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Gonzo Lawyer

     We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive. . . .” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
     Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process.
— Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

     Yes.  The freedom tha Hunter expressed in life and in every line of his work was often made possible by the longtime friendship he cultivated with his attorneys.  Starting the tradition was of course Oscar Zeta Acosta, the famous “Samoan” attorney (Hunter Originally used that term to hide Oscars’ identity) who for years counseled Hunter on everything from how much mescaline should be eaten to what never to say to a police officer to morale boosters when Hunter ran for Sheriff of Pitkin County in 1971 on the Freak Power ticket.

     The list of Hunter’s lawyers grew rapidly over the years following Oscar:  John Clancy, Michael Stepanian, Gerry Goldstein, Abe Hutt, John Van Ness, Keith Stroup. And non criminal lawyers such as George Tobia, Joe Edwards, and Morris Dees.

     Hal Haddon is not the sort of lawyer you will find speeding shirtless down the highway pouring beer on his chest. No. Hal was Hunter’s lead attorney for other reasons. 

     They share the blood of a tribe that started perhaps around Bobby Kennedy and Chicago in 1968 (they finally met in 1974) and spans the decades of political victories and losses ever since.  The blood of this tribe runs thicker than money or whiskey and is the only reason why I can fathom why Hal has defended Hunter like a lion with the full force of his law firm before and after his death and never charged a dime.

     Years ago, right before Hunter introduced us, he wrote Hal’s phone numbers on a small piece of yellow paper and told me to always keep it in my wallet.  Then he said  something like “Haddon may seem harmless, with a dry sense of humor, wearing glasses and bowl haircut, but don’t let that fool you; he’s a good friend and hell-on-wheels in a courtroom – it’s like watching Abe Lincoln..”  I understood.

     So, for Hal’s birthday (today),  I thought I’d run the interview I did with him  this summer, where he talks about his days as Robert Kennedy’s advance man, his days as a navy JAG lawyer, running Gary Hart’s campaign, running his law firm for 30 years — most interesting for our purposes, is how his relationship with Hunter came to be.    

      But guess what? I don’t have the files with me here in NYC and not a single staff member from the Woody Creeker, or Owl Farm or web person will call be back or return my emails. Now that there are 2 feet of snow on the ski slopes, I’m being ignored!!!  Thanks a lot guys.  I also don’t have the files of the fantastic portrait that Ralph Steadman painted of Hal as Abe Lincoln for the Summer Fall issue of the Woody Creeker. So, Laura, Linda, Katie, Peter, Amber — someone please respond!

     But lucky for us, I do have the link to the private Woody Creeker site that has an interview that I put up strictly for locals to read, but I want you to read it too. It’s Hal interviewing our beloved Ed Bradley about Hunter and Woody Creek.   

Until next time, your ignored friend,

Anita Thompson


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