Writer’s Room: Getting Hunter to Work

greatsharkhuntMost writers know the drill: Get an assignment, turn it in roughly on time and in generally the shape that it was desired. If not: kill fee, if you’re lucky. This is how it works.

Unless you were Hunter S. Thompson. In 1970, Hunter convinced the long-defunct Scanlan’s Monthly that “somebody” needed to cover the Kentucky Derby, dammit. S0 off he went to the races, with an expense account and a vision.  In Michael McCambridge’s excellent piece for Grantland on the epochal article that resulted, he provides a few illustrative details of what was required for Scanlan’s afterward for editor Warren Hinckle to actually get any workable copy out of Hunter. To wit:

… [according to Hinckle] within a couple of days (“as soon as he could walk”), Thompson flew to Manhattan, “where we locked him down for five days in a room in the Royalton Hotel, just up 44th Street from the Scanlan’s office in an abandoned ballroom above an Irish bar a block from Times Square.”

The story didn’t come easily. “I would lie in the bathtub at this weird hotel,” said Thompson. “I had a suite with everything I wanted — except I couldn’t leave…. They were sending copy boys and copy girls and people down every hour to see what I had done, and the pressure began to silently build like a dog whistle kind of scream. You couldn’t hear it but it was everywhere.”

… [Scanlan’s copy boy Harvey Cohen] kept Thompson “supplied with cigarettes, Heinekens and Chivas. When production slowed, Harvey would seize the time and rip pages out of Hunter’s notebook” and relay them to the Scanlan’s office, where they were read by managing editor Donald Goddard, and then sent by fax to Hinckle in San Francisco.

We should all be so lucky.

Things That Are Terrible: Big Wheels, Redux

Since apparently Gen X, Gen Y, and possibly even Millennials didn’t have enough childish things to be getting obsessively retro about, now there is actually something of a market for adult-sized Big Wheels. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Armbruster, 44 years old, is the founder and sole employee of High Roller USA, a manufacturer of adult-size low-riding trikes that he runs out of his Lafayette, Colo., home. Unlike the plastic trikes of his youth, the High Roller has a steel frame, costs $600 and is designed for people who change diapers instead of wear them.

…In addition to High Roller, there are at least two other upstart companies making adult versions. One of them, Urbantrike, makes several adult trikes including a model that has a textured tire for riding in dirt and a lowrider that has shiny aluminum wheels that are perfect “for tailgating parties.”

There has been an annual Big Wheel race down Lombard Street for a few years now. This makes sense in a way, because A) It’s San Francisco, and B) It happens maybe once a year. After all, even unicycling is acceptable when done once a year and likely under the affects of alcohol.

But when companies are advertising high-end “trikes” for the adult market (featuring racers in helmets no less) that retail for hundreds of dollars, something seems to have gone horribly awry. It calls to mind The Onion headline from a few years back about the bar-owner who couldn’t believe he actually sponsored an adult kickball team.