In honor of the Hunter S. Thompson Clean Getaway Subscription Box going out tomorrow (was supposed to go out today, but as usual things are a little late), here is the story of one of the most significant moments of my life.
An ad in The LA Weekly I was reading at a coffee shop in West Hollywood promised a book signing for anyone who purchased Hunter S. Thompson’s new book: Hey Rube.
I wrote Matt, the person who introduced me to HST in the first place, and Vanessa, my best friend at the time, and we decided (along with my then-boyfriend) to get books and brave what was undoubtedly going to be an insane line.
We arrived and it was overcast. Yeah, in Los Angeles.
And then it started to rain.
And Thompson was late… so we started talking to the friendly lady ahead of us who had the foresight to bring an umbrella. Note: that woman is still a great friend to this day, and was in my wedding. Moral of the story: people you meet at things like Hunter S. Thompson book signings are going to be good friends.
By the time we were shuffled into the store, things were running so miserably late that Thompson’s handler was visibly testy. She was giving directions to every book holder on approach: don’t chat with him, don’t take his picture, don’t hug him, don’t ask for personalization… etc.
About two people before our Big Moment, there was a problem: Thompson needed some “fresh air.” He wanted to go to the back stairs to smoke with his pal (who had driven him), Benicio del Toro. Yes, THAT Benicio del Toro.
But the line could not be held any longer, so it was decided to go ahead and cycle the book signing out to the back stairs one at a time.
This was a bad situation for the handler, because it meant that every person was going to be alone with Benicio and Hunter, which meant she could not enforce the rules.
As she walked me out the back door, I could feel her twitching with anxiety. “Don’t hug him, don’t ask for personalization, don’t ask for a photograph…mumble mumble mumble”
AND THERE HE WAS. SITTING ON THE STAIRS. MY HERO.
Immediately, he raised his arms for a hug. Sard the rules, I am hugging my hero. Except when I went in, it wasn’t a hug… suddenly he kissed me -- REAL ON-THE-MOUTH KISSING, and I was stunned: on one hand, OMG KISSING MY HERO (yay), but on the other hand, OMG KISSING 70 YEAR OLD MAN (ew).
I handed him my book after what I’m sure was an awkward “Oh! Whoa!” (I don’t remember, because I think I was so stunned), and Benicio asked if I wanted a picture.
ARE YOU SERIOUS? A PICTURE?
I looked up to where his handler was standing in the door, and I saw small mushroom clouds flaring up in her eyes… but not she, nor anyone in the world, could take this moment away from me. YES I wanted a photo.
I sat down on the stairs next to Hunter and he put his arm around me. You may not see the confused mix of emotion in my eyes, but it was there. Complicated. Amazed. Weird.
He asked who he should make the book out to and I told him my nickname: Normal. He scrawled my name, then his signature, closed the book, and handed it back to me.
As I was shuffling out, I heard a yell from the alley: “HEY HUNTER!” and all three of us looked over the railing to see a 20-something lifting her shirt to show her boobs. Thompson and del Toro shrugged and looked back to me, and then to the handler, indicating it was time for the next person’s signing.And that’s the story of when I met Hunter S. Thompson.