Hunter S Thompson Gonzo – My Fear & Loathing NYC ’72

I first met Hunter on St Patrick’s night in NYC in the early 70s. I knew the streets would be full of celebrating Irishmen, so I put a white shirt on back to front and wore a long black trench coat and walked to his hotel pretending to be a priest, holding my Hindu meditation beads which doubled as a rosary to the Irish revellers. This was in the days before I became and Buddhist and abstained from drink and drugs. New York was buzzing with St Patrick’s day celebrants. Along the way many swaying Irish drunks stopped me and asked me for a blessing and it was one way to get through the crowds quickly.

My friend Boz Scaggs had set the meeting up with Hunter via his lawyer. I’d been working with him in London on the Boz Scaggs and Band album. I shot the cover and co-wrote three songs with Boz, the album was recorded at Olympic Studios produced by The Stones producer Glynn Johns. I arrived at the legendary literary Algonquin hotel and the concierge directed me to Hunter’s suite. I rang the doorbell and a voice hollered back in an aggressive and rough voice, “What do you want” shouted through the door.

‘It’s Clive,” I ventured we have a meeting about your movie”, there was a clattering of what sounded like cans, then Hunter let me in, where he shambled into the room and then slumped down onto the floor leaning back in an open fridge which had, had it’s door aggressively removed by Hunter.

“Too damn hot in this hotel,” he barked while sitting amidst a pile of beer cans, some empty some full. He offered me one and we drank from his supply of unopened cold brews.

After going through the ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ book pages, I pointed out that in the Police convention chapter, we would not be able to use real iguanas and reptiles as they would not stay still under the lights and in the studio so we would have to use prothetics. Hunter insisted that we must use “real live creatures” and we kept on going back and forth on this issue with my arguing that it might be somewhat chaotic, having that many live creatures involved would be impossible. If we did that I said ‘we’d have to nail their claws to the bar and that would not work, apart from the fact that it would be really cruel.”

After numerous alcoholic concoctions and very animated arguments fuelled by additional stimulants, (that were in copious supply), I staggered into a yellow cab back to my Madison Avenue pad. I thought Hunter is a Gonzo genius but I don’t think Hunter grasps the complexities of filming animals in a convincing way. I didn’t think anything was going to happen with it and it didn’t. I rang Boz in San Francisco and he asked how it went and I said, “I don’t think it’s going to happen as we have totally opposing views on how to make something visually literate.”

After the film was made by Terry Gilliam, Hunter was interviews by Rolling Stone. My vegan girlfriend showed me the article in which Hunter had said I was originally going to direct the film but he couldn’t work with me because I had insisted on “nailing iguana’s feet to the bar.” I could not believe it when she told me this, I had in fact said the opposite so I had to defend myself from this misinterpretation decades after the original conversation when the film came out. The film was shot mostly with very wide angle lenses which I have to say did not reflect my personal experience of LSD.

An assistant of mine later unearthed footage of Hunter commenting on different pitches for ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ one of which was partly animated where he actually said “I don’t want any animation, I should have done the film with Arrowsmith.”

These pictures were taken for Ritz Magazine long after our New York meeting. David Lichfield said to me one evening “Come over to this Mexican restaurant in Covent Garden, there’s a friend of yours here, bring your camera.”

I walked in and Hunter shouted in his gruff voice ‘Oh my God, not Clive, he’s madder than I am.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.