Peter Richardson teaches California Culture at San Francisco State University. He is editorial director at polipointpress, which publishes trade books on politics and current affairs. He wrote the book American Prophet: The Life and Works of Carey McWilliams, who was (for those who don’t know) the man responsible for getting Hunter to write a Hell’s Angels piece for The Nation, the piece later ended up as Hunter’s first published book. Now Richardson has written a book called A Bomb in Every Issue about Ramparts magazine which was edited by Warren Hinckle who later on was behind Scanlans Magazine as Peter explains below. Peter also told me “The HST material in the book is brief but memorable: a fantastical visit to the Ramparts office, where Hinckle’s pet monkey got into his pills; the Chicago lunacy in 1968; and the Ramparts Wall Posters, an idea HST lifted for his campaign in Colorado.”
I’ll be reading the book over the weekend and doing a review of the book and an interview with Peter. I have the feeling this book will be a must read for any staunch HST fan. Peter sent me a few words about the book and the Ramparts connection (below.) So until the review and interview (hopefully Tuesday at the latest) enjoy. Peter’s site is at http://peterrichardson.blogspot.com/
Although HST never published any signed pieces in Ramparts magazine, he later called it “the crossroads of my world in San Francisco.” It’s easy to see why. Ramparts’ editor, Warren Hinckle, eventually paired HST with illustrator Ralph Steadman at Scanlan’s and thereby helped launch Gonzo journalism. And another Ramparts staffer, Jann Wenner, published HST in Rolling Stone after Scanlan’s went down in flames after eight issues.
HST’s first contact with Ramparts proved to be memorable. After staffer Peter Collier reviewed Hell’s Angels in 1967, he invited HST to stop by the office at 301 Broadway, not far from City Lights bookstore in North Beach. HST left his rucksack in Hinckle’s office, and the two men left for lunch. When they returned, they discovered that Hinckle’s pet monkey, Henry Luce, had opened HST’s bag, ingested his pills, and begun racing maniacally around the office. The deranged Luce was evacuated to the veterinarian’s office to have its stomach pumped. Thompson was unsympathetic. “That fucking monkey should be killed—or at least arrested—on general principles,” he wrote Hinckle later.
After HST decamped to Woody Creek, he appeared on Ramparts’ masthead as a contributing editor. He also joined the magazine’s movable feast in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. There he encountered the Ramparts Wall Poster, a single full-folio sheet with street news on the front and convention news on the back. He borrowed that idea wholesale while running for Pitkin County sheriff in 1970. “And if the Wallposter name rings a bell,” he wrote Hinckle, “…well, I’ll never deny it.”
Later, HST reflected on his links to Hinckle and Ramparts.
“I met [Hinckle] through his magazine, Ramparts. I met him before Rolling Stone ever existed. Ramparts was a crossroads of my world in San Francisco, a slicker version of The Nation—with glossy covers and such. Warren had a genius for getting stories that could get placed on the front page of the New York Times. He had a beautiful eye for what story had a high, weird look to it. You know, busting the Defense Department—Ramparts was real left, radical. I paid a lot of attention to them and ending up being a columnist. Ramparts was the scene until some geek withdrew the funding and it collapsed. Jann Wenner, who founded Rolling Stone, actually worked there in the library—he was a copy boy or something.”
Errors of fact notwithstanding, HST’s remarks are the best proof of Ramparts’ appeal and influence during its heyday.