Hunter Thompson

At Cracked, we kind of worship Hunter Thompson, the smartass patron saint of writers; a man who, by the end of his life, had consumed enough mind-altering substances to fuel a small, massively kickass nation.

The only way he ever knew.

Did I mention his obscenely prolific collection of murder implements?

Just The Facts

  1. He was a journalist, and got his start as a sports writer. Fact: best sports writer ever.
  2. He invented the practice of "gonzo" journalism, whereby a journalist tries to cover a wildfire, but realizes that the true story is how parched they feel.
  3. He is also known for his affinity for drugs, alcohol, firearms, and being batshit insane.

A History of This Sort of Thing

Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1937, and excelled in sports at a young age, particularly baseball. I would guess that this is were he picked up a taste in illicit chemicals, but I'm not sure how available human growth hormone was in the 1950's. The only way to get drugs, it seems, was swiping a joint from Allen Ginsberg while he was too busy sexing up some primo dude to pay attention.

Right to left: Allen Ginsberg; Misdirection.

Most fans of Thompson got acquianted with the man after the release of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but he was just as nuts before as after the book's release; that is to say, he was running silent on the Craze-dar, before blipping in a massive fucking way. That said, the years of awesome that preceded his widespread fame included highlights like:

  • An honorable discharge from the Air Force for a combination of talent and inability to be "guided by policy," essentially the bureaucratic way of saying, "He's good, but he could cost us, and this is the nicest way of kicking him out on his ass;"
  • Constantly getting hired by and fired from periodicals, mostly for reasons that involved fighting with publication sponsors or candy machines;
  • Writing a book about, and then refusing to share the money earned from, the Hell's Angels (he took their beating like a champ);
  • Watching the hippies go from "peace, love, and freedom" to "I'm so fuckin' high!";
  • Running for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado on the "Freak Power" ticket (more on that later);
  • And inventing gonzo literature by pulling a story out of his ass and from the pages of his notebook, vaguely numbering them, and titling this professional, organized work "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved."

The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved: The Coloring Book!

How He Made His Living

Thompson's unique combination of drug-fueled procrastination and fanciful eleventh-hour bullshittery attracted publishing houses (presumably staffed by the insane homeless), so he was tapped to write a non-fiction book about a Latino journalist who died during a Vietnam War protest in LA. Not realizing what they had done until it was way too late, they gave him three hundred dollars and Oscar Acosta, the lawyer/beefwall seen below, and he gave them a book, here meaning "mindfuck."

Thompson and Acosta, seen here drinking wood varnish, to get a light buzz.

At the same time as he was supposed to be writing the Los Angeles book, Sports Illustrated was expecting a 250-word caption about the Mint 400, a crappy motorcycle race in the general vicinity of Vegas. Always the multi-tasker and occasionally the overachiever, Hunter S. Thompson turned in a vague manuscript of 2,500 words, which had almost nothing to do with motorbikes and everything to do with hallucinations and the death of the American Dream. We can only assume that the editor's combination of confusion, hurt, anger, and mental anguish caused his brain to escape through his ass, take a fistful of peyote buttons and a bowie knife into the desert, and die amongst the winds and sand, finally knowing peace.

Jann Wenner, popular target of mean puns in grade school and the creator of Rolling Stone, "enjoyed" the twenty pages of Thompson's manuscript, and, from a safe distance, encouraged Hunter's self-destructive, off-kilter, and totally badass behavior, leading to the eventual completion, and 1972 release of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The resultant book is simulatenously pant-shittingly terrifying and hilarious. Don't believe me? A few choice quotes, for your pleasure:

The car suddenly veered off the road and we came to a sliding halt in the gravel. I was hurled against the dashboard. My attorney was slumped over the wheel. "What's wrong?" I yelled. "We can't stop here. This is bat country!"

We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug-collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

What's happening here? What's going on? Then you hear yourself mumbling: "Dogs fucked the Pope, no fault of mine. Watch out!...Why money? My name is Brinks; I was born...Born? Get sheep over side...women and children to armored car...orders from Captain Zeep."

Cool, huh?

Thompson would keep this theme with titles going with creative headlines like Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, Fear and Loathing Meet Frankenstien, Fear and Loathing and Jules and Jim, Fear and Loathing 2: Electric Boogaloo, and Fear and Loathing vs. the Iron Shiek. All in all, no one is really sure how he would have been as a sports journalist, because he did so little of it, but you can imagine it would be fun. Imagine how awesome Howard Cosell would be if you hit him with a little Sunshine Superman.

"It only now occurs to me how much this cigar looks like a cock. Sports fans, I may be fellating Fidel."

It would be easy to say that Thompson revolutionized literature today by making it psychotic and hilarious, and that that was his only contribution to the world. It would be easy, but also enormously wrong. You see, it was Hunter Thompson, and could only be Hunter Thompson, that brought entertainment value to the forum of local politics.

Political "Career"

Have you ever wanted to hold a position of political power to implement insane policies that only benefit you? Like your tax on anyone with a vowel in their name, the one that feeds into your pension fund? Or the one that allows criminals to arrest cops for posession of a firearm? Thompson, it turns out, is a good cautionary tale in this respect; because no how much you back your election, odds are that no one else does.

The story begins with an article that Thompson wrote for Rolling Stone called "The Battle of Aspen." For a moment, dismiss the Led Zeppelin-scored mental image of epic fantasy battle, remind yourself that Aspen, Colorado is an upscale domicile of the wealthy, and mind the fact that the "battle" was a race for mayor in which Thompson and Joe Edwards, another affably insane bastard, took on the candidates who had "logical" and "not horsefuck weird" beliefs. You can mentally cue the Zepp again.

Gotta whole lotta drugs.

Thompson was originally just reporting on Edward's campaign, but quickly became involved with as the de facto campaign manager. Edward's idea to cater the campaign to "freaks," "heads," and other assorted radical young people lost him the mayoral campaign, but would later be used to win the presidency. Surprisingly, this strategy failed to grab the independents, but it inspired Thompson to run again. So when you don't win for mayor, what's the next logical step? Run for sheriff, bitch.

He ran on the Freak Power ticket in Pitkin County, Colorado, shaved his head so he could refer to his Republican opponent as "my long-haired opponent," and proposed the following three things as the entirety of his campaign:

  • "1.) "Rip up all city streets with jackhammers and sod the streets at once."
  • "2.) "change the name Aspen to Fat City this would prevent greed heads land rapers and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name aspen. these swine should be fucked broken and driven across the land "
  • "3. "it will be the general philosophy of the sheriff's office that no drug worth taking shall be sold for money. My first act as sheriff will be to install on the sheriffs lawn a set of stocks to punish dishonest dope dealers"

My favorite is number two. Anyway, he ended up losing (somehow), but he did made his home and "fortified compound" in Pitkin County, and called it Owl Farm, presumably for his owl-growing operation. How could he lose with this campaign poster?

In an age before HOPE...

Death and Legacy

Thompson committed suicide by gunshot in 2005, presumably while trying to scratch his brain. His suicide note, titled "Football Season Is Over", was short, cryptic, and actually a little freaky:

"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun - for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - This won't hurt".

Either this was a cry for help from a shattered mind, or he was really pissed that the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Either way, a life of partying hard was cut short, but his send-off to the afterlife still tops most people's entire lives: his ashes were fired out of a cannon. With fireworks.

"Not to be a dick or anything, but I'm pretty sure he owed me thirty bucks."

His funeral was attended by Bill Murray (nice) and Johnny Depp (meh), Hunter's favorite bands played him a rockin' sendoff, and liquor flowed like liquid. Ask yourself, the last time you were at a funeral, did you have the completely real opportunity of getting hammered with Bill Murray? I thought not.

The reason Mr. Funny and Mr. Greasy attended was because they each played Thompson in the films Where the Buffalo Roam and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, respectively. Having one of the funniest actors ever and one of the highest-earning actors ever portray you in cinema would be enough for most men. If you haven't noticed yet, Hunter Thompson wasn't most men.