Neal Pollack knew Christopher Hitchens better than you.
Christopher Hitchens and I were friends for 40 years, plus another five when we were enemies. He took ideas so seriously that if he disagreed with you on a matter that he deemed important, he’d literally throw you in a ditch. It was 1972, the height of our mutual virility. He and I went to a pub to celebrate his most recent intellectual victory over the establishment press. I intimated that sometimes women could be funny on purpose. Even back then, the thought enraged him. Hitchens threw a drink in my face, pressed a lit cigarette into my neck, and hit me over the head with a barstool.
Compare Dave Zirin, not being satirical, in The Nation on Friday:
I met Christopher Hitchens once and once only in October of 2005. I had just written my first article for The Nation, Hitchens’s former employer…I found myself drinking in a New York City downtown bar, and there, sidling up next to me, was Christopher Hitchens.
With a couple Jamesons in me, I couldn’t resist. I turned to him and said, “Hello, Mr. Hitchens.” He faced me with a glass of brown liquor in each hand and an unlit cigarette in his mouth…
He responded, “I see you bought the Nation magazine lies about there being no weapons of mass destruction though.”
I said, “Come on. Not even Dick Cheney argues that there were WMDs in Iraq. You can do better than that.”
Hitchens then looked me up and down and spit his unlit cigarette against my chest. As my mouth dropped wide, he turned one last time and walked to his table. I stood there stunned, embarrassed and oddly proud.
A little more Pollack –
Many was the time we passed the bottle until dawn, bemoaning Thatcher’s England, Reagan’s America, and also some stuff about the Middle East. Sometimes Hitchens would bring over a dissident writer who was fleeing oppression in his native country, and we’d all make fun of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana, then remove our pants to compare our manhoods. We were so middle-aged and foolish then, so committed to the struggle.
For months, he’d wander the streets at night, looking to drunkenly berate someone who disagreed with him about the evils of Islamofascism. Occasionally he’d attempt to strangle young journalists, who admired him unquestioningly, with their own neckties.
Now that’s an elegy.