Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hunter & the Derby Revisited

I wouldn't recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. ~ Hunter S. Thompson

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me. ~ Hunter S. Thompson

I was blog jumping this evening—following links from one blog comment section to another blog—when I encountered the blog Pudwhipped. I read the latest post and made a comment. As I was leaving, I noticed the quote at the top of the heading:

I wouldn't recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me.

It sure sounds like the now deceased by his on hand—or, as one writer put it” “Hunter pulled a Hemingway—Louisville born Hunter S. Thompson. That reminded me that one of the first blog posts I ever made related to Hunter’s story of a visit to the Kentucky Derby.

I am further reminded of Hunter by all of the media hoopla going on in Louisville regarding the 2006 Kentucky Derby Festival. This fuss takes two forms: (1) raising money to support Derby Festival events and (2) the issue of “cruising” on Broadway on Derby Day. The first relates to all of the Derby events. The Derby Festival contains many events—and these don’t include the hundreds of Derby parties, both those attended by celebrities and those attended by non-celebs, such as me.

There are also the Balloon Race, Marathon (for non-equine runners), the Great Riverboat Race, the Derby Parade, Thunder Over Louisville (the air show + fireworks), concerts, and more that I can’t think of. Some of these need financial support, so traditionally Kentucky Derby Pins are sold each year to help fund them. This year, for the first time, I’ve noticed TV adds asking for contributions to fund the Derby Festival.

The second issue—cruising—I consider a bit more serious. Years ago folks began driving their cars up and down Louisville’s Broadway. The majority were young African-Americans, many of who wanted to be part of the Derby Festival but felt alienated from it. Through the years, the number of cruisers has increased dramatically, as has, to paraphrase the two Hunter Thompson quotes, the sex, drugs, alcohol, violence, and insanity.

This year the Louisville Metro Government has decided to ban Derby cruising. As one journalist wrote:

Derby weekend cruising in Louisville is history. Starting this May, the event will no longer take place. Metro leaders say the event has become an out-of-control, outdoor party. Metro Police Chief Robert White said that last year more than 60 people were arrested. There were two homicides connected with the event.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson is quoted as saying:
No neighborhood should have to endure the kind of gridlock and lawlessness that has been the trademark of Derby weekend cruising on West Broadway.

I wonder how Hunter would react to the banning of cruising? From reading his writings through the years I know that he wasn’t kidding when he said that “drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity” worked for him. From his autobiographical writing describing his youth in Louisville, had cruising been going on then I know Hunter would have been a part of it!


  1. Cruising is fun....I did it before they banned it in areas around here. But it is true when things get out of hand...its just not worth it. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. I understand Hunter S Thompson was very big in the States. Here in Oz, i believe he was not that well known other than for his eccentricities. I need to investigate him further :)

  3.'s good to read and know about traditions and festivities that are so alien to our culture, and i think that's the truimph of blogosphere---it brings the world you never knew existed to you(in a small way, of course).
    Good post.

  4. I honestly had not heard of him. Guess I must have been living under a rock...

  5. My mother always watches TV on Derby day hoping to see shots of Louisville. She's still a Louisville gir at heart. :-)

  6. Kylee—Yes, cursing can be fun. I did a lot when I was a teen, usually between two drive-in resturaunts!

    Michelle—Hunter was “big” here with a portion of the population: primarily sports fans and rebels (not necessarily the same group). He was a journalist and an author, writing for Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. One of his books, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream” (semi-autobiographical) was made into a movie. There was always a capricious aspect to him; In any circumstances, as soon as he realized there was “a system closing in,” he’d try to demolish it. In other words, beside be a liberal, Hunter was so far to the left that many times he was an anarchist! Just over a year ago, in February 2005, Hunter ended his life with a gun. Thus my reference to “Hunter pulled a Hemingway” (who was one of his heroes.

    Vishwa—I enjoy reading about what’s happening with people in other part of this small, third rock from the sun; I’m happy to share with others what’s happening here.

    Limpy—You’re absolutely right! I am sure Hunter’s spirit is here, most probably as a seditious and mischievous ghost!

    Punkmom—Not everyone has heard of Hunter. He was, uh, well, “feral.” The two quotes I put in the post fairly well describe him: sex, drugs, booze, and insanity were very much a part of his life, as were motorcycles and a passion for justice for the oppressed. I realize that his writings aren’t for everyone—many are offended and even scandalized by him. Yet, his sometimes brutish and always outrageous life and writing style—he created what has become known as “Gonzo journalism” (that journalism can be more truthful without strict observance of “factual reporting)—make reading him a riotous and exceptional experience.

    Squirl—I can understand why you mom would watch the TV coverage on Derby Day. I did, too, during the 28 or so years I lived elsewhere. Of course, there Derby Festival now extends to about 2 weeks before the Derby is run and the events take place all over the city and up and down the Ohio River, as well as in the sky over the city. I hope that national TV coverage includes some of the pre-Derby festivities. Actually, I suppose one could say the Kentucky Derby is now one, big two-week-long party!

  7. good quote!
    interesting stuff....glad you shared.

  8. Jay Are—thank you. And thanks for your yesterday’s blog post.

  9. I remember the last time you wrote about Hunter Thompson. I borrowed one of his books from the library and couldn’t stop reading it. He was really a wild man, wasn’t he?