I first became aware of Ted Nugent back in the 80s when some clueless administrator at my high school — Hellgate High in Missoula, Montana — thought it’d be a great idea to bring him in as some sort of motivational speaker before a packed high school assembly.
Ted Nugent? you may be asking. Motivational speaker? High school? Is there anyone less appropriate to talk to a bunch of horny 16 year olds about the importance of shooting for the stars than the guy who sang ”Wang Dang Sweet Poontang?”
Like I said, this was Montana in the 80s. Not exactly the vortex of the lecture circuit. It was probably a toss up between the Nuge or the guy who played Cooter on The Dukes of Hazzard. And the school administrator who hired him was surely a relic of the 70s himself, trying to hold onto his identity as the Z-28 driving, mustache wearing stud he still fashioned himself to be.
Anyway, I remember sitting in the bleachers in my parachute pants and windbreaker, softly running my fingers through my permed bowl cut, when the Nuge took the floor.
I don’t recall any kind of thunderous applause. The response was tepid, at best. I think most of us in the bleachers were like, “Who is that old guy and why is he wearing….so many feathers?” I can’t speak for my classmates — as in, I didn’t speak to many of my classmates due to the chip on my shoulder the size of a meteorite — but I was very much into 10,000 Maniacs and Violent Femmes and Madonna and, yes, even Def Leppard by that point; I had no time for this denim-n-feather wearing Nuge character. And he wore sunglasses. Never trust a man who wears sunglasses indoors. Never trust a man about to give a lecture in sunglasses indoors.
Now that it’s all coming back to me, I believe the purpose of the talk was the importance of not drinking and driving. The reason I remember this is because I got the distinct impression the Nuge was drunk himself.
“SH**********T!!!!!” the Nuge opened with, by way of breaking the ice with 3,000 teenagers. ”How ya’ll F**KIN’ doin’?”
A ripple of excitement swept through the crowd of rowdy teens. A bunch of of us looked toward the principal leaning against one wall of the gymnasium. He wore a constipated expression.
“Aaaah, f**k,” the Nuge continued. ”I f**kin’ love Montana! So many hot women! So many f**kin’ things to kill!”
The crowd roared. Applause erupted. Ted Nugent: Friend of the teens.
“Yeah, I see some pretty hot women around here!” he roared. ”But sh*t! You should see my 15 year old daughter! She’s F**KIN’ hot!”
Shocked laughter swept through the bleachers. The principal had flames shooting out of his ears. Students made cat calls. The Nuge said a couple of things about trying not to die while driving drunk, then made his exit in a swirl of dust and feathers and was a folk hero of Hellgate High forever more.
Many years later, I had an opportunity to interview the Nuge for a magazine article. I think he was hawking some product at the time — BBQ sauce, bullets, t-shirts, whatever, and I brought up the incident at Hellgate High. ”Do you remember that?” I asked. “You, like, changed our lives. You showed us anything was possible [voice heavy with sarcasm].”
It was the only time during the 60 minute conversation he fell silent until he finally said, “Ah, man, I can’t remember. I have no clue what you’re talking about.”