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Hunter S. Thompson: surprised he's still here

Hunter S. Thompson

Bankrate: Is there anything you wouldn't bet on?

Hunter S. Thompson: Well, I don't do much betting when I go to Las Vegas. I don't like the machines. You know what's going to happen when you go in there, on the numbers. If you bet every roll of the dice, if you can live through your bad times, the odds are you'll come out pretty close to even, but if you don't bet on all of them, you never can tell how you're going to come out. You bet on, well, not hunches; I've been in this business a long time, you're bound to learn something.

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(At this point, Thompson takes another call, also on speakerphone, from a friend who tells him he just saw Hunter's appearance on an old episode of "To Tell the Truth.")

Hunter S. Thompson: Holy s---! No, that was my second appearance. I was on an earlier afternoon show, really early, like 1961, and Johnny Carson was the interviewer. I thought I was pretty cool; I saw an ad in the New York Times. It was a show where you paired up with a strange woman, in my case, but the point of it was, you made $50. If you have a good story and you want to tell it on TV, come on.

Bankrate: Sounds like "Who Do You Trust?"

Hunter S. Thompson: Yeah, that must be it, I guess. And when the cameras came on, my knees began to knock. I had read about that and heard about it, people's knees knocking, and goddamn they actually were. And I looked over at the host, and I didn't know Carson from Jim Baker, and he saw that I was trembling and shaking and he calmed me down. But I still lost the main prize.

Bankrate: Among your many bizarre encounters, your limousine ride with Richard Nixon during the 1972 presidential campaign was surely a high point.

Hunter S. Thompson: Oh, boy. The Raiders were playing against the Packers, which was Nixon's team, and nobody else on the press bus could talk about it, they were afraid of Nixon on football. He was known to be a hard rocker and very involved. And (press secretary) Patrick Buchanan -- I've always liked Patrick Buchanan -- he was looking for somebody to ride with the boss and talk football, and these other guys, political wizards, nobody volunteered. I was the only one on the press bus who volunteered.

Bankrate: You've been pretty outspoken in your dislike of our current commander in chief.

Hunter S. Thompson: I was candid about Nixon, too.

Bankrate: Yet you say Nixon pales in comparison to George W. Bush.

Hunter S. Thompson: Oh, yeah, he looks almost like a liberal. You look at the Clean Air Act and several others back then. Nixon was a crook but at least he operated off of an individual base. But this yoyo, this stupid little ... It's cheap opera. Take a look at your pocket. Take a look around you. It's a hold-up, a looting of the national treasury, and that's what they're doing. The combined spending of the Kerry campaign is far less than $5 million for advertising. Five million dollars, that's like a goddamned Susan Anthony dollar compared to $60 billion that is just routine going out to Halliburton. We might lose if we went to war with Halliburton.

Bankrate: You are neighbors with Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador and longtime Bush family friend featured in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Hunter S. Thompson: I can see him from my front porch. He's been a pretty good neighbor; that counts for a lot out here. He will shoot some skeet now and then. I don't want to say anything really ugly about him. He's an enlightened plutocrat, I guess you call it. Michael Moore is dead right on that, and it's even worse than you think. Bandar. All kinds of roads cross out here. Networks and wires.

Bankrate: The Bush Administration seems to have lit your fuse. Are you angry again?

Hunter S. Thompson: Very angry. I'm very angry. That's why I guess I have to write this (campaign) piece for Rolling Stone. This is the darkest hour that I have seen in my long experience as an American. This is evil.

Bankrate: As a betting man, what to you think of John Kerry's chances?

Hunter S. Thompson: If there is an election on schedule -- if -- I would say 60-40 Kerry right now. I think if we can get the sportswriter's vote, the dope fiend's vote and the Grateful Dead vote, that would make a big difference. Hating Bush is not enough. You've got to vote now in self-defense. If we have another administration like this, it will be so bad that what's happening now will look like a small breakfast for what's coming next.

Bankrate: Are you surprised at where you find yourself in life?

Hunter S. Thompson: No. Not at all. I mean, the fact that I'm here at all, yeah. But since I'm here, I'm not surprised. If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up.

-- Posted: Nov. 1, 2004




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