BOOKS AND AUTHORS Stalking the Wild Hunter: The Three New Hunter Thompson Biographies With
BOOKS AND AUTHORS Stalking the Wild Hunter: The Three New Hunter Thompson Biographies With PM-AP Arts: Hunter’s Day
NEW YORK (AP) _ E. Jean Carroll’s voice rises to a near shriek when she describes the ordeal of interviewing Hunter Thompson for her new biography, one of three due this year on the aging Doctor of Gonzo Journalism.
During two separate weeks spent at Thompson’s legendary Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colo., Carroll downed LSD, fended off his sexual advances, hoped his many loaded guns wouldn’t go off, developed cold sores from stress and lost five pounds from excitement.
″You’re in the house, he’s shoving acid down your throat, he’s giving you major drugs. Throughout the house on every surface is a loaded firearm; on the countertop in the kitchen, he has bombs; he has bows and arrows, swords,″ says Carroll, who includes these details and more in ″Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson″ (Dutton, $25).
Thompson, 53, author of the classic ″Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas″ and ″Hell’s Angels,″ among others, is one of those rare few who live their art, according to Carroll.
″Say you make it through the day and you haven’t been shot dead. Then he backs out the car to go to dinner in town, he goes down these mountaintops at 125 mph. I would get in the car and roll up in a ball. If you look like you’ll cry, he might stop. You know, he’s been drinking all day and he’s driving.″
Carroll, a 40-ish journalist who was the first woman contributing editor at Playboy, met Thompson in the early 1980s at Elaine’s, the same East Side restaurant where Woody Allen was introduced to Mia Farrow.
Thompson wheeled around to look at Carroll at an adjoining table and couldn’t stop staring. Carroll knew why. She looked just like his ex-mistress.
″I whispered the name of the mistress and he went (nuts),″ Carroll says.
Carroll, who lives alone in Nyack, N.Y., made two pilgrimages to Woody Creek in 1991 to gather material for her book. She also met with Thompson on his forays to Manhattan. When she details the chaos that surrounds Thompson, she uses dialogue that could be lifted from one of his books.
″At Hunter’s ranch, he has peacocks. They make bull elephants sound quiet. Hunter screams all the time. It’s a bloodcurdling scream,″ says Carroll.
″While he’s working, he’ll have two young, juicy succulent assistants by his side, there’ll be porno movies going all the time and peacocks going and Hunter losing his temper. I watched ‘Caligula’ ’til I nearly died. His line is he can’t work without distraction.″
Paul Perry, 42, author of ″Fear and Loathing - The Strange and Terrible Saga of Hunter S. Thompson″ (Thunder’s Mouth Press, $22.95), and Peter O. Whitmer, 46, whose ″When the Going Gets Weird: The Twisted Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson″ (Hyperion $21.95) comes out in April, also had memorable encounters with Thompson.
″I felt Hunter’s creativity was so unusual - I wanted to know what kind of crucible this thing crawled out of,″ says Whitmer, who interviewed Thompson in the middle of a tornado in the Florida Keys in 1983.
Thompson’s last books, ″Generation of Swine,″ and ″Songs of the Doomed,″ failed to generate the critical acclaim or sales of his earlier work. Holed up in Woody Creek, where he has stubbornly maintained a lonely vigil against the ″Just Say No″ generation, Thompson is thought to either be hopelessly past his peak or just saving the best for last.
He’s under contract to Random House for a novel called ″Polo Is My Life.″ Carroll is sure he’ll finish it; Whitmer muttered darkly that Thompson will never write it.
Perry, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., is a former editor of Running magazine and Whitmer, of Princeton, Mass., is a clinical psychologist and author of ″Aquarius Revisited.″
Neither Carroll, Perry or Whitmer know why all three came out with books this year.
Perry’s book is an earnest, straightforward account; Whitmer’s is an exhaustively researched psychobiography (including such details as the topography of Thompson’s hometown of Louisville, Ky.).
Carroll’s is an odd hybrid of fictionalized whimsy and absorbing oral history. Her interviews with Thompson’s ex-wife, family and friends tell a sharper, more emotional story than the other two books. Carroll is the only one who goes into detail about Thompson’s sometimes brutal relationship with his alcoholic mother and his history of beating women.
Some chapters involve her alter ego, Laetitia Snap, an ornithologist who visits Thompson’s ranch to see his peacock collection. The fictional Snap is seduced by Thompson in his hot tub.
Though Carroll gave Details magazine the impression she had an affair with Thompson, she now says they kept it platonic despite Thompson’s aggressive overtures and the fact that he’s ″very sexy.″ But Carroll insists all the sexual details about Thompson are true since she interviewed many of his girlfriends and ex-wife.
The three writers don’t know what Thompson thinks of the books. Thompson kicked Carroll out after her last visit when the two had a fistfight. She hasn’t heard from him in several months.
Whitmer got a menu in the mail of Thompson’s favorite haunt - the Woody Creek Tavern - with the words ″PUBLISH AND DIE″ written on it.
″Hunter’s really one of the last wild men in American untouched by biography,″ says Perry, who reports being somewhat ″stonewalled″ by Thompson, as were the other authors.
″He’s very much an anarchist. There’s an anarchist core in everyone. Certainly, there’s one in me.″
Perry worked with Thompson off and on while at Running magazine. But the two ″went on different roads″ in 1988 and haven’t been in contact since.
″He’s very big on racial epithets,″ says Perry, recalling a piece Thompson wrote for him on the Hawaiian marathon. ″He called me and he went nuts. He has this high-pitched scream. ‘You can’t edit me like this 3/8 I stand for words like nigger and spic.’ He said, ‘I’m a multi-bigot. I hate all races.’ He didn’t calm down. So I put the words back in.″
Whitmer met Thompson when he was at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1960s. His ″Aquarius Revisited″ was a study of the counterculture heroes he met at Berkeley - William Burroughs, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Tom Robbins, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Thompson.
The chapters on Thompson in ″Aquarius Revisited″ got the most reaction, and Whitmer decided to do a full-length book.
″He’s an episodic individual,″ says Whitmer. ″He’s a binge eater, a drugger. When he’s funny, there’s nobody funnier. When he’s nasty, there’s no one nastier.″
Carroll agrees - on both counts.
″Hunter is one of the most fun people,″ says Carroll, almost wistfully. ″The hair on my legs grew much faster when I was around Hunter. You’ll never have more fun with anyone in your life than with Hunter. He sets you free. But then you pay big.″