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.