Hunter S. Thompson Gets Confronted by The Hell’s Angels (1967)

In 1965, the edi­tor of The Nation asked Hunter S. Thomp­son to write a sto­ry about the Hel­l’s Angels Motor­cy­cle Club, as they’re offi­cial­ly known. The arti­cle quick­ly led to a book deal, and, the next year, the Gonzo jour­nal­ist pub­lished Hel­l’s Angels: The Strange and Ter­ri­ble Saga of the Out­law Motor­cy­cle Gangs. Review­ing the book for The New York Times, Leo Lit­wak wrote:

Hunter Thomp­son entered this ter­ra incog­ni­ta [the world of the Hel­l’s Angels] to become its car­tog­ra­ph­er. For almost a year, he accom­pa­nied the Hel­l’s Angels on their ral­lies. He drank at their bars, exchanged home vis­its, record­ed their bru­tal­i­ties, viewed their sex­u­al caprices, became con­vert­ed to their motor­cy­cle mys­tique, and was so intrigued, as he puts it, that “I was no longer sure whether I was doing research on the Hel­l’s Angels or being slow­ly absorbed by them.” At the con­clu­sion of his year’s tenure the ambi­gu­i­ty of his posi­tion was end­ed when a group of Angels knocked him to the ground and stomped him…

Hunter Thomp­son has pre­sent­ed us with a close view of a world most of us would nev­er dare encounter, yet one with which we should be famil­iar. He has brought on stage men who have lost all options and are not rec­on­ciled to the loss. They have great resources for vio­lence which does­n’t as yet have any effec­tive focus. Thomp­son sug­gests that these few Angels are but the van­guard of a grow­ing army of dis­ap­pro­pri­at­ed, dis­af­fil­i­at­ed and des­per­ate men. There’s always the risk that some­how they may force the wrong options into being.

This clip, which aired on Cana­di­an tele­vi­sion in 1967, describes the cir­cum­stances that led up to the Angels giv­ing HST a beat down. The misog­y­ny that’s on dis­play will make you shud­der.


Relat­ed Con­tent

Hunter S. Thomp­son Inter­views Kei­th Richards

John­ny Depp Reads Let­ters from Hunter S. Thomp­son

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Comments (21)
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  • Kristofor says:

    Gonzo jour­nal­ism needs to be revived. Fas­ci­nat­ing stuff.

  • Rosa says:

    “To keep a woman in line you have to beat them like a rug some­times” *applause*
    Hor­ri­fy­ing. Absolute­ly hor­ri­fy­ing.

  • Hunter S. Thomp­son clear­ly made the mis­take of try­ing to stand up for a bat­tered woman and got beat up for it. Son­ny Barg­er does­n’t have even a frac­tion of the wit or intel­lect of HST but takes over the inter­view by not let­ting Hunter get a word in edge wise. It shows that HST was spot on in his syn­op­sis of the Angels as intim­i­dat­ing morons. Bot­tom line: Son­ny Barg­er = King of a bunch of losers; HST = insight­ful and gift­ed lit­er­ary mind. Read HST’s book and not Barg­ers because HST gained more insight into Barg­er’s club in one year than Barg­er did in a life­time.

  • Aaron says:

    Just fin­ished read­ing the book and decid­ed to dig deep­er into the end­ing con­fronta­tion at which point I came across this atros­i­ty. I am aston­ished at the deprav­i­ty of the audi­ence. Hon­est­ly, who the hell laughs at some­ones old lady being beat­en like a rug. And then on top of it kick­ing his dog.….. what? And fur­ther still, Hunter does­n’t even get his side of the sto­ry in. Upset­ting to say the least. Any­way, still try­ing to find an accu­rate por­tray­al of Hunters side, if any­one can help in the search???

  • Art says:

    To W.C. Coon: That was­n’t Son­ny Barg­er. His name is, as best I can here it in the intro­duc­tion, ?Seth? Wort­man.

  • Dave says:

    HST is like the skin­ny kid who hangs out with the tough kids for a week and there­by enhances his pres­tige with the oth­er 99% of kids sim­ply because he went near the tough kids. Then he self-aggran­diz­ing­ly dis­torts what actu­al­ly hap­pened and is called a lit­er­ary genius for doing so. I respect the Hel­l’s Angels for at least being hon­est moron bar­bar­ians.

    • Gao Ping Pong says:

      He was a skin­ny kid with amaz­ing writ­ing skills, who appar­ent­ly had big­ger balls than a lot of his con­tem­po­raries. Get over it.

  • Swine Hoore says:

    Hunter S Thomp­son was an Amer­i­can Hero

  • cbm says:

    Hunter’s book will be 50 years old in two years. I just got fin­ished read­ing it for the sec­ond time in 40 years. It is as con­tem­po­rary as if it were were writ­ten last week. In his life he embod­ied more brains guts and integri­ty than the whole pack of so called out­laws he describes in this book. He will be read and remem­bered 50 years hence. How many of these van­dals that he wrote about will be remem­bered for any­thing beyond his men­tion of them in this book. NONE.

  • WildBoB says:

    Hunter S. Thomp­son is one of my hero’s. I am a print jour­nal­ism major and think some of his work was, and will con­tin­ue to be, the most influ­en­tial ever writ­ten. I am proud to call him a fel­low Ken­tuck­ian, and every year I work behind the lines, and right out in the mid­dle of the chaos, of the Ken­tucky Oaks and the Ken­tucky Der­by. Like Hunter, I see with the right kind of eyes, the deca­dence and deprav­i­ty he saw so many years ago. I am grate­ful for the lega­cy he has left behind and look for­ward to keep­ing him alive by rec­om­mend­ing absolute­ly as many of his works as pos­si­ble to any­one who will lis­ten. For me, he is still alive because I have yet to read “Hel­l’s Angels” and look for to it with great antic­i­pa­tion. I have heard a decent about it because of a research paper I wrote on HST life. But in due time, I hope to make my way through this inter­est­ing and unusu­al work. I mean, could you see great jour­nal­ist like Bod Wood­ward, Wal­ter Cronkite, Ted Kop­pel, Sam Don­ald­son, or even Michael Moore report­ing the in depth, nit­ty-grit­ty, in your face, no holds bars, leave no stone unturned type of sto­ries that Hunter S. Thomp­son churned out. No, prob­a­bly not. One of the main rea­sons is when Hunter saw bull­shit, he called it bull­shit. He did­n’t dance around and give is pret­ty PC names like every­body want­ed. Bull­shit was bull­shit, and the peo­ple need­ed to wake up and smell it! (And they still do!) I respect him for this, and live this phi­los­o­phy in my own life. Yea, some peo­ple don’t like it, but oth­ers respect you and praise you for it. They think it is the brave, hon­or­able, intel­li­gent, whit­ty, sharp, ful­ly con­science and aware action to exhib­it. My biggest hope is that future gen­er­a­tions take this to heart and don’t just fol­low orders. Think for your­self and learn to call bull­shit when you hear it, and most of all, don’t be afraid to call “bull­shit!” So long all you great patri­ot­ic Amer­i­cans out there and don’t let the swine get you down!!! You are always in my thoughts and I’m
    for­ev­er in your debt.

    Miss you Hunter,
    Your fel­low Ken­tuck­ian,
    Kyle G. Shadoan

  • James says:

    What’s tru­ly hor­ri­fy­ing is that Amer­i­can men and women are applaud­ing the state­ment “Some­times you have to beat a woman like a rug to keep her in line” as Hunter Thomp­son sits in dis­be­lief.
    It is as if they all agree that he was out of line for try­ing to stop it and that what mat­ters most is that the busi­ness of an indi­vid­ual who does some­thing like that remains pri­vate and pro­tect­ed. Sad­ly it seems to still be the men­tal­i­ty with so many Amer­i­cans to this very day.
    Hunter Thomp­son
    You cer­tain­ly earned and deserve some peace.

  • Toad says:

    “I agree.”

    Hunter Thomp­son, at 5:27 of the clip.

  • Toad says:

    “To keep a woman in line you have to beat them like a rug some­times” *applause*
    Hor­ri­fy­ing. Absolute­ly hor­ri­fy­ing.

    “I agree.”

    Hunter Thomp­son, at 5:27 of the clip.

  • mark johnson says:

    Hate to ruin your Amer­i­ca bash­ing but those were cana­di­ans and that was cana­di­an tele­vi­sion. I’m sure the sen­ti­ment was the same in north amer­i­ca and europe at the time though but every­one’s come a long way toward chang­ing their atti­tude towards vio­lence against women. I’m sure you think it’s still ram­pant but that’s just bias and not fact.

  • William says:

    Look at Hunter! He’s just a baby in this clip! Obvi­ous­ly, looks are deceiv­ing; Colonel Thomp­son was any­thing but a “baby”. He spent over a year prac­ti­cal­ly liv­ing with the Bay-area Hells Angels…! That took some seri­ous cojones. I could­n’t have done it. Any­one who believes he was mere­ly a skin­ny los­er who hangs out with the tough guys just to coun­ter­feit his cool is off their rock­er.

    My old­er broth­er had “Hel­l’s Angels”, so I knew who Hunter was, but it was­n’t until Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas that I learned to appre­ci­ate Hunter. A year or so after his Gonzo rev­e­la­tion, I think. He invent­ed an entire new style/genre/technique, what­ev­er you wan­na call it: Gonzo is what it was! Some­one else came up with that name, though. Every­thing else was all his. The first per­son report­ing style that sits on about 3 or 4 dif­fer­ent lines of lit­er­ary inter­sec­tion, that “writ­ing-by-the-seat-of-your-pens” style–he was the mas­ter.

    Depp tells a great sto­ry about one night in Colorado–Hunter told John­ny he’d (HST) meet him in a cer­tain bar at mid­night, and Depp was sit­ting in the back wait­ing for Hunter to arrive. The bar was packed. John­ny is look­ing out over the crowd, eyes toward the front door, when sud­den­ly, he sees flash­es of light, and then bod­ies fly­ing through the air, peo­ple scream­ing, glass breaking…and sparks, lots of sparks! Then, he sees him. Hunter is work­ing his way through the crowd, com­ing toward John­ny, hold­ing a stun gun in one hand and an elec­tric cat­tle prod in the oth­er, wav­ing them around and scream­ing “Get the Fuck out of my way, god dammit!!”.

    RIP Uncle Duke

  • William says:

    Cana­da is part of North Amer­i­ca.

  • Woodstock says:

    Hunter Thomp­son was a mean drunk that enjoyed cru­el prac­ti­cal jokes and was an abuser of women and chil­dren ( his own). Few would argue about his abil­i­ty as a fine writer but his qual­i­ty out­put was small. He squan­dered his gifts by abus­ing drugs and alco­hol. He is hard­ly fit to be con­sid­ered a hero and he is cer­tain­ly guilty of the same behav­iors that the Angels are being con­demned for here.

  • Rick M Hough says:

    Total­ly inac­cu­rate

  • Bill says:

    ’ try­ing to stand up for a bat­tered woman and got beat up for it. ’

    Yeah what a hero.

    He also ear­li­er wit­nessed many gang rapes (by his own account). But I guess he need­ed more ‘mate­r­i­al’.

  • Terran Elizabeth Pettis says:

    I real­ly believed he was talk­ing about me, then i heard of his wid­ow and although it was no where enough to believe she did­nt get her ten years, I just wished i could know at least how they met. And she is lucky, i dont want to make her sad because if i was her i would­n’t of been able to sur­vive id be forced to tell Avas cousin that hitler was a bad actor which is why i believe her also mur­dered his wife who com­mit­ted sucid­ed the same day she got mar­ried.

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