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rsfllv2.gif (14388 Byte) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was 1st published in installments in the November 1971 issues of the Rolling Stone magazine. It was an immediate success as a book in which Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego, Raoul Duke, and his Samoan attorney Dr. Gonzo (who happens to be Oscar Zeta Acosta) drive from L.A. to Las Vegas with their trunk full of:

"...two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers.....also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls...but the only thing that worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the dephts of an ether binge..."

...go ask Alice when she´s ten feet tall...


"one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small..."

("White Rabbit," Jefferson Airplane - free audio clip)


buggy.gif (9568 Byte) So, they’re driving to Las Vegas in a rented candy-apple-red convertible (which they call the Red Shark) to cover the 4th annual Mint 400, which was considered to be the world’s richest off-road race for motorcycles and dune buggies. Thompson describes this dust-choked scene as:

"..trying to keep track of a swimming meet in an Olympic-sized pool filled with talcum powder instead of water."

docmorph.gif (125922 Byte) But instead of actually covering the race they rampage around Las Vegas in a drug-fueled orgy of "bad craziness". They find themselves caught up in a savage journey to the heart of the American Dream by taking all kinds of drugs, they terrorize hotel stuff, trash their rooms, brandish a big knife, vomit frequently and behave with a general lack of responsibility.
One quite memorable scene of the first part is when Duke and his attorney visit the famous Circus Circus, after taking a full load of ether and mescaline later on.

Thomson describes the Circus Circus as:

"What the whole hep world would be doing on Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the Sixth Reich."

In part two of the book they decide to cover the National Conference of District Attorneys seminar on Narcotics and Dangerous drugs.

Whether the whole story is fact or fiction has long been a subject of speculations. Thompson took some imaginative license – the Mint 400 for example and the district attorneys drug-abuse convention, "Fear and Loathing’s" two main plot engines, took place months apart not back to back as in the book.

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hstoscar.jpg (24657 Byte) But Oscar Zeta Acosta insisted that the picture of him and Thompson would be used on the back cover of FLLV, even though he risked exposing himself. Numerous parts of FLLV had to be changed at his insistance as well; for example, he is referred to as a Samoan instead of a Chicano.

Quote from FLLV on 60s:

"Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era --- the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run... but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant..."


FLLV, in fact, can be read as a savage elegy on the expectations of the 1960’s drug culture. Thompson gives funny, pained insights into what he saw as the American fall from ‘60s grace into the wine press of ‘70s conformity and good citizenship. The book is both an elegy for the open-ended freedoms of the Acid Generation and a defiant gesture toward the Nixon years.

"Our trip was a grass physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country" he wrote, "but only for those with true grit. And we where chock full of that."

(twonotes.gif (933 Byte) audio clip of that supreme elegy to Sixities drug culture, Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”)

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The role of the city Las Vegas in FLLV:

In many other books or movies this town represents the final destination for people who are on the road looking for the American Dream. And they all expect something mythical to be found there. Las Vegas was the perfect setting for Hunter's book, because it's a town built on the notion of fantastic possibilities yet it is still very conservative. In a way, Las Vegas represented what the whole country pretended not to be about or as Hunter S. Thompson writes:

"..this is not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.."

..or as Terry Gilliam, director of the movie FLLV once said:

" Las Vegas is just maybe the perfect reflection of America at this stage in it’s history. It’s turning into Disneyland and everybody’s becoming these mindless infants who wander around and don’t do anything."

According to an article by John Hellman H. S. Thompson creates a persona who serves as both narrator and protagonist.

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Fear and Loathing as a movie:

In 1998 a movie version of FLLV came out, starring Johnny Depp and Benecio Del Toro and directed by Terry Gilliam, the director of striking films as "Brazil", "The Fisher King" "12 Monkeys".

The movie is, by and large, a verbatim presentation of Thompson’s novel. The only liberties Gilliam takes are with the 2nd half of the original story. The director applies a conventional story structure to the episodic nature of Thompson’s narrative.

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Useful Links:

- Hunter S. Thompson: The Champion of Fun

- The Great Thompson Hunt

- Gonzo


All quotes are taken from: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. Flamingo Modern Classic, 1998, ©1971


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Hunter S. Thompson