FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS — A SAVAGE JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
by Hunter S. Thompson, © 1971 by Hunter S. Thompson
Chapter 9: Breakdown on Paradise Blvd.
At this point in the chronology, Dr. Duke appears to have broken down completely; the original manuscript is so splintered that we were forced to seek out the original tape recording and transcribe it verbatim. We made no attempt to edit this section, and Dr. Duke refused even to read it. There was no way to reach him. The only address/contact we had, during this period, was a mobile phone unit somewhere on Highway 61 — and all efforts to reach Duke at that number proved futile.
In the interests of journalistic purity, we are publishing the following section just as it came off the tape — one of many that Dr. Duke submitted for purposes of verification — along with his manuscript. According to the tape, this section follows an episode involving Duke, his attorney and a waitress at an all-night diner in North Vegas. The rationale for the following transaction appears to be based on a feeling — shared by both Duke and his attorney — that the American Dream would have to be sought out somewhere far beyond the dreary confines of the District Attorneys’ Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
The transcription begins somewhere on the Northeast outskirts of Las Vegas — zooming along Paradise Road in the White Whale. …
Att’y: Boulder City is to the right. Is that a town?
Att’y: Let’s go to Boulder City.
Duke: All right. Let’s get some coffee somewhere …
Att’y: Right up here, Terry’s Taco Stand, USA. I could go for a taco. Five for a buck.
Duke: Sounds horrible. I’d rather go somewhere where’s there’s one for 50¢.
Att’y: No … this might be the last chance we get for tacos.
Duke: … I need some coffee.
Att’y: I want tacos …
Duke: Five for a buck, that’s like … five hamburgers for a buck.
Att’y: No … don’t judge a taco by its price.
Duke: You think you might make a deal?
Att’y: I might. There’s a hamburger for 29¢. Tacos are 29¢. It’s just a cheap place, that’s all.
Duke: Go bargain with them….
[Only garbled sounds here. — Ed.]
Att’y: … Hello.
Waitress: May I help you?
Att’y: Yeah, you have tacos here? Are they Mexican tacos or just regular tacos? I mean, do you have chili in them and things like that?
Waitress: We have cheese and lettuce, and we have sauce, you know, put on them.
Att’y: I mean do you guarantee that they are authentic Mexican tacos?
Waitress: … I don’t know. Hey Lou, do we have authentic Mexican tacos?
Woman’s voice from kitchen: What?
Waitress: Authentic Mexican tacos.
Lou: We have tacos. I don’t know how Mexican they are.
Att’y: Yeah, well, I just want to make sure I get what I’m paying for. ‘Cause they’re five for a dollar! I’ll take five of them.
Duke: Taco burger, what’s that?
[Sounds of diesel engine trucks. — Ed.]
Att’y: That’s a hamburger with a taco in the middle.
Waitress: … instead of a shell.
Duke: A taco on a bun.
Att’y: I betcha your tacos are just hamburgers with a shell instead of a bun.
Waitress: I don’t know …
Att’y: You just started working here?
Att’y: I thought so, I’ve never saw you here before. You go to school around here?
Waitress: No, I don’t go to school.
Att’y: Oh? Why not? Are you sick?
Duke: Never mind that. We came here for tacos.
Att’y: As your attorney I advise you to get the chiliburger. It’s a hamburger with chili on it.
Duke: That’s too heavy for me.
Att’y: Then I advise you to get a taco burger, try that one.
Duke: … the taco has meat in it. I’ll try that one. And some coffee now. Right now. So I can drink it while I’m waiting.
Waitress: That’s all you want, one taco burger?
Duke: Well, I’ll try it, I might want two.
Att’y: Are your eyes blue or green?
Att’y: Blue or green?
Waitress: They change.
Att’y: Like a lizard?
Waitress: Like a cat.
Att’y: Oh, the lizard changes the color of his skin …
Waitress: Want anything to drink?
Att’y: Beer. And I have beer in the car. Tons of it. The whole back seat’s full of it.
Duke: I don’t like mixing coconuts up with beer and hamburgers.
Att’y: Well, let’s smash the bastards … right in the middle of the highway … Is Boulder City somewhere around here?
Waitress: Boulder City? Do you want sugar?
Att’y: We’re in Boulder City, huh? Or very close to it?
Duke: I don’t know.
Waitress: There it is. That sign says Boulder City, OK. Aren’t you from Nevada?
Att’y: No. We’ve never been here before. Just traveling through.
Waitress: You just go straight up this road here.
Att’y: Any action up there in Boulder City?
Waitress: Don’t ask me. I don’t …
Att’y: Any gambling there?
Waitress: I don’t know, it’s just a little town.
Duke: Where is the casino?
Waitress: I don’t know.
Att’y: Wait a minute, where are you from?
Waitress: New York.
Att’y: And you’ve just been here a day.
Waitress: No, I’ve been here for a while.
Att’y: Where do you go around here? Say you wanted to go swimming or something like that?
Waitress: In my backyard.
Att’y: What’s the address?
Waitress: Um, go to the … ah … the pool’s not open yet.
Att’y: Let me explain it to you, let me run it down just briefly if I can. We’re looking for the American Dream, and we were told it was somewhere in this area …. Well, we’re here looking for it, ’cause they sent us out here all the way from San Francisco to look for it. That’s why they gave us this white Cadillac, they figure that we could catch up with it in that …
Waitress: Hey Lou, you know where the American Dream is?
Att’y (to Duke): She’s asking the cook if he knows where the American Dream is.
Waitress: Five tacos, one taco burger. Do you know where the American Dream is?
Lou: What’s that? What is it?
Att’y: Well, we don’t know, we were sent out here from San Francisco to look for the American Dream, by a magazine, to cover it.
Lou: Oh, you mean a place.
Att’y: A place called the American Dream.
Lou: Is that the old Psychiatrist’s Club?
Waitress: I think so.
Att’y: The old Psychiatrist’s Club?
Lou: Old Psychiatrist’s Club, it’s on Paradise … Are you guys serious?
Att’y: Oh, no honest, look at that car, I mean, do I look like I’d own a car like that?
Lou: Could that be the old Psychiatrist’s Club? It was a discotheque place …
Att’y: Maybe that’s it.
Waitress: It’s on Paradise and what?
Lou: Ross Allen had the old Psychiatrist’s Club. Is he the owner now?
Duke: I don’t know.
Att’y: All we were told was, go till you find the American Dream. Take this white Cadillac and go find the American Dream. It’s somewhere in the Las Vegas area.
Lou: That has to be the old …
Att’y: … and it’s a silly story to do, but you know, that’s what we get paid for.
Lou: Are you taking pictures of it, or …
Att’y: No, no — no pictures.
Lou: … or did somebody just send you on a goose chase?
Att’y: It’s sort of a wild goose chase, more or less, but personally, we’re dead serious.
Lou: That has to be the old Psychiatrist’s Club, but the only people who hang out there is a bunch of pushers, peddlers, uppers and downers, and all that stuff.
Att’y: Maybe that’s it. Is it a night-time place or is it an all day …
Lou: Oh, honey, this never stops. But it’s not a casino.
Duke: What kind of place is it?
Lou: It’s on Paradise, uh, the old Psychiatrist’s Club’s on Paradise.
Att’y: Is that what it’s called, the old Psychiatrist’s Club?
Lou: No, that is what it used to be, but someone bought it … but I didn’t hear about it as the American Dream, it was something like, associated with, uh … it’s a mental joint, where all the dopers hang out.
Att’y: A mental joint? You mean like a mental hospital?
Lou: No, honey, where all the dope peddlers and all the pushers, everybody hangs out. It’s a place where all the kids are potted when they go in, and everything … but it’s not called what you said, the American Dream.
Att’y: Do you have any idea what it might be called? Or more or less where it might be located?
Lou: Right off of Paradise and Eastern.
Waitress: But Paradise and Eastern are parallel.
Lou: Yeah, but I know I come off of Eastern, and then I go to Paradise …
Waitress: Yeah I know it, but then that would make it off Paradise around the Flamingo, straight up here. I think somebody’s handed you a …
Att’y: We’re staying at the Flamingo. I think this place you’re talking about and the way you’re describing it, I think that maybe that’s it.
Lou: It’s not a tourist joint.
Att’y: Well, that’s why they sent me. He’s the writer: I’m the bodyguard. ‘Cause I figure it will be …
Lou: These guys are nuts… these kids are nuts.
Att’y: That’s OK.
Waitress: Yeah, they got new laws.
Duke: Twenty-four-hour-a-day violence? Is that what we’re saying?
Lou: Exactly. Now here’s the Flamingo … Oh, I can’t show you this; I can tell you better my way. Right up here at the first gas station is Tropicana, take a right.
Att’y: Tropicana to the right.
Lou: The first gas station is Tropicana. Take a right on Tropicana and take this way … right on Tropicana, right on Paradise, you’ll see a big black building, it’s all painted black and real weird looking.
Att’y: Right on Tropicana, right on Paradise, black building …
Lou: And there’s a sign on the side of the building that says Psychiatrist’s Club, but they’re completely remodeling it and everything.
Att’y: All right, that’s close enough …
Lou: If there’s anything I can do for ya, honey … I don’t know if that’s even it or not. But it sounds like it is, I think you boys are on the right track.
Att’y: Right. That’s the best lead we’ve had for two days, we’ve been asking people all around.
Lou: … I could make a couple calls and sure as hell find out.
Att’y: Could you?
Lou: Sure I’ll call Allen and ask him.
Att’y: Gee, I’d appreciate that if you could.
Waitress: When you go down to Tropicana, it’s not the first gas station, the second.
Lou: There’s a big sign right down the street here, it says Tropicana A venue. Make a right, and when you get to Paradise make another right.
Att’y: OK. Big black building, right on Paradise: twenty four-hour-a-day violence, drugs …
Waitress: See, here’s Tropicana, and this is Boulder Highway that goes clear down like that.
Duke: Well, that’s pretty far into town then.
Waitress: Well, here’s Paradise split up somewhere around there. There’s Paradise. Yeah, we’re down in here. See, this is Boulder Highway … and Tropicana.
Lou: Well, that’s not it, that bartender in there is a pothead too …
Att’y: Yeah, well, it’s a lead.
Lou: You gonna be glad you stopped here, boys.
Duke: Only if we find it.
Att’y: Only if we write the article and get it in.
Waitress: Well, why don’t you come inside and sit down?
Duke: We’re trying to get as much sun as we can.
Att’y: She’s going to make a phone call to find out where it is.
Duke: Oh. OK, well, let’s go inside.
EDITOR’S NOTE (cont.):
Tape cassettes for the next sequence were impossible to transcribe due to some viscous liquid encrusted behind the heads. There is a certain consistency in the garbled sounds however, indicating that almost two hours later Dr. Duke and his attorney finally located what was left of the “Old Psychiatrist’s Club” — a huge slab of cracked, scorched concrete in a vacant lot full of tall weeds. The owner of a gas station across the road said the place had “burned down about three years ago.”