In 1962, future Pulitzer Prize–winning author Alex Haley sat down with jazz musician Miles Davis for what would become an institution of American journalism—the Playboy Interview. To celebrate the Interview’s 50th anniversary, Playboy has culled 50 of its most (in)famous Interviews and will publish them over the course of 50 weekdays (from September 4, 2012 to November 12, 2012) via Amazon’s Kindle Direct platform. Here, a glimpse at our conversation with journalist Hunter S. Thompson from the November 1974 issue.
“Gonzo journalism is something that grew out of a story on the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan’s magazine. It was one of those horrible deadline scrambles and I ran out of time. I was desperate. Ralph Steadman had done the illustrations, the cover was printed and there was this horrible hole in the magazine. I was convinced I was finished, I’d blown my mind, couldn’t work. So finally I just started jerking pages out of my notebook and numbering them and sending them to the printer. I was sure it was the last article I was ever going to do for anybody. Then when it came out, there were massive numbers of letters, phone calls, congratulations, people calling it a ‘great breakthrough in journalism.’ And I thought, ‘Holy shit, if I can write like this and get away with it, why should I keep trying to write like The New York Times?’ It was like falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool full of mermaids.”
“I’m not a reporter, I’m a writer. Nobody gives Norman Mailer this kind of shit. I’ve never tried to pose as a goddamn reporter.  I don’t defend what I do in the context of straight journalism, and if some people regard me as a reporter who’s gone bad rather than a writer who’s just doing his job—well, they’re probably the same dingbats who think John Chancellor’s an acid freak and Cronkite is a white slaver. “
“It’s frightening, but I’ll tell you that on a story I just did, one of the sections took me 17 days of research and $1400 worth of cocaine.”
“I occasionally indulge in a little speed—which I deplore and do not advocate—but you know, when the car runs out of gas, you have to use something. The only drug I really count on is adrenaline. I’m basically an adrenaline junkie. I’m addicted to the rush of the stuff in my own blood and of all the drugs I’ve ever used, I think it’s the most powerful.[Coughing] Mother of God, here I go. [More coughing] Creeping Jesus, this is it…choked to death by a fucking…poisoned Marlboro…”
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