Gonzo stayed here: Hunter S. Thompson visited Bay Area hospital after storied clash with bikers

I’m always on the look-out for trivia about my hometown of Santa Rosa.

And here’s a piece: While writing his biker-gang epic about the Hell’s Angels, Hunter S. Thompson was savagely beaten by the thugs and treated at a hospital in my humble burg.

His book is one of the coolest accounts of the bad-ass Angels, who continue to roam the North Coast of California and maintain a headquarters in Santa Rosa.

Here’s an excerpt from the book, Hell’s Angels, A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.


On Labor Day 1966, I pushed my luck a little too far and got badly stomped by four or five Angels who seemed to feel I was taking advantage of them. A minor disagreement suddenly became very serious.

None of those who did me were among the group I considered my friends — but they were Angels, and that was enough to cause many of the others to participate after one of the brethren teed off on me. The first blow was launched with no hint of warning and I thought for a moment that it was just one of those drunken accidents that a man has to live with in this league. But within seconds I was clubbed from behind by the Angel I’d been talking to just a moment earlier. Then I was swarmed in a general flail. As I went down I caught a glimpse of Tiny, standing on the rim of the action. His was the only familiar face I could see … and if there is any one person a non-Angel does not want to see among his attackers, that person is Tiny. I yelled to him for help — but more out of desperation than hope.

Yet it was Tiny who pulled me out of the stomp circle before the others managed to fracture my skull or explode my groin. Even while the heavy boots were punching into my ribs and jolting my head back and forth I could hear Tiny somewhere above me, saying, “Come on, come on, that’s enough.” I suppose he helped more than I realized, but if he had done nothing else I owe him a huge favor for preventing one of the outlaws from crashing a huge rock down on my head. I could see the vicious swine trying to get at me with the stone held in a two-handed Godzilla grip above his head. Tiny kept him mercifully out of range … and then, during a lull in the boot action, he pulled me to my feet and hurried me off toward the highway.

Nobody followed. The attack ended with the same inexplicable suddenness that it had begun. There was no vocal aftermath, then or later. I didn’t expect one — no more than I’d expect a pack of sharks to explain their feeding frenzy.

I got in my car and sped off, spitting blood on the dashboard and weaving erratically across both lanes of the midnight highway until my one good eye finally came into focus. I hadn’t gone very far when I realized Magoo was asleep in the back seat. I pulled off the road and woke him up. He was jolted at the sight of my bloody face. “Jesus Christ!” he muttered. “Who’s after us? You shoulda woke me up!”

“Never mind,” I said. “You better get out. I’m leaving.” He nodded blankly, then lurched out to meet the enemy. I left him standing in the gravel beside the road.

My next stop was the hospital in Santa Rosa, nearly fifty miles south of the Angel encampment. The emergency-ward waiting room was full of wounded Gypsy Jokers. The most serious case was a broken jaw, the result of a clash earlier that evening with a pipe-wielding Hell’s Angel.

The Jokers told me they were on their way north to wipe the Angels out. “It’ll be a goddamn slaughter,” said one.

I agreed, and wished them luck. I wanted no part of it — not even with a shotgun. I was tired, swollen and whipped. My face looked like it had been jammed into the spokes of a speeding Harley, and the only thing keeping me awake was the spastic pain of a broken rib.

It had been a bad trip … fast and wild in some moments, slow and dirty in others, but on balance it looked like a bummer. On my way back to San Francisco, I tried to compose a fitting epitaph. I wanted something original, but there was no escaping the echo of Mistah Kurtz’ final words from the heart of darkness: “The horror! The horror! … Exterminate all the brutes!” ”

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