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Ballad of Narayama

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From Bill Nack: Memories of Hunter

From Bill Nack, Washington, DC:

Your review of "Gonzo" is right on the mark. I used to wonder, too, how he survived his mornings after waking up.

I first met Hunter at the first Ali-Spinks fight in Vegas, circa 1978, and then again at the second Ali-Spinks fight in New Orleans. Hunter was from Louisville and he followed Ali every where. He came up to me and an old fight announcer, Don Dunphy, at the hotel bar in New Orleans and I introduced myself again and asked him if I could buy him a drink. He said sure. The bartender came over and Hunter said, "I'll have a triple Chivas in a cocktail shaker. No ice" The bartender filled it it nearly to the top with that very expensive scotch. I had to laugh when I got the bill. It was twenty bucks.

I saw him periodically after that. One night, at the Alladin in Vegas, he was drinking with us at the bar and disappearing every twenty minutes to do a line of cocaine in the bathroom. At one point he suggested that we go to the club fights at the Silver Slipper casino, where people stood around at ringside and made running bets on which stiff would beat the other.

"Come on," Hunter said. "Let's go to the Slipper. You stand right at ringside. So close to the action that you get blood in your beer."

It was a long night. He drank more beer. But you're right. It never seemed to affect him. I never saw him addled or drunk and he drank heavily, mixing the alcohol with the drugs. But I never saw him during the day. Maybe he slept late and tore up his room in the morning.

A very strange man. But I liked him. We talked literature a lot. I did the last page of Gatsby for him and he loved it. I once asked him who the funniest writer was he ever read and he said, "Joseph Conrad."

I started to laugh. "No, really..."

"I'm serious," said Hunter. "There was one scene in a Conrad story, maybe Typhoon, where there was a violent storm at sea and this boat was being swept in 40-foot swells and the captain of the ship kept trying to keep the inside of the bridge from getting wet by jamming towels around the windows. It was the funniest thing I ever read. Hysterically funny."

The writer, a former senior editor at Sports Illustrated, is co-producing a new film based on his biography of the race horse Secretariat.

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