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Zoo plane (The New Dumb)

Universal Pictures
Bill Murray as Hunter S. Thompson - aboard the journalists only "Zoo Plane" in 1980's "Where the Buffalo Roams."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Synchromystically speaking, I put on The Rum Diary soundtrack as a way to sort of quietly groove into a Tuesday morning, ever so subtly. The music, by Christopher Young and featuring originals like “Volare” by Dean Martin and “The Mermaid Song” by Patti Smith, is a chill, early 1960’s cocktail record that will have you downing several rum punches by noon.

The film, loosely about gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s early years as a journalist, working in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is fantastic and in ways, inspiring, particularly for journalists wanting to do their jobs, and not simply become well-paid hacks for land developers and right-wing thugs.

Johnny Depp, Michael Rispoli and Giovanni Ribisi in the 2011 film The Rum Diary. (GK Films)

Anyway, I was listening to the soundtrack when my sync pal Kevin, on Facebook, posted Raw Story’s piece on the United Airlines incident involving a passenger, Dr. David Dao, a Vietnamese immigrant, being dragged off the flight between Chicago and Louisville because he refused to give up his seat to crew members who needed them on the overbooked flight – United Express Flight 3411.

Dao is a doctor from the Kentucky city of Elizabethtown, and admittedly has a troubled past, according to this Louisville Courier-Journal article.

I should also note that Hunter S. Thompson’s hometown is Louisville, Kentucky. This coming weekend is the annual Louisville "Gonzo Fest," celebrating their hometown hero.


Back in 2012, coming home from a trip to Hawaii, in search of Lono, I was complaining about United Airlines and was reminded of what Hunter had said in the early 1970's, about the airline, writing in this piece at the time: " As Hunter S. Thompson noted so many years ago: “Flying United, to me, is like crossing the Andes in a prison bus. There is no question in my mind that Pat Nixon personally approves every United stewardess.” And then this: “There is something in the corporate manner of United Airlines that reminds me of the California Highway Patrol, the exaggerated politeness of people who would be a hell of a lot happier if all their customers were in jail – and especially you, sir.”

I'm sure Hunter, were he alive today, would have plenty to say about this situation - skewering the United brass once again, in the way only Hunter could.

It notes that once Dao is manhandled by security and begins screaming about the treatment he is enduring, “Dao’s head can be seen striking an armrest before he is dragged down the aisle by his arms, seemingly unconscious.”

"Just kill me," Dao was recorded as saying, as blood streamed down his bewildered face, as his fellow passengers looked on in horror. This is the New America. The New Dumb. Where you can be randomly selected by goonish airline employees and literally dragged off a plane. 

Peanuts or pretzels, sir? (Screengrab via

The brutality Dao faced was shocking, particularly from an airline, United, that for years has branded itself with the slogan “Fly the friendly skies.”

Looks as though Dr. Dao will in all likelihood be suing this bully of an airline - and rightly so.

Kevin, in the comments section above the piece wrote: “Dangerously outdated models of hierarchy and authoritarianism are wreaking havoc and emboldening the dark servitors of the black lodge.”

Whoa! It reminded me of an unusual article I came across some time ago at discussing the real reason the U.S. targeted and annihilated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with "atomic fire" in order to destroy "black lodge" power located in those cities (having relocated from the Himalayas) - which were giving strength to the "divine wind" striking the Allied forces in the Pacific during World War II. Heavy stuff. Heavy!

What made me do a double take – as The Rum Diary soundtrack played in the background – was a Dust Devil Dreams piece I wrote last September titled “Marmalade skies (Blues from an airplane).”

Much of the piece is about Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary, President Nixon, 9/11, kamikaze pilots and – believe it or not – United Airlines.

I mentioned United Airlines in the piece because there is a brief scene in another Hunter S. Thompson film – 1980’s Where the Buffalo Roam, starring Bill Murray as Thompson – “where his friend Lazlo (Peter Boyle) drags Thompson to his socialist revolutionary compound in the wilderness, and one of the young revolutionaries is preparing for Helter Skelter or whatever.”

In the scene, this revolutionary is sitting down and a poster behind him shows a World War II-era Japanese kamikaze pilot smiling, with the Japanese ‘rising sun’ behind him and the United Airlines slogan “jokingly” appearing over his head reading: “Fly the friendly skies.”

The kamikaze/United poster in Where the Buffalo Roam. (Universal Pictures)

My research showed that the poster was one of those late 1970’s joke posters (and popular on T-shirts as well, at the time) and was put on the wall by the film’s prop crew. It was these scenes, from my research, where Hunter S. Thompson himself was actually present.

Continuing in my September 2016 Dust Devil Dreams post: “"Kamikaze" is defined in Japanese as "divine wind" or "spirit wind." We here at Dust Devil Dreams get that. But recall it was United flights 93 and 175 which crashed at Shanksville, Pa. and the South Tower of the World Trade Center, respectively. A "kamikaze" moment if there ever was one.

And United Airlines first began using the slogan “Fly the friendly skies” in 1965 and used it for the next 30 years.  It was recently resurrected by United, which recently merged with Continental Airlines.”

But why? United is no longer friendly. Hunter S. Thompson was right 45 years ago when he said the corporatist/fascist tendencies within the United Airlines organization were leading to the lousy treatment of its passengers, while also demoralizing its crew and related employees.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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