Friday, November 10, 2006

Gonzo loves company

There's always room for a good Raoul Duke anecdote:
Thompson and Steadman were first thrown together in Louisville to cover the Kentucky Derby of 1970. Steadman had a nervous breakdown from trying to keep up with Thompson's levels of substance abuse, and because halfway through the week Hunter rounded on him, accusing him of insulting (ie, drawing) his "friends" in this, the town where he grew up, which he actually hated. There is a portentous description of how Thompson drove, juggling iced whiskey, can of beer, and cigarettes - "he was the sort of driver who could never be a passenger".

This was Steadman's first confrontation with America in all its rotund, aggravated bonhomie, its "screaming lifestyle". As an artist, it was a nightmare to find himself so deranged: "The drawings told me everything. I was out of control. They were the scribbles of some raving drunk. This would not do at all." At times, Steadman sounds too much like Thompson, but what do you expect from the surviving half of the Chang and Eng of the frayed side of the 70s? For the next 30 years they rubbed along, producing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, books on marathons, Watergate and the strangeness of the world. Their friendship was like that of a comedy team, though Abbott never attacked Costello with chemical mace. Twice.

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