TypeTown #30: "Buy the ticket, take the ride."
🕶 Hunter S. Thompson, Abigail Van Buren, Herb Permillion, and more...
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Welcome, welcome. Fab to see you again.
Alas, we have not started the year well.
This issue of TypeTown is a sloppy 72 hours late.
But we’re here, just about, straightening our tie, patting down our hair, and hoping you don’t notice that our shirt isn’t ironed.
Somewhat ironically, we start with the philosophies of Hunter S. Thompson, an author famed for his gonzo journalism and one of the most influential voices of the 1960s and 70s.
“I really couldn’t imagine writing without a desperate deadline.”
Born in Kentucky in 1937, he made his name in 1965 with a story about California’s Hell’s Angels motorcycle club and a book on the same topic a year later.
Like for so many, writing was a compulsion.
“One day you just don’t appear at the El Adobe bar anymore. You shut the door, paint the windows black, rent an electric typewriter and become the monster you always were - the writer.”
Contributions to Esquire and The New York Times Magazine followed in the years ahead.
But it was his 1972 book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which delivered Thompson into a new tier of fame.
At the same time, a taste for booze and drugs was taking hold. And, inevitably, his work came under strain.
“Writing is the flip side of sex. It’s only good when it’s over.”
For Thompson, the typewriter was more than just a machine. It was his life companion, there until the end.
In February 2005, he committed suicide.
By his body, his typewriter was loaded with a single piece of paper. On it, he’d typed the date and then just one word: counselor.
“If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.”
His approach was not for everyone. But for those with whom he resonated, few could compare.
“Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
READ» The Typewriter: Hunter S Thopmson - Port
READ» Hunter S. Thompson’s Letters to His Enemies - The Atlantic
WATCH» Hunter S. Thompson Interview on Gonzo Journalism (April 16, 1975) - UGA Brown Media Archives
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The mail of Abigail
In a particularly jarring handbrake turn, we crash from Thompson to Pauline Phillips — more widely known as the Abigail Van Buren, the sage behind the Dear Abby advice column.
Phillips, who was married for 73 years before her death aged 94 in 2013, amassed 110 million readers and was syndicated in 1,400 newspapers.
She is pictured here in 1958, bashing out her latest wisdom via an IBM typewriter.
“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”
She knew instantly how to capture her audience.
“The less you talk, the more you’re listened to.”
We’ve written many times about the impact of California Typewriter.
Without it, we wouldn’t be here.
So this week cannot pass without mention of Herb Permillion, master of the IBM Selectric, owner of the shop that gave the film its title and all-round great man, judging by the comments from those who knew him best.
Thanks, Herb. We suspect you reached more people than you ever realised.
READ» Herb Permillion, Berkeley typewriter repair wizard featured in acclaimed documentary, dies at 79 - San Francisco Chronicle
Worth pausing the platen
📬 Margaret Mead was wrong: Thank God I can type - The Jewish News of Northern California
📬 Christopher Sholes, typewriter creator, was born in Montour County - The Daily Item
📬 Florida Man Finds Voice, Makes Living With Typewriter Poetry - US News
And finally… typewriters in the wild
In this portrait from acclaimed photographer Joel Sternfeld…
In this short news piece about Kirk Jackson’s Nashville Typewriter…
And in this poster for 1991 sci-fi flick Naked Lunch…
Until next time
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