Hugh Humbert-Lardwick, a regional vice president from the United Kingdom, made headlines in 2010 after leading a group of unwitting British employees to Hollister, California, where they suffered a harrowing two-day ordeal. Humbert-Lardwick’s vehement and widely publicized criticism of the city drew a raft of reporters to the sleepy Central California community, which resulted in more exposure than either of the Hollisters deserved or wanted.
The British Invasion of Hollister
Humbert-Lardwick’s inevitable downfall came shortly after he pressured Abercrombie & Fitch to sue the city over naming rights. His depictions of the town during the hearing shocked jurors and attorneys alike.
One juror told reporters, “It wasn’t that we didn’t believe his story of Hollister as a forgotten hamlet full of cannibalistic monsters and demon children who summon Satan in the corn fields; we did. It was just that he came across as batshit crazy.”
Transcripts from the trial render a similarly delusional portrayal of Humbert-Lardwick. When asked by the city’s legal counsel to recall his initial impressions of Hollister, Humbert-Lardwick offered this account, which ran in every paper in the state:
“The unutterable ghastliness of the place is the chief end to the means of its existence. There, the darkest elements of an immaculate grotesqueness and ignorance collide to form a perfection of hideousness. We were subjected to the most inhuman sights. Ramshackle wooden houses removed from the main roads, filthy hippies squatting on dank grassy slopes, diseased vines sprouting from unknown weeds and spreading through the swollen trunks of blighted trees. The children; oh my god, the children. An unholy brood of possessed witches who worship pagan gods which the practitioners of voodoo and Santeria fear to call. Unwholesome creatures who fly kites after dark. Who creep from alleyways to wander the streets long after midnight when the ice cream truck comes coughing through town, its broken speaker playing calliope music in reverse -- a soulless clamor, like a fallen angel’s fart. The old rattling gates skirting the potter’s fields of what must have been farm houses once. Plaster peeling from walls. Doors snapping off their hinges. The peculiarly hateful odor. The cloying stench of ancient hay and dung and sodden boards and patchouli oil. It would be merciful, I think, to burn this city to the ground, for it must dream. It must weep.”
Following the trial, public opinion quickly turned against Humbert-Lardwick. Stocks in the company plummeted. Ultimately, Abercrombie & Fitch had little choice but to fire the disgraced executive.
Exile in Arizona
Several months later, having postponed his return trip to Britain, Humbert-Lardwick landed in Arizona. He rented a studio apartment in Nogales and found work as a cashier in an adult entertainment shop where he sold pornographic literature, films and sex toys.
“He was a real hard worker,” said Lou Benford, proprietor of The Desert Bush. “Had that neat accent. All them homos liked to come in and listen to him talk. Real pretty when those Englishmen talk that way they do. He knew a whole lot ‘bout clothes too, which helped me move some of them frillies and delicates the ladies round here don’t fancy in general. I’m gonna miss him something sore.”
Since April 2010, when Governor Jan Brewer signed into law one of the most hotly debated anti-immigration bills in recent history, illegal aliens such as Humbert-Lardwick have been forced to lurk in the shadows and tread lightly through the city to avoid raising suspicion. The bill allows police to question and arrest people without warrant if “reasonable suspicion” about their immigration status exists. It’s widely considered the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the country, and critics argue that it legalizes racial profiling and discrimination.
This Saturday, Hugh Humbert-Lardwick discovered firsthand the full force of the new law when police arrived at his apartment and demanded his papers. “It was clear to everyone in Nogales that this guy weren’t no native,” the police commissioner later said.
With only a British passport in his possession, Humbert-Lardwick admitted to the officers that he was working in the country illegally. Police searched Humbert-Lardwick’s property and found several unopened boxes of sexual paraphernalia from The Desert Bush in the kitchenette. One of Arizona’s “blue laws” makes it a state crime to have more than two dildos in the house. Fearing spending any time in the notoriously rough Arizona penal system, Humbert-Lardwick grabbed one of the eight firearms laying around his apartment and fled. He was gunned down in a hail of bullets just outside the complex.
Humbert-Lardwick will be charged and deported posthumously for living in Arizona as an illegal alien and for violating the state’s “two dildos” law. He will not be charged for possessing unlicensed firearms. As part of another provocative act in 2010, Governor Brewer had pushed through a bill that legalizes the carrying of concealed firearms and other weapons without a permit for adults over 21 years of age.
Private services for friends and family will be held in Bristol, Avon U.K.