INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Monday, February 21, 2005

Adieu Dr. T

A sad farewell to the original Gonzo. Was there ever any doubt that when Hunter Thompson's time came, this is how it would end? How many drunken, hallucinatory nights could the man survive without eventually saying, "Fuck it," and reaching for one of his ever-ready firearms? The man was not one for screwing around.

I first discovered the mad Dr. Thompson in Rolling Stone Magazine in 1972. He had been hired to cover the Democratic primary contest of that year. (It was later developed into a book: "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72' ")

I remember his article beginning with an account of his conversation with George McGovern while the two men were taking leaks in adjoining urinals in a hotel men's room somewhere in the frozen precincts of New Hampshire. This is the ultimate inside reporting, no?

To digress, I find--in my lifelong study of public men's rooms--that on many occasions, the urinaters will attempt to carry on a little banter with the chap at the next urinal--usually on subjects demonstrating their wholesome proclivities (e.g., "Man, how about that Jennifer Lopez?" or "Did you catch the Daytona 500?" etc.). This chitchat not only establishes a zone of saftey, it allows the gents to make eye contact and thereby protect themselves from any inadvertent downward glances in the other guy's direction).

Back to the subject at hand, 1972 was one of the most fascinating primaries in my memory, and perhaps one of the most fateful. Ed Muskie was the odds on favorite--the establishment figure--the one most feared by the paranoid Nixon and the target of his dirty tricks squads. This was the alleged birth of such tactics, which are by now a depressingly familiar feature of all campaigns.

McGovern was the leftie and the victory of his wing of the party was often said to be the beginning of the end for the modern Democratic Party. Yet four years later, the Dems were back in power. Things always change in politics. Sweeping statements about future directions are always sabotaged by the flow of unpredictable events.

I keep reminding myself of this when I get overly depressed about what is happening to our country.

Post script: Sheila Lennon's got a great piece on HST. Check it out.

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