Hunter Thompson arrived less than an hour late for his first show last night at Max's on Broadway -- which was better than a lot of people expected.
He tripped on stage, clumsily rearranged the rudimentary set, demanded a fan to stir up the close air and knocked the microphone into the ice bucket holding the Chivas Regal.
After twirling a red umbrella over his head for a few minutes, he poured himself a tumbler of scotch, alternated sips with puffs on ever-present cigarettes and rifled through a Bible looking for the appropriate passage to read about Armageddon.
Then he engaged in a rambling, sometimes incoherent, profanity-punctuated discussion, each discourse prompted by shouted questions from the audience.
The crowd, a couple of hundred strong -- more than 400 bought tickets for the two shows last night -- was raucous and disrespectful. Many of them were not even born when Mr. Thompson, 51, began his unconventional career in journalism writing about the Hell's Angels.
But the man who invented the phrase "gonzo journalism" to describe his unique way of becoming a rambunctious part of nearly everything he writes, managed to entertain many of his listeners by offering his opinions on just about everything.
The war in the gulf? "Yeah, he annexed Kuwait," Mr. Thompson said of Saddam Hussein. "They used to own it. Kuwait was drilling for oil sideways under the border. It's a neighborhood squabble."
Why isn't he over there covering it? "I've had trouble with people asking me why I'm not in Saudi Arabia covering the war. There's a reason: no beer. And, you get your hands cut off for talking to a woman in Saudi Arabia. That's enough."
And Revelation, with its warning of Armageddon? "This is the last book of the Bible, and it's a bitch."
But don't take that to mean he's found religion. "It's better to read the Bible than the newspapers," he said, but when asked if he is a religious man, his reply was unequivocal. "Hell, no, I'm an investigative journalist. I have not turned to God in my dotage."
His most serious comments were reserved to explain the national network of lawyers he is helping set up to fight Fourth Amendment cases. "I've become a preacher about the Fourth Amendment and the Constitution," he said. "I found out the Constitution is not just a bunch of words."
He was referring to his arrest last year on counts of sexual assault, weapons and drug possession, charges which were RTC eventually dismissed because of illegal search and seizure, which is forbidden by the Fourth Amendment.