Elaborate clothes, excessive drinking and loutish behaviour. Can you tell the difference between the 1970s Kentucky Derby and the atmosphere at the races today?
‘The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved’ is Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970s rendering of the ever-famous Louisville event, the annual Kentucky Derby. Alongside his companion and cartoonist Ralph Steadman, he paints a picture of an event that is just that: utterly decadent and wholly depraved.
Check out our top five quotes and you’ll see what we mean…
#1 Hunter S. Thompson and Steadman arrive at the racetrack bar and anyone who’s anyone is there: the politicians, the beautiful women and the rich locals, all there to see and be seen.
The only thing more important than the horse race itself is the sport of people-watching.
How different is that to the streams of spectators dressed in their best finery on Millionaire’s Row, desperate to impress the watchful eyes of the fashion police at the track nowadays?
#2 Looking out over the stands, Hunter S. Thompson imagines them packed with spectators, crying, fighting and falling over each other when the Kentucky Derby begins. The screaming, the vomiting, the public urination, the desperate grappling for money.
Ever sat in the cheap seats at a race track? If you’re in the infield, say goodbye to your hearing, you might as well throw away your shoes, and forget about personal space.
#3 Hunter S. Thompson studies the faces of the horse breeders, looking for the one face that perfectly represents the character of the typical Kentucky Derby race-goer. The privileged sort, drunk on whiskey and the belief in their own pure-bred Southern superiority.
They might be less conspicuously drunk nowadays but the only people who claim to be more pure-bred than the horses at a derby are the people who breed them.
#4 That night after the first race, drinking ensues in the unfortunate absence of drugs. Stealing passes to the race clubhouse, Hunter S. Thompson and Steadman spend an incoherent Kentucky Derby Day lost in a sea of whiskey-soaked people.
We’ve all seen the pictures of the rowdy drunken crowds falling over each other and pouring out of a race track. Hardly a stretch for the imagination.
#5 Hunter S. Thompson awakes from his drunken, sleep-like stupor, he sees an ill, red, haggered-looking face in the mirror. The exact face of the loathsome type of person he was looking for at the Derby.
The morning after the night before. We’ve all been there. This one doesn’t necessarily apply exclusively to horse races…just, mornings.
Hunter S. Thompson got one thing right in ‘The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved’: the racetrack is capable of bringing out the worst in human nature. But there’s really no denying it, it’s still a great day out.