After watching the documentary “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson” a few months ago, I found myself in an unusual situation at 3am… still wide awake. Something about the whole thing had me riled up but I couldn’t figure out exactly what that thing was.
There was only one person I knew who might possibly have seen it. Since he gets up at some insane hour of the morning, I couldn’t call him and say, “Hey, this doco pissed me off for some reason and what did you think of it?” and “What the fuck? Johnny Depp, what the fuck???”
So I tossed and turned and when I finally did get to speak with him about it he couldn’t figure out why I was so worked up. OK, I admit it. He had a point. Nevertheless, I felt that something was terribly wrong with what I’d watched. And by the time I got off the phone I knew what had me pissed off. It was the deification of Thompson that had done me in.
Hell, why deify Thompson? He’d already done that himself… and made sure the faithful had an altar to gather around before he blew his buggy brains out. A big phallic altar in what had been, up till then, a pretty nice looking landscape. Sure, yah yah yah, Gonzo journalism gave us a few good quotable lines. But was Dr. Thompson enough of a genius to be a great writer without being drunk and/or stoned?
Or should that even be a litmus test for genius-ity?
What drew me into this brain drain again tonight was watching “When You’re Strange, a film about The Doors” that aired on PBS as part of the fabulous American Masters series. Again I found myself thinking, “There is nothing genius about being a stoned and drunken asshole! Do it sober and let’s see how much of a genius you really are.”
Was that really me thinking that? How the heck did I get to this point? Am I turning into my mother? After all, from age 14 through 30-something I rarely spent a day without some sort of drug or alcohol in me. I’d enjoyed Thompson’s writing back when. I was a huge fan of Morrison and The Doors back when too (still love ya, Ray). So… what is the problem?
I finally realized the drinking or drugging bothered me not at all. If people are driven or willing to go to the edge (or over) so they can reach inside and bring out a masterpiece or two or three then I say hurrah for them! And a round of absinthe and hydroponics for all of my friends! (wait, wasn’t that Mickey Rourke doing Bukowski in Barfly?). At any rate, I’m thankful to them all for the brilliant books or films or music or paintings or whatever it was they left behind.
What had me ticked off was the super-gigantic hypocrisy of worshiping the insanity rather than the work itself. The hypocrisy of a culture that raises drunken, drugged artists of one sort or another to ridiculous heights (and even ridiculously higher heights if they die young and/or commit suicide) and at the same time acts concerned about the ‘drug problem’ in this country and votes against legalization of medical marijuana and carries around plastic bottles of hand cleaner lest a germ land on their over-exercised stick bodies. The hypocrisy of living vicariously through a dead person.
And so what… what the fuck about Johnny Depp narrating the Hunter S. Thompson documentary?
Johnny Depp is the epitome of coolness. C’mon, just look at him! But it annoys me that he avidly worships screwed up nut bags. Hell, I too thought it was outrageously funny that Keith Richards told the world he’d snorted his father’s ashes! Bah, I was so disappointed when he crumbled under the outraged bluster of the washed masses and said he’d been joking… but… we know… he really did it! Still and all Johnny… Thompson too?
Now that I’m looking a bit closer, Johnny, you’re looking a little too old to be wearing your costumes on the street. Something I happen to know about since I do the same thing. I caught sight of my reflection in a window last year… black rasta hat, black jumper, sparkly shirt, old Docs…
“If I had a mustache I could be mistaken for someone’s Italian great-grandmother.”
… And now that I have my Gonzo and The Lizard King and Mr. Depp puzzlement figured out and out of my head… I’m off to watch Jimmy Fallon.