From the kitchen of HST   

Updated: February 6, 2008, 9:49 PM ET

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Editor's note: The following is adapted from Michael Cleverly and Bob Braudis's new book, "The Kitchen Readings: Untold Stories of Hunter S. Thompson," copyright (c) 2008 by Michael Cleverly and Bob Braudis. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

THE MAYOR'S DAUGHTER AND AN AWKWARD MOMENT

The "Derby" parties and the Super Bowl parties were late afternoon events. Family time. If it's family time at your house, then it's family time at Owl Farm. People would feel free to bring their children. Hunter had no problem with children, as long as they were willing to gamble along with everyone else. Given Doc's nocturnal lifestyle, there usually wasn't much chance of running into a child in the kitchen, so it wasn't really any hardship to have them around on these special occasions. It encouraged our best behavior. Besides, I think Hunter probably viewed it as an opportunity to fleece the parents twice.

Kitchen Readings

Harper Collins

The life HST led was almost as interesting as the lives he made up.

The gambling at the Kentucky Derby and Super Bowl parties was different from the usual football and basketball wagering. During the regular seasons, there'd be the standard house bet on the game, twenty dollars (a figure that Hunter would always be glad to adjust ... up), possibly an "over and under" bet, and lots of proposition bets during the course of the game. The quality of thought that went into the wagering varied greatly. Nobody was better informed than Hunter. He pored over the sports pages, the ever-changing betting lines, the injury situations, the matchups -- and he wouldn't hesitate to call friends across the country to get inside information to give him an edge.

On the other side, former alpine skiing coach and sports commentator Bob Beattie, filmmaker Bob Rafelson and Sheriff Braudis could always be counted on to make intelligent, well-informed wagers. There were many others who could be best described as middling ignorant. Then there were the Ewing brothers, Wayne and Andrew. Wayne is a filmmaker who, even when based in L.A., maintained a place in the Roaring Fork Valley. His brother Andrew would visit several times a year. Wayne and Andrew were deeply entrenched in Hunter's inner circle. As a rule, they were both smart, savvy gamblers; they did their homework. But they had a tendency to get caught up in the moment. Wayne and Andrew would enter the kitchen and immediately start tough negotiations with Hunter over points on the game bet. This could sometimes be a long painful process. Hunter liked the edge; these guys liked the edge. Then came the over/under: same thing. When this was settled, we'd all assume our positions to watch the game.

Sometimes the first proposition bet could come with the opening kickoff. Sometimes it took a while to work into it. Either way, it was a pretty sure thing that one of the Ewing boys would be involved. In the beginning, the propositions would be reasonable. A first down this series, whether the next play would be a pass or a run, something that could go either way. Hunter would almost always take up the challenge, and then some of the rest of us would jump in. As the game proceeded, these wagers would slowly increase in recklessness: long-shot first down attempts, low-percentage chances of scoring on this drive. After a while, the drink flowing, everything else flowing, raucous goodwill abounding, these wagers would move from reckless to irrational: a team scoring late in the game from deep in their own red zone, long, long, field goal attempts.

It was at these times that the intelligent, well-prepared Ewing brothers became the "lemming brothers." This was Hunter's time. He would glow. Hunter thought it morally deficient to not take advantage of someone who was succumbing to his own stupidity. The proposition bets were usually of the five- or ten-dollar variety. The point wasn't just to take all of anyone's money; it wasn't nearly that honorable. The point was to thoroughly embarrass and deeply disgrace the other guy. That was worth the wager. And that was usually the way things turned out. But, as noted, that was during the regular sports seasons. Then there was the Derby, something altogether different.

There was plenty of side betting at the Kentucky Derby parties, but a lot of that kind of energy, out of deference to the non-regulars, was focused on "the pool." For the Derby, the pool involved drawing horses' names out of a hat, a matter of pure luck. Hunter would set it up so that the winner walked away with several hundred dollars. But in light of all the kiddies, the buy-in was never too expensive. If Mommy wanted to buy in for you, great. If a child used his own money, earned shoveling snow over the course of a long cold winter, that was OK, too. We always respected a young person's right to be fleeced as much as an adult's.

The crowd at the Derby parties consisted of the inner circle and their significant others, old friends with their families and occasional newcomers and guests. Many of the kids who attended these parties had been regulars from an early age and were very hip. They knew the score and were often put in charge of the pools. One good lad, Matthew Goldstein, not only ran the Super Bowl pool, but also won it with annoying regularity. Aspen Mayor John Bennett, his wife, Janie, and their young daughter, Eleanor, came under the old friend category, often attending the special events, but not part of the less- savory regular gang.

As the Kentucky Derby itself lasted only minutes, the party would begin a couple of hours beforehand. There was always good food and more than enough to drink, of course. Hunter's bedroom TV would be brought into the living room for these occasions, as the assembled crowd was far too big for the kitchen. There was plenty of eating and drinking before the race, a little side betting, and of course the pool. As post time approached, the party would be in full swing. Everybody had a horse, especially the kids.

On one particular Derby day, the mayor's daughter, Eleanor, had coughed up the cash and drawn her horse; she was pretty excited about this new grown-up thing -- gambling. Unfortunately, she had a previous engagement that coincided with the exact time of the race itself. It was a strange time to leave, just before the big event, but Eleanor's mom, Janie, a force in her own right, took her daughter in hand, made their excuses with the promise that they would return shortly, and off they went. The race in all its glory came and went in less time than it is possible to have any other kind of meaningful experience. As fate would have it, young Eleanor won the pool without being present. Hunter, after surely wrestling with the prospects of ripping her off, decided that we shouldn't tell Eleanor about her winning but instead replay the tape of the race and let her experience it as if she were watching it live.

All major sporting events were taped at Owl Farm. An extremely prudent policy, considering the state of consciousness people were capable of achieving by the end of any given competition. It gave a reassuring credibility to the reckoning. Eleanor Bennett and her mother returned to the party after a while. Hunter grabbed a crony and told him to put in the tape of the race. In the meantime, he began to set up Eleanor for the big event, building the suspense with all his considerable skills.

Having worked the mayor's daughter into a fever of anticipation, Hunter hit the remote. The room fell silent. Silent, except for the peak volume sounds of the hardcore porno film that appeared on the enormous TV screen. There's something about the audio track of a top-drawer porno film that, when played at high volume, is even more obscene than the visuals. Of course, the visuals were pretty good, too. Wrong tape. An easy mistake. There certainly were plenty of tapes lying around in front of the TV. God knows what else was in there. Pandemonium ensued.

With the strangled cry of the wounded and feral, Hunter snatched up the remote, wildly thumbing every button, with zero effect. As later investigations revealed, someone had put a glass down in front of the electric eye that received the signals from the remote. But for now there was only chaos. Hunter flung the remote across the room. Close to a dozen remote controls were in front of him, scattered to either side and on top of his typewriter. He snatched them up one at a time, crazily hitting buttons at random. Small appliances sprung to life -- radio, CD player, air conditioner -- each one mocking him in turn as the porn film played on, still at top volume. Some fled the scene in terror or hysterical laughter. Some discovered a renewed interest in television. All the while, the mayor's sweet young daughter stood impassively, watching closely, waiting for the race to begin.


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