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June 24, 2023

Gonzoid Specimen # 1 from Duke Chanticleer 1975

Duke Chronicle piece 10/23/74
Duke Chanticleer piece August 1975
Original WAC/P? blog post 10/22/16

People don't want to accept that about themselves, that they're part of the general rot, and they react to that angrily, which is a very pure reaction, and it's good that it happened in a sense. For even the most politicized people here at Duke, they share a common dream, and that dream has to do with finding an interesting profession, a stable job that will allow them to rise on the ladder, a marriage that's stable and sustains them for a long time, a sheltered kind of environment where they're protected against not only misfortune, but surprise. There's that certainty of waking up and knowing that that day's not going to be different from the day before — it's all part of that myth. And here comes this nut on stage with his Wild Turkey swinging from his hips telling them not only is that image crap, filled with rot and corruption, but it ain't gonna happen. No matter how much you invest and how many chips you put on the table and how many graduate schools you attend and how many teachers you suck up to and how many unintelligible theses you write, it ain't gonna happen. Because somewhere at the center of this society something is broken, and it's not gonna be repaired by dreaming a myth or believing in a myth. When someone presents that kind of truth it's so incomprehensible it's really tough to deal with.

— From November, 1974, interview with

Bernard Lefkowitz, journalist and visiting Duke professor.

Reporter, ri por ter, n. One who reports; a
member of a newspaper staff whose duty it is
to give an account of the proceedings of
public meetings and entertainments, collects
information respecting interesting or
important events, and the like.

— Webster, not a Duke professor or a journalist.

gonzoid specimen number 1

Page Auditorium. October 22, about nine-thirty. This will be hard.

Leaving with the chaos vibes I kick a paper airplane that somehow got long-armed to the back rows and wonder how this will be done. Cannot find Dean Griffith but talk briefly to badly shaken Denise Creech in Flowers Lounge. Leave the poor girl alone. Deliberately shirk my responsibility to COVER (the whole) STORY and go with Jane to the CI
where people jokingly console me about having to resurrect some front page fire from the ashes of this whiskeyed journalist's "speech." I make notes. My head has been spinning all evening long from this darvon Pickens gave me for the eye infection and it makes the two beers go twice as far, so am roughly in Hunter's shape when I get around
to mounting two flights of stairs, open a closed door that says "Editor" on it. I am not up to this.

"Where have you been anyway?" David asks. The bad stare is justified, of course. I have been fucking around in the Cambridge Inn instead of transforming myself into the relentless amphetemined lemming that all good reporters are. He is used to this kind of flaming imcompetence on the Chronicle, only not so carefully planned and executed. Steve
is staring blankly at the floor, thinking, hopefully, and some Union heavies are assembled for their official backstage report to the press. Tried to find Dean Griffith, I explain, talked to Denise there a little — uh, hi Denise — but mainly went to the CI. Didn't want to go into it, really, that dinner at the pits, my eye, the coffee to kill the darvon, the speech bummer and now these beers were making me ill. My eye throbbed and I wanted to go to bed.

Steve finally lifts his head. "Look, it's manageable, it's manageable. Dan does the speech story, David, you do the Union side of it. We'll run two stories."

It is 10:30. Leave with my notebook for the managing editor's cubby hole to start typing, pause briefly to notice perhaps for the hundredth time that magic-markered gem scribbled over the drinking fountain: 'The only dope worth shooting is Nixon." At least four years old, it is — even if half-serious — a vestige of the political pretensions the Chronicle once had or pretended to have. Maybe they have never been more than nice, introverted suburban kids exchanging polo shirts and Bass Weejuns for workshirts and sandals (but with tweed in the closet), their cocktail party civility for a little rhetoric, but they could be very serious people. It was not just the political tone then, wrought through tough editorials on everything from the war, sexism and racism to scum in the garden pond, but the corresponding energies. At three in the morning in 1971 I once watched in horror as the managing editor penned a steamy half-edit essentially accusing UNC football coach Bill Dooley of murdering that player who dropped dead while running around the track. Something which could never happen now, the country, Duke students and so the Chronicle having "mellowed out." Everybody but Thompson: "No one has beaten him as bad as he deserves, and no one really comprehends how evil he is. The horror of it all is that he reflects the rot in all of us."

I grab a fat stack of eight-and-a-half by eleven yellow copy paper out of a drawer. Up at third floor Flowers the stuff is everywhere, strewn on the floor, tacked up on walls and slipped into typewriter carriages for memos between staff people. The first time I used it was early in 1971 for an article on the new West campus tennis courts. The piece is short, not very good and (to let me know this) crammed under the Spectrum section on page two. The assistant managing editor that night was very nice about it, maybe too kind, since the short messy, poorly worded blurb
would have sent most newspaper vets screaming down the stairs, doubled up in hysterics, and into the CI for sanctuary. But he printed the damn thing anyway.... Along with the yellow, the mad urgency of the NYT wire machine though not cacaphonous chugga-chugga which, being both frantic and seductive, is the perfect metaphor for
newspaper work. It never stops, and the mind tends to look back into it as you think and type. Jane, from whom night editing has robbed a night's sleep, suggests some lines. "Beer cans and an occasional joint passed
among the rows of Page as Thompson..."

Around 11 :00 Harriet from the Tar Heel calls and asks what's happening "officially" between Thompson, his agency and the Union. Tell her to talk to David or Rick or John Miller or anyone but me. I am much more obsessed with capturing on this yellow paper what happened at something I actually saw but cannot comprehend. Anne mercifully
shows up with beer and wine, John Miller stops in. Rick caiis. Spending the day with Thompson has taken its awful toll, shoving him to the brink of a minor nervous breakdown. Terrible, terrible, he moans, the Doctor started right in by ripping the headrest of the passenger seat of his Volvo, kept stopping for beers and jabbering about his need for "medicine." Could I lash together a story on this? Am I even going to attempt if? he asks.


Close to midnight there is another disturbance. A Chronicle hangout type comes in to put the mock moves on Jane, half-asleep over a typewriter. I politely tell this asshole to go away and shut the door; some screechy Bitch is croaking for my story so she can go home. Remember that guy from freshman year, when we were both new reporters and he was a YAFer with short hair, a big car and a rich father? A long-locked "radical" now, he is still tainted with that garrish piece of Detroit iron and, like many of these paper people, tends to choose his women, like the Bitch, and good buddies from Chroniclites. This practice inevitably turns up in love affairs, friendships, cliques, love triangles, frail egos and much fear and loathing on the Chronicle. Newspapers tend to breed incestuous offspring. Many new children die off quickly, the rest left to carry on comraderies and plot the editorships, ineptly pimping freshman reporters for their edit council vote in the Spring. Very arm-pitsy, so there are many good reasons not to attend edit council meetings or go on the retreats. God, drinking a lot of wine in the woods with a bunch of Chronicle people has always seemed about as exciting as playing poker with a bunch of nuns. "It's just another place at Duke for boys
and girls to meet other boys and girls," an ex-Chronicle heavy once told me. If they weren't so damn close socially —but professionally instead, he added, the Chronicle could be a really great collegepaper. Maybe so, but at this hour, who cares?

My notes are hard to read, eye hurts. Where is Thompson now? Never occurred to me to hunt him down for a statement. Is that Thompson aficianado Morris getting an interview, like he said he would, feeding the Doctor Wild Turkey and stuffing a microphone in his face? It's late, and the repetition of images has no mercy on the deadened mind. The Thompson movie keeps attacking, reeling away those jerky movements and gritty speed-laced squawks
of a whiskey man fished out of a hotel bathtub, hauled over to Page, and thrown like meat to the wired gargoyles, restless and knowing that anyone this tanked up, this crazy, is easy prey, naked lunch. Those stupid Union people, they're responsible for this — a very bad set-up, ambush, really. Suggested column for Friday's paper:

"Poetic justice and Hunter Thompson would both insist the person whose idea it was to cast the journalist in a podium/stage/lecture setting in Page Wednesday night be flogged into unconsciousness, carted out to Hillsboro in a wagon and stretched in two by sinewy field beasts, then ground into fine pinkish powder for snorting purposes..."

Finished at 1:00. I like the story. David's been in for thirty minutes and Annie N. begins to type mine, dutifully checking my messy copy for errors and suggesting changes. Cod, forgot about finishing up the edit pages but, great, Larry has cropped the Rockefeller picture for the Lewis column, Ralph, the paste-up man, will do the rest. Do
not worry, these are very competent people up here tonight. Relax.

1:30. The story is ready. After changing the pasteup a bit and correcting a few typos we have a four-column two-deck headline space to fill — tastefully. This takes two hours of rummaging through tired brains. Steve, evidently, still has great deal of energy. He is over there insisting that night editor Zipp's suggestion of "Thompson, Crowd Run Amuck" does not cut the mustard, is not journalistically or aesthetically pleasing. This starts people making up weird headlines, laughing over them. People are giddy. Around 3:00 the right head emerges: "Thompson, Audience Clash in Page Chaos." Am amazed by Steve's meticulous quest when no one really cares any longer.

3:00. Walking around, drinking coffee, doing nothing really. I watch Steve and Zipp do national news heads and jump pages. Ralph has gone home, Zipp is about to — he has a test in six hours. My body is numb but the head still a grey circus of the Page Chaos as I stare at the too-familiar-now words and pictures people will see tomorrow, while I am
still asleep. Paper goes to Mebane and I to Buchanan Avenue, exhausted. But there is no falling off so I read fifty or sixty pages of Steve's On the Campaign Trail (all the while the demon wire machine keeps beating through me) until the sun comes up and there is battered, reluctant sleep.

Thompson, audience clash in Page chaos

By Dan Hull

"Is there any coherence in this thing? I feel like I'm in a hicking slaughterhouse in Chicago early in the morning."

In a pathetic attempt to slide something coherent through his staccato mumble, Gonzo journalist Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was met last night at Page Auditorium with a bevy of jeers, curses, and a request by the Duke University Union to leave the stage.

According to Union spokespersons, it was expected that the slightly inebriated Thompson would drive away the audience if his talk turned out particularly monotonous.

Frustrated by the dialogue between the disjointed speaker and the belligerent audience, some did leave while others, many of whom were as well-oiled as Thompson, remained until the journalist was escorted off the stage.

Beer and joints

Beer cans and an occasional joint passed among the rows of the auditorium as Thompson, forty minutes late an looking more like a lanky tourist than a radical journalist, poked across the stage to the podium.

Slouching there, Thompson began: "I have no speech, nothing to say. I feel like a piece of meat," referring to his marketing by his lecture agency.

Having tossed aside the index cards on which were written questions from the audience, Thompson received few serious oral questions from the audience.

"What I'd really like to be in is an argimient," he said.

When a baby cried Thompson miunbled, "That's the most coherent fucking thing I've heard all night."

In most cases, serious questions and Thompson's responses to them were inaudible or incoherent.

Visibly put off by the belligerent Duke audience whom he repeatedly referred to as "beer hippies," Thompson was most relaxed and clear when talking about Richard Nixon.

"Nobody's beaten him as bad as he deserves," Thompson emphasized. "And nobody really comprehends how evil he is. The real horror of it all is that he reflects the rot in all of us."

"Hell, we elected him. The bastard won by the greatest majority since George Washington."

Thompson then urged the audience to "go out and vote."

Maintaining that the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago "kicked off an era," Thompson recalled somewhat disjointedly that before going there he took along his motorcycle helmet left over from his Hell's Angels days. (In the
sixties he rode with the Angels in order to research a book on the group).

"After I got there, I found out why I had brought it with me," he said.

During the forty minute encounter [he was asked to leave at about 9:30), Thompson commented briefly on other subjects.

The 1976 Democratic Presidential candidate: "Mondale."

Terry Sanford's possibly candidacy: "I hope not."

Gary Hart, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Colorado "He'll win, but he's a sell-out."

England: "A coal mine in the Atlantic. Next to a potato farm."

When asked a serious but largely inaudible question concerning the rise of consumer politics, Thompson yanked the shotgun-style microphone around the podium attempting to focus it in the direction of the questioner, a good 25 yards away.

"Violence is always sort of a self-satisfying thing," he added.

It was at this point, reportedly, that the Union people began to seriously considered pulling Thompson from the stage. Asked by someone whether the Rockefeller family was encouraging
"canabalism in South America," an incredulous Thompson tossed up the remainder of his Wild Turkey onto the velvet curtain behind him, and scattered the rest of his unused index cards.

Amidst jeering and confusion. Union program advisor Linda Simmons escorted Thompson off stage. Afterwards Thompson talked for an hour with about 100 students in the garden behind Page Auditorium.

Post mortems on Thompson's abbreviated Duke debut varied.

One rather inebriated disciple was overheard saying, "I thought it was great, anyway. Just great."

But another student remarked, "I'm totally embarrassed — ^for everyone."

A third student commented, "This was fantastic — guerrilla theater, theater of the
absurd — all in one night. Good times at Duke."

Reality is a crutch for those too weak to face up to drugs.

Duke Chronicle piece 10/22/74
Duke Chanticleer piece August 1975
WAC/P? blog piece 10/22/16

Posted by JD Hull at June 24, 2023 12:56 AM


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