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Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005

Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson Dies at 67
'Fear and Loathing' Writer Apparently Committed Suicide

By Martin Weil and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 21, 2005; Page A04

Hunter S. Thompson, whose life and writing, vivid and quirky reflections of each other, made him one of the principal symbols of the American counterculture, shot and killed himself yesterday at his home near Aspen.

Thompson, 67, was celebrated as a practitioner of an outraged form of personal journalism, offering off-beat ideas and observations in a style that was wildly and vividly his own and that brought him cult-like status and widespread recognition.

Near Aspen, Colorado, Hunter Thompson, who is the author of the counterculture classic, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", lets the camera have a quick look at his usually sunglass-covered eyes on December 22, 1981. (AP)

His books on politics and society were regarded as groundbreaking among journalists and other students of current affairs in their irreverence and often angry insights.

Among those for which he was famed are "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail." He rode for almost a year with the Hell's Angels motorcycle outfit for research on another book. In all he wrote at least a dozen.

Jonathan Yardley, writing last year in The Washington Post, called him "a genuinely unique figure in American journalism," citing his comic writing and social criticism.

Thompson, often seen wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap and with a cigarette dangling from his lips, showed up frequently as Uncle Duke in "Doonesbury," the Garry Trudeau comic strip.

Part of what created his image of outlaw independence and defiance of norms and conventions was his claim to intimate familiarity with a variety of drugs and mind altering chemicals.

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone . . . but they've always worked for me," he once wrote.

Pitkin County, Colo., Sheriff Bob Braudis said in a brief telephone interview that Thompson was alone in his kitchen of his Woody Creek home when he shot himself with a handgun. His wife was at a gym, Braudis said.

The sheriff said Thompson had seemed "still on top of his game."

But Braudis's wife, Louisa Davidson, said "he was not going to age gracefully, he was going to go out with a bang. He was tormented."

Thompson was known for a style that he described as "gonzo journalism," a form of "new journalism." It was based on the idea that fidelity to fact did not always blaze the way to truth.

Instead, "gonzo journalism" and its practitioners suggested that a deeper truth could be found in the ambiguous zones between fact and fiction.

"Objective journalism is one of the main reasons that American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long," Thompson told interviewers in a characteristic pronouncement on both institutions.


There's a lot to say, but let's get the nonsense out of the way:

Thompson loathed Garry Trudeau and hated the Duke character. He felt that Trudeau was stealing both his work and his persona.

He was not some kind of lunatic who constantly got high and barely got his work in.

He made friends easily and left a string of them from Ed Bradley to Johnny Depp.

What was Thompson?

First of all, he was a struggling writer who constantly had to fight to get paid, at least in his most famous years. One of the first gifts Jen ever gave me was the second volume of his letters, and many of them were letters to Rolling Stone about expenses and fees.

Second, he was a journalist. He wrote for a bunch of papers after Rolling Stone and finally ESPN. His sports columns were sufficiently dark and honest as to stand by his best work. While some people never thought he equalled his 70's work, his columns in later years were just as angry, and stripped of the drugs and party gimmicks which influenced his early work. It was less brilliant, but more focused, more controlled, and in some ways, better. Because once the gimmick was stripped away, the true skill of the writer could be seen.

Third, he was an inspiriation to two generations of writers. Everyone with some bent towards journalism reads his work and tries to emulate his style, which is impossible to do, because it was his. But his spirit and his moral sense are something which will draw young journalists in the way Jackson Pollock still pulls young painters and Groucho Marx inspires comics. Thompson knew what was right and wrong in a way that is almost gone from journalism today, he knew who got the sharp end of the stick and who didn't.

I think a lot will be written about Thomspon in the next few days, most of it based on his image, and not his work, which was both brutally honest and brutally true.

What will linger about his work to me is not so much the politics, although his obituary of Richard Nixon which ran in Rolling Stone is a classic of how poiliticians should be talked about, but his love and disgust with sports. Depsite being born in Kentucky, he was cool to the Derby. However, he loved football. It was his passion and the thing he understood, maybe in some ways, better than politics. Not so much the plays, but the darkness beneath it, what made football special and different.

Am I surprised he shot himself? Not really. He always called himself a hillbilly, and his love of guns was both profound and well known. It was said he always kept them around. So whether by accident or purpose, a gunshot death is hardly a suprise.

But it doesn't make his loss any less profound or sad.

Rolling Stone
'He was a crook'
Jun 16, 1994


DATE: MAY 1, 1994




"And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is becoming the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."--REVELATION 18:2

Richard Nixon is gone now and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing--a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that I know Iwill go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon."

I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, andI am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hatedNixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.

Nixon laughed when I told him this. "Don't worry," he said. "I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you."

It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he's gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive--and he was, all theway to the end--we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instinctsof a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by thehead with all four claws.

That was Nixon's style--and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don't fight fair, bubba. That's why God made dachshunds.


If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern--but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.

Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man--evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him--except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism--which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

posted by Steve @ 6:27:00 AM

6:27:00 AM

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