GonzoFest 2016: the interview with Ron Whitehead

Portrait Art by Joey Feldman

Ron Whitehead on the very first GonzoFest …
“It was pure beautiful
barely controlled and uncontrolled wildness!!


Outlaw poet and GonzoToday Poetry Editor Ron Whitehead, fresh from winning the FINISHING LINE PRESS OPEN CHAPBOOK COMPETITION 2015/16 for “Blistered Asphalt on Dixie Highway: Kentucky Basketball is Poetry in Motion” earlier this week, talks to GonzoToday’s Managing Editor, Aramie Louisville Vas, about what to expect (and what not to seek) during the fast-approaching GonzoFest 2016. Tonight, Ron is sequestered in a secret Louisville location, reading aloud and raising hell at the city’s brand new House of Gonzo. All rowdy wishes on this eve of House of Gonzo christening, painting, art, champagne whiskey star-drenched, anarchist heart-melting fun.


Aramie Louisville Vas: Gonzo Fest 2016 is nearly upon us. How will this Fest be different
from other years?
Ron Whitehead: GonzoFest 2016, our 6th Anniversary, will also be the 20th Anniversary Celebration of The Official Hunter S. Thompson Tribute I produced
December 12, 1996 at Memorial Auditorium, on 4th Street, in Hunter’s
hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. For that 4-hour SRO event I brought
in Hunter, his mother Virginia, his son Juan, Johnny Depp, Warren Zevon,
Douglas Brinkley, Roxanne Pulitzer, David Amram, Bob Braudis, and
so many others. Of the nearly 3,000 Arts events I’ve produced throughout
Europe and the USA it was absolutely one of the best! So, in many ways,
GonzoFest 2016 is going to be a family reunion. 


GonzoFest has grown every year. 5,000 attended last year. We anticipate
8-10,000 this year. And we’ve got the perfect location again this year:
The Waterfront Big Four Bridge Lawn, on the banks of the mighty Ohio River.
Beautiful setting! And we’ll have two main stages this year!!
ALV: What are you personally looking forward to most about this year’s
RW: Visiting with some folks I’ve spent little or no time with in many years.
Plus GonzoFest 2016 will, for the first time, be much more in keeping
with the truly wild Gonzo Spirit!! Bringing Gonzo Today on board to help
produce the festival is a major positive happening! I’m looking forward to
The Gonzo Today Stage & all the booths!!
ALV: You organized a special tribute for Hunter S. Thompson back in 1996.
Give us an idea of the scene in Louisville back then – was there hype
surrounding Hunter’s work?
RW: It was front page news locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
There was so much publicity that the University of Louisville, where I was
a Professor at the time, withdrew their financial support from the Tribute.
They had agreed to fund the event, with me producing it. A week before
the event I was told that due to adverse publicity regarding drug and alcohol
use they would have to withdraw. They added that they were afraid the
publicity would scare off their donors.
ALV: What’s one thing you won’t find at Gonzo Fest?
RW: A Republican Presidential candidate.
ALV: Will there be magic?
RW: There’s always incredible magic at GonzoFest! There will be more magic
than ever this year! Surprises Surprises Surprises!!!
ALV: Gonzo Fest was founded in 2010 by yourself and Dennie Humphrey. What
did the first Gonzo Fest look like?
RW: The first GonzoFest, held at The Monkey Wrench, was spectacular! It changed
many folks lives forever, some in not so good ways. ha. It was pure beautiful
barely controlled and uncontrolled wildness!!
Ron’s website, Tapping My Own Phone, is here