Is there a vicar in the room, asked the British artist Ralph Steadman at the premiere of Charlie and Lucy Paul's documentary about him, For No Good Reason. His work instantly recognizable from his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson, most notably for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and articles for Rolling Stone Magazine, Steadman is a mix of perversion and honesty, the very qualities he admired in Thompson and another one of his literary heroes, William S. Burroughs. A vicar might have rained on all of their parades.
The best moments of the inspiring For No Good Reason involve Steadman explaining his process to Johnny Depp, a Thompson surrogate in the film based on Fear and Loathing. Other highlights include Saturday Night Live's Hal Willner introducing a 1986 recording he made with William Burroughs, "A Thanksgiving Prayer" from the album Dead City Radio, putting together the Naked Lunch author with Steadman. This was a welcome addition to the Burroughs centennial celebration ongoing through 2014, Burroughs scratchy voice and shooter skills on display. Hunter and Bill bonded over drugs and guns, and with Steadman, a critique of American culture, policy, and influence in the world. Steadman's political, anti-war work is particularly outspoken, as art should be.
The film goes into a rift between Hunter and Steadman, and the impact on Steadman of Thompson's suicide. Noticeably missing was any reference to Steadman's family, as if the bizarre aspects of his art and personality were sui generis, and/or confined to an insular studio. Bob Gruen, Paul Shaffer, Judith Hudson, Alex Gibney and many others filled the Red Bull Studio for the Jann Wenner hosted after party, with an exhibition of Steadman's work on display. Novelist, nattily dressed Tom Wolfe, known for his astute eye to modern art, made a rare appearance.
It was a surprise to meet, Anna, Steadman's wife who clearly had her hands full with this character, as she guided Steadman through a crowd of fans to a seat. Sadie, his daughter said no, he didn't do portraits of the family. If you know Steadman's signature subversive and violent style involving splatter, spewing and scraping, you know that's probably for good reason.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.