FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS -- A SAVAGE JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
by Hunter S. Thompson, © 1971 by Hunter S. Thompson
Chapter 3: Savage Lucy ... 'Teeth Like Baseballs, Eyes Like Jellied Fire'
I gave my bag to the boy who scurried up, and told him to bring a quart of Wild Turkey and two fifths of Bacardi Anejo with a night's worth of ice.
Our room was in one of the farthest wings of the Flamingo. The place is far more than a hotel: It is a sort of huge under-financed Playboy Club in the middle of the desert. Something like nine separate wings, with interconnecting causeways and pools -- a vast complex, sliced up by a maze of car-ramps and driveways. It took me about twenty minutes to wander from the desk to the distant wing we'd been assigned to.
My idea was to get into the room, accept the booze and baggage delivery, then smoke my last big chunk of Singapore Grey while watching Walter Cronkite and waiting for my attorney to arrive. I needed this break, this moment of peace and refuge, before we did the Drug Conference. It was going to be quite a different thing from the Mint 400. That had been an observer gig, but this one would need participation -- and a very special stance: At the Mint 400 we were dealing with an essentially simpatico crowd, and if our behavior was gross and outrageous ... well, it was only a matter of degree.
But this time our very presence would be an outrage. We would be attending the conference under false pretenses and dealing, from the start, with a crowd that was convened for the stated purpose of putting people like us in jail. We were the Menace -- not in disguise, but stone-obvious drug abusers, with a flagrantly cranked-up act that we intended to push all the way to the limit ... not to prove any final, sociological point, and not even as a conscious mockery: It was mainly a matter of life-style, a sense of obligation and even duty. If the Pigs were gathering in Vegas for a top-level Drug Conference, we felt the drug culture should be represented.
Beyond that, I'd been out of my head for so long now, that a gig like this seemed perfectly logical. Considering the circumstances, I felt totally meshed with my karma.
Or at least I was feeling this way until I got to the big grey door that opened into Mini-Suite 1150 in the Far Wing. I rammed my key into the knob-lock and swung the door open, thinking, "Ah, home at last!" ... but the door hit something, which I recognized at once as a human form: a girl of indeterminate age with the face and form of a Pit Bull. She was wearing a shapeless blue smock and her eyes were angry ...
Somehow I knew that I had the right room. I wanted to think otherwise, but the vibes were hopelessly right ... and she seemed to know, too, because she made no move to stop me when I moved past her and into the suite. I tossed my leather satchel on one of the beds and looked around for what I knew I would see ... my attorney ... stark naked, standing in the bathroom door with a drug-addled grin on his face.
"You degenerate pig," I muttered.
"It can't be helped," he said, nodding at the bulldog girl. "This is Lucy." He laughed distractedly. "You know -- like Lucy in the sky with diamonds ..."
I nodded to Lucy, who was eyeing me with definite venom. I was clearly some kind of enemy, some ugly intrusion on her scene ... and it was clear from the way she moved around the room, very quick and tense on her feet, that she was sizing me up. She was ready for violence, there was not much doubt about that. Even my attorney picked up on it.
"Lucy!" he snapped. "Lucy! Be cool, goddamnit! Remember what happened at the airport ... no more of that, OK?" He smiled nervously at her. She had the look of a beast that had just been tossed into a sawdust pit to fight for its life ...
"Lucy ... this is my client; this is Mister Duke, the famous journalist. He's paying for this suite, Lucy. He's on our side."
She said nothing. I could see that she was not entirely in control of herself. Huge shoulders on the woman, and a chin like Oscar Bonavena. I sat down on the bed and casually reached into my satchel for the Mace can ... and when I felt my tumb on the Shoot button I was tempted to jerk the thing out and soak her down on general principles, I desperately needed peace, rest, sanctuary. The last thing I wanted was a fight to the finish, in my own hotel room, with some kind of drug-crazed hormone monster.
My attorney seemed to understand this; he knew why my hand was in the satchel.
"No!" he shouted. "Not here! We'll have to move out!"
I shrugged. He was twisted. I could see that. And so was Lucy. Her eyes were feverish and crazy. She was staring at me like I was something that would have to be rendered helpless before life could get back to whatever she considered normal.
My attorney idled over and put his arm around her shoulders. "Mister Duke is my friend," he said gently. "He loves artists. Let's show him your paintings."
For the first time, I noticed that the room was full of artwork -- maybe forty or fifty portraits, some in oil, some charcoal, all more or less the same size and all the same face. They were propped up on every flat surface. The face was vaguely familiar, but I couldn't get a fix on it. It was a girl with a broad mouth, a big nose and extremely glittering eyes -- a demoniacally sensual face; the kind of over-stated, embarrassingly dramatic renderings that you find in the bedrooms of young female art students who get hung up on horses.
"Lucy paints portraits of Barbra Streisand," my attorney explained. "She's an artist up in Montana ..." He turned to the girl. "What's that town where you live?"
She stared at him, then at me, then back at my attorney again. Then finally she said, "Kalispel. Way up north. I drew these from TV."
My attorney nodded eagerly. "Fantastic," he said. "She came all the way down here just to give all these portraits to Barbra. We're going over to the Americana Hotel tonight, and meet her backstage."
Lucy smiled bashfully. There was no more hostility in her. I dropped the Mace can and stood up. We obviously had a serious case on our hands. I hadn't counted on this: Finding my attorney whacked on acid and locked into some kind of preternatural courtship.
"Well," I said, "I guess they've brought the car around by now. Let's get the stuff out of the trunk."
He nodded eagerly. "Absolutely, let's get the stuff." He smiled at Lucy. "We'll be right back. Don't answer the phone if it rings."
She grinned and made the one-finger Jesus freak sign. "God bless," she said.
My attorney pulled on a pair of elephant-leg pants and a glaze-black shirt, then we hurried out of the room. I could see he was having trouble getting oriented, but I refused to humor him.
"Well ..." I said. "What are your plans?"
We were waiting for the elevator.
"Lucy," I said.
He shook his head, struggling to focus on the question. "Shit," he said finally. "I met her on the plane and I had all that acid." He shrugged. "You know, those little blue barrels. Jesus, she's a religious freak. She's running away from home for something like the fifth time in six months. It's terrible. I gave her that cap before I realized ... shit, she's never even had a drink!"
"Well," I said, "it'll probably work out. We can keep her loaded and peddle her ass at the drug convention."
He stared at me.
"She's perfect for this gig," I said. "These cops will go fifty bucks a head to beat her into submission and then gang-fuck her. We can set her up in one of these back-street motels, hang pictures of Jesus all over the room, then turn these pigs loose on her ... Hell, she's strong; she'll hold her own."
His face was twitching badly. We were in the elevator now, descending into the lobby. "Jesus Christ," he muttered. "I knew you were sick, but I never expected to hear you actually say that kind of stuff."
He seemed stunned.
I laughed. "It's straight economics. This girl is a god-send!" I fixed him with a natural Bogart smile, all teeth ... "Shit, we're almost broke! And suddenly you pick up some muscle-bound loony who can make us a grand a day."
"No!" he shouted. "Stop talking like that!" The elevator door opened and we walked toward the parking lot.
"I figure she can do about four at a time," I said. "Christ, if we keep her full of acid that's more like two grand a day; maybe three."
"You filthy bastard!" he sputtered. "I should cave your fucking head in!" He was squinting at me, shielding his eyes from the sun. I spotted the Whale about fifty feet from the door. "There it is," I said. "Not a bad looking car, for a pimp ... "
He groaned. His face reflected the struggle that I knew he was having, in his brain, with sporadic acid rushes: Bad waves of painful intensity, followed by total confusion. When I opened the trunk of the Whale to get the bags, he got angry. "What the hell are you doing?" he snapped. "This isn't Lucy's car."
"I know ," I said. "It's mine. This is my luggage."
"The fuck it is!" he shouted. "Just because I'm a goddamn lawyer doesn't mean you can walk around stealing stuff right in front of me!" He backed away. "What the hell is wrong with you? We'll never beat a rap like this."
After much difficulty, we got back to the room and tried to have a serious talk with Lucy. I felt like a Nazi, but it had to be done. She was not right for us -- not in this fragile situation. It was bad enough if she were only what she appeared to be -- a strange young girl in the throes of a bad psychotic episode -- but what worried me far more than that was the likelihood that she would probably be just sane enough, in a few hours, to work herself into a towering Jesus-based rage at the hazy recollection of being picked up and seduced in the Los Angeles International Airport by some kind of cruel Samoan who fed her liquor and LSD, then dragged her to a Vegas hotel room and savagely penetrated every orifice in her body with his throbbing, uncircumcised member.
I had a terrible vision of Lucy crashing into Barbra Streisand's dressing room at the Americana and laying this brutal story on her. That would finish us. They would track us down and probably castrate us both, prior to booking ...
I explained this to my attorney, who was now in tears at the idea of sending Lucy away. She was still powerfully twisted, and I felt the only solution was to get her as far as possible from the Flamingo before she got straight enough to remember where she'd been and what happened to her.
Lucy, while we argued, was lying on the patio, doing a charcoal sketch of Barbra Streisand. From memory this time. It was a full-faced rendering, with teeth like baseballs and eyes like jellied fire.
The sheer intensity of the thing made me nervous. This girl was a walking bomb. God only knows what she might be doing with all that mis-wired energy right now if she didn't have her sketch pad. And what was she going to do when she got straight enough to read The Vegas Visitor, as I just had, and learn that Streisand wasn't due at the Americana for another three weeks?
My attorney finally agreed that Lucy would have to go. The possibility of a Mann Act conviction, resulting in disbarment proceedings and total loss of his livelihood, was a key factor in his decision. A nasty federal rap. Especially for a monster Samoan facing a typical white middle-class jury in Southern California.
"They might even call it kidnapping," I said. "Straight to the gas chamber, like Chessman. And even if you manage to beat that, they'll send you back to Nevada for Rape and Consensual Sodomy."
"No!" he shouted. "I felt sorry for the girl, I wanted to help her!"
I smiled. "That's what Fatty Arbuckle said, and you know what they did to him."
"Never mind," I said. "Just picture yourself telling a jury that you tried to help this poor girl by giving her LSD and then taking her out to Vegas for one of your special stark-naked back rubs."
He shook his head sadly. "You're right. They'd probably burn me at the goddamn stake ... set me on fire right there in the dock. Shit, it doesn't pay to try to help somebody these days ..."
We coaxed Lucy down to the car, telling her that we thought it was about time to "go meet Barbra." We had no trouble convincing her that she should take all her artwork, but she couldn't understand why my attorney wanted to bring her suitcase along. "I don't want to embarrass her," she protested. "She'll think I'm trying to move in with her, or something."
"No she won't," I said quickly ... but that was all I could think of to say. I felt like Martin Bormann. What would happen to this poor wretch when we cut her loose? Jail? White slavery? What would Dr. Darwin do under these circumstances? (Survival of the ... fittest? Was that the proper word? Had Darwin ever considered the idea of temporary unfitness? Like "temporary insanity." Could the Doctor have made room in his theory for a thing like LSD?)
All this was academic, of course. Lucy was a potentially fatal millstone on both our necks. There was absolutely no choice but to cut her adrift and hope her memory was fucked. But some acid victims -- especially nervous mongoloids -- have a strange kind of idiot-savant capacity for remembering odd details and nothing else. It was possible that Lucy might spend two more days in the grip of total amnesia, then snap out of it with no memory of anything but our room number at the Flamingo. ...
I thought about this ... but the only alternative was to take her out to the desert and feed her remains to the lizards. I wasn't ready for this; it seemed a bit heavy for the thing we were trying to protect: My attorney. It came down to that. So the problem was to work out a balance, to aim Lucy in a direction that wouldn't snap her mind and provoke a disastrous backlash.
She had money. My attorney had ascertained that. "At least $200," he'd said. "And we can always call the cops up there in Montana, where she lives, and turn her in."
I was reluctant to do this. The only thing worse than turning her loose in Vegas, I felt, was turning her over to "the authorities" ... and that was clearly out of the question, anyway. Not now. "What kind of goddamn monster are you?" I said. "First you kidnap the girl, then you rape her, and now you want to have her locked up!"
He shrugged. "It just occurred to me," he said, "that she has no witnesses. Anything she says about us is completely worthless."
"Us?" I said.
He stared at me. I could see that his head was clearing. The acid was almost gone. This meant that Lucy was probably coming down, too. It was time to cut the cord.
Lucy was waiting for us in the car, listening to the radio with a twisted smile on her face. We were standing about ten yards off. Anybody watching us from a distance might have thought we were having some kind of vicious, showdown argument about who had "rights to the girl." It was a standard scene for a Vegas parking lot.
We finally decided to make her a reservation at the Americana. My attorney ambled over to the car and got her last name under some pretense, then I hurried inside and called the hotel -- saying that I was her uncle and that I wanted her to be "treated very gently," because she was an artist and might seem a trifle high-strung. The room clerk assured me they'd give her every courtesy.
Then we drove her out to the airport, saying we were going to trade the White Whale in for a Mercedes 600, and my attorney took her into the lobby with all her gear. She was still unhinged and babbling when he led her away. I drove around a corner and waited for him.
Ten minutes later he shuffled up to the car and got in. "Take off, slowly," he said. "Don't attract any attention."
When we got out on Las Vegas Boulevard he explained that he'd given one of the airport cab-hasslers a $10 bill to see that his "drunk girlfriend" got to the Americana, where she had a reservation. "I told him to make sure she got there," he said.
"You think she will?"
He nodded. "The guy said he'd pay the fare with the extra five bucks I gave him, and tell the cabbie to humor her. I told him I had some business to take care of, but I'd be there myself in an hour -- and if the girl wasn't already checked in, I'd come back out here and rip his lungs out."
"That's good," I said. "You can't be subtle in this town."
He grinned. "As your attorney, I advise you to tell me where you put the goddamn mescaline."
I pulled over. The kit-bag was in the trunk. He fetched out two pellets and we each ate one. The sun was going down behind the scrub hills northwest of the city. A good Kristofferson tune was croaking out of the radio. We cruised back to town through the warm dusk, relaxed on the red leather seats of our electric white Coupe de Ville.
"Maybe we should take it easy tonight," I said as we flashed past the Tropicana.
"Right," he said. "Let's find a good seafood restaurant and eat some red salmon. I feel a powerful lust for red salmon."
I agreed. "But first we should go back to the hotel and settle in. Maybe have a quick swim and some rum."
He nodded, leaning back on the seat and staring up at the sky. Night was coming down slowly.