Fear and loathing on a limo ride through Denver
November 17, 2005
Regular readers of the local newspapers probably noticed that Wayne Ewing’s film, “When I Die,” premiered at the Starz Denver International Film Festival last weekend. The film documents the fabrication and building of the Gonzo fist/cannon/monument that, last summer, launched Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes into the zephyrs above Woody Creek. A bunch of us traveled to Denver for the occasion. The evening was billed as an “event” instead of a “world premier” because it not only included a panel discussion following the film, but also a Denver Press Club theatrically festooned in what people like to think Hunter’s house and life looked like. They actually came pretty close. The blow-up sex dolls proved to be an interesting accessory later on in the evening. Some of us were on the panel.It was touching to be reminded how many people adored Hunter. The line to get in stretched down the block and around the corner. The room was packed. People who had never met him (perhaps because they never met him) came to be a part of it. An additional 10 o’clock showing was scheduled, then sold out, after which a third, midnight show was added. The people from the film festival and the staff of the Press Club were all geared up in what they deemed to be Gonzo attire. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen anyone in Hunter’s kitchen dressed like that, but intentions were good and spirits were high. There was drinking; it was billed as a drinking event. I honestly don’t know if there was boozing at the other movies at the film festival, but the folks at Wayne’s premier certainly got the hint. It was all a tribute.When the film ended and the panel convened, it was our Paris Hilton moment. Rows of photographers between us and the audience, flashbulbs popping. We were getting the star treatment, without the inconvenience of having a star present. He was gone. Everyone loved the film and the discussion was accepted warmly. There were funny stories and good questions. When it was over it was time to move on to the real point of the evening: The after-party.The party was happening at the Pearl Vodka VIP hospitality suite. The hospitality suite turned out to be a 15- or 20-minute drive from the Press Club. A bunch of us were waiting outside the club for volunteer drivers to fetch us over to the fun. It was getting cold and some of the film festival people seemed to be becoming irritated at you-know-who, occasionally mentioning that all the other film festivals provided limousines. Of course, you-know-who has been about as close to a film festival limousine as he’s been to the U.S.S. Nimitz. Perhaps they sensed that.Part of the Hunter Thompson ambience at the Press Club was two huge, vintage Cadillac convertibles, tops down, parked on the sidewalk out front. They were really garish and were equipped with blow-up dolls and other stuff. After a while the main festival honcho ushered a few of us into one of these caddies to take us to the party. We sped into the Denver night. We might not have been the only 80-foot-long Cadillac convertible careening through the streets of Denver at prime time that evening, but I’m pretty sure that we were the only 80-foot-long Cadillac convertible with two beautiful Aspen girls, two drunk Film Festival guys, an Aspen Times reporter, Maco (the guy who runs Johnny Depp’s “Viper Room” nightclub), me, and a blow-up sex doll, to be hurtling through the streets that night. I got that impression by the way other motorists responded to us. Predictably, traffic was stop-and-go.Red light, green light. We’d passed through many intersections, stopping for a light at each and every one when, for reasons not even the blow-up doll, who was obviously operating on the same mental plane as our driver, could understand, our host failed to apply the brakes for the next light. For us passengers it was like watching a replay in slow motion: We kept getting closer and closer, we expected him to stop, he didn’t. Fortunately, there was a vehicle just in front of us that kept us from gliding into the intersection.The young black guys who piled out of the car we’d just rear-ended didn’t understand either. I would have loved to help, really. But I had Chloe on half my lap and the doll on the other half. To my right, Maco and the drunken film festival guy pressed against me. I was trapped. Really. In front were the driver, Sasha, Chloe’s sister in the middle, and grizzled Aspen Times reporter John Colson riding shotgun. The driver lurched out his door. John stepped smartly out his side. The black guys were inspecting the damage and yelling. Gee, this was exciting. I wondered what they might be thinking; we were an unusual-looking group. John and the driver took a look at the ding on the homeboys’ trunk. We didn’t need cops; I was already beginning to feel a bit lightheaded from the little pile of powder I’d licked off a pretty girl’s palm a short time earlier. There was a lot of gesturing that I couldn’t quite interpret. All of a sudden, the driver of the homies’ car said “OK, just give us 20 bucks.” I couldn’t believe it. God loves idiots. I couldn’t believe what happened next, either.Our less-than-cogent driver started dickering, offering him less money. I could have killed him, but I figured someone else was about to take care of that. I was considering reaching into my pocket for the money, but decided to let the black guys have the fool and use the 20 bucks as cab fare for me and the girls.Suddenly it was over. The driver coughed up. The dudes drove off, and we were under way as if nothing had ever happened.This was going to be a fun evening.