anything in ramparts, but he felt very strongly connected. i actually heard from bob shear today and it's worth noting that he worked at city lights books for three years. right around the time that he was starting with with ramparts. so ramparts was still finding its feet. it had not even begun. really when when hunter thompson arrived in san francisco.
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it began as a catholic literary quarterly in 1962. it's really only when warren hinkle takes over as editor and brings the magazine to san francisco. that it becomes the legendary san francisco muckraker that that we know today. yeah, but that hunter could have really developed the way he did as a journalist anywhere else in the country or was this something about northern california in particular in those years in the 1960s? there was more open to his style of writing. yeah, i don't think there's any doubt, you know that he he i don't think he could have done it in new york. he certainly could have done in louisville or aspen or or chicago or boston. i think not only that. i don't think he could have done it in san francisco 10 years before or 10 years later. i think he needed to be in san francisco right when he was in san francisco, and he acknowledged that too much later in life even first in fear and
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loathing in las vegas. he talks about his san francisco period as a peak era. and then later on in life, of course, he comes back and works in san francisco in the 1980s, but even much later than that looking back. he said that those were my people. you know mid-1960s in san francisco. that it was really formative for him. and that's one of the arguments that i want to make in the book. is that even though he lives in in woody creek colorado for four decades after that i think in in many ways, he's best seen as a as a a bay area, right? well, he did live in the heat astrophy for some time. talk about hunter doing that period what does he absorbing? what does he learning? how is he growing as a writer during that period he was living in the heat, right? so he had he had moved down he he went from big sur up to here where i am glen ellyn not far
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from here. that didn't work out very well, and he moved to 318 parnassus avenue in san francisco near uc, san francisco. and he wasn't really cut out for urban living. he really wrapped. he would really rather live in these kind of bucolic places like big sur glen ellyn or or aspen. but i think it was really important that he did come into the city during that time. he was still writing for the national observer, which was a wall street journal or you know, dow jones publication at the time, but he wasn't really thriving there. he he attended the 1964 gop convention in san francisco. but and you know learn learn some things there. i think that was a kind of you know an important lesson for him about the modern conservative movement, but he wasn't really into politics at that time. he was really in short order. he was really trying to do what
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tom wolfe was doing. back east which is take these kind of exotic west coast subcultures and turn them into stories for big national magazines. and i'm like tom wolfe. i'd say tom wolfe to me is i i you know, someone who got a lot of credit for very little he was more of a dandy. i think hunter was really got involved with what he wrote about. he got stumped by the hell's angels for god's right? yeah. yeah, that's really important. so, but he didn't generate that story. he he left national observer kind of, you know, sort of broke off his relationship with them. he was always a freelancer, but that was his main outlet. so he needed new outlets and so he he wrote a query letter really importuning carrie mcwilliams at the nation and they only paid $100 for an article. they barely pay more than that
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now, but i mean, you know, he was trying to make a living as a freelancer. and he said i'll you know take whatever you have and carry mcwilliam said why don't you write about the motorcycle gangs because the california state attorney general had just issued a report on them as a threat to plan order. and thompson said great and you're right. he was he went straight to. one of their meetings he had he had a kind of buffer bernie jarvis who worked for it was a crime reporter for the san francisco chronicle and a the hell's angels. so he had a kind of entree and then and then he he did it was all participatory reporting. and not very many people could do that. i don't think tom wolfe could do that. i don't think john didian could do that. i mean riding with the hell's angels i think took a kind of physical courage that not very many reporters had any and hunter dined out on that for the rest of his career in a way.
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he got the kind of respect that that you know sort of war correspondence get because he rode with the angels first for a couple weeks he wrote the article for the nation magazine. then he parlayed that into a book deal and it became his first bestseller and then he rode with them for another year. and that and at the end of that year is when he got stomped by some of the hell's angels in a kind of dispute which remains a little bit fuzzy, but it probably had had to do with the fact that they thought they were going to benefit directly from his story. they said he promised him a keg a beer and he didn't pay up and he had another story but the point is that was how the book ended with his with his stomping. participatory journalism to the max let's talk a little bit about the legendary bay area
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editors warren hinkle again. rampart slayer scanlon's magazine the brief, but but very important scanlons and rolling stone. there could be no hunter thompson, of course without yan wen or the young editor of rolling stone and without warn ankle right you write about how important those, you know editors were to him encouraging the kind of enterprise thing kind of slash buckling journalism later becomes gonzo journalism. yeah, that's a really really important time for him. so so yes, he has his first bestseller. he moves to colorado even before that book comes out. and but he maintains a san francisco connections and continues by this time. he's matt warren at who was presiding over a lot of success really at rampart's magazine not financial success, but in terms of impact and circulation and you know, there's a famous story about them going out to lunch
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and and when they came back the the cappuccine monkey that that warren kept in the office had gotten into into hunters dexedrine and was tearing around the office. so they were friends they met. okay, peter. tell us a little bit warren. what a character he was. so they hit it off. immediately and and even though he who i never got him to write for ramparts. they remain friends and then um, and then frankly hunter began to struggle a little bit. you know, he signed he signed some contracts. but he was having trouble with his second book. he couldn't finish it. and that log jam didn't really break until another rider novelist james salter. at a dinner party gave him the idea to go and write about the kentucky derby. he pitched that story to warren and you know, if you don't know who warren was you know, he
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could match hunter thompson in terms of you know, the size and force of his personality and his stamina as well and he had he had a really great feeling. for you know high kind of conceptual stories, and he realized that this could be a really great way to work together now scanlons was just starting. you know, that was the first issue of scanlons. and that and so he was recruiting people actively and even though he couldn't get more i couldn't get thompson into ramparts. he did get him into the debut issue of scanlands and and again thompson thought the story was an adject failure. he thought it was going to kill his career. he was ashamed of this story. and weren't that once he saw i was ashamed peter. oh, he just didn't feel like he finished the story. he he claimed that he began ripping notes out of his.
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out of his notebook pages out of his notebook and just faxing them in he couldn't he couldn't couldn't write the story couldn't fill in the patches in the story. it just felt like just a mess that he sent to warren and warren sort of put the pieces together and polish it up. and warren said that he knew as soon as he saw ralph steadman's illustrations, and it was warren who introduced those two. they had never worked together before. they've never met. so once warren puts those two together, you know, i think it takes a little while but people begin to realize this is a franchise. so one midwifing it was kind of the midwife of gonzo journalism in a way he by pairing him with with ralph saidman, and then publishing and then scales now i misspoke. the first issue of scanlands ran the hunters jean-claude khali piece that didn't have ralph
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steadman's illustrations, and it's not usually regarded as an example of gonzo journalism, but once you put stedman and thompson together you know so thompson thought he had failed. but then everybody was saying this was a big breakthrough in journalism. and you know, he described that feeling as falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool full of mermaids. you know, the thing that he thought was a failure turned out to be a huge success. and he immediately went back to warren and said this is it. it's going to be the thompson stedman report. we're going to go around, you know to america's cup and the super bowl and the masters tournament and the mardi gras. and you know, this is going to be a franchise and we're going to turn and we're going to take those stories and and put them into book form. so he really thought he had something that the only problem was that scanlons. was already going under and there would never be you know, i think i think they published
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their last issue in january of 1971. and then, you know, unfortunately because you know, i think warren deserves a lot of credit for not just pairing those two but kind of conceiving and and birthing gonzo journalism. thompson would eventually have to find another outlet. for for that kind of work. so in some ways yon wen or who's the young editor who started rolling stone and had god has started ramparts under warren hinkle young went a really benefited inherited gonza journalism and hunter thompson from warren hinkle at rolling stone. yeah, that's that's absolutely true. and you know, i think i think john ended up getting a lot of the credit and i think warren was very aware of that. that you know the the conception of gonzo journalism was really a scandalous thing. but you know, he really didn't have i mean nobody had any
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choices here. it wasn't obvious that. that thompson was going to be a great match with rolling stone, which was still a fledgling rock magazine, you know thompson was older than most of the people who wrote for rolling stone. he wasn't a college graduate. he was an air force veteran, you know, there are a lot of ways that he didn't quite fit the mold. that rolling stone, but yon really? saw that his stuff might click with rolling stones readers. and he encouraged him. actually. the first contact came. when hunter wrote to john after the ultimate coverage came out in rolling stone. he just said that was fine was the concert that some people say was the death of the 1960s where the hell's angels pounced on a young african-american concert going and stabbed into death. right? right. and of course the hell's angels were there and and they they were responsible for life.
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what's that so-called providing security at the cost? exactly so, you know thompson thompson followed that story with some interest because you know, of course after having written about and ridden with the hell's angels, he was very very tuned in to that story and he really thought rolling stone did a fantastic job with it. they won their first national magazine award. so rolling stone was coming along very quickly, and i think you know hunter as a freelancer was always on the lookout for new outlets. he began to see that rolling stone could be one now the first couple of pieces that he wrote for rolling stone were not gonzo type gonzo-style pieces. but and you know, there's a whole story about how how gonzo much like the i was gonna ask you so peter, let's let's talk about fear and loathing in las vegas, which to me was the piece that introduced me as a young reader 200 thompson darrell said
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steadman illustrations again were of course, you know leaped off the page, but i that was a collector's item that issue of rolling stone in which hunter thompson really gave birth to ganza journalists as we know it. so my first question about that is for you to define gun so journalism for those who may not know what gonzo means what is exactly gone so journalism. yeah, it sounds like it sounds like a genre like the new journalism, but it's not really a genre. it's really just to kind of description. i think of hunter thompson's a strain of hunter thompson's work after 1970. the label was wasn't really a label at the time but his friend from the boston globe bill cardozo after he read the kentucky derby piece said man, that piece was totally gonzo. yeah and hunter had heard him use that term when they were
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both covering a primary in 1968 in new hampshire. any thought oh, well, you know, let's let's call what i'm doing gonzo journalism. so it was very successful as a kind of branding. exercise it wasn't really the name. i don't think of a of a genre. but it was it was a super important step and once again and but it was never it was never sort of the predictable result of a conscious project, you know, he was in la to cover a different story and he was working with oscar acosta the chicano activist attorney. in the middle of that research you got an offer to cover a road race in in the last in the las vegas desert outside of outside of las vegas. so he and it cost to go. he comes back writes up the story submits it to sports illustrated. they reject. so, you know a lot of people would say, you know, okay on to the next thing.
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but he is furious. he actually doubles down expands. the story was already 10 times longer than what sports illustrator wanted. and he sent it to rolling stone who he's already written two pieces for and as soon as he does, you know the people in the office of rolling stone just say, this is magic. you know again, it's participatory journalism hunter put itself himself in the in the story as well as oscar. he took a lot of drugs he fueled this kind of insane coverage of las vegas high often. he made no bones about that. he just the kind of a heightened realism to ganza journalism kind of absurdity seeing the absurdity where other people's may not other reporters who are more objective may not see it how yeah, i'm heading on some of the things. you know, that that entertain me
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when i read fearing clothing, but what are some other aspects have gone so journalism, you think well, i mean, you know first it's sort of taking the new journalism out to it's logical conclusion by putting the writer at the very center the experience and in this case the writer is not just a character but the entire all kind of reveals its meaning through his sensibility in a way. right, so so he's the indispensable part of the story. it's all about him and oscar and their invention now i would go back to some one of the points you made there and they didn't have a lot of drugs actually in that car when they went to las vegas. they had some alcohol. they had some benzedrine which oscar liked and they had some dexedrine which hunter liked and that was about it. yes, no. oh, that's one of the reasons and of course, they don't go as oscar and hunter they go as dr.
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gonzo and raul duke. and i think there's good reason to see this as a kind of. if not, a traditional novel some sort of hybrid. you know fictional form, you know, we see sort of working the crease between journalism and fiction. and i think it considering you know, this drug cache which he outlines at the very beginning of the book raul duke that is in the trunk. none of that. was there almost none of it was there. and so i think we have to start we need to think about it more as fiction than as as journalism though, of course the label remains to this day gonzo journalism and um, it's still it's still shelved. it's still classified as nonfiction if you go to a bookstore, which you should by the way. you do have you do have a way to buy books on your on your zoom. link so think a little bit about that but yeah, so it was it was
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a brand new thing for sure, but i'm not sure it fits comfortably either in us as a form of journalism or as a traditional form of fiction. well, i want to drill down on this point because i think this is the essence of hunter thompson and this whole hybrid style of writing. today i think journalism is pretty drab and you know, it could be there's no voice to it very little voice to it. it's been taken out largely in magazine writing in online. maybe his last repository. some writers have a voice some bloggers, but certainly in mainstream journalism. you don't come across voice writing the way that hunter thompson really pioneered so it could he i don't think he could succeed in today's marketplace. he had a difficult enough time
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as you write and savage journey as a journalist in those days. he has run in the 1970s, but you know, it got increasingly difficult for a writer like hunter but there's something about it peter and we were talking about this beforehand that something that has writing that god the inner truth about it. america and particularly in those years when he is writing and in the so-called lunacy of gonzo journalism. there was the kind of heightened realism a kind of truth that other journalism can't get at talk some about that as coverage particularly of the 1972 presidential campaign when nixon was running for real election and you know share with us your insights into that which you go in the book. right, so just i mean the first point to make about his coverage in 1972 then i want to trail back and see and talk a little
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bit about how he got that assignment, which i think is really important. but by the time he had collected his dispatches from the campaign trail and put them into the book which became a critical and and commercial success triumph. he had decided during loathing on the campaign trail during loathing on the campaign trail 72, right, right, so he had decided to to take this assignment. later, his work was described as the least factual and most accurate description of the campaign. and there i think you have the paradox. least factual that is he got a lot of things wrong. he didn't even try to get it right it was there was a lot of satire. there was a lot of invective. there was a lot of exaggeration. you know, there was a lot of hallucination even so you're right. there's a kind of heightened
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realism there and and you know, he was trying to get at some truths that he realized his colleagues on the campaign trail. either didn't see or couldn't express in the kind of hard news stories that their editors demanded. so he decided to to try a different way of covering the story now. in some ways he had to come up with a different way to do it because he had no advantages in the traditional way to do it. he surrounded by very seasoned reporters from major news organizations who had a lot of support who had resources who had connections who had readerships and you know, they had everything they needed. he was at the bottom of that totem pole so we had to think hard about how he could make his mark and he did that by saying i'm not going to try to do any of the stuff that they're doing. he took his own weakness and turned it into a kind of strength because he had no
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intention of coming back to the campaign trail. he didn't he could burn all of his sources if he decided to didn't matter. and so the fact that he represented a you know this kind of fledgling rock magazine from san francisco. that should have been a disadvantage, but he managed to turn it to advantage. by just telling the unvarnished true as he understood it not only about the campaign and the politicians we went after viciously. democrats as well as one republican richard nixon who he hated open. openly detested and he made made no bones about his preference for george mcgovern so you weren't getting anything like objective journalism. he just dispensed with all
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those conventions. instead he gave you the unvarnished truth as he understood it not only about the campaign but about the other media outlets . i think that's super important about his book is that he's always looking both ways. he's looking at the thing he's writing about and he's looking at the way other people are covering it so every time you read something like hunterthompson you got a good laugh , some crazy ideas and also you learned something because he showed you what was behind the curtain >> he had a radical vision i think. that's what i took from his writing as a youngjournalist . and as you point out in the book, here he is from rock rim to republican kentucky and kind of a libertarian. his politics were verydiffuse yet he saw america awash in greed and violence and war, addiction to war and frankly the country hasn't changed saall that much in the last several decades . but i think there was a kind of insane insight into what
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america was all about. >> i think that's rightand i think that's why so much of it as held up over the years . some of it hasn't, i don't think he's going to get a lot of plaudits for the way he handled the race for women, feminism or homophobia. you know, if you reread him now you're going to see that very quickly especially if you read his letters whichi think are probably his best work . you really see that's his voice but you're quite right about his politics. the only really becomes interested in american politics after he goes to the democratic national convention in chicago in 1968 . and he is traumatized by what he witnesses, by the police yriots that he witnesses there. only then that he pivots away from the kind of journalism stuff and starts taking a direct bead on american
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politicians like humphrey, like edlund and muskie,like richard nixon, like mayor daley in chicago . so really it's a kind of, it is the kind of journey in a way, a multi step journey and then some more steps serendipitous things happen as well to shape his body of work butd.let me ask you a question david . you mentioned his affinity for warren. i don't think wharton's politics wereworked out cleanly. i think hhe was also a kind of rebel .would you put that in a similar category in that way? >> i think warren is more from san francisco. he grew up here. i think he kind of along with the water he drank in, the kind of pathos, the liberal progressive pathos of san
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francisco. so i would put him to the left politically of hunter thompson. i think consciously left. but they're both mavericks and they both liked their drink and they both liked to have a good time. that was very much a part of the spirit of the 60s and 70s when they were operating at their best. so there was somethingthat linked the two. i think the kind of journalism that came out of the bay area in those years . ramparts, the early days of brolling stone before he moved to new york and even salon back during era were all examples of the bay area journalism that i think couldn't exist anywhere else and i'm proud of that and even reading some of the obits about joan dion that went on and on about what an iconic and great figure she was.
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she obviously produced, she was a great writer. produced a lot of great writing i think again and again california is not given its due and that's why peter, i'm so grateful for the work you've done over the years on ramparts and zyrtec williams and now orhunter thompson because i think the west coast doesn't get its due on the new york media still to this very day.i'm glad to see you give hunter thompson the due hedeserves . >> that's very much in my mind when i sit down to do this work. i think the funniest version or feeling that you're expressing was that the san francisco public library when the rampart book came out, warren and some of his family members and other people who contributed, the person who organized the event at the san francisco public library listened to the presentation and conversation and he stood
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up from the floor and asked the question and said seems to me iframpart had been published in new york city there would have been a broadway musical about it 20 years ago . i think there's some real truth to that the cause and the way it was an advantage to be in san francisco. because you could try new things . without fear of media failure. the kind of nurturing culture underneath it that was more experimental and innovative and do-it-yourself and collaborative . so i think all those things helped. stoermer ramparts magazine was helping out rolling stonee . >> and then all the guys that left rampart and went on to start mother jones . there was a real synergy. >> absolutely. i will talk about your process, about the archives and how you went about your
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research. then open it up i think peter mirabella's will be ready in five minutes to open it up to questions from the audience. which we are very anxiousto hear. but let's talk peter a little ybit about your process as a writer . i know you were frustrated by the blocks that you faced in trying to access hunter thompson's archives. many researchers run into similar blocks when they're doing their own work but tell us something about that and ohope for the future. are these archives owing to be open to thepublic at some point ? >> the good news is hunter kept everything . there's something like 800 boxes of stuff, mostly correspondents. he kept copies of his correspondencegoing back to the teenage years , maybe
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before that . so it's just an enormous treasure and we've seen two great edited volumes come out ofthat . both edited by douglas brinkley and if you haven't read it and if you love thompson, i highly recommend that. ithink it's some of his best stuff. not on deadline, his voice not edited . not written for money . just him expressing himself in direct and a talking way and you also see what a great literary networker he was and maybe that's why he kept everything the way he did . i think he was inspired by p some other people like henry miller who posted big sur and used his correspondence to keep his literary network that's what you have to do if you're going to live in these remote places so his model of authorship, his model was so unique that he had to do
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things a little bit differently and one of xcthem was right letters like crazy. so the letters are a great source but it's definitely the ones published in the books like brinkley , unavailable to everyone including his son. i think he's only seen archives once when he was writing his book. >> who is responsible for it being so shot? >> thompson sold it to a consortium that includes johnny depp and there have been some talk about trying to do something with it but you probably know depp's finances and personal life are a little messy so it does le make these letters at the top of the list of things he's going to get to in the short-term and also i think they may be trying to sell them. i'm not sure, to a different place. i understand they have librarians working on that . processing them and so on.
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there's supposedto be in the storage facility in los angeles right now . they may be made available, who knows but right now. >> how do you go about your research for the book ? >> you can go out and talk to people who worked with him which i did as much as i ce could . of course covid put the kid bosch on those interviews but as you probably inferred i spent a lot of time thinking about how he worked with his editors and i think they were very important but the only more important person is in terms of the success he achieved. it's easy to overlook his contributions into that franchise . and of course he didn't go to o las vegas in lost but he came up with those fantastic
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so it's very distinct about him. you couldn't go to oscars csarchive which is at ucsb. same thing, shut down because of covid but i talked to as many of his editors as i could and tried to tease out and in a word it was excruciating. as the 70s wore on he wasn't doing any new drafts, any second drafts, third drafts which he always did when he was younger. no first drafts after fear and loathing and he began to live into his persona more and more. i wasn't that interested in the celebrity. i think his biography covered his celebrity adequately. i wanted to get at what made him distinct as a writer and that's where i focus my research and my assessment. just trying to read it and then situate it using the
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correspondence and some of the oral histories so you can figure out hisdecision-making during this time . it is not a smooth frictionless process for him. it was haphazard, uneven. the stuff that made him famous took him years to figure out.those things were his most important literary assets but when he finally figured that out he stuck with it. in fact probably for a little too long. i think he was getting diminishing literary returns. when you worked with him in the 1980s, obviously most of his best work was behind him. and yet then talking to his editors about how he worked with them then turned out to be illuminating so what did you see when you saw hunter thompson in san francisco?
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>> i was an editor at the wilmer's san francisco examiner. the corporation now runs the chronicle but back in the day leo was enterprising about bringing in people like warren henkel and hunter thompson and other unique voices and dave mccumber was the newsroom editor who usually edited hunter, his columns and dave and he had a uniquerelationship and i think he talked to dave, didn't he ? >> i couldn't get him to go on the record. he said he would and that happened a couple of times. i think these interactions with hunter thompson are so valuable that i think writers were tempted to keep them to sthemselves. >> i told you this story i know peter for the book and it's my one great memoryof working with hunter . he did come into the newsroom. my colleague steve chappell
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who is a great writer described him as walking like an upgrade praying mantis. he had had a kind of herky-jerky movement, this lanky frame that was funny and interesting to watch and he as he made his way across the newsroom but i did work with him on a couple of columns. he was sick or on vacation and i always remember rewriting the great hunter thompson was me to me like retaining michelangelo and i was in that position because we were on deadline and he hadn't filed and he out something that was unprintable so i had to rewrite the great hunter thompson . i read it to him over the phone and he wasn't in the newsroom that day. i think he was up in woody creek k so there's a silence over the phone and i thought oh my god. he's going to hate whati've done. he said it's not bad . he changed one or two words and they were brilliant but
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he recommended i do more hunter thompson by then he had one brain cell probably left or to brain cells but god bless him, he still had enough i think self-respect to change my writing back here and there to make it more hunter thompson original. but he certainly literally was phoning it in by then this would have been i don't know, late 1980s i guess . and it wasn't the hunter thompson i hadgrown up with . so it was a little disappointing. but speaking of the marketplace, just the fact that he was able to break through and even in those days, 1960s and 70s with the unique way of writing, i believe the book now, the novel from the brick big 20 era, this novel long
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forgottencalled new grub street about how difficult it was for writers in that day , same thing to make a living as a writer in victorian england. that's where the book is set. written by i think writers named george gibson and it invokes the great hardships and ridiculous kind of travails that writers have to go through again and again to get published and get published for very little money so someone like hunter thompson to not only breakthrough all that difficulty and establish a workplace as a writer and establish a lifelong career that didn't end well well for him but god bless him, he still to me is a blazing nolight and i'm glad you were able to write this as much as you did and acknowledge his great contributions. >> let me say one morething about the marketplace and open it up after that . if there's time. maybe peter can guide us on
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that but towards the end in the 1980s for example he's writing for will hurst . it's interesting to me senot just because it's a bay area thing but of course he went after the first newspapers. they were a real target for him and his on-the-fly media criticism. some of it's funny, some of its funny and crass or at the examiner's expense. and then there he is working for the examiner . then he had the book and at the end of his career he's ready for espn.. oh, he served as but don't forget, espn, a quarter of espn was owned by the hearst corporation and the people that were hiseditors there he knew from rolling stone . he met will hurst rolling
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stone as well. so those networks, those connections turned out to be elvery helpful for him and when his literary productivity was declining there with these old friends. i think will hurst andespn were two of his best friends at the end . >> peter, i think we should open it up and take questions from ourwonderful audience . >> and we do have some. joseph asks can you talk a little about hunter's first novel prince jellyfish that appears in his book the songs of the doomed and it's still not ever been released. is there more to it? >> no, i don't think so. the person i look to on that is william keane's, his biographer.
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we don't know that much about it and i don't think it's coming out. i haven't heard that . i don't think he was a great fiction writer, that's the funny thing. you ou read the rum diary can see why it took solong to come out. it's so traditional . it's so powerful and precise and funny and over-the-top and all of the same time but fiction is pretty traditional by comparison . prince jellyfish was not as good as the rum diary , then i know he pitched it to make as cameron who was an editor who had been blacklisted in 1950. he was carey mcwilliams editor and very successful. he had been blacklisted. arthur schlesinger junior got
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charged and anyway. he and cameron struck up a correspondence which turned out to be super instructive and interesting but prince jellyfish never made it over the top. if anyone else is on here that knows something else, i welcome that. >> i have a question from stuart. would hunter consider nixon as a lightweight now that you have the donald.can you imagine what hewould have said about the country today ? >> yeah. a couple things aboutthat . i write in the book i don't think donald trump or his supporters or the media reaction to that would have surprised hunter thompson. he had been trying to warn us about people like this for a long time and at the time when he wrote that in the 70s for example it seemed hyperbolic. but hyperbole has its place
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and over time it seemed more prophetic than hyperbolic of all the things he was imagining about nixon who of course he despised . and i think nixon still i mention bill mckeon the biographer. he said about hunter that nixon washis muse . nixon really brought out hunter's best work because he hated him with this white hot intensity that sort of pushed his pros to a new register and don't forget after nixon was reelected in a landslide thompson writes in rolling stone a few days later comparing him to a werewolf. the problem there is once you compare nixon to a werewolf, what do you say aboutreagan ?
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or much less trump. i think that's the downside of hyperbole as well is you have less running room once you got over-the-top in the particular way but i do think that thompson got lucky in a way. that when nixon's presidency goes down in flames, sodas thompson. most of his best work comes out before nixon resigned. >> david asks can you tell us about how the friendship between hunter thompson anded bradley came to be . >> great question, not sure what the answer is there . i do know thompson he friended charles kuralt who was a cbs news guy. very early on like in latin america. in theearly 60s. they remained friends for a long time . and he had a hton of, i'm sure
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there were many of these honest all d right now. and many girlfriends, many of them have contacted me with their stories and it's all interesting but i'm not sure quite sure how he and ed bradley crossed paths.he was doing a lot ofpolitical reporting so it's not , it would be uncommon for him to run across anybody thatdid gthat kind of stuff . but it's true that they had a close friendship. and bradley would come to create to come to our farm and watch football with hunter. those there was a real kind lof social network there that was very important. hunter ran a kind of show, there was a lot of bedding but it wasn't about the betting. the betting brought them y
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closer together and hunter that with political journalists to. if you read here and loathing on the campaign trail you'll see that hunter was very proud of his record betting on the primary betting against experts , the other journalists but he didn't do it just towin or display expertise . i think he also did it to bring them closer together with his colleagues and he wasn't part of thatgroup . when he joined the campaign press corps. so the first was his personality and these other mechanisms to kind of ingratiate himself and even stand out in the press for was one of the many things that he was very good at. >> if we know fear and loathing in las vegas is a work of fiction and what distinguishes it from cadillacs on the road ? >> great question. i think that was one of the things that hunter admired about cadillac. that he was taking this
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lightly fictionalized experiences and turning them into fiction. his own experiences, lightly fictionalized and selling it as fiction through major publishers. and it included stuff about taking drugs which was very important to hunter in 1950s. his other favorite novel is the ginger man. by jr dunleavy and it's the same sort of transgression and you know, there's this trend of road at the center of thestory . and of course that was sold through an imprint that was mostly for its erotica for many years. all that was for hunter thompson. same thing with henry miller. the fact that his stuff had been banned i think for
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someone like thompson was very important. he took henry miller worldly steps and centered it towards norman mailer. they've never met, this was his introduction towards norman mailer so really it was sort of an announcement to mailer with this non-virile fiction writer, that's how hepresented himself as a christian writing the great puerto rican novel . did i answer your question? >> bill asks your recent nation piece referenced hunter s thompson comment to end as cameron. facts are lies when you write nit up. can you elaborate on what you think he meant by that? >> i think he meant there are certain kinds of truths that fiction can get at but nonfiction can't get at. certainly traditional
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journalism, objective journalism. they're going to miss some playing truths and the great example is next in. nixon knew how to play the game and the rules of objectivejournalism . so did his campaign staff. and thompson saw that and realized you u had better get at him like fictionalized, he's not worried about the promise and go for the truth of him in a way that fiction lends itself to a way that traditional journalism doesn't. another way to put it, you can get more theoretical about it. i don't think that was hunter's interest but later historiography would say just getting the facts straight is not always going to get you to the truth. that every list of facts is a
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theory in weakness. that's a theoretical concern. hunter came at it from the point of view that fiction was better at getting at this stuff than traditional stuff and i think that's what he meant. certainly his critique and tim crosses critique of campaign journalism suggested that these guys are missing. the real story is about nixon . >> and krause wrote for rolling stone alsohe wrote the boys on the bus . >> i think what they added in the course they end upwriting the most memorable accounts of the 1972 campaign . again, these are most accurate. tim crosses was probably more accurate and it was the most sustained look at the media at its shortcomings and blind spots. hunter was a little bit more
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intuitive but i think he was an astute media critic. >> i think we have time for a couple more questions. rm asks what's surprised you the mostwhile writing this book . >> i guess two things. one is i mentioned the letter' just at the end of the day , i think it's his best stuff. i didn't expect to reach that . the other thing i've already alluded to. >>. >> he wrote the letters to editors, two friends. >> he would write two l.l. bean complaining about their latest product. they just took it to a level of art. he would write to the television station rain junction colorado telling them about the garbage they were carrying . letters to sonny barger. letters to phil grant at the
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washington post. it's just incredible how many people he wrote to and came to know but the letters themselves areincredible . that's one thing. i'd read the letters but you sit with them for a while, you realize i think he knew that to. these letters might be his headstone. the other thing is and i had to sit with us a while to is he didn't know what he had. some of the stuff was almost accidental, some of the success he had.these were leading opportunities and very serendipitous, just pursuing this and then even after being successful he didn't always realize that that was his future. that dons a franchise was going to live. there'san example i don't think i mentioned which i should have . his editor wanted him, his
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editor wanted him to include the las vegas material in a second book that he was supposed to give and he said number don't let that stop the printed serious stuff. it will ruin me. it'll make a fool out of me. that's why they call it nonfiction. he had a contract to write a book of nonfiction and that's whatit came out separately. and of course it became the important thing arguably he ever wrote . but he thought, he thought if it wasn't handled just right it wouldruin him. he thought the same thing about the kentucky derby . i think that's really interesting. that at sharp guy who really knew the business and an experienced anseasoned freelancer didn't see that path even as it was opening up. once he saw it of course he couldn't walk away from it.
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we talk about that a little bit in the book as well . >> probably should have. he was encouraged to shed the gonzo thing and start reading writing in another mode. but it just was really hard for him how he worked so hard toachieve that success and even though the celebrity was amixed bag , he couldn't let that go . >> i have time for maybe one more question n. annika asks are there any future projects you hope to tackle anddevelop out of the work you did for this book ? >> the one word version, one word answer, yes. i think i had another idea but the more i think about it i'm getting advice including some from david that isi might want to keep turningon this a little bit more . because in many ways i realize after i finished this
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whole thing the last three books on rampart and hunter thompson are kind of an informal trilogy about the san francisco counterculture and of course if you add on character mcwilliams he's not a countercultural figure . it's more e left of center political journalism but some advice i've been getting from very knowledgeable people that maybe there aren't enough books about san francisco. there's certainly a lot of good ones, seasons of the witch but i think there's still some work left. i think the fact that people have responded positively to it, not just david but others is a sign. there's still stories to tell. not just for us but for a broader audience.
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>> we look forward to that next book and the thing i regret the most about these virtual events and is you can't go out for drinks afterwards. all elaine check is due to you both. thank you so much. >> a lot of familiar faces here, i don't have time to knowledge all of them plus a lot of new ones . thanks for coming by. >> at least six presidents recorded conversations in office. your many of those conversations on our new podcast presidential recordings. >> season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you'll hear about thecivil rights act, 1964 presidential campaign, both of tonkin incident, march on selma and the war in vietnam . not everyone knew theywere being recorded . >> certainly johnson's secretaries new because they were tasked with transcribing
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many of those conversations. and in fact they were the ones that made sure conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and there's. >> you also hear some blunt talk. >> jim. i don't want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy and when the day he died and the number assigned to me now and if my are not blessed i want them blessed with quick. if i can't ever go to the bathroom i won't go. i promise i won't go anywhere, i'll stay behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings, find it on thec-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts . >> house and senate members continue their state work. the senate will be back monday at 3 pm eastern. lawmakers expected to debate several of president biden's federal reserve nominees including


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