5 surprising stories about Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner
Mick Jagger! Truman Capote! Animatronic lizards!
Author Joe Hagan’s just-released biography of Rolling Stone cofounder and publisher Jann Wenner (Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine) is full of drug-drenched stories and celebrity-featuring tales. But which five deserve a place in the Rock & Roll (Anecdote) Hall of Fame?
One of our writers is missing
Jann Wenner can be a very parsimonious employer, who encouraged staffers to use three-minute egg-timers while making long distance calls in an attempt to curtail the length of the telephonic communications. But the Rolling Stone publisher is prepared to spend big in the service of a good story. According to Hogan, Wenner once “bought a customized van for a writer going on a reporting trip to Mexico.” The problem? The publisher “never heard from him again.”
The Truman Show
In the early ’70s, Wenner invited legendary writer Truman Capote to lunch with top Rolling Stone editors in the hope that the In Cold Blood scribe might contribute to the magazine. “Jann says to Truman, ‘Tell me the three great stories that you’d love to write,'” Rolling Stone writer Michael Rogers is quoted as saying in Sticky Fingers. “Truman said, ‘Jann, I don’t talk that way for fun, I only talk that way for money.”
Jann and Hunter take a trip
In the summer of 1974, Rolling Stone contributor and former Kennedy administration speechwriter Dick Goodwin invited Wenner and legendary “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson to join him, his future wife Doris Kearns, and Norman Mailer for a weekend at Goodwin’s house in Maine. During the all-night drive which ensued, Thompson gave Wenner some acid and they made a tape recording of themselves “screaming like monkeys.” When they arrived at Goodwin’s house at dawn the pair put the tape recorder in the kitchen, with the audio playing at maximum volume, and ran away.
For the Rolling Stone Christmas party in 1979, which Mick Jagger was set to attend, Wenner formed a band named the Dry Heaves, in the hope of impressing the Stones frontman. Jagger was less than taken with the musical results and informed Wenner that he should stick to writing.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: The Musical
Flush with money in the mid-aughts, Wenner resolved to build a Rolling Stone resort hotel in Las Vegas. If all had gone to plan, the complex would have boasted a five-thousand-seat concert hall, a guitar-shaped pool, and a “Gonzo Club,” where guests could enjoy a musical version of Thompson’s hallucinogenic 1972 book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, complete with animatronic lizards. Alas — or maybe not — the 2008 financial crash rendered the project untenable.