Dotted through the works and letters of Hunter Thompson, careful readers will find references to Max Palevsky:
But by noon the crisis had passed, and somewhere sometime around one he [1972 U.S. Democratic presidential contender George McGovern] arrived with his praetorian guard of eight Secret Service agents at Max Palevsky’s house in Bel Air, where he immediately changed into swimming trunks and dove into the pool.
[Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72]
Until some kind soul annotates Thompson’s works, such passing references wait for contemporary mentions to be explained. The most recent was Palevsky’s obituary:
Max Palevsky, a pioneer in the computer industry and a founder of the computer-chip giant Intel who used his fortune to back Democratic presidential candidates and to amass an important collection of American Arts and Crafts furniture, died on Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 85. [NYT]
After cashing out his share of Scientific Data Systems to Xerox for $100 million, and sinking some of the funds into the nascent Intel, in 1971 he invested in the then-young, and financially struggling, Rolling Stone magazine. Already an RS contributor by this point, Thompson crossed Palevsky’s path, and was on good enough terms with to swap mescaline and pot seeds with him. Another link developed when Palevsky became a pezzonovante in the McGovern campaign:
He jumped on the McGovern bandwagon before the South Dakota senator’s stunning upset in the Wisconsin primary. “Max was his most important early contributor,” said Frank Mankiewicz, McGovern’s campaign director.
According to “The Power and the Glitter,” a 1990 book about the interplay between Hollywood and Washington by former Los Angeles Times political writer Ronald Brownstein, Palevsky donated more than $319,000, which financed McGovern’s successful direct-mail operation. He also raised money from others, represented McGovern at a meeting with Vietcong negotiators in Paris, and advised him on issues.
He abruptly left McGovern’s side during the 1972 Democratic convention in Miami when he realized that his advice, particularly about the organization of the campaign, was being ignored.
“My role in the campaign wasn’t that significant,” he told The Times in 1973. “At a certain point I just found it all very boring and I just got up one day and said … ‘Son, I don’t see much point in staying around.’ ” [LA Times]
Palevsky could be just as hard-nosed on smaller scale, as Thompson found out after letting a loan Palevsky floated him linger a bit longer than the perceived repayment schedule afforded. Wrote HST:
I suspect you understand this—just as I hope you understand that I appreciate your loan of $10K & have every intention of repaying it. But you should also understand that I can’t just freak out & disregard all the professional advice I pay for, the essence of which is that I’m being ripped to the tits for no reason. [ … ]
The only question, right now, is how it should be repaid. And that involves what I regard as an essentially ethical question vis-à-vis the Vegas film rights [which were being snarled at that moment by Oscar Acosta’s antics] … just as I regard the $10K loan as an ethical question, with the onus on me.
For that reason, the repayment of the $10K loan should be the least of your worries. The question I have to deal with now is how—and to understand that I have to get tstraight on the facts of that goddamn film deal, which at the moment are not within my grasp, but which in the final analysis will have a drastic effect on my personal finance.
So don’t take it personally, Max, if I seem to be a trifle less than eager to abandon all hope on this matter—which has suddenly assumed a complexity far beyond the simple matter of a $10K personal loan. But, whatever happens, I’d like to keep it on a friendly human basis. If not … well … I’ve never been averse to a good fuckaround, especially in the face of the odds we’re looking at here … but, even then, I’d rather not get personal.
[Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist.]
As eager for a tussle as Thompson might have been, the repetition in the letter of the “$10K loan” shows how wounded and thrown off balance he was by Palevsky’s calling in the debt. Regardless, it also reinforces how willing Palevsky—who cut his involvement with both the McGovern campaign and Rolling Stone when both exceeded his frustration threshold—was to drop the hammer on a deal leaving his control.
He exhibited this trait later in life when he withdrew a million-dollar pledge to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art:
Claiming that the then-fledgling museum reneged on a promise to give him architectural control of its new complex on Bunker Hill, he filed a lawsuit in 1984 to recoup $500,000 he had already given the museum and excuse himself from paying the other half million… .
He could be unpleasantly controlling and admitted as much during an interview with The Times a few years ago.
When a reporter observed how he could not set down a book without carefully aligning its edges with the sides of a table, or how he meticulously arrayed six pairs of eyeglasses in a row next to six different decorative cases, Palevsky, who married and divorced five times, acknowledged, “I know it’s all a little obsessive. I should have been an architect.” [LA Times]
Palevsky would’ve been far poorer and less influential as an architect, but George Costanza would’ve been pleased.