Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Initial Encounter With Hunter S. Thompson

Working at the Hotel Jerome as a doorman and bellman, I met dozens and dozens of celebrities and famous people. Hunter S. Thompson pulled up in his maroon Jeep one afternoon with his wife Anita, a half-full rocks glass and a lit cigarette. I’d expect nothing else from a man who lived and wrote what he thought. That was the fall of 2004. He went in for drinks at the hotel bar called the J-Bar. A few months later he committed suicide. I’m still glad I met him. I can’t say that about many of the hotel’s patrons.




Today was busy and most of the guests were not good tippers. In fact, it was the busiest day I've had so far as a doorman at the Hotel Jerome. There was a wine-tasting event in the ballroom and about fifty people checked in during a two-hour period. Even Tony, the general manager, and Rocky, the head electrician, were parking cars. I wasn’t in a great mood because I had to move so many cases of wine bottles.

But by around three o’clock things slowed down. By then our garage was full. The bellman had to park a few cars in the city lot, which is a couple blocks from the hotel. After the mad rush and lunch and another spurt of valets and guests’ requests, a maroon Jeep pulled in front of the hotel. On the rear window of the Jeep were two stickers, a “Kerry/Edwards” sticker on the left side and a “Michael Owsley for COMMISSIONER: He’d Be Good” sticker on the right side. I walked up to the car just as I do all cars that pull into our loading zone. There was a lady with dirty-blonde hair, probably no older than 30, sitting in the passenger seat. In the driver seat there was a man smoking a cigarette and wearing shades and a white cowboy hat to complement his white, long-sleeved button down shirt with colored pockets and blue jeans. He had a rocks glass filled with spirits resting near the shifter. The woman opened her door and told me that they were going into the J-Bar for some drinks.

I walked back to the bell podium and asked the bellman, Mike, if we had room to valet the Jeep. “Do you know that’s Hunter Thompson?” said Mike.

“Is it?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Mike said. “We can leave the Jeep up here, but charge them five dollars like we do all valets who go into the J-Bar.”

“All right.”

I had no idea it was Hunter S. Thompson. He looked older than I expected from the photos that I’ve seen. I told the woman it was going to be five dollars to valet her vehicle. She said she normally didn’t have to pay when they came to the J-Bar, but that it would be no problem. She was polite. No angst or attitude in her voice.

I told Hunter the same thing I told the woman as we stood next to the Jeep. And even though I wanted to tell him I admired his ability as a writer and that I was working on some freelance features, I couldn’t give him any favors. I had to do my job. And besides, I didn’t even know the guy. He told me that I should follow him into the bar so he could give me the five dollars. He didn’t have exact change. So I followed Hunter as he walked with a stagger toward the bar entrance, not apparently drunk, but as if all the drugs and alcohol had done its damage.

Hunter and the girl sat in the corner at the bar near the entrance. He knew the bartender and a few people. The bar was almost empty. He gave me five singles and asked me what my name was, thanking me with a lit cigarette still in his hand, and he seemed as jovial as she....

About three hours later she came out of the bar and I gave her the keys. She smiled and thanked me and said “Hunter” would be out soon. He stepped outside the bar door with a middle-aged guy with black hair behind him. Hunter was hammered. The guy wanted to help Hunter walk. He told the guy he didn’t need help walking, but the darkhaired guy insisted. As the y walked by the hood of the Jeep, Thompson exclaimed, “Carl, get your fucking hands off me.”

“But there’s cars coming,” Carl insisted, holding Hunter’s arms. “You’re going to get hit.” I was standing on the side walk on the other side. Carl looked at me for support. I gave him the look as to say it’s Hunter S. Thompson, he can do whatever he wants to do, plus he’s probably not going to get hit despite the cars zooming by Carl and inebriated Hunter.

After there was a break of the rushing headlights, Hunter got in the driver seat and yelled to no one in particular, “Some asshole moved my seat.” He adjusted it to give himself more leg room. I had moved his car up in our loading zone but did not adjust the driver seat. “Where are my keys?” he added. I told him I gave them to the lady he was with. Then the girl and the other guy, whose name was apparently Carl, told Hunter that he should not drive. In defense of his ranting and outbursts, Hunter said, “Hey, I’m a reasonable guy.”

So he moved from the driver seat to the passenger seat of the Jeep. In the process he got his legs stuck in an awkward and funny position on the dashboard. Just lying there and then struggling for a moment, he finally used both hands to move his left leg over.

Then I said have a great night. He thanked me and seemed pleasant, almost not drunk. But he was. The previous minutes proved that. What a character. I like the guy. I walked back to the bell podium.

One of the other bellman, Ryan, who I was working with said, “All the people in the bar always crowd around him when he comes here.” Ryan said it as if those people were crazy and that Hunter S. Thompson was nothing special. But then again, Ryan isn’t a reader and he doesn’t know much about politics.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's very funny :) Thanks for sharing !

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