Now That's Some Gonzo Journalism

The HST music quote is now the equivalent of that e-mail from Nigeria that you're about to get.

Three or four years ago, whenever some Internet message board conversation about some nefarious music business deed would get particularly hot, some wise soul would step back and unfurl what Hunter S. Thompson (allegedly) said about the music business. To wit:

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

And everybody would smirk sagaciously over their keyboards, think "How very true," and move on. By the time 2004 rolled around, though, it had become a predictable cliche, and the poster of the HST quote could expect to be told off as a clueless newbie, a step above forwarders of emails about Bill Gates wanting to hand out billions of dollars to people who forwarded emails or believers in tales about the surviving family members of beheaded African warlords with huge sums of cash to hide.

But the funniest thing about the whole mess is that Hunter S. Thompson never said any such thing, despite the fact that it is presented as fact on some 76,000 Web pages. (Just do search and you'll see.)

A couple of nights ago, I picked up a replacement copy of Thompson's Generation of Swine: Gonzo Papers Vol.2 at Half Price Books. I had read it many years ago, when it first came out, but like almost everything else I owned pre-1992, I had lost it in one of the unending series of late-night moves, house fires, nasty evictions, and wrecked and abandoned cars of my goat dance years. I own almost nothing from my youth.

Anyway, this is pretty good Thompson — a collection of columns he did for the San Francisco Examiner in the mid-1980s, glorious scandal-clogged years for a man of his doom-laden talents. It's not as good as the stuff he did for Rolling Stone in the '70s, but it is light years better than the self-parodying drivel he was churning out towards the end for ESPN.com. And on page 43, under the title "Full-time scrambling," I came across the following quasi-familiar words:

"The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason."

Note, there's no "There's also a negative side." And the quote is also applied to an entirely different industry than the one it has long been attributed to. Just thought you should know. — John Nova Lomax


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