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Monday, September 8, 2003
Death of an American poet

By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

Editor's Note: Singer/songwriter Warren Zevon died of lung cancer Sunday night at the age of 56. To celebrate the life of his good friend, Page 2's Hunter S. Thompson offers this look back at a column he wrote about Zevon in May of 2001.

Warren Zevon arrived at my house on Saturday and said he was in the mood to write a few songs about Hockey. "Thank God you're home," he said. "I had to drive all night to get out of Utah without being locked up. What's wrong with those people?"

"What people?" I asked him.

"The ones over in Utah," he said nervously. "They've been following me ever since Salt Lake City. They pulled me over at some kind of police checkpoint and accused me of being a Sex Offender -- I was terrified. They even had a picture of me."

"Nonsense," I said. "They're doing that to a lot of people, these days. They're rounding up the Bigamists before the Olympics start. They don't want to be embarrassed in the eyes of the world again."

Warren seemed far too frantic to do any serious song-writing, so I tried to calm him down with some of the fresh Jimson tea I'd brewed up for the Holiday. I knew he was a rabid hockey fan, so I told him we could watch the Stanley Cup playoff game on TV pretty soon.

"Excellent," he said. "I have come to Love professional hockey. I watch it all the time on TV -- especially the Stanley Cup playoffs."

Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy's performance in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals was one to worship.
"Well," I replied with a smile, "tonight is our lucky night. Game 1 is coming up on ESPN very soon. We will drink some more of this Tea and get ourselves Prepared for it."

"Bless you, Doc," he said. "We can Watch the game together, and then write a song about it." He paused momentarily and reached again for the teapot.... "This is very exciting," he said eagerly. " I can hardly wait to see Patrick Roy in action. He is one of my personal heroes. Roy is the finest athlete in Sports now. I worship him."

I nodded, but said nothing. There was a far-away look in his eyes now, and he spoke in an oddly Dreamy voice. I could see that he had forgotten all about his troubles in Utah, and now he was jabbering happily....

When the phone rang he ignored me and picked it up before I could get to it. "Patrick Roy fan club," he said. "Zevon speaking. We are ready for the game, here -- are you ready?" He laughed. "Are you a Bigamist? What? Don't lie to me, you yellow-bellied pervert!" Then he laughed again, and hung up.

"That will teach those Bigamists a lesson," he chuckled. "That fool will never call back!"

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Click here to buy Hunter S. Thompson's new book, Fear and Loathing in America : The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist.

I jerked the phone away from him and told him to calm down. "You're starting to act weird," I told him. "Get a grip on yourself."

The game was the most dominating display of big time hockey either of us had ever seen. The Avalanche humiliated the favored defending champion N.J. Devils.

Patrick Roy got his shutout and "could have beaten N.J. all by himself," Zevon boasted. "He made midgets of us all. I will never forget this game. Our song will be called 'You're a Whole Different Person When You're Afraid.' "

Which proved to be true, when we played it back on his new-age Hugo machine 40 hours later.

Zevon is famous for his ability to stay awake for as long as it takes -- often for 85 or 90 straight hours. "I wrote 'Hit Somebody in 75 hours,' " he said, "and look what happened to that one."

Indeed. It rocketed to the top of the charts and was hailed as "the finest song ever written about hockey" by Rolling Stone and "Songs of the Rich and Famous."

Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon is as adept at songwriting as he is with a .44 magnum.
Warren Zevon is a poet. He has written more classics than any other musician of our time, with the possible exception of Bob Dylan. ... He is also a crack shot with a .44 magnum and an expert on lacrosse -- which we also watched while we worked. He went wild when Princeton beat Syracuse for the NCAA Championship on Sunday.

He disappeared in the middle of the night, still without sleep -- saying he was headed to Indianapolis to write a song with Colts owner James Irsay, who just returned from buying Kerouac's original manuscript of "On The Road" for $2.43 million at Christie's Auction House in New York. Irsay is another one of Warren's heroes.

Warren is a profoundly mysterious man, and I have learned not to argue with him, about hockey or anything else. He is a dangerous drinker, and a whole different person when he's afraid.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's books include Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Proud Highway, Better Than Sex and The Rum Diary. His new book, Fear and Loathing in America, has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears each Monday on Page 2.