Hunter S. Thompson Talks with Keith Richards in a Very Memorable and Mumble-Filled Interview (1993)

Here’s a vari­a­tion on the par­lor game ques­tion, “what famous per­son would you most like to have din­ner with, and why?” What two famous peo­ple would you like to stick in a room togeth­er for ten min­utes, and why? I imag­ine a fair num­ber of read­ers might think of Hunter S. Thomp­son and Kei­th Richards, and the why is pret­ty obvi­ous. Both impress us, writes Fla­vor­wire, for “hav­ing remained alive” for oh so many years “after all those drugs” and crazed exploits. If Thomp­son was gonzo, Thomp­son plus Richards equals “dou­ble gonzo.”

Well, your wish is grant­ed, in the almost ten-minute video above, in which Thomp­son and Richards have a mum­ble-off, dis­cussing such sub­jects as J. Edgar Hoover’s rein­car­na­tion (he would return as “a fart,” Kei­th says), the Hel­l’s Angels, The Bea­t­les, drugs, blood trans­fu­sions, and that Alta­mont inci­dent.

In the first minute of tape, we have a ram­bling solo intro­duc­tion from Thomp­son, and he assures us that he and Kei­th “have a sense of his­to­ry you don’t.” Hav­ing put the view­er in their place (or the cameraman—more on that anon), Thomp­son prompt­ly segues to the inter­view, which took place at the Ritz Car­leton in Aspen.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, no one has thought to add sub­ti­tles to this bizarre exchange, which has cir­cu­lat­ed on Youtube for some time now. That was where the man who shot the inter­view, Wayne Ewing, first saw the grainy video of footage he shot for a 1993 ABC series called “In Con­cert.” The project was fraught from the begin­ning. The orig­i­nal plan was to have the two meet in New York, then have MTV shoot the inter­view and Ewing shoot the whole scene with a third cam­era “while Kei­th and Hunter emp­tied the mini-bar and chat­ted.” Instead, Thomp­son “came down with a vir­u­lent flu,” and the pro­duc­ers had to lat­er lure Richards to Col­orado.

So remem­bers Ewing in a 2009 intro­duc­tion to notes he took down the day after the March 15th shoot. The jour­nal reveals Thomp­son’s agi­tat­ed state of mind in the week lead­ing up to the shoot, as he lashed out at his staff, at Ewing, and at “col­lege sopho­mores on ski vaca­tions demand­ing auto­graphs… hold­ing out soiled nap­kins with pens for a record of their momen­tary brush with fame.” He’s clear­ly ner­vous about Richards’ arrival, obsess­ing over the state of the local shoot­ing range, and when Ewing sug­gest­ed “goofy ideas for the video with Kei­th,” Thomp­son growled, “it’s not your movie! It’s Kei­th’s!” Ewing’s notes are both amus­ing and a lit­tle dis­tress­ing, giv­en the posi­tion of Thomp­son’s belea­guered assis­tants.

Both of these fig­ures rep­re­sent the epit­o­me of our ten­den­cy to roman­ti­cize writer/­mu­si­cian-addicts, but the effects on those around them don’t gen­er­al­ly make for great sto­ries (just ask their kids). And in Thomp­son’s case espe­cial­ly here, we can see the toll his drink­ing had tak­en on him at this stage in his life. But Richards is sur­pris­ing­ly lucid, as he con­tin­ues to often­times be, remem­ber­ing spe­cif­ic dates and details, and the whole inter­view is an inter­est­ing exer­cise in fol­low­ing the free-asso­cia­tive log­ic of two addled, but still bril­liant and always enter­tain­ing per­son­al­i­ties. No need to say more. Watch the tape.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Hunter S. Thompson’s Har­row­ing, Chem­i­cal-Filled Dai­ly Rou­tine

Chuck Berry Takes Kei­th Richards to School, Shows Him How to Rock (1987)

Hear Demos of Kei­th Richards Singing Lead Vocals on Rolling Stones Clas­sics: “Gimme Shel­ter,” “Wild Hors­es” & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • JV says:

    I’m will­ing to bet Richards isn’t, and nev­er was, as out of con­trol as peo­ple think. His overindul­gences seem quite delib­er­ate and con­trolled, and yeah, while he mum­bles, he’s always been quite lucid. Thomp­son, on the oth­er hand…

  • John says:

    Is HST.…I am a fan of both

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