Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – a perfect review > and epitath for Hunter S Thompson

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I love this movie, the Johnny Depp one.  The film is perfect.  I think it captures Hunter and that era of his life perfectly.  Johnny Depp goes so deep into Hunter’s persona it’s a wonder he ever made it out.  I can tell you how I think he did it, too.  Not just the craft of acting, he lived with Hunter.  That is no small feat.  Even Bill Murray didn’t actually move in with Hunter.  Hunter and Depp became close friends during this process, and remained life long friends.  The connection was deeper than love of drugs and nonsense and art and great writing and blowing shit up.  They are both from Kentucky.  I own the 2 disc ‘Criterion Collection’ set, which I highly recommend.  It is FULL of hours of featurettes and old Hunter movies.  It’s where we learned about Hunter’s absurd funerary request, which Johnny Depp handsomely and famously paid 5 million dollars to make happen.

You know… the one about shooting his ashes out of a Gonzo fist cannon into space after he commits suicide.  The footage is from when Hunter is in his 30’s, but 30 years later… he up and went and killed himself… almost as promised.

Let’s talk about the movie for a second.  Being a lit grad, and a HUGE fan of Hunter’s writing.  I should tell you the movie does the book no justice.  Wrong.  I mean, you absolutely must read the book… but the movie is fantastic.  I think it’s perfect, and could not have done better.  Heck, even Hunter himself does a cameo.  Probably not as an artistic endorsement so much as to score the per diem, and to keep an eye on the process.  Legend goes, he was kicked off his own set for being a wasted pain in the ass.  Pretty easy to believe, so I shall.

But this isn’t about that.  This is about the movie, and the synopsis I read about it on Rotten Tomatoes.  Of course, the movie was slammed by critics.  Who cares what the critics think of a movie?  Honestly, I NEVER look at that.  I want to know what people thought about it.  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has an epic discrepancy between the two, perhaps one of the biggest on all of Rotten Tomatoes.  Critics gave it at 49%, where fans gave it an 89%.  I would argue few people know Hunter’s writing and social impact like me.  Hunter is a BIG part of why I moved to Denver, CO… to be closer to him.  But this isn’t about that.  No sir, this is a quick hit on the review the ‘critics’ left of the movie.

Critics Consensus: Visually creative, but also aimless, repetitive, and devoid of character development.

This is almost too perfect. Those words above are meant to be a slam. There is no character development.  It’s a long movie… and our protagonist never grows?  He never learns?  He never changes his way?  No sir, he does not.  Hunter Thompson defined… nay… deified… that critique.  He never grew up.  He never sold out.  He never played ball.  He continued to live his life like a rich petulant 22 year old who got kicked out of the Air Force in a pretty damn funny story.  Kicked out for what, you ask?  Well… for behaving like a petulant 12 year old who got kicked out of school for savaging a mailbox in a pretty damn funny story.  Like… for behaving like a petulant 27 year old who got fired by Time magazine  for savagely attacking a candy machine (… in a pretty damn funny story).

No.  Hunter never grew up, and certainly never learned from his lessons.  He was, by all accounts, a terrible person.  As an artist and a writer and hipster deity… the man was a genius.  Take that review, and put it no on his movie.  No sir, take that review and put it on his headstone.

RIP Hunter, you twisted bastard!

HST good grave

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Friday Fives – Bob Dylan edition

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Do you think Bob Dylan deserves the Nobel Prize?

Yes.  I am a very, very big fan.  His writing has had as much impact in my life as any other single human.

Why a Pulitzer prize in writing for a musician?   Here is why… what author do you listen to every day?  Or even once a year?  No matter how great a book is, you read it and it’s over.  when music is great, you listen often… over and over?  you can have sex listening to music, you can’t do it on a book.  I listen to Dylan almost daily, and I can’t even say that about Alice in Wonderland!

Do you have a favorite  Bob Dylan song?

This would change annually, but of late it has been ‘Positively 4th St’.  This came from such an amazingly fruitful time (’68) that it wasn’t even put on an album.  Here is how much I love Bob – I have 6 Cds and 9 box sets and 4 dvd collections ALL that just cover his first 6 years.

How would you describe Dylan to someone who is unfamiliar?

Funny, thoughtful… folky.  In that order

Who else deserves the Nobel Prize in Literature?

The rebels and outsiders – Herman Hesse, Hunter Thompson, Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac.

What performance artist stands a chance of also winning the Nobel  Prize?

What do you mean by performance artist?  Like… an actor or musician?  Like… a non painting artist?  Bill Murray

*** for more of my writing on Bob Dylan, here is a link to some of the pieces I have written on my music site.  Odds are, Bob comes up more than any other artist on that site.

Now, enjoy this.  Richie Havens covering Bob Dylan’s ‘just like a woman’.  Nothing better than this – the best covering the best!

Friday Fives – bookin’ it!

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Can you remember the first book you read?

5 were missing.  It is a kids book about school kids who get kidnapped.  It is a pretty fucked up story, and involves death.  Good job, America, handing this to children.  No wonder why I am so messed up!  It was a very good and compelling story.  The reason I remember it is that it popped into my mind recently, so I bought it and read it as an adult.  It held up pretty well.  Also, I knocked it out in a couple of hours.  This means I have it, somewhere, at home.  Come borrow it. I’ll help you with the big words.

What was the last book (electronic or otherwise) you read?

Currently reading ‘Ruthless’.  It’s a brand new book about Scientology leader David Miscavige.  He is known to be a terrible person.  Everyone who has left Scientology says he is a bully,  a psycho, a misogynist, and a master manipulator.  I say misogynist because he hasn’t let his wife, Shelly, leave the house or be seen in public for so long that concerned friends reported her missing.  TEN YEARS.

I was very excited to read this book.  Bonus, it is written by someone with intimate and legit knowledge of both.  Author is a lifelong Scientologist, and actually raves about Scientology and its positive effects on his life… before the monster took over and ran everything.  Oh, and it’s his dad!  Yeah, David Miscavige’s own father penned it.  I am about halfway through so far.  Very compelling read so far.

Do you read for enjoyment, work or both?

Mostly enjoyment, but I do enjoy reading leadership books.  Well, I did until I read this book.  Hop over to here and go down about four books.  I reviewed it there.

What is your favorite genre of book to read?

Autobiographies, first and foremost.  Under that tier, musicians… obviously.  I am always wanting to know the behind the scenes of life.  The minutia, the decision making, the luck and the failures.  What made them great?  Do they know?  The older I get, the more I am into history.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it when I was very young. It seemed unreal, like fiction.

I think there is a better opportunity for kids like to learn history now.  Growing up, there was just books.  So, the stories were incredibly boring.  Now, with film and special effects… stories can be told in a way that will engage the young mind.  Heck, look at Hamilton.  No one knew more than the story about him dying in a duel until recently, and rap music and dance brought that story to life.  That is bad ass!

If you could visit your younger self, what book would you tell yourself to steer clear of?

Just about everything recommended or popular.  I HATED reading when I was a kid.  Everything they gave us was SO boring and sterile and devoid of life and real life experiences.  It wasn’t until high school when a buddy turned me on to Henry Miller and Hunter Thompson that I learned books can be awesome.  These guys wrote about sex and drugs and violence and boredom too.  But… it was honest, and not coached in bullshit metaphors.

I don’t think I would hand Tropic of Cancer or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to a ten year old me.  BUT… I would have at least gotten Alice in Wonderland in my hands by then.  To show me literature and reading and history can be awesome… all depending on the storyteller.

 

Excuse me, Mr Steadman, but you are ruining my book

I found this book in the basement. Not sure why it was boxed up with old work stuff, but it was. I was VERY tickled to find this book. It is, in fact, probably my most treasured book, for reasons that will be revealed below.  This book pre-dates my listing of all the books I read.

After Hunter Thompson shot himself in 2005, there was a slew of books that came out, most of them great. All his good friends had a book in them, with their favorite Hunter Stories. His widow, Anita, wrote one. It’s ok. His best friend, though, was the sheriff of Aspen. Read that again. Hunter’s best friend was head cop in all of Aspen. He wrote a really terrific book of his favorite Hunter stories. It’s called ‘the Kitchen Diaries’. So, this book below (The Joke’s Over) was Ralph Steadman’s favorite Hunter stories. Ralph Steadman was Hunter’s artist. All of those amazing and iconic images from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas… that was all Ralph. They worked together for about 25 years.

Ralph is a wonderful man. When Hunter died, he paid off the Owl Farm property in Aspen for his widow (Anita).  This book is Ralph’s stories of his time with Hunter. He was in Denver doing a book tour and speaking engagement. Everybody who does Hunter Thompson related work comes to Denver. We are the closest metropolis to Aspen.  Over a few years, I went to many Hunter related events: books signings, films, speaking engagements, etc. Ralph’s event was super cool. There was a pre event at a local private club/bar/ tavern. Then, there was a bigger event at the Denver Post building downtown. For some reason, there was virtually no one at the pre-event. There was about ten people, all drinking. Hunter’s widow, Anita, was there, as was Hunter’s son, Juan.

I was just hanging out and chatting and drinking with all of them. It was amazing. I had brought my copy of the new Steadman book. It is a first edition hard back. If you were a book nerd like me, you would know how important that is. So, we are standing in a small circle while Ralph (Mr Steadman, to you) holds court. We are chatting and laughing like old pals – at least in my mind. After I had a few drinks in me, I sheepishly asked if he would sign my book. He smiled and took my book and opened it up to the title page, which is where books are always signed. The picture below is the two of them.  Hunter on the left and Ralph on the right.

Then… I watched him go all Ralph Steadman on it. He just started doodling in his super characteristic way. Then, he handed it back and started explaining it to me. He said that is wine and grapes. The creepy figure is Hunter, as detailed by his iconic cigarette holder. He was so nice and engaging. Can you believe this? I have a first edition hardback signed copy with original crazed art by the man himself. You ruined my book, Mr Steadman. God bless you, sir.

Allow me to explain what you are seeing.  The original page just had the title.  Not even the author’s name.  Everything else you see is Ralph’s ink drawing.

Ralph Steadman sketch 2007

Friday Fives – strange days indeed

1.  What’s a physical feature you wish you had?

being taller
2.  Who would be the absolute worst celebrity to be elected president?

Charlie Sheen.  You think he would be great because he is so forthright, and politics could use a straight shooter, right?  Wrong!  You are forgetting the guy is batshit crazy.  He has a huge stable of ex wives and children and still spends every free moment banging hookers and doing blow.  Nice way to live, if you are an 80’s comedy.

3.  If you were a Crayon, what would your name be?

flesh colored, you racist

4.  What are the craziest theory you have heard/come up with about dinosaurs going extinct?

that trex couldn’t masturbate because of his tiny, tiny hands.

5.  Who is the strangest person you’ve ever met?

ooh, that’s a doozy.  I wish I could tell you a great rock star story here, but I can’t.  I have met a LOT of rock stars, and they have all been exceedingly nice and approachable.

Ok, I let this sit for about 24 hours so I could answer this better.  The top was all filled out.  I have an answer for #5.  It is, of course, a Hunter Thompson story.  Years ago, we went to see Hunter speak in Boulder.  He sat on stage and drank whiskey and fielded questions from the audience, myself included.  About half way through the show, a student brought him ether.  it was a flask of some sort.  You pour a little bit of the liquid into a rag… and then put the rag up to your mouth and huff.  At least, that is what Hunter did.

Let’s pause here for a moment and talk about ether and what it does to you.  Even better, let’s use Hunter’s own words (from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas)

“The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon. Probably at the next gas station.”

 

So, he would take a huff about every ten minutes, and then let out this bizarre scream of joy and pain.  i swear, it was like a movie.  Oh, and this isn’t the strange part, yet.  Towards the end of the evening, when everyone was well liquored (myself included) there were some gals who asked some questions Hunter didn’t like.  They were asking why Hunter didn’t have ANY female lead characters in any of his books.  It’s a very valid, and accurate, question that had never occurred to me.

Well, Hunter didn’t like these questions at all.  He didn’t like having his integrity and ability questioned by 19 year olds… even though it was a very thoughtful question.  So, he stood up and then threw his microphone down on the ground as hard as he could.  He kept doing this until it shattered.  He would then wait until the girl sat down, and then had someone bring out a new mike.  At this time, he continued on with the Q&A as if none of this had happened.

Well, the girls weren’t done.  God bless, they were a few deep.  So, the next girl asked if Hunter was a misogynist, or is that just a character in his writing.  Again, a very thoughtful question.  Again, Hunter no likey.  Exact same thing happened again – 3 times in total.  At that point the poor moderator had to ask the crowd to refrain from asking feminist questions.  “Not because we want to censor you, but because we are out of microphones”.

So, yeah… that was an experience.  I have to say, it was pretty much everything you might expect in a Hunter Thompson experience… including the fact that he was a few hours late.

In closing, Hunter got arrested that night, but not for huffing ether.  He got arrested for attacking someone with a fire extinguisher.

Final Final Thoughts on Hunter Thompson

ed. note: Today is Hunter’s funeral service in Aspen

You fucker, you won. You went out on your own terms. How you did it, to me, was bullshit. With your son and grandson in the other room and your wife on the phone? What kind of shit is that? Seriously, that was fucked up. Regardless, the more I have learned since your passing, I understand. You were a proud man who was beaten down by his own body. I am reminded of Salma Hayak as Frida Kahlo saying ‘when I die, I want you to burn this judas of a body that has betrayed me’. I didn’t know for months after your passing that you were confined to a wheelchair. I understand what you did and why you did it. I don’t agree, but I understand.

On the occasion of Hunter’s funeral celebration this weekend in Aspen, Colorado I wanted to say a few words.

I am sad you are gone. I am also angry, but that is more for obviously selfish reasons. Mostly, though, I am sad. I miss your incoherent and paranoid ramblings. Towards the end, I began to dismiss every story you told as a complete fabrication. Then, after you died people would pop up in publications (most notably Rolling Stone) and tell their ‘the first time I met Hunter’ stories… and sure enough the shit you wrote was real. Though a talented writer, was there a worst house or hotel guest in history than you? Probably not… Oh well, fuck them. They are swine and we will march on the road of their bones to glory.

So, I wanted to say goodbye. I can’t be at Owl Farm this weekend, they asked us not to come. Well, maybe next year. We aren’t invited to their elitist Hollywood party this year. Not sure if that is what you would have wanted. Anyhow, we will have our day to celebrate and grieve you. Bummer it can’t be this summer in Aspen, but I will respect your family. They better do something up there, otherwise they will just have 30 years of stalkers cruising around Woody Creek looking for closure.

I always wanted to meet you. You are the reason I moved to Colorado. You are the reason I go online only by the name Lono. People ask me why I go by Lono. I don’t bother with the whole Captain Cook or Hawaiian mythology. I simply say ‘Oh, it’s a Hunter Thompson reference.’ When I moved to Colorado from Northern Arizona about 10 years ago, I only had one place in the whole state of Colorado circled on the map. It was Woody Creek. I wasn’t moving to Woody Creek, I was moving to Denver. However, I always kept that circled atlas as a reminder of why I came here… to find you.

So, thanks for fucking that up. It’s ok, I got to see you speak in person in Boulder many years ago after Juan’s graduation. It was at the Fox Theatre and it was a classic Hunter evening. You were terribly late, wasted, rude, lucid, articulate, and hilarious. I even learned later that night you got arrested for attacking a theatre page with a fire extinguisher. Nice form! In college, Woody and I built a kegball league, I named it ‘Beer and Loathing’.

To your credit, you never sold out. Your work pretty much kept getting worse, and certainly more scattered. That’s ok though, it happens to everyone. You still kept your spark though, and touched everyone along the way. When I say ‘you never sold out’, that means a lot to me. Most great icons seem to end up doing car commercials or schilling apple computers. You could have, and it would have been great:

Hi, I’m Hunter Thompson. When I am winding down Woody Creek canyon at 80 mph in the middle of the night with the headlights off and a head full of acid and bourbon… I drive a fucking Cadillac. Lemme tell you something, Bubba… one of those jap cars isn’t going to hold you in one piece when you pull a John Denver and go smackin’ into a forest liquored up to the teets. No sir, you need a big ass Red Shark and a topless blond too. Take it from me, Hunter Thompson.

In passing, I have some requests. I’d like to visit Owl Farm one day. I won’t touch anything, and would actually be happy to drive up the driveway without getting shot at, and park. Then, I will go. I’d like to see ‘Polo is my Life’ finally get published. This sex book has been at least 10 years in the making. I know that because I got to ask you that question 8 years ago and you fed me some bullshit about it being published. I know there was a piece in RS with that title… but that isn’t. We are men of action, Hunter, and lies do not become us. In fact, isn’t ‘Polo is my Life’ the reason that Palmer Slater came over and the whole lawsuit thing started?
by the way, nice touch on that. I found the article. Here is what they found on their marathon search:

  • suspected drug paraphernalia
    suspicious white powder
    pills
    a few ounces marijuana
    a few sticks of dynamite
    a jar of mushrooms
    a tape labeled ‘child porn’
    39 hits of LSD*****

Normally, I would hyperlink this to a reference. However, this is from a hard copy of actual newspaper – from the actual saved article I have. Sunday, May 6th 1990 – Arizona Republic.

That isn’t what is great, though. After reading you for 20 years, that is about what I expected. What is great is that you got all those charges dropped and went scot-free. I mean, I think we all feel the sexual assault charge was bullshit. Also, we understand the warrant then becomes somewhat unjustified… but seriously:

how the fuck did you get caught with cocaine, pot, pills, acid, and dynamite… and walk free? In fact, you probably had the balls to demand it all back since it was seized illegally. You were fucking nuts, and I think that is why I worshipped you. I lived vicariously through your bad judgment and good friends.

So go live well. We’ll take care of your peacocks, and Juan will take care of the shattered family left behind. Anita made a point about not selling the Owl Farm******. Good! Let’s make it a Hunter Thompson museum. I know Brinkley has probably a thousand pounds of material of yours he is working through. The Owl Farm is the best character in all your books, like the same Rocky Mountains were in Aspen’s other famous talent – John Denver.
You are missed, and I wish you well. Don’t worry, I’m listening to Mr. Tambourine Man and sipping whiskey… you asshole. Take care.

**** udates – the fun part about the search is he was found innocent, and the search totally illegal.  So, they had to return all or most of the stuff they found

****** the wonderful and amazing Ralph Steadman paid off the mortgage on Owl Farm for Anita.  So, it would always stay in the family, and hopefully be preserved

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“There’s a train leaving nightly called ‘when all is said and done’, keep me in your heart for a while”

– Warren Zevon

*** updates are now flying in as we are just a handful of hours away from Saturday’s sunset service. I will be posing links here throughout the weekend.

Here are some decent details about the service, and some words from his widow, Anita.

The cannon is en route to Woody Creek from the fireworks company, who has prepared half of Hunter’s ashes into an explosive device.

This one is about a golden ticket found inside a special brew batch of Flying Dog’s porter that was brewed in honor of Hunter. One bottle label contains a ticket to Saturday’s service.

*** Just added Thursday night – PICTURES OF THE CANNON! I told you people I would get them. Sorry, these aren’t good but obviously security is very tight. I’ll have better pictures after Saturday’s service (I hope).

updated Friday – HST and his ‘Snow Leopards’

Updated Saturday afternoon, another picture of the gonzo fist cannon.

update Saturday evening – it is done. Hunter’s ashes were sent into the sky in a brilliant pyro display… and yes, I have pictures.

HST some final thoughts and details * updated 2/25/05


Posted by Hello

Hey all, this will probably be my last Hunter piece for a bit. The reason is because beginning any day now he will be on the cover of every magazine and a zillion writers and commentators will be telling you how influential he was. They will be telling you what his greatest works were, and how he shaped journalism as it is known today. As I mentioned in my last post, for me to do that would be to demean your personal experience and perception of him. So instead I’d like to share why he was so important to me, and some specifics about how things are going in Aspen right now.

I discovered Hunter in High School. I loved him for the same reasons I loved my other favorite authors; Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, William s Burroughs, Frank Zappa, and Charles Bukowski. I loved them because at the time I was a long haired hippy freak who loved literature and music and was very influential. I was in that ‘fuck corporate America’ phase where I thought anarchy was cool. You know, you went through the same phase too. Those folks mentioned above thought the same way… but they were grown ups! They were grown ups and they were famous! It completely validated my stupid existence. I thought for the longest time I was doomed to be a weird loner thinker guy with contempt for status quo. These guys showed me there are alternatives.

Around the time I was discovering this art, I realized most of these folks were dead. Burroughs was still alive (barely), Bukowski, Zappa, and HST. Well, they all died off and left me no role models. All except for Hunter. I love his writing because it isn’t just insightful, it’s FUN. Just about every word that comes out of his pen is a damn lie if not an exaggeration. I think I lived vicariously through him for that. For me he kept hope alive, and as I mentioned below he was one of the big reasons I chose to move to Colorado.

Details of what exactly happened and stuff:
At approx 5 pm Sunday evening Hunter called his wife Anita at the gym from home. She was working out and apparently the conversation was not out of the ordinary. He made no mention of any kind about suicide. At home with Hunter were his son, Juan, and Hunter’s grandchild (Juan’s child). Those two were in another room watching TV, and Hunter was in his kitchen. Shortly after his call with Anita ended he put a piston into his mouth and fired. He died immediately. Juan heard a thump of what he thought was ‘a big book falling’ and came to see what happened. There he discovered his father dead. There was never any question as to how Hunter died or who pulled the trigger. People who had seen or been with Hunter even that weekend said he did not appear out of sorts or unusually depressed. However, over the last few years he had discussed suicide on occasion as his body began to fail him.

In the last year he had major surgeries to his hip, leg, and spine. These left him in constant pain and mostly immobile. Hunter knew end times were coming, and didn’t want to die in a hospital without dignity and hooked up to machines… he had told people that over and over. Also interesting to note that one of Hunter’s major influences was Hemingway… who took his own life with a shotgun when he was 60.

Hunter was cremated in Glenwood Springs on Tuesday. His ashes were returned to the family who plan to somehow launch them out of a cannon over his ranch in Woody Creek. This will most likely be done in a private ceremony with family and close friends only on March 5th.

The family is expecting to do some kind of public event ‘in the spring’. I expect details to emerge on that in about a week or so.

I am going to suggest a couple of things you won’t see in all the articles that are about to be published. first off, my favorite book of his is “Curse of Lono” which is about him covering the Honolulu Marathon for ‘Running’ magazine back in 1980. I find it to be his best work. I also recommend buying ‘Breakfast with Hunter’ on DVD. It was just released last year and is a documentary done over the last five years. The reason why I say ‘buy’ instead of rent is because this DVD is mail order only through Wayne Ewing’s site www.breakfastwithhunter.com. Given present circumstances, it may be soon available for wide release now that everyone agrees how swell and important Hunter was. Of course, it is mail order only because before Hunter killed himself no one much cared how or what he was doing. I know the DVD wasn’t a huge release online either because when I ordered it, I got an e mail back from Wayne Ewing himself thanking me and saying it was on it’s way.

That is all for now. Remember, for all your Hunter Stockton Thompson online needs… I again refer you back to Christine’s bitchin’ and thorough site ‘The Great Thompson Hunt’. Even after this post is gone, her link will be on the left with all the others… just as it always has been.

Thanks for your kind words and wonderful remembrances. I hope you can stop in now and again here for a read.

*** Update 2/25 – Hunter’s widow, Anita, spoke today for the first time. She said that she was on the phone with Hunter when he did it. What kind of fucked up shit is that? And left himself dead to be found by his own son? He used to be my hero, now I think maybe he was just a narcissistic jerk.

Mahalo, Bubba