Well, I just found out minutes ago that Hunter S Thompson is dead. This is terrible news for me because he was a god to me. I am sad and torn and will deal with this the way I deal with everything – writing to you about it.
Really, no one can be surprised by news of Hunter’s death. Hunter lived a long a very crazy life… you know that. What is a freakish surprise to me is the news is it was a suicide. What the fuck is that about, Hunter? It seems a cowardly way to go for such a brave and fearless man. For the last month I have been reading his last tome ‘Kingdom of Fear’. I was on the web writing about Hunter on Blogcritics this afternoon (before I knew about his death). It was just today… about 6 hours ago I typed his very line “Hunter Thompson is the greatest living American writer”.
Lemme tell you about my attachment and love of HST. If you have a working browser (like Mozilla) you have seen a black fist that says ‘Gonzo’ on the left under the links. That was an homage to Hunter for my site. In college, I had vanity plates on my Honda that said ‘Lono’. This is a Hunter Thompson reference as well. Hunter is one of the reasons I moved to Colorado, seriously. I wanted to meet him, and knew eventually I would make my way to Woody Creek Tavern for an unpleasent drunken exchange with the man. In fact, if you could see that Atlas we used to drive to Colorado about 9 years ago… there is only one pen mark on the Colorado page. I circled Woody Creek to show my wife where Hunter lived, and where we would subsequently be stalking.
I am pleased to say I did get to finally see him in person. A year or two after we moved here he did a speaking engagement at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. It was a classic Hunter experience, and I was able to ask him a question personally. I’d have to say I am somewhere in the ‘denial’ stage still about this news. I keep refreshing my google news search engine every few minutes hoping to see the word ‘hoax’ somewhere. It hasn’t happened yet. There will be a million pages and writings dedicated to Hunter over the coming weeks and months. However, there is only one good internet site dedicated to Hunter for years, it is Christine’s ‘Great Thompson Hunt’ and that is where you should go for pictures and articles and news.
You see my sig file and e mail address? They are the name ‘Lono’. I own that name in almost every domain over the years (ATT, Us West, MSN, Hotmail, & Mindspring). This is all a reference to one of Hunter’s greatest books ‘The Curse of Lono’. I am sure I will have more to say about this, much much more. For now, at 11 pm Colorado time, the news has only been public for about an hour. The details are chillingly few: Hunter Thompson found dead of apparent self inflicted gunshot wounds, found by his son Juan.
You all know about Roy if you are here often enough. This is what Roy wrote to the group this evening about this news: This is sad and a loss I put equal to the death of John Lennon. So perhaps you can see why Roy and I are so close. In fact, I just remember Hunter is the REASON I met Roy. Roy had one of the good doctor’s books at his desk at work and it caught my eye. Knowing anyone who reads Hunter is good people, we struck up a conversation. If it weren’t for that book, I probably wouldn’t know or subsequently care about my very good friend Roy.
PT 2, written about an hour (and three drinks) later
The last piece I wrote about Hunter was ironically titled ‘Hunter S Thompson, still alive‘ That was back in August. I knew one day Hunter would be gone and we’d all sit and talk about how great he was. I didn’t want to wait until he was dead for people to appreciate him… so I reached out. Hunter was like Jerry Garcia, you just know neither was ever going to live out a full life to old age. I miss them both so much.
I also want to say this. We all knew Hunter could go any day. What I expected was a headline like this “Gonzo journalist shot by police after consuming hundreds of hits of LSD and attempting to paint murals on Aspen police cars” or something cool and strange like that. I guess I wanted an Easy Rider type ending… a martyr who fought to the end.
* update 5.29.2013
I see a ton of recent interest in this piece, so I thought I would update what we know about the whole incident. It was a suicide, and it was pre-medidated. I believe it was pre-medidated because the week before, he asked Bob Braudis to come and remove all the dynamite from his property. There was also a suicide note and a half. On his typewriter when he shot himself was the single word typed out ‘counselor’. I can’t pretend to know what that means. Later, though, we found what clearly appears to be a suicide note. It is called ‘football season is over’ and is copied here in it’s entirety.
“Football Season is Over
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.”
Here is where things get strange, though. The night before, he called Ralph Steadman and left a long and rambling message (which is par) about a project. He wasn’t speaking in generalities, though. He described to Ralph a specific piece of art he wanted done on GW Bush. What is also strange is who was around. When Hunter shot himself, his son Juan, and his grandson (Juan’s kid) were in the house. They heard the shot. Juan described it as ‘a bookshelf falling’, initially thinking nothing was amiss. What is also strange is he had his wife, Anita, on the phone when he did it.
There have also been stories about Hunter and Anita being on the rocks when this happened. Some have also said there is a battle for the estate, and the will was changed or set to be changed away from Anita’s name. It would not suprise me if their marriage was on the rocks. Hunter was psychotic and mean, and I would not be surprised if he had a strong mysoginistic side. I do not believe the family is at war. if they were, it would be Juan vs Anita. After Hunter died, I spent time with them both, and I saw absolutely no signs of any kind of battle. One would also imagine the battle would be over money. There was no money. Hunter couldn’t save, and remember he hadn’t done much great writing in 25 years. His legendary ranch wasn’t even paid off. Raplh Steadman was kind enough to do that after he passed, and basically handed it to Anita (this is just my understanding and perception, but I believe it to be true). Anita still works part time carrying on the Gonzo name in publishing and keeping up the estate. She also opened a ‘Gonzo Store’ online that sells HST goods. So, obviously she has not been sued out of the family. Having not heard online from Anita in several months (her website has been down for some time), I reached out to Ralph Steadman (via Facebook, isn’t technology great) and he replied Anita is fine and still engaged in the business of HST.
Again, this proves to me there is no rift in the Thompson family. If there was, I would absolutely assume that Ralph would side with Juan, who he watched grow up.
There is also the business of the ‘Gonzo Foundation’. It has a website, but hasn’t done anything or been updated in at least a year. Something tells me that Anita has dropped out of being Hunter Thompson’s widow for a bit. I expect she will be back.
In the interest of fairness, there is a small and bizarre movement of people who believed Hunter was killed by those friendly to the Bush world for his criticism of the Bush govt. I can tell you I don’t believe with a single cell in my body this is true. I can’t imagine the Bushies were terrified of the ramblings of an ‘elderly dope fiend’ (this is how Hunter referred to himself) who wrote about shotgun golf for ESPN. By the way, great piece, and one of his last. Read it here.
There is a good bit of unreleased HST materials to be accounted for. Most famously is the book ‘Polo is my Life’. Hunter was working on that on and off for at least a decade before he died. I am not sure if that will ever see the light of day. I personally talked to Anita on a couple of occasions and offered to edit it and help put it together. I never heard back from her, but imagine many crazies offered the same thing… I don’t know. She did give me what I thought was her personal email, but I later found out it was a decently public one that you could find online with ten minutes of google work. Johnny Depp bought up all of Hunter’s unfinished work and scraps and donated it all to a University. I forgot which one.
In closing, the most hopeful thing for me is that Anita said she wanted to open up Owl Farm to the public. I know she hasn’t changed or touched anything since he was alive. At least, she hadn’t as of a couple of years ago. One of the big reasons I moved to Colorado was to make it to Owl Farm. So, eventually that will come true. Right?
So, why did he do it? He was in terrible physical shape and confined to a wheelchair. His body was deteroriated from age and drugs and alcohol, and he was keenly aware the fun was over.
I might clarify I am (sadly) in no formal way connected with the family or authorized to speak on anyone’s behalf. I am simple the biggest HST fan. When Hunter passed, I was living (as I still do) in Denver. So, I got to go to a TON of events they had memorializing Hunter, doing film junkets, etc.
*** yet another update. This was written shortly after. I had some time to process.