In a fire-apple red convertible under the desert sun, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp), and Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) drive to Vegas with a suitcase full of drugs. Somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, the drugs begin to take hold...
Suddenly Duke notices black bats flying over their heads and around the car, and he tries to kill them with a flyswatter. "Holy Jesus, what are these goddamn animals?" They pull over and Gonzo takes over driving. "'No point in mentioning these bats', I thought. 'The poor bastard will see them soon enough.'" Duke inspects the contents of the case in the trunk: marijuana, mescaline, cocaine, amyls, ether, liquor, LSD, and a huge assortment of other drugs. He takes some of them and they drive off with a dead bat on the road behind them.
A report comes on the radio about drugs killing American soldiers, which is quickly changed to "One Toke Over The Line" by Brewer and Shipley. Gonzo sings the wrong tune. They spot a hitchhiker (Tobey Maguire) and Gonzo begins to pull over, but Duke panics. "We can't stop here! This is bat country!" They drive back and pick him up nonethless. It turns out he had never been in a convertible before. "Is that right? Well, I guess you're about ready then aren't you?" "We're your friends. We're not like the others man, really," says Gonzo. "No more of that talk or I'll put the fucking leeches on you, understand?" Says Duke. The hitchhiker is confused, but Duke just smiles at him, cigarette holder clenched in his teeth. "Get in."
With the hitchhiker in the back seat, they drive on at top speed again. Duke begins to get paranoid that the hitchhiker will think they are part of the Manson family, so he decides to explain the situation. He jumps over the seat and sits beside the nervous hitchhiker. He introduces Dr. Gonzo, his Samoan attorney. They explain how they are going to cover the Mint 400 race and find the American Dream, and the True Story of how they got there.
Flash back to them sitting in the Beverly Heights Hotel, where they get a phone call about being assigned to the Mint 400 Race. All they have to do is drive to Vegas, check into their suite, and meet their Portuguese photographer named Lacerda. Gonzo suggests they arm themselves to the teeth. They decide to cover the event through pure Gonzo Journalism. They drive around for a while and argue about the differences between white and Samoan culture. They buy some drugs and shirts, then they haggle over the phone with a salesman for a tape recorder. On their way to the shop, they're delayed en route when a Stingray in front of them kills a pedestrian. Later, they rent a convertible and scare the salesman by driving it backwards at high speeds and stealing his pen. Then they eat some mescaline and go swimming. "Our trip was different, it was to be a classic affirmation of everything right and true in the national character. A gross physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country, but only for those with True Grit."
"And we are chock full of that, man!" On the road, Gonzo encounters heart troubles and pulls over. The hitchhiker watches each of them take "medicinal" amyl nitrite and become completely twisted. Gonzo pretends to be completely confused as to why they are in the desert, then they scare the hitchhiker with crazy stories about their plans to murder the drug dealer "Savage Henry" who ripped them off. "I mean what is going on in this country when a scumsucker like that can get away with sandbagging a doctor of journalism, can you tell me that?" Suddenly the hitchhiker jumps out the back of the car and runs off, yelling back that they shouldn't worry about him. Duke yells back, "Wait a minute! Come back and get a beer! Fuck 'im. I'm gonna miss 'im."
Duke takes over driving. "We gotta get out of California before that kids finds a cop!" Duke takes some acid and Gonzo spills their cocaine. "You see what God just did to us, man?" "God didn't do that, you did it. You're a fucking narcotics agent! I knew it!" Duke drives faster so they can make it to the hotel before he completely loses it. They pass a sign that reads: "Don't gamble with marijuana: In Nevada, possession = 20 years... sale = life!"
They reach Las Vegas, at the press sign-in for the Mint 400. Duke is so twisted on acid he can barely deal with the valet who's face begins to morph before his eyes. "There is no way of explaining the terror I felt." The carpet in the lobby appears to be made of living vines that are growing up the walls at an alarming rate. Duke sees a desk clerk turn into a poisonous moray eel before his eyes. He freaks out but Gonzo tells the clerk Duke has a bad heart. "We have plenty of medicine." They go to a bar and Gonzo suggests they eat some peanuts. Everyone in the lounge is drunk, rowdy and wearing fur coats. Duke is left alone for a minute, the atmosphere of the bar becoming more and more ominous. The floor appears to turn to sticky mud under Duke's shoe. He yells to Gonzo to get some golf shoes, otherwise they'll never get out alive. A bowl of snacks in front of him turns into a bowl of worms; a lizardlike tonque suddenly shoots into the bowl. Duke turns around and everyone in the lounge turns into giant lizards, all humping, slashing and devouring each other. "I was right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo, and somebody was giving booze to these goddamn things!" Suddenly Gonzo returns but his words sound like gibberish to Duke. "Please! Tell me you bought the fucking golf shoes!" Some of the lounge lizards turn their heads towards Duke. "Jesus God Almighty, look at that bunch over there, man! They've spotted us." "That's the press table, man." Gonzo collects him so they can sign in with their press credentials. Duke falls off his bar stool.
In the hotel room they order an insane amount of food, including a ton of grapefruit, shrimp cocktails and club sandwiches. Duke still tripping on acid starts watching some war footage and sees a "big machine in the sky, some kind of electric snake, coming straight at us". Gonzo tells him to shoot it, but he tries to study it's habits instead. Duke has his face so close to the TV that he jumps back when a gunshot goes off. "Fuck, I'm hit!" Gonzo starts yelling at him about what happened in the lobby, which apparently involved Duke waving around a marlin spike. Duke doesn't remember any of this. "You scared the shit out of those people, they were ready to call the cops! Yessir, you're lucky I came back in time!" Gonzo goes to the door with his .357 as someone starts knocking. Duke is terrified and tries to hide behind the mini-bar. Lacerda (Craig Bierko), the photographer, enters. They don't trust him. "You're not Portuguese, man!" yells Duke. He tells them about the race, and in the middle of telling them about all the different types of bikes, the war footage on the TV causes Duke on acid to see Lacerda as a jungle commando for an instant with a crazy look in his eyes and bombs going off around him. He shakes his head and the room returns to normal. Duke and Gonzo stare down Lacerda weirdly, and he leaves. Gonzo thinks Lacerda was lying. "I could see it in his eyes!" "Eyes?" says Duke, trying to look at his own eyes. Gonzo becomes fed up with the war footage and rips the TV cord out of the wall.
At the race, Duke checks into the press tent where he snorts another amyl and orders a beer. There's some people firing off guns into the desert for no apparent reason. Some guy shakes a dusty rag into Duke's beer. When the race starts, the bikers kick up a lot of dust and make the race impossible to cover. Duke and Lacerda head out in a Jeep to find it, but run into some people with machine guns. Duke convinces them that they are "friendlies" and they drive off. Duke's beer turns into mud from all the dust in the air. Duke gives up and heads back to the pits, telling Lacerda he is fired.
On the strip, Duke and Gonzo debate about how to spend the evening. Gonzo suggests Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. "Why should I pay my hard-earned money to watch a fucking corpse?" says Duke. They wind up at a Debbie Reynolds concert, and piss off the people working there by parking on the sidewalk. "We're friends of Debbie's," says Gonzo. Once they get inside the man tells them there are no seats left. Gonzo threatens the usher with legal action. The man agrees to let them into the concert, but only if they will stand quietly at the back and not smoke. Two seconds after Duke and Gonzo enter the concert, the ushers drag them back out the door, both of them laughing hysterically, and kick them out, knocking over the velvet ropes in the process.
In the car, they're still laughing. "We wandered into a fucking time capsule, man!" says Duke. Gonzo notices one of the ushers has ripped his suit, and he yells back towards the concert hall that he's going to find where the usher lives and burn his house down. "One of these days I'll toss a fucking bomb in that place."
They head to the Bazooko Circus, because Duke says nobody will mess with them in there. Before going in they huff some ether off an American flag and eat mescaline. "Devil ether. It makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel. Total loss of all basic motor skills. Blurred vision, no balance, numb tongue, the mind recoils in horror, unable to communicate with the spinal column. Which is interesting because you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can't control it..." The ether makes it almost impossible for them to walk through the turnstiles. "Dogs fucked the Pope, no fault of mine..." mutters Duke. The men running the entrance help them through.
Inside the circus, a team of acrobats is putting on an act where they do a mock birthing midair, using oversized scissors, clamps and a hammer, to a doll in a spacesuit with a big American flag on its chest. Below them, on a large net that seperates the circus from the casino floor below, a trainer grapples with a snarling wolverine that has just bitten in half a white baton. Below the casino floor is sheer mayhem, a bizarre assortment of brightly-colored attractions, games, and people in weird costumes. Duke almost steps on a midget holding a huge stack of money, (Verne Troyer), who immediately disappears into the cloak of a strange, tall woman. Duke describes the scene: "Drug users can learn to cope with things like seeing their dead grandmother crawling up their leg with a knife in her teeth. But nobody should be asked to handle this trip. This was what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the nazis had won the war. This was the Six Reich." Duke and Gonzo encounter a man (Penn Jillette) who offers to get them whatever message they want played on a huge screen over downtown. "You'll be 200 feet tall!" Another man yells that they can "shoot the pasties off the nipples of the ten foot bull dyke and win a cotton candy goat!" Freaked out by the things they see in the circus, like the human dartboard (live victim?), and a monkey dressed like a doctor, they stop at a rotating bar.
The mescaline finally hits them. Duke theorizes that this is the 'main nerve' of the American Dream. Gonzo begins to lose it. "I think I'm getting the Fear." "Oh look," says Duke. "There's uh, two women fucking a polar bear!" "Don't tell me these things," says Gonzo. "Not now man." He says he has to leave the country. "One more hour in this town and I'll kill somebody!" Duke agrees to lend him some money to leave. Gonzo starts talking with a waitress: "Did they pay you to screw that bear?" The waitress gets pissed off and tells them to leave. They try but Gonzo is too paranoid to step off the bar because it's rotating. Duke goes all the way around the bar, briefly losing Gonzo as Gonzo awkwardly holds onto the support bar and tries to drag his feet over the edge. People start watching them. "Hop! Hop! Quick, like a bunny!" Gonzo can't move until Duke kicks him from behind and he falls off the bar. Duke tells him to hurry up. "Come on, you fiend! Fine you stay here and go to jail. I'm leaving." As they are leaving Gonzo yells that some sonofabitch just kicked him in the back. "Probably the bartender. He wanted to stomp you for what you said to the waitress." Gonzo starts yelling about cows and bisexuals trying to kill him. "Where's the elevator?" "No, fuck!" says Duke. "That's just what they want us to do. Trap us in a steel box and take us down to the basement. Don't run man. They'd like any excuse to shoot us." Gonzo tells Duke that Duke should probably drive on the way back. "I think there's something wrong with me." Gonzo falls over.
They escape back to their hotel room with some effort. The door is apparently locked but Duke pushes it open with a cart. Gonzo flashes some knives around and threatens to harm Lacerda. The story flashes back to the elevator where Gonzo confronts Lacerda over the attentions of a pretty blonde reporter (Cameron Diaz). Lacerda laughs when Duke tells a TV crew they work for Vincent Black Shadow. Gonzo scares Lacerda by pulling a knife on him. Back in the room, Gonzo is convinced the blonde reporter fell in love with him on the spot. He threatens Duke over him and Lacerda, asking if Duke put Lacerda up to the reporter. Duke tells him to get his head straight. "One of the things you learns from years of dealing with drug people, is that you can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when it's waving a razor-sharp hunting knife in your eye." He leaves and broods over the meaning of his trip to Las Vegas, and some early morning gamblers who are "still chasing the American dream". He gambles on the wheel of chance and loses, but learns to enjoy it.
Back in the room, which is now so filled with food carts that Duke can barely open the door, he finds Gonzo on a lot of acid and sitting in the bathtub in his underwear. Gonzo makes him put Jefferson Airplane on. When Duke leaves, Gonzo tries to grab the tape recorder and electrocute himself. Duke uses the shower curtain rod to keep his lawyer at bay. He threatens Duke with a knife if he doesn't kill him when the song White Rabbit peaks. Duke tells him he will, and when the song reaches the climax he throws a grapefruit at his head, unplugs the tape machine, runs out of the bathroom, grabs a can of mace and tries to hide under a cardboard box. Gonzo chases him out of the bathroom and tries to attack him with a knife, but Duke holds him back with the can of mace. Duke threatens to call the police, because he doesn't want Gonzo wandering around on acid and wanting to slice him up. "Who said anything about slicing you up, man?" Gonzo says. "I just wanted to carve a little Z in your forehead..." Gonzo starts laughing, but Duke is indignant. "Please, I need some fucking rest man, please." He chases Gonzo back into the bathroom by yelling at him through a megaphone. He locks the door, jams it with a chair and goes to the couch, lighting a pipe. "Ignore the nightmare in the bathroom. Just another ugly refugee from the love generation." The couch begins to float towards the ceiling as Duke remembers something...
Flashback to 1965, in a club called The Matrix. "There I was... Jesus, there I am!" says Duke, upon seeing himself in flashback (Hunter S. Thompson). A roadie (Lyle Lovett) comes in yelling "Anybody want some LSD?" He has all the makings of LSD with him, he just needs a place to cook. Later Duke takes some of his product into the washroom. "I decided to eat only half of the acid at first, but I spilled the rest on the sleeve of my red woolen shirt." Suddenly the bass player (Flea) from the band enters the washroom, speaking in very slow motion... "What's the trouble?" "Well, all this white stuff on my sleeve... is LSD." Suddenly a yuppie comes into the room, just in time to see the bass player sucking the LSD off Duke's sleeve with great enthusiasm. He immediately bolts. "With a bit of luck, his life was ruined forever. Always thinking that just behind some narrow door in all his favorite bars, men in red woolen shirts are getting incredible kicks from things he'll never know."
Back in the hotel room, Duke goes to the window, thinking about the end of the 60's acid wave and the crash that followed. "Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Has it been five years? Six? It seems like a lifetime, the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. But no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time in the world. Whatever it meant... There was madness in any direction, at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. And that, I think, was the handle - that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark - that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
The next morning Gonzo is gone and the room service bill is in the thousands. Duke threatens the room service waiter with a gun before signing the bill on his face. Duke takes off with his suitcase of drugs and doesn't pay the hotel a dime. His paranoia increasing, he reaches his car outside but is suddenly stopped by a man from the hotel (Gregory Itzin). Convinced that he's going to prison, he all but gives up until the man gives him a telegram, addressed to a Mr. Thompson (Duke's real name). Duke promises to get that telegram to Thompson right away. The man asks him when Dr. Gonzo will be awake, obviously wanting to talk to him about the massive hotel bill. "What confused us was Dr. Gonzo's signature on the telegram from Los Angeles when we knew he was right here in the hotel." "That telegram is actually all scrambled, it's actually FROM Thompson, not to him!" says Duke, trying to confuse the man even more and escape the situation. "I've got to go. I've gotta get to the race!" "But there's no hurry, the race is over." "Not for me," says Duke, driving away.
Duke drives off, trying to escape the city limits. He starts praying to God that he can just get rid of his car full of felonies and off the horrible desert. No sooner has he said this that a highway patrol car pulls up behind him and hits its siren. "You better take care of me Lord, because if you don't, you're gonna have me *on your hands!*"
"Most speeders will immediately panic and pull over to the side. This is wrong. It arouses contempt in the cop-heart. Make the bastard chase you, he will follow." He turns it into a high-speed chase and makes a sharp turn that spins the cop out. He pulls over and is confronted by the cop (Gary Busey). Duke still has a can of beer in his hand, and realizes he's probably fucked. The cop questions the contents of his car, including two cases of soap. "I want to stay clean," replies Duke. The cop figured Duke just needs a nap, and tells him to get some sleep in the next rest area. He recommends the seafood in Baker. He also wants a kiss from him. When Duke gets to Baker, he sees the hitchhiker, panics and drives the other way. He calls Gonzo from a payphone, because "the bastards are closing in!" He reminds Duke to read the telegram, which explains that his new assignment is the National District Attorneys Conference On Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in Vegas. Duke pretends the call is all a joke and that he's already checked in.
Duke fires off some shots randomly from the .357 into the desert. He decides he has no choice but the go to the conference. "All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet. What a fool I was to defy him."
He rents a new Cadillac, with his credit card still technically valid. "Now this was a superior machine. Ten grand worth of gimmicks and high-priced special effects. The rear windows leapt up with a touch like frogs in a dynamite pond. The dashboard was full of esoteric lights and dials and meters that I would never understand."
He drives to the Flamingo where the conference is held. "If the pigs were gathering in Vegas, I felt the drug culture should be represented as well. And there was a certain bent appeal in the notion of running a savage burn on one Las Vegas hotel, and then just wheeling across town and checking into another. Me and a thousand ranking cops from all over America. Why not? Move confidently into their midst."
He walks into the hotel surrounded by cops waving batons, with a suitcase packed with drugs in his hand. In his mind they all turn and stare right at him as he enters. "My arrival was badly timed," he says, wiping some cocaine from under his nose. In the lobby an angry police chief haggles with the clerk over his room. The clerk (Christopher Meloni) keeps telling him that his reservation has been moved to a different hotel. Duke narrates that he can hear what the clerk is really saying to the cop: "Listen you fuzzy little shithead! I've been fucked around in my time by a fairly good cross-section of mean-tempered, rule-crazy cops, and now it's my turn. So *fuck you* officer, *I'm* in charge!" Sensing a kindred spirit, Duke squeezes through and checks in in front of them, even becoming good friends with the desk clerk, Sven. The chief's wife bawls her eyes out. The chief continues to haggle with Sven.
When he gets to the room, he is immediately attacked by a young painter named Lucy (Christina Ricci) who Gonzo met on the plane. Gonzo, dressed in what appears to be a bedsheet folded to look like Christ's robes, gets her away from Duke by whipping her with a towel. "This is my client, Mr. Duke, the famous journalist." Lucy eyes Duke warily but doesn't attack him again. Gonzo explains that Lucy is a Christian artist and apparently a big fan of Barbara Streisand. She came all the way out from Montana to show her paintings to Barbara herself during a concert. An entire half of the room is filled with paintings of various sizes, every one of them of Barbara Streisand. "I desperately needed peace. Rest. Sanctuary. I hadn't counted on this," narrates Duke. "Finding my attorney on acid and locked into some kind of preternatural courtship." Realizing that Gonzo has likely engaged in statutory rape, along with giving drugs to a minor, Duke suggests with pig-Latin and some arm movements to talk with Gonzo privately in the hall. Lucy gives him the one-finger Jesus-freak salute as him and Gonzo leave. "God bless."
"Alright, listen. In a few hours she'll probably be sane enough to work herself into some kind of towering Jesus-based rage at the hazy recollection of being seduced by some kind of cruel Samoan, who fed her liquor and LSD, dragged her into a Vegas hotel room, and then savagely penetrated every orifice in her little body with his throbbing, uncircumcised member!" "That's so ugly man," says Gonzo. "Fuck. Truth hurts," replies Duke. He suggests they keep her on drugs and use her as a sex slave to make money off the cops, the alternative being Gonzo going to jail. Finally they decide to pay a cab driver to drive her to the Tropicana, and they also pay for a room there, telling her she's going to meet Barbara Streisand, hoping she wouldn't remember what happened. "I felt like a Nazi, but it had to be done." Gonzo says they should find a nice seafood restaurant. "I feel a powerful lust for red salmon."
Gonzo pukes from mescaline and red salmon. "Goddamn mescaline. Why the fuck can't they make it a little less pure?"
They go to the conference and hear a man (Michael Jeter) talk about some bizarre theories on marijuana, including marijuana smokers calling a joint butt a 'roach' because it resembles a cockroach. Gonzo leaves when a joke about Margaret Mead prompts the entire conference of pudgy, white cops to start laughing hysterically. A video comes on explaining how marijuana users should be taken down with "all necessary force". Realizing that the conference is a waste of time, Duke gets up quietly and leaves.
In their room, they get a call from Sven that Lucy had left them a message. Duke has a sudden terrifying thought: He and Gonzo, on trial in a cartoonish courtroom shrouded in black on all sides, both locked in a steel cage with giant shackles on their hands and feet. Lucy is in the witness stand, with both her and the judge (Harry Dean Stanton) towering over the helpless defendants. "They gave me the LSD and they took me to the hotel," says Lucy, sorrowfully. "I don't know what they done to me, but I remember, it was horrible." "They gave you what?" says the judge. "L.. S... D." "CASTRATION!" Exclaims the judge. Duke crosses his legs in pain upon hearing the sentence. "DOUBLE CASTRATION!" The judge chops two walnuts in half, using a hatchet instead of a gavel.
Back in the real world, Duke panics and starts packing to go back to LA. Gonzo decides to handle the situation, by calling Lucy and telling her he stomped Duke and pulled his teeth out. Meanwhile Duke swallows some "adrenochrome" that Gonzo got off a Satanist client. He takes way too much and starts making these "EEeeeeeeeEEEEeeee" noises while wearing an orange towel on his head. Gonzo stomps and yells, pretending to be arrested over the phone, then hangs up. "Well, that's the last we should be hearing from Lucy, man." Duke thinks for a second that Gonzo had gone crazy and actually thought he was being attacked by invisible enemies. "But the room was quiet again..." Gonzo suggests they get some opium.
Duke slumps on the bed, the room becoming more and more pink and intense. "I think there's only one source for this stuff. The, uh, adrenaline gland... from a living... human... body!" "I know," says Gonzo. "The guy didn't have any cash to pay me. He offered me human blood, said it would take me higher than I'd ever been in my life. I thought he was kidding... so I told him I'd just as soon have an ounce or so of pure adrenochrome... or maybe just a fresh adrenaline gland... to chew on." Gonzo explains that he didn't dare turn the Satanist down for legal counsel. "He might have picked up a letter opener and gone after my pineal gland. You know." The drug becoming more intense, Duke suggests they eat a big handful of pineal gland extract and see what happens. "Yeah, that's a good idea," says Gonzo. "One whiff of that stuff will turn you into something out of a goddamn medical encyclopedia man..." Suddenly Duke sees Gonzo turn into a dancing demon with six hairy breasts on his back and discuss the effects of the extract of the human pineal gland on the brain. "Your head would swell up like a watermelon. You'd gain about a hundred pounds in two hours. Grow claws, bleeding warts. And then you'd notice about six huge, hairy tits swelling up on your back. You'd go blind. Your body would turn to wax. They'd have to put you in a wheelbarrow. And when you scream for help...you'll sound like a raccoon."
Gonzo returns to normal. "Man I'll try just about anything, but I'd never in hell touch a pineal gland." Duke yells at him to finish the story. "What happened? What about the *glands*?" Gonzo tells him that he looks like he's about to explode. Duke suggests Gonzo shove him into the pool, as he suddenly has an urge to go swimming. "If I put you in the pool right now you'll sink like a goddamn stone. You took too much man, you took too much too much..." Gonzo tells him not to fight it, or he'll get a stroke. Duke tries to crawl across the room. "l llama es un quadrupedo," he mutters. He sees Nixon floating out of the TV chanting "sacrifice" before he passes out under an American flag.
When he wakes up he has a microphone tied to his head and is wearing fishing boots and a strap-on lizard tail. The room is totally destroyed with drugs, food and everything imaginable all over the place. Part of the room is flooded with some sort of brown water and the bed looks like it was blown up. There's a .357 magnum in the toilet. "How many nights and weird mornings had this shit been going on? There was evidence in this room of excessive consumption of almost every type of drug known to civilized man since 1544 AD."
Duke flashes back to him and Gonzo scaring the maid (Jenette Goldstein) with a microphone gun. She walked in on Gonzo polishing his shoes (vomiting on them) in the closet. They convince her that they are cops looking for drug smugglers and that she shouldn't tell anyone about what she saw and not to send any other maids, just to leave some towels by the door. They tell her if she tells anyone she'll go straight to prison for the rest of her life. They even hire her as a part time agent for a detective named Arthur Rocks, with them paying her for receiving one phone call every day. Duke tells her, "When you hear the password 'one hand washes the other', you say 'I fear nothing!'. "I fear nothing." "SAY IT AGAIN!" "I FEAR NOTHING!" "Very good!"
Duke attempts to listen to tape recordings to figure out what had happened. "Terrible gibberish. Splintered memories looming up out of the time-fog. Just press play."
Flashback to Duke telling the monkey man at the rotating bar about his theory that the bar is the nerve center of the American dream. "Yeah. Welcome to the happy place," the monkey man says sarcastically. "Let's get down to brass tacks. How much for the ape?" says Duke. "How much do you think you'd take for the ape? Just wait here, I'll be back."
Several flashbacks are intertwined: Duke and Gonzo smashing coconuts over the hood of the Cadillac with hammers while a crowd of people stares at them, and Duke yells things like "You people voted for Hubert Humphries, and you killed Jesus!"; The top of the Cadillac getting completely jammed and broken; Duke returning to the rotating bar while it apparently breaks down and catches fire; the monkey man trying to keep the animal away from Duke after it possibly got a hold of some drugs and attacked people. "There was every reason to believe that we'd been heading for trouble... that we'd pushed our luck a bit too far."
Duke struggles across the hotel room to a makeshift shrine to Debbie Reynolds surrounded by Christmas lights. He starts recording: "The possibility... of physical and mental collapse... is now very real. No sympathy for the devil. Keep that in mind. Uh, buy the ticket... take the ride."
Flashback to Gonzo and Duke driving, Gonzo barely coherent on drugs, possibly crying, scaring motorists with offers of "pure fucking smack" with vomit smeared down the side of the Cadillac. The people in the other car try to ignore him, but one of them goes crazy and starts pounding on the window: "Goddammit you bastards! Pull over, I'll kill you I'll kill you, pull over, come on!"
Back in the room, Duke tries to unjam the tape recorder, with what he finds is a knife crusted with what appears to be blood. "The mentality of Las Vegas is so grossly atavistic that a really massive crime often slips by unrecognized."
In another flashback, Gonzo tries making a pass at a waitress (Ellen Barkin) working alone at a cafe in the northern outskirts of Vegas. He passes her a napkin that reads: "Back door beauty?" with the question mark emphasized. "What is this?" "That's the name of a horse I used to own, ma'am," says Gonzo, but the waitress isn't buying it. "I know what that means you fat goddamn pimp bastard!" She spits in his face and threatens to call the cops, prompting Gonzo to pull out a hunting knife and cut the phone receiver off. The waitress is scared stiff. Gonzo buys a whole lemon meringue pie, stuffs the money into the waitress's shirt, and leaves. Duke follows, but leaves his plate of food. The terrified waitress cries. "The knife had stirred up some bad memories. The glazed look in her eyes said her throat had been cut. She was still in the grip of paralysis when we left."
Duke drives Gonzo to the airport. (Still in flashback.) "Our only hope I felt was the possiblity that we'd gone to such excess that nobody in a position to bring the hammer down on us could possibly believe it." On the way to there they are terrified when they spot Lucy at a crosswalk, paintings in hand, so they have to drive around the wrong way. Duke drives across lanes of highway, tears across the desert and drives right through the airport fence. He pulls the car right next to the plane and watches Gonzo get on it. "There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die." Gonzo gives the Nixon salute and boards the plane.
Back in the room, Duke contemplates Leary and the fall of the acid culture, calling them "A generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force - is tending the light at the end of the tunnel." He drives back to Los Angeles with the US flag trailing behind him. "There was only one road back to L.A. - U.S. Interstate 15. Just a flat-out high speed burn through Baker and Barstow and Berdoo. Then onto the Hollywood Freeway, and straight on into frantic oblivion. Safety. Obscurity. Just another freak, in the freak kingdom." He passes a sign that reads: "You Are Now Leaving Fear and Loathing: Pop 0".