A Tale of Two Teds: The Strange Case of Ted Nugent

ARCHIVES—Studies in Human Pathology:
Or How to Flaunt One’s Depravity All the Way to Public Acclaim

 By Patrice Greanville

“I recently saw the VH1 documentary about Ted, and saw that he takes a lot of pride in teaching today’s youth about the importance of archery, self-discipline and respect for wilderness. (sic) After seeing you and your small children all involved in the sport, I purchased a bow and equipped my two sons. They enjoy it very much.”

--Patrick McCarthy, California

“There’s a sucker born every minute, but none of them ever die”—Joseph Bessimer, a notorious confidencetrickster of the early 1880s known to the police as “Paper Collar Joe”. (Bon mot wrongly attributed to P.T. Barnum)


PATRICK McCARTHY’s BENIGHTED OPINION OF TED NUGENT
is testament to the truth of Bessimer’s infamous dictum. Idiots may always be with us. But what’s the reality behind the well-polished good ‘ole boy act? At 62, Ted Nugent, heavy metal rock star for several decades, has been cheerfully “whacking” animals for 49 years. “Whacking”, of course. is Ted’s own cute term for what he loves to do best when he comes across an unsuspecting animal. And that’s to put big arrows into or through her body with the obvious intent to maim and kill.

Whacking animals is very big in Ted’s intimate circle, where he is, of course, the “Whackmaster”. Yeah. Ted is simply crazy about bow hunting. But his natural sensitivity, and to some extent the burden of now being in the spotlight as a self appointed national evangelist for the activity and even the possibility of political office as a GOP avatar, have injected of late a measure of restraint in his utterances. Ted these days is not too happy when people around him refer to bow hunting as just ‘a recreational sport.” That’s loose talk. What he does. (please note the difference), and what he’d like many, many millions of fellow Americans and people around the world to do is to practice bow hunting as a life‑style. It follows that at the Nugent compound meat doesn’t come from the supermarket. Oh. no. In the Nugent tradition, the men go out and hunt their meat, and that’s no sissy figure of speech. But. wait, there’s a bonus. Ted, who claims with a straight face that he’s never done drugs and that he’s thrashed anyone who ever offered him some, is certain of another thing: killing animals for food and fun can also keep you clean. Yes, the ills of society‑‑crime, despair, drugs. poverty—they will all miraculously vanish if people will just stay away from junk and go hunting, er, bow hunting, that is. So after decades of cutting a figure as an unreconstructed rebel, a visceral anarchist without a program, Teddy has arrived, to become, of all things, a wholesome, clean‑living American, a real stand‑up guy kids can look up to. In fact, as he never tires of saying, why do drugs when hunting and the outdoors are much greater highs?

Nugent just being Nugent—a sampler

  • ITEM “The preponderance of South Africa is a different breed of man…They still put bones in their noses, they still walk around naked, they wipe their butts with their hands. And when I kill an antelope for ‘em, their preference is the gut pile. That’s what they fucking want to eat, the intestines. These are different people. You give them toothpaste, they fucking eat it.” Detroit Free Press Magazine, July 15, 1990
  • ITEM Nugent constantly makes obscene and derogatory remarks about women, and drops the F-bomb almost as often as he refers to himself in third person. It doesn’t stop at foul language though; it’s the substance that is most objectionable. Nugent has had to pay $75,000 for shooting off his mouth after a radio interview in 1992, when he referred to Heidi Prescott of The Fund for Animals as a “worthless whore” and a “shallow slut,” asking, “Who needs to club a seal, when you could club Heidi?” (Detroit Free Press,  April 5, 1995.)
  • ITEM Just before he toured in Japan, he mindlessly maligned the Japanese in a characteristic xenophobic diatribe on a Detroit radio show: “…Yeah they love me (in Japan) – they’re still assholes. These people they don’t know what life is.  I don’t have a following, they need me; they don’t like me they need me…  Foreigners are assholes; foreigners are scum; I don’t like ‘em; I don’t want ‘em in this country; I don’t want ‘em selling me doughnuts; I don’t want ‘em pumping my gas; I don’t want ‘em downwind of my life-OK?  So anyhow-and I’m dead serious…” (WRIF-FM, Detroit, Ted Nugent as guest D.J.,  November 19, 1992).
  • ITEM As an avid hunter, Nugent was a frequent visitor to Canada until the government of Ontario cancelled the spring black bear hunt in 1999. Irate that he wouldn’t get his shot at shooting at a black bear, Nugent vowed to never set foot again in what he described as “an idiotic country.”
  • ITEM Terrible Ted, who owns a compound in Waco, TX (no joke) and a “swamp” in Michigan, prides himself on his conservation efforts and his lifelong commitment to what he lovingly refers to as his “environmental orgy.” But The Nuge is no lefty environmentalist. He and the animal rights movement have not always seen eye-to-eye, not surprising given classic Nugent stunts like leading a hunting trip called “The Rape of The Hills 2000.” In 2000, Nugent was jailed briefly following an incident outside a department store in San Francisco in which he allegedly spat on, threatened and physically assaulted several anti-fur demonstrators.
  • ITEM (About Haiti) “We should put razor wire around our borders and give the finger to any piece of shit who wants to come here.”  Westword Newspaper, Denver, Colorado, July 27, 1994
  • ITEM “…Yeah, we want to go to Saudi Arabia, man, and see if we can’t get a four iron and knock people’s laundry off the top of their heads.  Wear laundry on your head and die, is the basic theme of the Damn Yankees [Nugent’s 90’s band]” WRIF-FM, Detroit, Ted Nugent as guest D.J., September 25, 1990
  • ITEM “…I met a couple of guys in line yesterday and they say write something to my girlfriend, she won’t let me go hunting.  I wrote her something, I wrote Drop dead bitch.  What good is she, trade her in, get a Dalmatian, who needs her, the wench.” WRIF-FM, Detroit, Ted Nugent as guest D.J., September 25, 1991
  • ITEM [On Hillary Clinton] “You probably can’t use the term ‘toxic c—-’ in your magazine, but that’s what she is.  Her very existence insults the spirit of individualism in this country.  This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.” Westword Newspaper, Denver, Colorado, July 27, 1994
  • ITEM “And if you’re a woman who feels that his lyrics to ditties such as the immortal ‘Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’ are sexist, Nugent says, ‘Fuck you and go to a Garth Brooks show.  Kiss my dog’s dead, diseased, rotting ass.  If you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re not allowed in Ted’s world.  I don’t objectify women.  I’d like to think that I’m optimizing their hardware.’” Westword Newspaper, Denver, Colorado, July 27, 1994
  • ITEM “…First thing I slayed…I was nine years old.  It was a squirrel, these ladies were feeding it, you know, and I said, ‘excuse me, bam.’  No it wasn’t a pet squirrel.  I had it stuffed and petted it for years after that.” WRIF-FM, Detroit, Ted Nugent as guest D.J., September 26, 1991.
  • (Excerpted from Campusprogress.org—Tools)

It’s hard to tell whether Nugent, who seems cunning enough, actually believes this simplistic drivel. Passions have a way of beclouding the mind…but suspicion seems in order. A robust, some would say even pragmatic, sense of self‑preservation seems totally out of place in the make‑up of a man who has spared no effort over the years to build a reputation for excess and unpredictability. Either way, Nugent himself has admitted that wanting no part of the Vietnam mess, he had no qualms in pulling a fast one on his draft board.

The manner he went about it, though, is instructive. Nugent claims that for 30 days before his draft board physical he stopped all forms of personal hygiene. Then, for the last 10 days he ingested nothing but Vienna sausages and Pepsi; and a week before the exam he stopped using bathrooms altogether. Virtually living inside his pants. They became so caked with excrement and urine that, not surprisingly, the board examiners declared him unfit for military service.

The episode may be one of the skeletons still rattling in Nugent’s macho closet. But, then, again, Teddy claims to have had good reasons: “The men who went should be applauded” he declared in a recent interview. ‘But if I would have gone over there. I’d have been killed, or I’d have killed all the hippies inthe foxholes…I woulda killed everybody’. Hmmm. Apparently it never occurred to Nugent that freewheeling killing was what Vietnam was all about and that hippies were not exactly a high risk in Indochina. Either way, Nugent’s caper with his draft board tells volumes about the “Whackmaster’s” integrity. But sadly, it tells even more about the alarming degree of obtuseness afflicting our society. For, believe it or not, early this year Ted was annointed by the Michigan Legislature as a “wholesome traditional man of honesty, integrity, loyalty and patriotism.” (Please see our companion sidebar, “Adding Up Ted’s resume”). They might have left it at that, but the resolution, introduced by State Sen. James Barcia (D-Bay City) went further. It singled Nugent out “for his efforts on behalf of hunting safety, wildlife conservation and a drug‑free lifestyle.”

Nugent a role model? This needs to be examined, folks. The honoring of an unprincipled draft dodger as a “loyal, patriotic citizen” may be forgiven: Vietnam was a mistake and self‑preservation is. after all, a sign of human normalcy . And the fact that Nugent remains a dyed‑in‑the‑wool male chauvinist is no reason for excessive alarm. The tables can always turn in that department.

But what of Teddy’s demonstrably psychotic makeup? Here we use the term advisedly. For decades forensic psychiatrists have recognized that a total lack of empathy with the suffering of fellow creatures is a telltale sign of psychopathic tendencies. Serial killer Ted Bundy exhibited that trait. The little known (in America) Luis Alfredo Gavarito, a Colombian serial killer notched 140 children before he was caught, but the telling fact is that he had a long previous and parallel history of savage mutilation of animals. Jeffrey Dahmer, of necrophiliac fame, was also an early and obsessive animal tormentor. Psychiatrists are in agreement that the trait is found in the overwhelming majority of psychosexual criminals. Hunting is of course far more widespread that I, for one, would like, and not all hunters are serial killers. Still, caution is in order when in comes to these pastimes.

But consider the evidence supplied by an impeccable witness: Nugent himself. Nugent, as mentioned earlier, is a compulsive bow hunter. Even when on tour he arranges his schedule so he can go out into the woods at least four to five months every year. And he uses a 40,000‑acre ranch in South Africa, a country whose apartheid system didn’t seem to bother him too much, and just for bow hunting. (This article was penned when Apartheid was still around—Ed.) 

In and of itself this is not unusual; fanatical hunters have existed since the dawn of time and they have included those outsized parasites, the revered nobility. But then, again, that’s precisely the question. Should someone with the makeup of a fanatical hunter be the object of so much admiration, let alone tolerated in a modem, really civilized society? I’m using the word “civilized” here, folks. Not just any kind of human agglomeration.

As Joy Williams recently put it in an essay in Esquire magazine (“The Killing Game, Oct. 1990), after the hunters’ specious arguments are tossed aside—the “semireligious thing”, the killing‑and-affirming-thing”, “the communing with nature” baloney, or perhaps the smuggest of them all, “the suffering of animals as a sacrament”, the reality is pretty revolting. Rabid hunters are definitely not your normal run of people. Blazing through their philosophical fog, Williams brings up the case of a West Virginia hunter, one Bill Neal, who routinely blows away the toes off tree raccoons so that they will fall down and be torn apart by his dogs. “That’s the best part of it. It’s not any fun just shooting them.” How many hardcore hunters are really scandalized by such behavior?

Let Ted himself provide the answer. Let the Whackmaster supreme take you along on a little adventure, and show you how to “whack’em, stack’em, and pack’em.”

“I’d like to share some fun and games with you,” says Nugent on Down to Earth, his special video on bow hunting. “But if you expect a Hollywood video, forget it! This isn’t gonna be a Walt Disney thing or a Mutual of Omaha Wild Dingdong. It’s gonna be raw. There’s no B.S. here ladies and gentlemen … This is gonna be the way I live. In fact, check this out. Check the way I live it up…Watch the kid in action.”

Nugent’s warning is no bluff. The ensuing footage shows him merrily shooting arrows at various animals who seem unaware of his presence: a wild pig, a turkey, an armadillo (does he actualy pretend to eat armadilloes?) a deer, a squirrel. “That’ll do it,” he chirps euphorically when one of the shafts lands in an animal’s ventral area. “A broadhead shaft in the boiler room.”

As the arrows land, all the animals let out a heart‑wrenching scream, while some falter in immediate agony. The squirrel is not so lucky. Hit high on a tree, with her tiny body pierced by a shaft that in human terms would be as big as a small telephone pole, she fights in her very death throes to regain her foothold and avoid crashing down.  To Nugent. who is now ecstatic, the segment is irresistible. He bends a knee in mock respect. “A moment of silence,” he intones. “I just looove this part. Can we please watch it again? I need to see that again. especially when the arrow goes pfftl in the air … check it out.” The segment is replayed. The host is now jubilant: “Was that great or what!” The Whackmaster makes an excellent witness for his own prosecution in the court of elementary human decency. I wonder if the Michigan legislators would still honor Nugent after watching his tape. But hey, don’t hold your breath. Legislators, usually reflecting mainstream mores, have rarely distinguished themselves for their moral acuity.

Nugent’s predilections, which he scarcely hides, show how morally absurd society can get. And how easily the miasma of self‑righteous tradition can blind the public to what otherwise should be perceived as aberrant behavior. As Columnist Roger Simon recently noted, it remains legal to march around wearing sheets and burning crosses, and to shoot an arrow into a deer’s eyeball. But it is illegal to speak the words: “I don’t think you should shoot that arrow into a deer’s eyeball.”

But what about Nugent’s popularity with the public? His stand against drugs obviously affords him some good press. But would his fans remain in the fold if they knew how he got his kicks? Perhaps the sadomasochistic segment of the heavy‑metal audience would go on worshipping Nugent‑along with the late murderer Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, and other idols whose bands are named things like Violence, Chainsaw Kittens, and Agony Column. Nugent offers them the chance to vicariously release pent-up frustrations and anger at their own impotence, and to dream of a day when they, too, in the apotheosis of juvenile male irresponsibility, can shed all restraint.

The rest, one hopes, would tune out upon realizing that Nugent is probably a dime‑store proto- fascist, a crude neo‑Nietzschean who derides compassion as the religion of the weak and the undoing of the strong, and who habitually crosses the line between occasional antisocial fantasy and actual descent into depravity.

Patrice Greanville is TGP’s editor and publisher. This is an updated version of an original piece published in 1991.

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