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Friday, November 8, 2019
HUNTER S. THOMPSON, KEN KESEY AND HEAVY STRESS OUTSIDE THE HILTON
There was a refurbished 1947 International Harvester school bus parked outside the Hilton on a rainy February night in Eugene, Oregon. When I walked up the few steps and entered the heavily decorated vehicle, Ken Kesey was kneeling behind the driver’s seat messing with the stereo, trying to figure out why the Ray Charles at Newport CD had stopped. At the other end of the bus, Hunter S. Thompson was involved in a game of cards at a small round table, but he was looking in our direction with some concern.
Earlier, Thompson had given one of his notorious “talks” inside the Hilton ballroom. He was typically late, so Kesey and fellow “Merry Prankster” Ken Babbs (both of whom lived nearby) burned time telling stories while everyone waited.
When Thompson finally arrived, it was lunacy: He made sardonic comments about the end of the Gulf War, took questions, mumbled humorous responses, occasionally blasted a goose call into the mic and at least twice pointed some kind of laser pointer into the sold-out room. It was an almost perfect show.
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