A brief look into the ballsy, brilliant madness that was Hunter S Thompson. LSD not recommended while reading this article.
We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when we realized that's all most people think of in relation to the good Doctor. Sure, he consumed drugs like some sort of Lohan-Sheen mutant clone experiment, but before that he was a writer. Well, during it too, but that's beside the point. The point is, the man was a writer and hell-raiser first, and a lunatic dope fiend second. Keep that in mind; it's going to be important in a second.
Hunter Stockton Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 18, 1937. Although a Southern gentleman of the first order, Thompson was never really anyone's definition of genteel. Brash, coarse, and prone to outbursts of both violence and wildly philosophical rhetoric, HST was to gentility what Hemingway was to feminism. Which is to say, an asshole. Or is that not how analogies work?
Athletic and brainy, the lanky Thompson excelled in academics and baseball throughout his formative years. In high school, he joined the Athenaeum Literary Association, where he exposed his natural ability with the written word. This would prove to be the final half-sane event of Hunter's young life.
In 1955, Thompson was thrown out of the association following certain legal issues wherein he was charged as an accessory to robbery. Foreshadowing the man he would eventually grow to be, Thompson said "Fuck it", served half of his 60 day sentence, and joined the Air Force just for the hell of it.
That, as they say, was when things got weird.
For those of you who've read Thompson's earlier works like The Rum Diary, you already know that most of his Air Force career was spent drinking and screwing the daughter of what Thompson called a "bird Colonel". We're not exactly up to date on our 1950s military slang, but we're pretty sure the guy was either in charge of actual pilots, or he was some sort of feathered monstrosity the Air Force kept around for shits and giggles.
It was also during this time that Thompson would begin covering athletic events for the Eglin Air Force Base weekly paper, The Command Courier, as well as for a local paper under an pseudonym.
Naturally, like any other sports writer with a soul, Thompson realized he could more or less wing his articles and use the time on other more interesting pursuits, like getting piss drunk and nailing the aforementioned (possibly feathered) mistress on a diving board until his knees bled, or getting piss drunk and doing...other things. Mostly he just did the nasty with superiors' daughters and made everyone else's lives difficult.
In 1958, Thompson somehow managed to be honorably discharged from the military (and not marched out in front of a firing squad, surprisingly) while retaining his Airman First Class rank. To explain this odd occurrence, Thompson often joked that the military could never quite classify him. Chances are good they just didn't want to deal with the nightmare of having the ballsy bastard appear in military court.
Thompson went on to study at Columbia University, and then to work briefy as a copy boy for Time magazine, but was later fired for acting any way he damn well pleased.
Fast forward to 1972. Thompson had begun to make a name for himself in certain circles. His articles for Rolling Stone, including Strange Rumblings in Aztlan, had received a largely positive welcome. He had just published the lunatic diary Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to limited success.
Then, as the good doctor himself would put it, Zang.
Maybe it's one of those "you had to be there" Beat Generation things, but we're fairly certain that Fear and Loathing was just as frighteningly apeshit then as it is now. Having said that, Thompson's success following its publication is fucking astounding. If anyone were to publicly admit to such felonious behavior today, the Supreme Court would have that man castrated and forced to fellate something terrible and unwashed.
But Hunter S Thompson was not a man to whom these things mattered. Renowned and reviled for his shameless, hard-edged journalistic instinct , as well as for his massive iron balls, Thompson began to build a reputation for himself as an astute, if horribly twisted, observer of his surroundings.
Whether fact or fiction, Fear and Loathing is shock value in its most repulsively brilliant form. Hunter, using that oddly calm control he seemed to naturally exert, parlayed the drug-addled manifesto into a surprisingly adept, long-running career in political journalism, going on to pen a collection of essays titled Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.
Much has been said relating to the veracity of Thompson's gung-ho Gonzo style of reporting. Some claim that Thompson was nothing more than a charlatan, a heavy borrower of his own contemporaries, who masked his own short-comings as a journalist with cheap shocks and overblown personal anecdotes. Others think, simply, that his stories are just too goddamned crazy to be true.
A look into Thompson's larger body of work gives a different view, sort of like how shaking a dude's hand gives you a different impression of him than putting a thermometer up his ass. What we see in several of his essay collections is a man devoted to his own demented version of an honorable craft. The overwhelmingly paranoid, psychotic tones of Fear and Loathing or The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved are dialed down to a dull roar, and the voice of the man himself echoes through.
It should surprise no one that he was almost as crazy at leisure as he was in semi-fictional action.
It's true, Thompson has had a wide influence on the bottomless mire of humiliating shit we call pop culture. From television to film to even the grimy world of syndicated newspaper comics, Thompson has touched it all and left his indelible mark. That weird goatish smell is probably from all the speed. It makes a guy sweat, you know?
Anyway, most of us have heard of the film version Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, also known as one of the few Johnny Depp movies where you most likely won't find a moist pair of panties anywhere in the audience. Starring the aforementioned human panty-dropper and a surprisingly hideous Benicio Del Toro, and directed by the only American Python, Fear and Loathing does a fine job of translating the novel into a maliciously perverse 118 minute trip through hell.
Here's a quick pro-tip: If Gary Busey manages to make a cameo in your movie and it is not the most fucked up sequence you've ever filmed, you should probably have the APA look over the final cut. You know, just to make sure you're not really a slavering lunatic.
A more unsettling, and some would say more accurate, portrayal of Thompson was performed by Bill Murray in the film Where the Buffalo Roam. Despite being an irritatingly horrible movie, it also served another interesting function: namely, turning Murray into an enormous asshole. Apparently, his time spent studying the Doctor's habits was more like tongue-kissing Typhoid Mary. Poor Bill came down with an acute case of the Violent Crazies so powerful it very nearly ruined his career at SNL.
Ah yes, Uncle Duke. Doonesbury's lame equivalent of Thompson who, like most characters in that awkwardly paced, largely unreadable comic, was nothing short of forgettable. Moving on.
There we are. Back to the crazy basics. The man--or woman, actually--you see above is Venture Brothers' own Colonel Hunter Gathers. Despite being a ranting, maniacally paranoid transvestite, Col Gathers is perhaps the most respectful fictional version of Hunter Thompson available today. Certainly more so than Uncle Duke up there.
On February 20, 2005, Hunter S Thompson shot himself in the head with one of his many, many firearms at his Colorado compound, known affectionately as Owl Farm. Thought suspicious by outsiders, his family was quick to dispel the rumors of conspiracy that clouded around after his suicide. He left a brief note that seemed to be a greater tragedy than his death. It closed the book on the wild, seemingly unending volume that was Thompson's life with barely a paragraph's worth of bald, depressing language.
Following a short period of mourning, Thompson's family and friends, including among others Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp and Bill Murray, gathered together in a solemn rite of passage fit only for such a singular individual as Hunter.
Actually, they launched his cremated remains out of a fucking cannon, but you know. To each his own.