To begin, I am not good at dates, times, places, names. So, if that is really important I apologize. Perhaps someday the life of WSB will be written in some detail and an event such as I mention here will be described in detail…or not. The important thing here is that there was made a video document of the events told and I write on Reality Studio to encourage recovery of said tape so that it might become public. I just now realized that I have never seen evidence of this video online and thought why not ask RS.
I will briefly describe events which occurred prior to the date of the taping. It began with a phone call from either Hunter or Nicole, his girlfriend/wrangler/assistant to either the WSB office or to WSB himself. Either way it was referred to me as I was at the time employed by Burroughs Communications as ‘Office Manager’. I do recall conversations with Hunter about the distance between Woody Creek and Lawrence, the best routes to take and how long it would take to drive the (9-10 hours ) straight shot east on I-70 from Denver to Lawrence. Hunter was going to drive because his purpose in making the trip was to visit William and go shooting….he was bringing guns and ammo. A fair amount of both. This was best I can recall 1994 or 95. The weather was warm and comfortable. May have been late summer. There were playoffs of some kind…baseball…that Hunter was following and you will see in a moment how that comes into the story. William was fine with a visit from Hunter…so it was, after a flurry of faxes and phone calls arranged, a date sat, rooms reserved at a historic hotel in downtown Lawrence. Finally the day came and Hunter called to say they were leaving Woody Creek. Then nothing and more nothing. The next day a rather, even for Hunter, animated call saying that the jeep had broken down in western Kansas…something about a blown hose and no parts in town. Someone was sent to Salina to get the part. It seems that this took place in a DRY county…that is NO ALCOHOL SALES…period. No liquor stores, no bars, no taverns. Impression I got was that all this made Hunter nervous but he was prepared and had a supply of chemical and drink to get through. Later he told the story of getting the jeep repaired and driving as fast as he could to what looked like a fair city. Turned out it was Junction City which is just outside a huge military base between Salina and Topeka. Hunter dove off the interstate and into what appeared to be and was a sports bar full of off duty army folk. The playoffs were on TV and Hunter and friend settled down at the bar. For a while. And then he got up to leave and couldn’t find his keys. “This fucking buzz cut ex-ranger bartender has taken my keys….telling ME I am too fucked up to drive!” Thompson is telling me all this as he and my wife and his friend were having a ‘quiet’ dinner at an outdoor café in Lawrence the next evening as we were on our way to Williams house. We were at some student Italian place with bad pasta but very attentive wai t people. As Hunter told the story he was fiddling with a Copenhagen snuff tin which turned out to be half full of coke and which he dropped to the concrete beneath the table. He and I were under the table trying best we could to scrape up the blow (and snort just a bit to lighten the load), with kind offers of assistance coming from the co-ed waitress who joined us. He could tell a story for sure!
We spent that evening at Williams house. It was amazing to observe the two of them. Hunter’s personality and demeanor seemed to change with the hour, but I must say that he seemed so totally fulfilled to be with William that he was quiet and, almost, in awe. Certainly mannerly and quiet. They talked and drank vodka cokes and smoked a joint or two. I will say that I was lucky enough to witness a lot of the visits made by people who came to Lawrence to see William. And I will say that most of them, not all, but most of them, came hoping to get Williams stink on there projects. If it was art, or painting, or music, or films or CD’s or whatnot…most wanted something from William to enhance the project. Not Hunter. He came to visit. He came to give a gift to someone he honored. He did not seem to want anything in return except for William to enjoy the time they would spend together. And he did. Of that I am sure.
The plan was to go shooting the next day,which we did. It was a great time for all. William was very pleased with that expedition. And he was proud of the gift from HST. Here is an account of that day written by HST:
Rolling Stone issue # 769 published 9/18/1997 has an obituary published just after the death of William S. Burroughs, here is the piece HST wrote about him.
“William had a fine taste for handguns, and later in life he became very good with them. I remember shooting with him one afternoon at his range on the outskirts of Lawerence. He had five or six well oiled old revolvers laid out on a wooden table, covered with a white linen cloth, and he used whichever one he was in the mood for at the moment. The S&W .45 was his favorite. “This is my finisher” he said lovingly and then he went into a crouch and then put five out of six shots through the chest of a human-silhouette target about 25 yards away.Hot Damn, I thought, we are in the presence of a seroius Shootist. Nicole had been FILMING IT WITH THE HI8 but I took the camera off her and told her to walk out about 10 yards in front of us and put an apple on her head. William smiled wanly and waved her off. “Never mind my dear” he said to her. “We’ll pass on that trick” Then he picked up the .454 Casul Magnum I’d brought with me. “But I’ll try this one” He said. “I like the looks of it.” The .454 is the most powerful hand gun in the World. It is twice as strong as a .44 Magnum, with a huge scope and a recoil so brutal that I was reluctant to let an 80-year-old man shoot it. This thing will snap back and crack your skull if you don’t hold it properly. But William persisted. The first shot lifted him two or three inches off the ground, but the bullet hit the throat of the target, two inches high. “Good shot,” I said. “Try a little lower and a click to the right.” He nodded and braced again.
His next shot punctured the stomach and left nasty red welts on his palms. Nicole shuddered visibly behind the camera, but I told her we’d only been kidding about the apple. Then, William emptied the cylinder, hitting once in the groin and twice just under the heart. I reached out to shake his hand as he limped back to the table, but he jerked it away and asked for some ice for his palms. “Well,” he said, “this is a very nasty piece of machinery. I like it.” I put the huge silver brute in its case and gave it to him. “It’s yours,” I said. “You deserve it.”Which was true. William was a Shootist. He shot like he wrote- with extreme precision and no fear. He would have fired a M-60 from the hip that day if I’d brought one with me. He would shoot anything, and he feared nothing.”
And here is the pitch to readers of Reality Studio….I tried more than once before I left Burroughs Communications in 2000 to find someone who had access to the tape Hunter talks about. I know it existed because I watched Nicloe with the camera as Hunter described. However no one seems to know where it is. What a shame. I recall asking Doug Brinkley when we was going out to work with HST on a book to see about it, but nothing came of that. And I asked my friend the sportswriter George Kimball who stayed in touch with HST but he couldn’t come up with anything either. Maybe someone on here can do that. Would be a great find. We need that.