Back to Insom04' On-Line! Home Page.

Ron and Sarah Whitehead


Not Better Than Sex

Douglas Brinkley sent me the invitation, via email and phone, for the wake, a celebration of Hunter S. Thompson’s life and work, an event that would culminate in the blasting of his ashes from a cannon mounted at the top of a monument of his Gonzo fist, a 15-story 153-foot tower, higher than the Statue of Liberty, modeled after Hunter’s logo: clenched fist, holding a peyote button, two thumbs, all rising from the hilt of a dagger. Family and friends were being invited. Fellow Kentuckian, and all round nice guy, Johnny Depp, now living in France, was producing the event paying $2.5 million out of his own pocket. A few rich and famous friends of Hunter would be in attendance. Music would be provided by Hunter’s friends Lyle Lovett, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and David Amram. Sarah might sing “My Old Kentucky Home,” a Hunter favorite. It would all take place on Hunter’s Owl Farm, Woody Creek, near Aspen, in the heart of Colorado.

But things changed. Word got out about the event. The press and the gliterrati picked up on it. Suddenly large sums were being offered, under the table, to get an invite. A Hollywood firm was hired to handle everything, including the invitations. Brinkley bowed out as Gate Keeper. David Amram told us not to go that it was out of control, crazy, pure madness. We decided to stay home. We were too busy to get jerked around. We had better things to do. Plus Sarah and I weren’t really in a financial position to pay the $600 we guestimated it would cost to make the trip.

In December 1996 I produced The Official Hunter S. Thompson Tribute at Memorial Auditorium in Hunter’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. I brought in Johnny Depp, Warren Zevon, Roxanne Pulitzer, Douglas Brinkley, David Amram, Harvey Sloane, Hunter’s mom Virginia, his son Juan, The Sheriff of Pitkin County (Hunter’s bodyguard), and many others including some of Hunter’s childhood friends. It was an amazing event. The energy was sky high. Electricity filled the over 2,000 standing room only crowd. A&E filmed it as did Hollywood filmmaker Wayne Ewing who had just finished filming The Eagles’ Last Tour. The event was a huge success. The problem was that one week before the event the University of Louisville, fearful of negative publicity, withdrew their sponsorship. The event cost $80,000, a small sum compared to the $2.5 million Johnny paid to produce the Blastoff. We earned $30,000 from ticket and merchandise sales. I got stuck with the $50,000 balance to pay out of my pocket. A $30,000 balance remains. Sarah and I are still paying on it. Of the over 1,000 music and poetry events I produced all over Europe and the USA, in the past 15 years, this was the biggest loser. On all but five I broke even, lost a little, or made a little. When I made a little the extra money went into the next creative project.

Wayne Ewing filmed the 1996 Hunter Tribute so it could be included in his newly released cinema verite documentary Breakfast With Hunter. The film is brilliant. Wayne used a great deal of footage from the Hunter Tribute that I produced. At the 1996 Tribute, Wayne agreed, on a handshake, to send me copies of both his film of the ’96 Tribute and the final product, Breakfast With Hunter. After the ’96 Tribute I talked with Hunter and Wayne about the $50,000 loss. I never heard from Wayne again. Sarah and I paid $49 to order Wayne’s new documentary from his website. I was glad Wayne used so much footage from my Hunter Tribute. But I was furious that he credited the University of Louisville for producing the event. I wrote Wayne an angry email asking that credits be changed and that he send us copies of the DVD. While in Colorado for Hunter’s Blastoff I got word, from various sources, that Hunter’s beautiful wife Anita and his wonderful son Juan had been told that I was going to file a lawsuit against Hunter’s Estate. A lie. Before leaving Colorado I wrote them a letter to set straight the lies of the grapevine.

At the last minute Sarah and I decided to go. David Amram, despite his warnings to us, decided to go so by God we did too. Besides, we wanted the adventure. Plus we realized that in nearly two years of being married we hadn’t taken a honeymoon trip. All our trips and tours to Europe and across America had been to perform, for me to read my poems and stories and for Sarah to sing her songs. We decided that regardless of what happened at the Hunter Blastoff that we were going to have a romantic interlude in the midst of our workaholic writing and performing schedule.

But how to get to Colorado?! Our 1988 Toyota pickup, Sarah’s dad’s old work truck, has 230,000 miles on it. It’s dependable but could it climb the Rocky Mountains? Out of the blue our friend Andy Cook, who has toured with us for years, gave us his 1989 Nissan pickup which only has 90,000 miles on it. What a surprise! We didn’t know if our new/used Nissan would make it but we decided to find out. Then an hour before departure my sister Robin called and asked if she could borrow the ’88 open bed truck to move her daughter, my niece, Heidi, back to Eastern Kentucky University for her final semester. Robin said in exchange we could drive her Mitsubishi sports car to Colorado. Are you kidding me?! We were as excited as kids at Christmas. Now, finally, we were on our way.

We drove 24 hours non-stop. We left Thursday, noon. I called and left messages with Anita and Juan Thompson to let them know we were on our way. All night, through Kansas, wild lightning storms covered the terrain in front of us and to our right. But to our left and behind us the sky was clear and the full moon shone through our open moonroof and brightened the high plains. Sarah and I had breakthrough conversations all night. We were ecstatic, excited, on cloud nine discussing our love, our work, our family, our lives together. We were happy to be on another adventure, our first since our 19 day, 14 county, 325 mile western Kentucky hike back in May. We discussed the book we’re writing about the hike.

At daybreak we began our climb from Pike’s Peak taking backroads crossing the heart of Colorado. We stopped at Independence Pass, the highest and most beautiful point in Colorado, on our way to Aspen.

I was in trouble. In 2003, in the days leading up to Bush’s Iraq invasion, while on The War Poets Tour of Iceland, Scotland, and England, with Frank Messina, Andy Cook, and Sarah, after our first show at the Museum of Modern Art in Reykjavik I had two lung aneurisms. In 2004, while on The Viking Hillbilly Apocalypse Revue’s coast to coast USA Tour I had a series of mild heart attacks. I no longer do well at high altitude. The fatigue of the long non-stop drive added to the fatigue of overworking plus now the high altitude was taking its toll. It started with my heart, chest pains, then lungs struggled to breathe, plus dizziness, then kidneys, frequent and profuse urination plus dehydration, then nerves, hyper-sensitivity to positive and negative vibrations from people and environment. But I’ve been through all this before. Sarah and I, like Hunter, are both road warriors. I refused to let my pain diminish the excitement of the adventure.

We arrived at Headquarters, The Wildwood Lodge in Snowmass Village, closer to Woody Creek and Hunter’s Owl Farm than Aspen and less expensive. We took a two-hour nap, showered then made our way to The Woody Creek Tavern, Hunter’s main hangout, for a meal, to begin paying final Tribute to Hunter, and to visit with the pilgrims who had hiked, hitchhiked, and driven Gonzoed vehicles from every corner of America for the same reason we had, to pay Tribute to their hero, fallen by his own hand, the Creator and King of Gonzo, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. And, we discovered, they were all going to try and break into The Big Party.



(Next Page)





- News, New & Of Note!  - Click Here for the latest happenings from our friends and family in the Poetry, Music and Art World! -

Politics, Truth and Justice: The Writings of Hunter S. Thompson - On Saturday, July 21st The Aspen Institute will hold a symposium discussing the enduring qualities of Thompson’s writing. - Click Here To Learn More about this event in a letter from Hunter's Son, Juan Thompson.

In the Spring of 1994 at The Kentucky Center for The Arts in Louisville His Holiness,The Dalai Lama, gave poet, Ron Whitehead, a message for him to share with young people of all ages thoughout the World. That message was the inspiration of the Ron Whitehead poem, "Never Give Up." - Click Here to Learn More about the story behind the inception of the Ron Whitehead poem, "Never Give Up!"

A True Tale of a Tall Trip. - Click Here To Read an Excerpt from the Sarah Elizabeth & Ron Whitehead book "Western Kentucky: Lost & Forgotten, Found & Remembered"

On Sunday, December 11th 'Ode to the Sidewalks of New York Jazz & Poetry Reading' will happen once again hosted by legendary musician, composer, author David Amram & his Trio at the Bowery Poetry Club. - Click Here For More Info! - ALSO View Pix and Clips from May's Ode Celebration!

Pix, Clips and Page from kindred Keepers of The Flame! Join us in celebrating the LifeArtSpirit of Allen Ginsberg! Click Here to Enter!
Click Here to read about The History of Insomniacathon.

To Learn More about The Literary Renaissance, Click Here!

- Click Here for Links to the Family and Friends of Insomniacathon in and around this World! -

Insom 04' Galleria!  - New & Expanded! -  Click Here to Enter! -

Dave Amram Birthday Special! Click Here for VidClips, Pix and Debut Mp3's from  the new CD "The Long Road To Nowheresville!"

Jack Shea - Filmmaker, Poet, Songwriter, Friend.  - Click Here for More -



Insomniacathon On-Line! is proudly sponsored by:

WFPK 91.9 FM and streaming on the Web at!
A Power Point in the Poetic Universe!  - Click and go to: -