Went to Chelsea today to see Gonzo, the exhibition of some of Hunter S Thompson’s photos. There were only around 9 or 10 in the gallery and about half of those were of the Angels he hung out with while writing about them – which were the photos I wanted to see. Truly amazing to see these characters who’ve only been names in Hunter’s books as living, drinking, wheelying bikers, dirty denim against the California sky – but there were no names in the captions so we had to play “guess the Angel” – Terry the Tramp? Magoo? Mother Miles? Mouldy Marvin?
The most interesting thing is that they really don’t look that scary – you have to work hard at imagining them against the backdrop of chino-clad buzzcut early 1960’s conform-or-die USA to get any whiff of the moral panic and outrage that Hunter takes to pieces in Hell’s Angels.
From the final chapter..”…with the throttle screwed on, there is only the barest margin and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right..and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms…You watch the white line and try to lean with it…howling through a turn to the right, then to the left and down the long hill to Pacifica…letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the Edge…The Edge….There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others – the living – are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to do when it came time to choose between Now and Later.”