Infamous author makes unforgettable appearance Comment on this post ↓
May 1st, 1978 by Warren Swil

Dr. Gonzo swigs from Wild Turkey bottle on UCSD stage

First published in the Oceanside (CA) Blade-Tribune, May 1, 1978 

Not available online. But check out the history of the Blade-Tribune

This fabulous image of The Duke by j(ay) is the 3rd of 5 sketch cards for year 3 of the Steve4MOD (March of Dimes) charity event.
It was created in August 2010. Used with permission.
j(ay) draws assorted things for assorted projects and people (you could be one!). His “junk” can be found at and

Fear and Loathing on the College Lecture Circuit: If that is the title of the next book by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, few of his readers will be surprised.
Wearing a red baseball cap, with a half-smoked cigar dangling from an over-long holder in one hand, and a bottle of beer in the other, Thompson in his inimicable way stumbled onto the stage at UCSD Tuesday night. But the audience was understanding as he placed the carryall bag containing his six-pack on the stage behind the chair he never used, and became entangled in the microphones
“It’s going to be worse,” he tells a delighted audience of about 700 jammed into the auditorium. “I haven’t told you the bad news yet.” The bad news is he is again having trouble with the airlines: It is his excuse for remaining on stage only 35 minutes. “I’d prefer to stay a bit longer if there’s anyone with a place, or an excess of places – I have plenty of money…”

He drags a red-and-white ice chest onto the stage, opens it and with a flourish produces the inevitable Wild Turkey, which has become his trademark. The crowd roars and guffaws its approval. Minutes later, after pouring the bourbon over the two ice cubes in his glass, he knocks it over (no one is sure if it was an accident or a theatrical ploy) spilling most of it on the floor.
“Gonzo strikes again,” shouts an enthusiastic member of the audience amid the general groan that rises from the crowd of mostly students. Suddenly, a bearded youth sitting in the front row jumps on the stage and finishes what’s left of the Wild Turkey. Thompson watches, apparently impressed.
It’s more a show than a lecture, really. The doctor, the self-proclaimed Master of Gonzo Journalism and renown if not respected author, is there more to entertain than inform. And the crowd loves it. They are obviously aficionados who have read of the fear and loathing in Las Vegas, who know the real story of the 1972 presidential campaign as seen through the eyes of a sociologist with a doctoral degree, who watch eagerly for the National Affairs dateline in Rolling Stone magazine Thompson is a phenomenon.

He made his first impression on the national psyche by infiltrating – and later writing about – the Hell’s Angels, a group of radical motorcycle outlaws whom Thompson immortalized after they terrorized the Northern California community of Bass Lake one Memorial Day weekend. He later gained notoriety for his “coverage” of a policemen’s convention in Las Vegas and his book on the 1972 presidential campaign, which was a collection of his stories written over a year for Rolling Stone magazine.
At times humorous, Thompson is also candid and unapologetically allows his imagination to run riot in his books. He does not claim his writings represent objective reality – rather they should be treated as the perspectives of one who looks at the world through a drug-and-booze-crazed mind, warped with cynicism and wry humor. He asks for no sympathy, and has little mercy on those about whom he writes.
He has gained a reputation for brutal honesty, but one is often left doubting whether you are reading fact or fiction. It is more his ability to combine the two into a flowing dialogue with his readers, his obvious literary talent and his extreme lifestyle – graphically depicted in his books – which turns people on.

Hunter S. Thompson is a modern-day anti-hero; he scorns adulation, even applause, telling his audience it was ripped off if it paid to hear him talk. His remarks were made in the same casual, almost careless way in which his books are written. He talked about his experiences in Vietnam (how his life insurance was canceled by Rolling Stone Editor Jann Wenner while he was on the plane to Saigon), his opinion of Hubert Humphrey (whom he vilified in his book on the ‘72 campaign) and his feelings about ex-president Richard Nixon.“My visit to Vietnam was the central event of my life – politically and in many other ways. I was somewhere over Guam, heading toward a war zone, when I was fired (from the Rolling Stone staff).” He claims to be among the last Americans to leave in the evacuation.“My main fear was about being saved by the U.S. Marines.”“Have your opinions about Humphrey changed at all” he’s asked.
“No- I resisted the temptation to write the obituary I really wanted to write for him. Nobody believes Humphrey is anything but a lying (expletive deleted) anyway.”
What will it take to finish off Richard Nixon?
“Just a little dose of the truth – that will finish him off for good.”
Why did you support Jimmy Carter in 1976?
“Carter deceived a lot of people – including me.” Later, he says, “I still have some vague hopes for Carter, but I’m a little worried about him now: he has about six months to pull himself together.”

Asked about the stories that Mexican marijuana has been laced with the herbicide paraquat, Thompson replies (tongue-in-cheek) that he is on the board of the National Advisory Board of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform Of Marijuana Laws): “What this amounts to is that five or six of us on the board are responsible for keeping Keith Stroup (NORML leader) from getting busted …
“Seriously, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s program just didn’t work. They couldn’t even stop marijuana from coming into the country – there’s more of us than there is of them. (Applause.) The DEA’s strategy is to keep the price up because they cannot keep it out.
“This is what they have done with Mexican weed, and they’ve driven up the price of Colombian 90 percent in the past three years.”

Thompson, who appears daily in thousands of newspapers across the country in the Doonesbury comic strip, says he finds it “very strange being a comic-book character. But I don’t read the funnies myself, so I don’t see it – but it’s weird being a comic character and still trying to deal with my editors and pay bills … no American writer has ever been through anything like this. I ask for your sympathy?
How does he feel about Doonesbury author Gary Trudeau? “I have never met him, but I’m going to set him on fire when I see him – I think he thinks I’m three feet tall, the way he draws me.”
What is his favorite place in the U.S?  “Texas strikes me as being the last place in the country where the American dream is still tangible – you can actually drive around there drinking Wild Turkey out of the bottle, and be admired by the police.”
Do you plan to run for office again? (A reference to his abortive attempt to run for county sheriff in Colorado on a “freak-power” ticket.)
“Only if I have to. I think politics is a form of self-defense – against politicians.”
About his latest story in Rolling Stone on the clash between boxer Muhummad Ali and Leon Spinks, he is apologetic. “I just couldn’t make the deadline, he says.  ‘Part Two (still to be published) is the real story – it will redeem part one.”Will he ever write a novel? “Yes, because I think it’s the only honorable work I can do now.”
Why did you come here tonight?
“To get some coke money.”

Reporter Warren Swil covered City Hall and politics for the Oceanside Blade-Tribune in 1978.


2 Responses  
  • Randy Baker writes:
    February 15th, 2014

    That was MY ice chest!

    Hey Warren,

    I was one of the three guys that brought Hunter Thompson to UCSD in ’78. It’s an interesting story and I’ll provide you the short version since you seem to be a true believer. My buddy, Mike Ryan and I were student managers of the University Events Box Office and Front House Managers from 1976-1980 and over time, became disgusted and dismayed by the really boring programming being offered on campus. It was mainly elitist crap from the bougy La Jollans. I mean, how many string quartets and dance companies do you need? So we formed an alternate programming club, Graphis with the dude that ran the print shop and whose name I can’t remember. (Yes, I did a lot of 70’s in the acid.) It sounds like you went to school there and you may recall we at Graphis stirred a bunch of peeps up with our events, most notably our “Sex, Drugs and Violence Film Festival”. Oh the brouhaha in the Triton Times over that! Tsk Tsk! It was innocently comprised of the short films, Reefer Madness, Sex Madness and Bambi Meets Godzilla but the Women’s Center still felt the need to mount a boycott which didn’t work. Buoyed by our successes in making a butt ton of money on our events (BTW, we spent it all, over $10K on a huge free party when we graduated in June ’80) and in invoking our first amendment rights, we contacted HST’s promoter and arranged for him to come to UCSD that night. If memory serves it was about $2,500 plus expenses. Mind you we had to invoke our first amendment rights again when the University tried to shut the event down. That’s how we ended up having to put him in the Revelle Cafeteria – it’s was the “safest” place given that HST had lit the curtains on fire at UCSB shortly before. Hey that was an accident!

    His rider contract specified that we were to meet him at the airport that afternoon with an ice chest filled with ice only, a bag of grapefruit, a Buck Knife Folding Hunter and a case of Wild Turkey. Imagine the looks on the faces of the University Events staff when we signed off on that though they did “win” a concession: no knife. So I brought him a TJ Switchblade which, it turns out, was in his opinion, “far better suited for snorting with”.

    Mike and I picked him up at the airport. He came in on a private plane. We partied with him before the show and know what? The guy was painfully shy and nervous. There’s a lot I’m going to leave out here out of respect for the man. Only with social lubricants did the HST we knew and loved manifest. So I was the guy on stage with him when the Wild Turkey spilled. He was out of his head enraged over that “smarmy and feckless” Gary Trudeau of Doonesbury who had just inserted “him” into the strip and he was by his own description so mad he was shaking like a dog shitting peach pits. Imagine my glee when he and I showed up in a picture on the front page of the Triton Times later that week.

    Let me just close by saying that from the time the show ended (the volume of substances thrown into our car as we departed was really unbelievable) to the time I parked on the sidewalk outside the San Diego airport, I counted something like 30 different felonies taking place in the car. He was late for a party at Jann Wenner’s house in LA and as we took one last leak (and a couple of snorts off his watch crystal) in the men’s room before he caught the last plane to LA that night, he said to me, you seem like a really egregiously psychotic man, here, take this knife and kill Garry Trudeau for me. I told him I would but I’ve not gotten around to that yet.

    • JOHN writes:
      April 29th, 2015

      I was a newbie student at San Diego State in 1978 when a journalism major friend mentioned that Hunter Thompson was going to be speaking at UCSD. Had read F&L in Las Vegas the year before, loving it, and we made plans to go to the event. My journalism friend bailed at the last minute because he could not get tickets. So I drove over alone to UCSD, and started walking around to see if I could find anyone selling a ticket. There was a loonnng line of people waiting to get in the door and it was well past the planned start time and starting to get dark. Losing hope of finding a ticket, I started heading for the rear parking lot. I see four guys heading my way from parking, and one is obviously Hunter Thompson. I’ll never know where I got the impulse from, but I approached HT and asked if he by any chance had spare tickets to sell as I really wanted to see his talk. I guess he was amused enough that he invited me tag along with his group as another “body guard.” I did see the cooler, and one of the real bodyguards was named John. Got to sit on a corner of the stage watching him put away quite a bit of Wild Turkey. Towards the end, a girl in the audience passed a joint up to him and when HT and the other guys left in the limo, she went along. What an evening! When I got back to the dorms and told the journalism major what had happened, he never spoke to me again.

Post a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

»  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa & Martin Black