Ralph Steadman talks about Hunter S. Thompson

Saturday 14 October (2006)

ralph steadman

I went to another event at the Cheltenham Literature Festival today: Will Self interviewing Ralph Steadman about his new book, The Joke’s Over, which is about his late friend and collaborator, Hunter S. Thompson. I’m obviously a huge fan of Thompson, and he’s something of a hero of mine so I was pleased when I talked Sally into joining me for this one. Unfortunately, she insisted we go to the pub first, and I spent the entire seventy-five minutes with crossed legs trying not to think about the sound of running water or metaphorical releases of tension.

The interview took place in a large marquee outside the town hall, and we arrived early enough to get seats on the front row (next to what Sally described as a ‘stunningly beautiful’ girl who apparantly fancied me – I don’t know how girls know these things) which was lucky, because the room soon filled up with well over a hundred people. Soon enough, Steadman entered the stage and the interview began.

It was very interesting to hear some of his memoirs – he described the first time he and Thompson met, where Thompson kind of put him through a trial-by-fire. After consuming a lot of alcohol and suffering a lot of abuse, Steadman was still holding his own, which won him the respect of Thompson and forged their friendship. He also read from some letters from Thompson, where it was revealed that a lot of the time Thompson needed to see Steadman’s drawings before he could write something, it being too ‘hideous’ in his own memory and the images serving as an alternate version.

Steadman, donning one of Thompson’s hats and some of his tinted shades, with a cigarette in a filter in his mouth, related the one time he got high with Hunter. They were on a boat, and Thompson was eating drugs at a voracious rate, and Steadman (who was feeling sea-sick) noticed that he didn’t seem to be bothered by the motion of the boat at all. So, he asked Thompson to dose him with some psilocybin. It was without a doubt a bad trip, but as he told us about what happened all these years later it sounded like a fond memory. He and Thompson had rowed over to an expensive yacht to write ‘fuck the pope’ on the side, but they were caught before they had chance. “We must flee!” he hissed in a perfect imitation of his old friend, with a smile on his face.

And then of course, things took a turn for the sentimental, and it was quite moving. He read from his book; a letter he had written to Thompson after he had killed himself, which perfectly captured the lack of understanding most of us had towards his suicidal tendencies. All in, it was a very entertaining and enjoyable experience, and I’m pleased to have spent some time in the same room as the man who illustrated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

fear and loathing in las vegas


4 Responses to “Ralph Steadman talks about Hunter S. Thompson”

  1. Sally Says:

    ‘Stunningly beautiful’?? Okay, Dan…

  2. robert Says:

    fuck the pope… beautiful!

  3. […] Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Ralph has been involved with the Pope – read about Ralph’s time with Hunter S. Thompson at the America’s Cup and how this fits here (if you’re a slacker, just search for pope). Here’s what Joe […]

  4. […] storied stories in the storybook history of the Hunter S. Thompson / Ralph Steaman collaboration is the time they went to cover the America’s Cup Race. If you read our newsletter on March 11, you’ve read about this […]

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