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

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

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.