Gonzo and the SS

October 2, 2014

hunter-s-thompsonNear-crystal clear this early Thursday on California’s north coast, bright sunshine tempered by a chilled breeze — scheduled for the mid-70s today, maybe even 80 tomorrow.
Odd, a frost advisory just a few miles inland.

Still big news out yonder is the oddly-shaped collapse of the US Secret Service — a way-simple tale told on tape, bungled and all.
A reality fable which in the depths of memory, reminded me of that guy, pictured to the right, the good-Doctor Hunter S. Thompson, who in his time, occasionally ended upon the ‘Service‘ funny list.

(Illustration found here).

Thompson was one of my all-time favorite writers — long before he became near-iconic as he is now — going back to his original stories in Rolling Stone during the 1970s. He still has the way-best political campaign narrative, “Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72,” and coupled with Timothy Crouse’s “The Boys on the Bus,” what a wonderful view of naive, long-ago political shenanigans from the typewriter and beyond.

A first memory of Thompson’s connection to the Secret Service came from the pivotal Rolling Stone story in June 1976 — I couldn’t find any original excerpts anywhere online, except this from a Thompson archives site:

RS 214 (June 3, 1976) is probably one of the most influential pieces of political writing.
Although HST did not officially endorse Carter (he has often said that endorsements are something a journalist shouldn’t do – SoD – and was furious at Jann), the issue was headlined, “Jimmy Carter and the Great Leap of Faith, An Endorsement With Fear and Loathing by Hunter S. Thompson”
This is one of the funnier political articles by HST.
He isn’t really raging at anyone, but was shockingly surprised by Carter’s apparent honesty.
The article contains a fake press release by Raoul Duke.
My favourite part of the article is where HST describes how the Secret Service agents gave him the key to the car trunk to get Wild Turkey over and over again.

And if I remember correctly, Thompson started calling the Secret Service agents, ‘SS,’ during that particular evening, a Carter speech at a law school graduation in Atlanta, Ga. — and after a few trips to the Wild Turkey, Thompson most likely said a lot of shit. I’m inclined to remember somewhere it was said the agents didn’t care for it too much.

The other, I found during research a bit this morning, very funny and off an incident in 1987 in which Thompson told a speech audience at Marquette University in Milwaukee George HW Bush — George Jr.’s daddy — should be stomped to death: It’s not just that he compared Bush to Nazi follower Albert Speer, or called him the “meanest yuppie who ever lived,” or described him as an “evil demoniac politician.”
The truth of the matter is “we were talking about guilt, and I got carried away,” Thompson admits. “I said in fact that George Bush is so guilty that if you of the Jesuit persuasion believe what your faith believes then you would have to stomp George Bush to death.”

In a 1987 interview with writer, P.J. O’Rourke (via the New York Times), Thompson discussed the incident:

O’Rourke: Recently you told a college audience at Marquette University, “George Bush should be killed. He should be stomped to death, and I’ll join in.”
H.S.T.: O.K., that’s two federal crimes of five years each.
O’Rourke: Will you get indicted now, because we put that on tape?
H.S.T.: No, no. I explained it all to the Secret Service.
See, I know about guilt, and I know about politics, and as I told the students, the guiltiest man in politics today is George Bush.
He’s at the root of this whole Iran-contra thing.
O’Rourke: How did the students react?
H.S.T.: Hey, they cheered!
Then I called for a voice vote. It was two-thirds to stomp him.
Meanwhile some … maniac recorded it and took it to The Milwaukee Journal.
And the U.S. attorney in Milwaukee was about to indict me on two felony charges: five years for threatening the vice president and another five for inciting others to do it.
I was on my way to cover the Iran-contra hearings for The San Francisco Examiner, and I started getting calls from the Secret Service.
O’Rourke: Did you answer any of those calls?
H.S.T.: Not at first, because I thought they were cranks.
If it was important, they’d leave a message.
And then the Secret Service showed up at The Examiner and at my lecture agency.
I realized they were serious.
So I called the Secret Service guy in Denver, Larry Hoppe. And he was very nice.
And I said, “What’s going on here, man?”
And Hoppe said, “Dr. Thompson, let me tell you one thing: I would advise you not to go to Washington without talking to me first.”
So I said, “Come on over. What the hell.”

He had a pretty good sense of humor.
He said, “Well, you can’t say that he should be strung up. If you say that to people, whap! Ten years.
You can say he should be tarred and feathered.”
And I said, “Wait a minute. I don’t grasp it. I would almost rather be strung up than tarred and feathered. What’s the difference?”
And Hoppe said, “I don’t know.
“That’s the way it is. Don’t go out anymore and threaten to string George Bush up or stomp him to death.”

And the fall of the SS — or the redesign.

One interesting note in the shake-up/debacle currently raging at the Secret Service, was this little bit from now-former Director Julia Pierson at the end of a news story at SFGate:

In an interview with Bloomberg News after her resignation was announced, Pierson said she recognized that “Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run the agency.”
She said she met Johnson on Wednesday and “after that discussion I felt this was the noble thing to do.”

Odd, the ‘noble’ part — on many levels.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.