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The Curse of Lono

Hunter S. Thompson

  The Curse of Lono

  by Hunter S. Thompson

  Illustrated by Ralph Steadman

  a.b.e-book v3.0

  Scanner's Note: Proofed carefully against DT. The RTF version does not incorporate any of the pictures. An HTML version was also released with carefully scanned illustrations.

  Back Cover:

  Hunter Thompson

  The King of Gonzo returns in

  The Curse of LONO

  an hilarious, brain-curdling South Sea adventure, the story of Hunter Thompson's epic escapades in Hawaii. Weird Tales from a Weird World by the quintessential outlaw journalist and best-selling author of:


  "Elicits the same kind of admiration one would feel for a streaker at

  Queen Victoria's funeral."

  -- William F. Buckley, Jr.


  "The most creatively crazy journalism. . . brilliant and honorable and valuable. . .

  the literary equivalent of Cubism: all rules are broken."

  -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


  "A scorching epochal sensation!'

  -- Tom Wolfe


  "Superb and terrifying."

  -- Studs Terkel

  Profusely illustrated in black and white and

  blazing color by Ralph Steadman


  A Bantam Book / November 1983

  Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission

  to quote from copyrighted material:

  From The Last Voyage of Captain James Cook by Richard Hough,

  copyright © 1979 by Richard Hough. Used by permission of William

  Morrow & Co., Inc., and Macmillan London Limited.

  From Hawaiian Monarchy: The Romantic Years by Maxine Mrantz,

  "The Law of the Splintered Oar" copyright © 1974 by Maxine Mrantz.

  Used by permission of Aloha Graphics & Sales, Inc.

  From "Hula Hula Boys" by Warren Zevon. Lyrics reprinted permission of

  Zevon Music (BMI). Copyright © 1982 by Zevon Music.

  Text copyright © 1983 by Hunter S. Thompson

  Illustrations copyright © 1983 by Ralph Steadman

  All rights reserved.

  Produced by Laila Nabulsi

  Book design by Yaron Fidler.

  This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by

  mimeograph or any other means, without permission.

  For information address: Bantam Books, Inc.

  Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

  Thompson, Hunter S.

  The curse of Lono.

  1. Thompson, Hunter S. 2. Journalists -- United States -- Biography.

  3. Hawaii -- Description and travel -- 1981- . I. Steadman, Ralph. II. Title.

  PN4874.T444A33 1983 070'.92'4 [B] 83-90660

  ISBN 0-553-01387-4 (pbk.)

  Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada


  WAK 0 9 8 7 6 5 4

  Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Arian brown,

  For the Christian riles, and the Arian smiles, and it weareth the Christian down;

  And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,

  And the epitaph drear: 'A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.'

  Rudyard Kipling

  "The Naulahka"

  The Romantic God Lono

  I have been writing a good deal, of late, about the great god Lono and Captain Cook's personation of him. Now, while I am here in Lono's home, upon ground which his terrible feet have trodden in remote ages -- unless these natives lie, and they would hardly do that I suppose -- I might as well tell who he was.

  The idol the natives worshipped for him was a slender unornamented staff twelve feet long. Unpoetical history says he was a favorite god on the island of Hawaii -- a great king who had been deified for meritorious services -- just our fashion of rewarding heroes, with the difference that we would have made him a postmaster instead of a god, no doubt. In an angry moment he slew his wife, a goddess named Kaikilani Alii. Remorse of conscience drove him mad, and tradition presents us the singular spectacle of a god traveling "on the shoulder"; for in his gnawing grief he wandered about from place to place, boxing and wrestling with all whom he met. Of course this pastime soon lost its novelty, inasmuch as it must necessarily have been the case that when so powerful a deity sent a frail human opponent "to grass," he never came back anymore. Therefore he instituted games called makahiki, and ordered that they should be held in his honor, and then sailed for foreign lands on a three-cornered raft, stating that he would return some day, and that was the last of Lono. He was never seen anymore; his raft got swamped perhaps. But the people always expected his return, and they were easily led to accept Captain Cook as the restored god.

  Mark Twain

  Letters from Hawaii


  May 23, 1980

  Hunter S. Thompson

  c/o General Delivery

  Woody Creek, CO

  Dear Hunter:

  To keep a potential screed down to a few lines, we would like you to cover the Honolulu Marathon. We will pay all expenses and an excellent fee. Please contact us.

  Think about it. This is a good chance for a vacation.


  Paul Perry

  Executive Editor,

  Running Magazine

  October 25, 1980

  Owl Farm

  Dear Ralph,

  I think we have a live one this time, old sport. Some dingbat named Perry up in Oregon wants to give us a month in Hawaii for Christmas and all we have to do is cover the Honolulu Marathon for his magazine, a thing called Running. . .

  Yeah, I know what you're thinking, Ralph. You're pacing around over there in the war room at the Old Loose Court and thinking, "Why me? And why now? Just when I'm getting respectable?"

  Well. . . let's face it, Ralph; anybody can be respectable, especially in England. But not everybody can get paid to run like a bastard for 26 miles in some maniac hype race called the Honolulu Marathon.

  We are both entered in this event, Ralph, and I feel pretty confident about winning. We will need a bit of training, but not much.

  The main thing will be to run as an entry and set a killer pace for the first three miles. These body-nazis have been training all year for the supreme effort in this Super Bowl of marathons. The promoters expect 10,000 entrants, and the course is 26 miles; which means they will all start slow. . . because 26 miles is a hell of a long way to run, for any reason at all, and all the pros in this field will start slow and pace themselves very carefully for the first 20 miles.

  But not us, Ralph. We will come out of the blocks like human torpedoes and alter the whole nature of the race by sprinting the first three miles shoulder-to-shoulder in under 10 minutes.

  A pace like that will crack their nuts, Ralph. These people are into running, not racing -- so our strategy will be to race like whorehounds for the first three miles. I figure we can crank ourselves up to a level of frenzy that will clock about 9:55 at the three-mile checkpoint. . . which will put us so far ahead of the field that they won't even be able to see us. We will be over the hill and all alone when we hit the stretch along Ala Moana Boulevard still running shoulder-to-shoulder at a pace so fast and crazy that not even the judges will feel sane about it. . . and the rest of the field will be left so far behind that many will be overcome with blind rage and confusion.

  I've also entered you in the Pipeline Masters, a world class surfin
g contest on the north shore of Oahu on Dec. 26.

  You will need some work on your high-speed balance for this one, Ralph. You'll be shot through the curl at speeds up to 50 or even 75 miles an hour, and you won't want to fall.

  I won't be with you in the Pipeline gig, due to serious objections raised by my attorney with regard to the urine test and other legal ramifications.

  But I will enter the infamous Liston Memorial Rooster Fight, at $1,000 per unit on the universal scale -- e.g., one minute in the cage with one rooster wins $1,000. . . or five minutes with one rooster is worth $5,000. . . and two minutes with five roosters is $10,000. . . etc.

  This is serious business, Ralph. These Hawaiian slashing roosters can tear a man to shreds in a matter of seconds. I am training here at home with the peacocks -- six 40-pound birds in a 6' x 6' cage, and I think I'm getting the hang of it.

  The time has come to kick ass, Ralph, even if it means coming briefly out of retirement and dealing, once again, with the public. I am also in need of a rest -- for legal reasons -- so I want this gig to be easy, and I know in my heart that it will be.

  Don't worry, Ralph. We will bend a few brains with this one. I have already secured the Compound: two homes with a 50-meter pool on the edge of the sea on Alii Drive in Kona, where the sun always shines.




  We were about forty minutes out of San Francisco when the crew finally decided to take action on the problem in Lavatory 1B. The door had been locked since takeoff and now the chief stewardess had summoned the copilot down from the flight deck. He appeared in the aisle right beside me, carrying a strange-looking black tool in his hand, like a flashlight with blades, or some kind of electric chisel. He nodded calmly as he listened to the stewardess's urgent whispering. "I can talk to him," she said, pointing a long red fingernail at the "occupied" sign on the locked toilet door, "but I can't get him out."

  The copilot nodded thoughtfully, keeping his back to the passengers while he made some adjustments on the commando tool he was holding. "Any ID?" he asked her.

  She glanced at a list on her clipboard. "Mr. Ackerman," she said. "Address: Box 99, Kailua-Kona."

  "The big island," he said.

  She nodded, still consulting her clipboard. "Red Carpet Club member," she said. "Frequent traveler, no previous history. . . boarded in San Francisco, one-way first class to Honolulu. A perfect gentleman. No connections booked." She continued, "No hotel reservations, no rental cars. . ." She shrugged. "Very polite, sober, relaxed. . ."

  "Yeah," he said. "I know the type." The officer stared down at his tool for a moment, then raised his other hand and knocked sharply on the door. "Mr. Ackerman?" he called. "Can you hear me?"

  There was no answer, but I was close enough to the door to hear sounds of movement inside: first, the bang of a toilet seat dropping, then running water. . .

  I didn't know Mr. Ackerman, but I remembered him coming aboard. He had the look of a man who had once been a tennis pro in Hong Kong, then gone on to bigger things. The gold Rolex, the white linen bush jacket, the Thai Bhat chain around his neck, the heavy leather briefcase with combination locks on every zipper. . . These were not signs of a man who would lock himself in the bathroom immediately after takeoff and stay inside for almost an hour.

  Which is too long, on any flight. That kind of behavior raises questions that eventually become hard to ignore -- especially in the spacious first-class compartment on a 747 on a five-hour flight to Hawaii. People who pay that kind of money don't like the idea of having to stand in line to use the only available bathroom, while something clearly wrong is going on in the other one.

  I was one of these people. . . My social contract with United Airlines entitled me, I felt, to at least the use of a tin stand-up bathroom with a lock on the door for as long as I needed to get myself cleaned up. I had spent six hours hanging around the Red Carpet Room in the San Francisco airport, arguing with ticket agents, drinking heavily and fending off waves of strange memories. . .

  About halfway between Denver and San Francisco, we'd decided to change planes and get on a 747 for the next leg. The DC-10 is nice for short hops and sleeping, but the 747 is far better for the working professional on a long haul -- because the 747 has a dome lounge, a sort of club car on top of the plane with couches and wooden card tables and its own separate bar, which can only be reached by an iron spiral staircase in the first-class compartment. It meant taking the chance of losing the luggage, and a tortured layover in the San Francisco airport. . . but I needed room to work, to spread out a bit, and maybe, even sprawl.

  My plan, on this night, was to look at all the research material I had on Hawaii. There were memos and pamphlets to read -- even books. I had Hough's The Last Voyage of Captain James Cook, The Journal of William Ellis, and Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii -- big books and long pamphlets: "The Island of Hawaii," "Kona Coast Story," "Pu'uhonua o Honaunau." All these and many more.

  "You can't just come out here and write about the marathon," my friend John Wilbur had told me. "There's a hell of a lot more to Hawaii than ten thousand Japs running past Pearl Harbor. Come on out," he said. "These islands are full of mystery, never mind Don Ho and all the tourist gibberish -- there's a hell of a lot more here than most people understand."

  Wonderful, I thought -- Wilbur is wise. Anybody who can move from the Washington Redskins to a house on the beach in Honolulu must understand something about life that I don't.

  Indeed. Deal with the mystery. Do it now. Anything that can create itself by erupting out of the bowels of the Pacific Ocean is worth looking at.

  After six hours of failure and drunken confusion, I had finally secured two seats on the last 747 flight of the day to Honolulu. Now I needed a place to shave, brush my teeth, and maybe just stand there and look at myself in the mirror and wonder, as always, who might be looking back.

  There is no possible economic argument for a genuinely private place of any kind on a ten million dollar flying machine. The risk is too high.

  No. That makes no sense. Too many people like Master Sergeants forced into early retirement have tried to set themselves on fire in these tin cubicles. . . too many psychotics and half-mad dope addicts have locked themselves inside, then gobbled pills and tried to flush themselves down the long blue tube.

  The copilot rapped on the door with his knuckles. "Mr. Ackerman! Are you all right?"

  He hesitated, then called again, much louder this time. "Mr. Ackerman! This is your captain speaking. Are you sick?"

  "What?" said a voice from inside.

  The stewardess leaned close to the door. "This is a medical emergency, Mr. Ackerman -- we can get you out of there in thirty seconds if we have to." She smiled triumphantly at Captain Goodwrench as the voice inside came alive again.

  "I'm fine," it said. "I'll be out in a minute."

  The copilot stood back and watched the door. There were more sounds of movement inside -- but nothing else, except the sound of running water.

  By this time the entire first class cabin was alerted to the crisis. "Get that freak out of there!" an old man shouted. "He might have a bomb!"

  "Oh my God!" a woman screamed. "He's in there with something!"

  The copilot flinched, then turned to face the passengers. He pointed his tool at the old man, who was now becoming hysterical. "You!" he snapped. "Shut up! I'll handle this."

  Suddenly the door opened and Mr. Ackerman stepped out. He moved quickly into the aisle and smiled at the stewardess. "Sorry to keep you waiting," he said. "It's all yours now." He was backing down the aisle, his bush jacket draped casually over his arm, but not covering it.

  From where I was sitting I could see that the arm he was trying to hide from the stewardess was bright blue, all the way up to the shoulder. The sight of it made me coil nervously into my seat. I had liked Mr. Ackerman, at first. He had the look of a man who might share my own tastes. . . but now he was lo
oking like trouble, and I was ready to kick him in the balls like a mule for any reason at all. My original impression of the man had gone all to pieces by that time. This geek who had locked himself in the bathroom for so long that one of his arms had turned blue was not the same gracious, linen-draped Pacific yachtsman who had boarded the plane in San Francisco.

  Most of the other passengers seemed happy enough just to see the problem come out of the bathroom peacefully: no sign of a weapon, no dynamite taped to his chest, no screaming of incomprehensible terrorist slogans or threatening to slit people's throats. . . The old man was still sobbing quietly, not looking at Ackerman as he continued to back down the aisle toward his own seat, but nobody else seemed worried.

  The copilot, however, was staring at Ackerman with an expression of pure horror on his face. He had seen the blue arm -- and so had the stewardess, who was saying nothing at all. Ackerman was still trying to keep his arm hidden under the bush jacket. None of the other passengers had noticed it -- or, if they had, they didn't know what it meant.

  But I did, and so did the bug-eyed stewardess. The copilot gave Ackerman one last withering glance, then shuddered with obvious disgust as he closed up his commando tool and moved away. On his way to the spiral staircase that led back upstairs to the flight deck, he paused right above me in the aisle and whispered to Ackerman: "You filthy bastard, don't ever let me catch you on one of my flights again."

  I saw Ackerman nod politely, then he slid into his seat just across the aisle from me. I quickly stood up and moved toward the bathroom with my shaving kit in my hand -- and when I'd locked myself safely inside I carefully closed the toilet seat before I did anything else.