Reason's appreciation of Christopher Hitchens is here.
Some stories about Hitchens from around the Web:
Sean Higgins on The Christopher Hitchens Interview He Never Gave
...Hitchens was also a famous raconteur, noted for his ability to imbibe prodigious amounts of wine and spirits. His former colleague David Corn once wrote: “(I) watched in awe as he socialized around the clock and still managed to file perfect-prose copy the morning after.”
For the most part he reveled in this image but not always. I know this because I was among the few people the loquacious Hitchens ever refused to grant an interview to.
Before it sadly ceased publication, I was a contributor to Modern Drunkard, a humor magazine about, well, take a guess. The editor, Frank Kelly Rich, told me in 2006 that had he been trying to secure an interview with Hitchens for years without success. As a D.C. resident, where Hitchens also lived, I thought I might have a better shot.
My chance came one night later that year when I encountered Hitchens at a downtown bar called Buffalo Billiards. I approached him, said I was a writer and would like to interview him. As soon as I mentioned Modern Drunkard though, the deal was off.
“I don’t begrudge you asking, but I cannot do it,” Hitchens said. He had “too many enemies right now” to grant an interview to that publication. This was in the middle of the Iraq War, which Hitchens backed.
He then added that it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to be in that magazine anyway because didn’t consider himself a drunkard. He held his hand up and flat to show there was no tremor in it.
“See? Solid as a rock,” Hitchens said.
I wrote about the encounter in another now-defunct magazine (I’m beginning to sense a pattern here) called Doublethink. Some bloggers reprinted that part. Shortly after that the story was republished in the New York Post’s Page Six without any attribution.
“Perhaps it’ll shame Christopher into stepping into the ring,” Rich told me. Alas, it never did.
Higgins tells me his exchange took place at a Reason happy hour.
I first met Christopher soon after he came to the United States, in the offices of The Nation magazine, for which he had a regular column. A firm man of the political Left at the time, he had been hired by Victor Navasky soon after coming to the U.S. from London. Soon after, I had lunch with him in Washington, D.C., where I was writing something for The New Republic, to which he had paid a visit while I was at their office. We walked into a nearby small French bistro, where the other solitary diner, an attractive woman in her 20s, was reading The Nation. “Did you set this up?” I asked Hitch. He looked over, thoroughly amused, and rushed over to the woman: “Hello, I’m Christopher Hitchens,” he told her. “I write a regular column for this magazine.” It could have been a scene from a movie.
Last week I saw my brother for the last time in a fairly grim hospital room in Houston, Texas. He was in great pain, and suffering in several other ways I will not describe. But he was wholly conscious and in command of his wits, and able to speak clearly.
We both knew it was the last time we would see each other, though being Englishmen of a certain generation, neither of us would have dreamed of actually saying so.
I met Hitchens many times after that, usually in Washington but sometimes also in Palo Alto, where he spent the summers with his wife, Carol. Their house was the only remaining 1960s split-level in a neighborhood of tear-downs and rebuilt McMansions. But he was still out of context there, what with the swimming pool, the endless sunshine, and the neighbors in tracksuits, and so his context came to him. Everyone coming through town to visit Stanford, the Hoover Institution, or Silicon Valley stopped by: physicists, journalists, historians, writers. They didn’t come for the hospitality, which might run to a couple of slices of smoked salmon, without bread or garnish, and a couple of bottles of wine. They came to talk.
We finally made it into an impoverished Iraqi border town, watching starving, elbow-throwing Iraqis battle each other in front of the food trucks in desperate displays of aggression where the strong hoarded and the weak went hungry. Hitch and I passed out Tic Tacs and Marlboro Reds to children begging for smokes as empty goodwill gestures. “Quite a burg, isn’t it?” he said.
Back on the Kuwaiti side, our minder, Yacoub, told us our bus would once again be delayed so the other buses could catch up and we could convoy in safety. “How are six more buses going to make us safer?” protested Hitchens. After a protracted tussle in which Yacoub demanded Hitchens’s press badges, then after a cooling off in which he gave them back, then after a resumption of hostilities when Hitchens decided he didn’t want his Kuwaiti press badge back as the Kuwaitis were proving themselves the tramplers of liberty, Yacoub screamed that Hitchens would “leave Kuwait tonight!” It’s pretty hard to get kicked out of a war. But Hitchens almost managed.