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 assignment eventually yielded the article, “The Motorcycle Gangs” (read it online), which became the basis for the 1966 book, Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. It was Thompson’s first book, and America’s first real introduction to Thompson’s Gonzo-style journalism. 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 above, which aired on Canadian television in 1967, describes the circumstances that led to the Angels giving HST a beat down. The misogyny that’s on display as the biker tells the story will make you shudder. Even worse are the laughs from the 1960s, buttoned-down crowd.
As for whether the Angels ever got their two kegs of beer, I don’t know.
Note: You can download Thompson’s Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga as a free audiobook if you sign up for a 30-Day Free Trial with Audible. Find more information on that program here.