November 7, 2011

The Case of the missing Gonzo Journalism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 6:45 pm

The typewriter looked very familiar
Getting the poster makes seeing a good movie even better
The movie produced a deja vu moment.

Seeing Johnny Depp, in “The Rum Diary,” portraying a rookie Hunter S. Thompson in Puerto Rico pounding away on a portable typewriter, we were again inspired to renew our efforts to draw attention to causes such as the effort to Save Richardson Grove State Park, “one of the 100 finest state parks in America” (according to a brochure from, and also draw attention to the environmentalists’ alarm that some gold mining activity in the area posed a threat to Yosemite National Park. We scaled back our goals and settled for spending a day taking photos of the November 2, 2011, General Strike in Oakland, and then posting them online, but wished we could do better.

Wouldn’t it be much more Gonzo if we still had an influential voice and a portable typewriter to bang out a column lamenting the fact that while Conservatives are shameless in their efforts to shield the rich from their civic duty of paying any taxes, the Liberals are being inundated by a tsunami of outrageous simultaneous assaults on causes that would (subjunctive mood) draw the scorn and vituperative sarcasm of Hunter S. Thompson, if he were still alive?

Would Hunter find humor in the oxymoron that while President Obama was winning the Nobel Peace Prize, bringing justice to Osama bin Laden (as Dubya had promised America he would do), giving the orders to get the troops out of Iraq (in compliance to commitments made by Dubya), and dealing with Ghadafi while the Republicans are constantly trying to tar and feather the President with an image as a lazy, no-good, shiftless, black bum?

While posting the photos of the General Strike, we checked our e-mail and leaned that our wish to be the fellow behind the Gonzo typewriter wasn’t so farfetched after all. A friend back in “the old country,” just South of the ’bu (= Malibu) sent us an e-mail saying:
“At one point, a girl came over & started asking me about a slim Olivetti typewriter I had: was it made in or before 1960? You might remember this item, Bob: lightweight, manual, somewhat anonymous, portable & only 2″ thick: you sold it to me back in 1997.
Now I know this model really came out in the early 1970′s, designed by Ettore Sotsass of Milan, I believe, but being the salesman I am, I replied, “Yes ma’am, this unit did indeed come out in 1960.” We haggled just a bit on price, & I let her have it for $25. With the sale complete, I asked, if she didn’t mind telling me, what she was going to do with it? She smiled & told me that she was the propmaster on a feature film set in 1960.
Well, Bob, I just saw “Rum Diary” last night, & Johnny Depp is writing with your typewriter! It has one big hero shot 1/2 hour from the end where they pull in real close, & it’s your typer, Bob! To fit the exegeses of the story, which in part is about American business’ despoilation of paradise, they had to have him using an American typewriter, so they refitted a REMINGTON ES nameplate in place of the OLIVETTI one, but it’s definitely your machine: the indispensable tool for the travelling journalist.
So—a young Hunter S. Thompson is portrayed beginning his legend using YOUR typewriter.
Does it get any better than this, Bob?
Oh, and the movie’s great.”

Yikes! The portable typewrite we had used in our efforts to imitate Hunter S. Thompson became the same one that Johnny Depp used to portray the father of Gonzo Journalism. Maybe we should be encouraged and renew our efforts to bring the Gospel of Gonzo to the Internets?

If Hunter S. Thompson were still alive wouldn’t it be child’s play for him to make a visit to one of the Occupy sites and then tie together the possibility that the law forbidding the use of masks in California, the burly provocateurs (do police officers use steroids to “bulk up”?) and the bad image that the (so called) liberal media pins on the OWS movement into a crazy conspiracy theory asserting that maybe the “anarchists” and the agents of law enforcement were collaborating their efforts to help the Koch brothers discredit the roving band of hippies who have terrorized the Establishment for over forty years? If Hunter could have done that; then why can’t we?

Don’t newspaper reporters on the crime beat and the police know that Section 185 of the California Penal Code make wearing a mask a misdemeanor? The police and any Occupy monitors could call out the people behind the mask for breaking the law, but that would stifle any attempts to use agent provocateurs to sabotage the Occupy Movement and isn’t it obvious who those scoundrels might be?

If the agent provocateurs are using masks shouldn’t the monitors at the Occupy site ask masked people to remove the masks or be reported to the local police agency? End of problem. It might be a bit embarrassing for things to happen that way if some of the masked people turned out to be undercover cops.

Wouldn’t the Gonzo pioneer point out that the Occupy issue is unfolding in the traditional Republican manner? The politicians want to remove the symptoms (the various encampments) rather than treat the disease: the rich don’t pay their fair portion of taxes. The debate has devolved into concerns about health and safety because the lackeys in the media say what the owner/publishers tell them to say. Wouldn’t Hunter S. Thompson lead by example and tell the truth to power?

Would Hunter have trouble directing the public’s attention to the potential for a revival of the Bush Dynasty? Would he be accused of being a conspiracy theory nut for making bets on a successful JEB run for the Republican Nomination?

Would Hunter be an effective voice if he pointed out that the sweeps of the encampments happen at night because the effectiveness of videos from citizen journalists is considerably diminished by the dim available light capacity of their equipment, thus making it easy to summarily dismiss any videos of alleged police misconduct by saying “you can’t see that clearly”?

Wasn’t the Internets supposed to supersede the old underground newspapers in supplying a voice of dissent? Do you suppose that the Internet hasn’t produced an fine examples of e-Gonzo Journalism because the media moguls don’t want voices of dissention and protest to be heard? What ever happened to mainstream media coverage of the blogisphere?

There is a great speculative fiction book about using a replica of Hemingway’s typewriter titled “The Hemingway Hoax.” Where is our copy of that book?

Herb Caen’s typewriter is on display (at an inaccessible location?) in a newspaper office in San Francisco. What ever happened to the typewriter used by the famed Berkeley native who was Caen’s good friend and biggest rival and used the nom de plume Freddy Francisco? What was that guy’s real name?

At one point, when Freddy Francisco and Herb Caen would prowl the nightclub beat together, a rookie cop stopped them and told them they were under arrest. The response was: “Do you know who you are trying to arrest?” The young policeman marched them down to the local station house and when they entered the desk sergeant recognized the two veteran (and influential) journalists, laughed uncontrollably, and then managed to ask the officer: “Do you know who you are trying to arrest?” Does that sound like a Gonzo legend or not?

What did the production company do with the typewriter they used in “The Rum Diary”? Now that they don’t need it, would they be interested in selling it?

Writing in the City of San Francisco’s August 10, 1975 issue, Freddy Francisco stated: “It should be explained that this was a juicy era in San Francisco journalism. The Chief (William Randolph Hearst) was still dominating all newspaper activities the way Alexander had ruled the ancient world.” Isn’t Rupert Murdoch carrying on that tradition to this very day?

Now the disk jockey will play some Forties era ♫ tunes such as “Baby, it’s cold outside,” “Riders in the sky,” and “Buttons and bows.” We have to go look for a new column topic. Have a “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro” type week.

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