Rock Moment: Fear & Loathing at the Super Bowl, 1974
I hesitate to tell this story because I am certain nobody’s going to believe it. But it happened. In 1974 I was a college freshman, and I had this part-time job at the local newspaper in Port Arthur, Texas. I worked in the sports department, writing copy (three paragraphs on volleyball, a couple of grafs every now and then on a pro wrestling card, etc.) and working weekends. The Minnesota Vikings had earned a spot in the Super Bowl against the formidable Miami Dolphins and the game was set for Houston’s Rice Stadium.
In the week of buildup and hype before the Super Bowl, one of the full-time sportswriters, Burt, asked if I’d like to go with him over to Houston and check out a Vikings practice. Sure, although I had to skip school that day. Anyway, we went out to where they had the Vikings – at this run-down high school stadium in the northwest part of town. We talked to Bud Grant, talked to Alan Page, blah blah, then Burt asked if I’d mind going to grab a free sandwich at the Press Headquarters.
So we went into downtown Houston, to the Hyatt Regency hotel, where they had a giant lobby 30 stories high and all the rooms opened out to that cavernous space. From the ground floor, you could hear people speaking softly five stories above and a choice fart would ring like angels singing in a cathedral.
We’re in the press room on the mezzanine (2nd or 3rd floor) and I’m scarfing down food and guzzling free Coke while Burt chats up one of the writers from the Houston Post. I hear this music … kind of distant sounding, but distinct. I walk out onto the balcony and peer out into the lobby. I could hear it much more clearly: “Multi-Colored Lady” by Gregg Allman. It was from his album Laid Back, his first solo LP that came out in 1973. I had the eight-track in my car.
This music is just bouncing around this enormous lobby, and I don’t know where it’s coming from. I walked back into the press room and forgot about it. Until …
Until a few years ago. I’m looking for something to read. I pluck one of the books off our shelf, The Great Shark Hunt, a collection of Hunter S. Thompson’s work. Although I had the book once, I loaned it away and never got it back. I did find a used copy and bought it, but never opened it till that day. So I notice a story Thompson did for Rolling Stone, on Super Bowl VIII in Houston.
Thompson talks about staying in the Hyatt Regency when he’s in Houston to cover the Super Bowl. But imagine my dismay when I got to this passage: “The acoustics of these massive lobbies are not predictable. I knew, for instance, that a person sitting in a room on the 11th floor, with the door open, could hear – with unnerving clarity – the sound of a cocktail glass shattering on the floor of the lobby. It was also true that every word of Gregg Allman’s “Multi-Colored Lady” played at top volume on a dual-speaker Sony TC-126 in an open-door room on the 20th floor could be heard in the NFL press room on the hotel mezzanine …”
Heh, heh. Knew you wouldn’t believe it. But I didn’t make it up. Until that moment, I thought that Hunter S. Thompson made up all his stuff. That story had one of my favorite Thompson quotes: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Could be the story of my life … and yours too, I hope.
Raoul Duke, this one is dedicated to you.