Here are a few excerpts from the Doctor’s last published interview, in the May 2005 Playboy.
The usual disclaimers apply: the viewpoints expressed herein are not endorsed by etc. etc.
On Freedom: Freedom is a challenge. You decide who you are by what you do. It’s like a question, like a fork in the road. An ongoing question you have to keep answering correctly.
On Photography: I took all the Hell’s Angels photographs. Those were all mine. But I learned after trying for years that I could not keep the same focus as a photojournalist. The myth of “take your own pictures, write your own story” didn’t work for me. As a photographer I had to keep getting longer and longer lenses. I didn’t like to get up close. I didn’t want to get in people’s faces because you couldn’t talk to them much after that.
On Gambling: Ed Bradley came out here one day and beat me for about $4000 on a basketball game. I think it started as a hundred-dollar bet. But we kept doubling up. I paid him, of course. After all, I would have looked askance — and mentioned it in public — if he hadn’t paid me. That’s what makes it fun: the reality of it, having to pay up. It’s good for it to hurt.
On Karma: It’s extremely bad karma to brag about things you’ve gotten away with. I’m a great believer in karma in a profound sense: You will get what’s coming to you.
On Rejection: I had the fiction editor of Esquire, Rust Hills, as a creative-writing professor at Columbia. I still have a note from him saying, “Never submit anything to Esquire ever again. You’re a hateful, stupid bastard. Esquire hates you.” It was kind of a shock at that age.
On Free Will: In Orwell’s 1984, rigidity is imposed by the will of the state. Whereas with soma, in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, it’s the will of the people. I’ve always operated on that second theory. Nobody is stealing our freedoms. We’re dealing them off.
On Drugs: Most drugs have been very good to me. I use drugs, and if I abuse them, well, show me where. What do you mean abuse them, you jackass? What’s abuse? Like most anything else, it’s about paying attention. It’s simple. It’s not some exotic school of thought I picked up somewhere; it’s paying attention. Concentrating. It’s something you have to do your whole life.
I watch it and make sure people can handle things. You have to be super aware of who is fucked up, who is angry. Not at you necessarily, but who is dangerous. Who is not the same friendly guy you were talking to yesterday.
I don’t advocate drugs and whiskey and violence and rock and roll, but they’ve always been good to me. I’ve never advised people who can’t handle drugs to take them, just as people who can’t drive well shouldn’t drive 80 miles an hour.
On Being Outnumbered: I was ahead of the game when I realized that if I tried to kill one person the rest would back off.
You want to take on a large one. Take on a symbolic leader, the spokesman, the bully. A swift and violent kick to the nuts after a glass of water to the face is always good and I mean a crotch twister, boy. There’s a big difference between a sort of snap-kick to the nuts and one with a follow-through, where you go all the way through the crotch with force. Use the leg — hit with a higher part of the foot so there’s a narrow point of impact.
On Potential: That old thing about “this kid has a lot of talent” will take you a long way. But eventually it has to pay off. Potential will run out — and it can run out suddenly.
On Survival: Choosing the right friends is a life-or-death matter. But you really see it only in retrospect. I’ve always considered that possibly my highest talent — recognizing and keeping good friends. And you better pay attention to it, because any failure in that regard can be fatal. You should always be looking around for good friends because they can really dress up your life later on.
In the end, it’s not so much how to succeed in life as it is how to survive the life you have chosen.
On Perspective: I’m too old to adopt conceits or airs. I have nothing left to prove. It’s kind of fun to look at — instead of a personal challenge to the enemy out there, I can finally look at it objectively. Not “Who is this freak over here?” but “Who am I?” I’ve gotten to that point where it’s take it or leave it. Whatever way I’ve developed seems okay to me on the evidence.