Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Memoriam: Hunter S. Thompson

 “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
            -Dr Hunter S. Thompson

"Gonzo Waltz" inks on bristol / 2009 [Print Shop]
Spat into existence on our own plane of reality on July 18, 1937 in Louisville, KY, Hunter S. Thompson snatched his ticket to this wild world and smirked at the turnstile, knowing they shouldn’t have let him loose, but they had no choice (as it goes with forces of nature.)  He took the Universe and all of its powers and weaknesses and twisted them around and channeled them out onto paper for us to muse side-by-side with him along his odyssey through the wonderland we call America.  As a preface to his collected works, The Great Shark Hunt, published in 1979, Thompson composed a suicide note, telling frankly of his plans to dive off the balcony of the hotel room he was writing it from (and how he knew he wouldn’t go through with it- but how he was a better man if he did.)  On today’s date in 2005, twenty-six years later, Thompson shot himself and punched his ticket.

By his mid-twenties, there was no firearm, firework, fire alarm, or drug foreign to the good doctor in regards of his need to disrupt the status quo.  He started getting serious about branding his own mode of chaos after being discharged from the Air Force in 1958.  "In summary, this airman, although talented, will not be guided by policy", Col. William S. Evans, chief of information services wrote. "Sometimes his rebel and superior attitude seems to rub off on other airmen staff members."  Little did they know within 15 years, Thompson’s work would influence an entire generation.   Thompson wrote a mock press release about his discharge citing himself as “totally unclassifiable” and giving the world his first glimpse of Gonzo.

Where do you go after a stint at Columbia University and acquainting yourself with the entire core of the Beat Generation including Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, writing two books in Puerto Rico, and working at a magazine in Brazil all within a four year period?    

Detail from "One Flew East / One Flew West"
The Nation answered this question when they offered Hunter the opportunity to write about The Hell’s Angels in 1965.  Thompson got several book offers after the initial article, when he went undercover with the notorious motorcycle gang of California.  With Hell’s Angels, Thompson invented Gonzo Journalism (where the writer immerses himself into his subject matter- to where he becomes the central figure of the story.)  The book covers the writer’s initiation into the gang, his education of biking culture, building custom hogs, the hierarchy of the gang and their mamas, their drugs and their homemade wine.  No substance and vice was left untouched by Thompson as he delved headfirst into what it is to live the life of a Hell’s Angel.  The book only ends when Thompson takes a serious ass kicking from a few of the gang members (and is all too happy they let him live to write about it.)

Three years later, Thompson took a $6,000 advance from Random House and followed the Campaign trail of 1968.  He crashed hotels and followed along until the end at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  He witnesses protesters clash with police but never quite translated enough to get a book to fulfill the contract with the publishing company.  You see, he didn’t get involved enough to do what Thompson did best.  In 1972 when Thompson barely made it to Sin City in a drug-induced stupor with a suitcase of narcotics to cover a dirt bike race, he became a legend (and fulfilled his contract with Random House by publishing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.) 

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.
            -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson giving Johnny Depp his haircut for the role.
Thompson rode the city, rode his high, and became a rock star when his vision of the American dream was penned to scripture for future generations with this breakthrough visionary work, published by Rolling Stone and immediately released in book form thereafter.  Terry Gilliam bore witness through his visual testimony of Hunter’s magnum opus with the 1998 film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, giving a broader audience to his story and reinventing the legend for a new generation with bizarre special effects and a phenomenal cast in rare form. For his preparation of the role of Thompson, Johnny Depp lived in the author and madman’s basement and subjected himself to extreme hazing at the hands of the twisted doctor.  This was Thompson’s way of getting involved and going Gonzo (in return, the experience was Depp’s dues and homage to the heart of his character also by living the part.)     

After Thompson’s timely suicide, Depp saw through with the financing of the most elaborate dedication of human remains in documented history as the author’s ashes were fired from a cannon atop a 153ft tower of his own design (in the shape of a double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button- all in neon) to the tune of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" and Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" across a fireworks display.   The Doctor got to take part in one last celebration of life which will echo on through the lore of his audience and friends who lent their open minds to his uniquely terrifying and triumphant voice.  Thompson conquered the game and called all the shots, up until the last… and the odds were never on the house when he was driving.

In Memoriam 02/20/2011


  1. If you need a Gonzo fix, check this out:
    Gonzo, Gonzo, All Fall Down
    ". . . reads like Thompson if he was writing his main body of work today and not 35 years ago. . . . it’s mostly laugh out loud funny."
    Kindle edition:

    There is a paperback edition of the same book with a different title. (Why? I don’t know.): A Million Little Pieces of Feces

  2. FUCK YES THANK YOU!!!! I didnt get to read any of this yet but jsut the picture alone has made me so happy.
    for all your drugs/depression/doodles

  3. Thanks for the plug man... Stay creative and keep it up with the site!

  4. Interesting post, I'm looking forward to the new movie and I guess I should check out Fear and Loathing, too.

  5. Absolutely! If you haven't seen Fear & Loathing, it is very true to the book and Thompson's insanity in general. Also, less infamously, Bill Murray portrayed the Good Doctor in Where the Buffalo Roam in the early 80's. It's no where near as good as Gilliam's more recent movie with Johnny Depp, but it's a gas. Bill Murray was a real pill for the rest of the SNL cast while making the movie. There are several Hunter-esque stories of him crashing into cast members' dressing rooms with fire extinguishers and fireworks and such.

  6. Sex 'n drugs n' rock 'n.....OH GOD... I coulda' been a contender - I could have been one of the 'beautiful' people! Ah, but inner-city life is a monster of desperation - desperate for people like me: bits of meat caught up with fading strength and trying to live without bleeding out more than a wayward lion's share.

    The walls are coming to get me!

    Glory! Glory, motherfucker; bedazzle me with a brand new twist on your tired story. I'm not on drugs...I AM A DRUG! And furthermore, I loath the sound of alley cats when fucking - both they and I. Myself, well...I like home bound cats - those ruling over a back yard world.

  7. Hi, Good piece. If you're interested in Hell's Angels, check out "Keep This Quiet! My Relationship with Hunter S. Thompson, Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert" - a new book with loads of HST's own words (letters) while working on "Hell's Angels" at Random House. I was his copy editor and got permission to print them and some stories. Discounted copies are $12.00 B & N. Will soon, I presume, be discounted on Amazon. - expect late this week. Looking forward to The Rum Diary movie.

  8. Looking forward to seeing the good doctor being portrayed on screen again myself! I'll keep an eye out for the book- thanks!

  9. Thanks for the comment on my Hub. After reading your blog, you also appreciate the Dr. as well. I agree. So very influential and original.

  10. He was otherworldly and brought us a new mode of expression- thanks Justin.

  11. Always a pleasure to see another Hunter fan... nice piece.

  12. The good doctor did more than take drugs- he became the drugs, for me anyway, opening my mind to possibilities i'd never imagined while reassuring me that there were many good reasons to be angry.
    he was one of the few truly great communicators of his time. and as dark as his work could sometimes be, the fact that he wrote - so much and so well - testified to an optimism that others also cared and things could change.

  13. Check out the new book about Hunter's Campaign - Freak Power - Hunter S. Thompson's Campaign for Sheriff -


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