The ’90z – 2003 (cont.)
Hunter S. Thompson sends the Weekly Dig a really mean fax
Since the start of this verbal record, the Weekly Dig ascended from ziney origins to become a legit voice from the underground amongst the cluttered, otherwise risk-averse landscape of Boston print media. But success enhances ambitions, ambitions lead to stress, and stress makes everybody cranky. Cranky, and the opposite of sober.
Pay cuts, placebos, and ass shovels
JOE BONNI (founding EiC): Jeff was so good at finding money and keeping us afloat, I just assumed he always could. And given the last 17 years, that appears absolutely true. But it was frightening at times. I remember taking a 50 percent pay cut so we could hire another ad sales person. And I had just gotten married. I didn’t even discuss this with my now ex-wife. Jeff said, “This is what we gotta do,” and I said, “All right.” I went home and she’s like, “You didn’t talk to me about this?” And I said, “It has to be done. Jeff said so.”
JEFF LAWRENCE (founding publisher): Did he take a pay cut? He might’ve. I’m honestly not sure what he’s talking about, but we all took pay cuts.
LUKE O’NEIL (writer): I was pretty hated in the Boston music scene. I was in a band at the time, and I thought my band was hot shit. I was super into covering British rock and emo back then, but the people who were angry about the Dig’s music coverage then are still the people who think they’re the Boston music scene. They were old and washed up then, and even more so now.
BENNETT (music editor): I had Luke interview Noel Gallagher at one point when Oasis played at Great Woods [currently known as the Xfinity Center]. I interviewed a bunch of people: Ted Nugent, Rob Halford, Kool Keith, I tracked down Lemmy.
O’NEIL: We used to always fight with the Noise Board. That was sort of a proto, pre-social media time, although I think Friendster was around. But the Noise Board was this huge Boston music scene deal on the web, and everyone was on it constantly and complaining about the stuff we covered. It was really, like, training for the social media that we have now, in terms of everybody fighting and being pissed off at all times.
CRAIG TERLINO (distribution manager): I got in the door at the Dig because I told them I was in the process of getting an interview with Hunter S. Thompson. I don’t know why they believed me, but they did. I’ve read everything Hunter S. Thompson ever wrote, even all his letters, so I said, “I’m going to go do that! I’m going to express the same confidence!” The one issue was I couldn’t write.
BONNI: There was a fake wall behind Jeff’s desk, and it led to a freight elevator. I had previously lived in that same building, and based on that experience, I imagine it was a fake wall you could hide a mattress in just in case you ever needed to say, “We’re not living here!” But it was also big enough to go back there and just hang out.
LAWRENCE: We used to look over Moon Villa, which I think is still open in Chinatown. That’s the place that’s famous for “cold tea” after 2 am. For years you could go in there at three in the morning and order “cold tea,” which was beer. We thought they were fucking with their liquor license and everything. I found out years later talking to the owner that they just sold nonalcoholic beer to every drunk who came in after 2 am. Fuckin’ genius. And boy, did that “cold tea” ever make it feel like you were still drinking.
BENNETT: Bonni was a very scatterbrained, very disorganized person, and fond of calling meetings, which I despised. Every time we had a meeting I’d say, “Why are we talking about working when we could be working?” After a while I just stopped going to meetings. Those were for Joe’s benefit, really, so he could get caught up and organized, but I was already organized, so I didn’t need to waste two hours with that.
BONNI: I had been very vocal about not giving a shit about the publishing side. Like, “Yay, let’s have an insert for ski lodges in New England!” I just didn’t want to be involved in shit like that. I didn’t care if we didn’t get Budweiser to advertise. But Jeff did, and he had to. And to be honest, I didn’t want to care in the perfect sense of the word. I wanted to make sure we were pursuing our stories and our shit. But it was too small; we were too tight. Everyone’s shit was everyone’s else’s shit.
TERLINO: I was trying to be very profound with Hunter S. Thompson, and I’m sure people like me were a dime a dozen bothering him all the time telling him shit like, “Yeah, I’m a journalist! I identify with you! I’m going to carry on your legacy of gonzo journalism!”
BONNI: When you start going for the Live Nation advertising, when you start figuring out how to get the Budweiser dollars, when you start moving in those directions, you’re becoming far more reliant on a handful of big contracts than you are, in my opinion, spreading out your income throughout smaller, local businesses.
TERLINO: It’s so embarrassing looking back on the letter I sent him now, but I keep it because it’s the first time someone handed me my ass, and it was my literary hero. He sent back that notorious fax telling me to fuck off; “You write like a bullfruit whore with a shovel up her ass. Good luck in Sicily.” I don’t think my last name is Sicilian. Maybe it is?
Next episode: The Dig gets political(er), begins its somewhat lucrative but also uncomfortable relationship with the sex industry, and absolutely never tries to contact Hunter S. Thompson (RIP) ever again.
Barry Thompson lives next to a highway in the Allston/Brighton vicinity. He has written for a whole bunch of places, enjoys caffeine, and appreciates a good, hearty anxiety attack every now and again.