Hunter S Thompson

Page history last edited by Maria 13 years, 9 months ago




Hunter in California's Big Sur working on the second half of the

Hells Angels, which he finished in four days






Dr Hunter S. Thompson

Raoul Duke,

Doctor of Journalism,

Uncle Duke,

Doctor of Divinity,

Dr. Gonzo and Sebastian Owl in

search of the American Dream











“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me”


Early Life 

  Hunter Stockton Thompson was a whopping 11 pounds when born to Jack and Virginia   Thompson in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 18, 1939.  Jack, an insurance adjuster and World War I veteran, died when Hunter was 15, leaving Virginia to raise their three boys. Always a radical juvenile, Hunter was arrested at 17 for the robbery of a service station attendant.  The judge sentenced Hunter to sixty days in jail, causing him to miss his high school graduation ceremony.  


     At 18, with prodding from the courts, Hunter enlisted in the  Air Force. He soon became editor of the Elgin Air Force Base newsletter at the Florida Panhandle post.  Recognized for his talent, but edited for his content and sense of humor, Hunter was eventually caught moonlighting for a local civilian publication under the pseudonym Sebastian Owl. He was granted an honorable discharge in 1958.


  Getting fired for insubordination became a recurrent trend for young Thompson.  At Time magazine Hunter would spend a considerable amount of office time typing Faulkner and Fitzgerald verbatim to identify with their writing skills.  And at The Record in Middletown, N.Y., Hunter kicked in a vending machine and insulted an advertiser.


      Hunter eventually landed a job with a bowling magazine in Puerto Rico. When the magazine folded, he moved to South America and started reporting for the National Observer.  Hunter became a regular contributor. Upon his return to  the States, Hunter married Sandra Dawn on May 19, 1963.  He eventually resigned from the Observer over a conflict about covering the free speech movement at the University of California at Berkeley.


       After doing odd jobs, including driving a cab and handing out grocery-store circulars, Hunter wrote a piece on the Berkeley radicals that was picked up by the Nation. In awe of his work, Carey McWilliams, editor of the Nation, asked Hunter to write an article on a motorcycle gang, the Hell's Angels.


The Hell's Angels Days  

     Birney Jarvis,  a veteran vice president of the Hell’s Angels and San Francisco Chronicle police reporter, was Hunter's ticket into the dire and degraded motorcycle gang’s world. With his Norelco tape recorder in hand, Hunters first encounter with the gang was on March 25, 1965 at the Depaul Hotel bar in San Francisco. He used alcohol as a form of social lubrication and quickly formed a friendship, inviting five members back to his hotel room. Hunter wrote the article after compiling numerous audiotapes of not only interviews and conversations, but everything in-between. Some of the tapes' titles included: “No notes after two days of this Hell’s Angels thing,” “We’re up at Bass Lake,” “All the empty cans and beer cartons are on top of the car," and “You ever try peyote, Hunter?". Hunter’s stint with the Hells Angels ended with the publishing of Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1967) and the stomping of Hunter over his dislike of Junkie George’s slapping around of his dog and wife.


Thompson For Sheriff

In 1970 Hunter ran for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, on the “Freak Power” ballot. His campaign revolved around six major issues, which were outlined in "The Battle of Aspen," published in Rolling Stone and later  republished in The Great  Shark Hunt. First Hunter proposed to tear up the streets and push the asphalt to the outskirts of town for parking, leaving the main means of transportation walking and biking. Next he proposed changing the name of the town from “Aspen” to “Fat City” to deter greed heads and corporate drones from moving there.  Third, he proposed that no drug wopuld be sold for monetary gain; those who didwould be punished severely publicly.  Fourth, he proposed that all non-residents are forbidden from hunting and fishing unless they hadthe written consent of a resident who would assume legal responsibility for any violation . Fifth, he proposed that sheriffs and deputies would never be armed in public with anything other than Mace.  Last and most importantly, he proposed  a ban on letting corporations come in and build tall hotels that blocked the view of the mountains and brought in unwanted tourists. Hunter lost by six votes out of 1,200 cast.

A political flyer designed by Hunter and artist Tom Benton that hung in Aspen during the campaign. The double thumbed fist would become Hunter's gonzo symbol.


Gonzo Journalism 

      In the assignments that followed, starting with his Scanlan's Monthly article "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved" (1970), Hunter would attack his subject with his cunning personality and ever-present tape recorder, creating a new style of subjective journalism called Gonzo.  With such fellow writers as Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer,  and Joan Didion, he  became identified with the New Journalism movement, but  the difference between Hunter and the other New Journalists was his trait of being a full-blown participant in the reporting. Hunter would make himself the focus of the story, documenting his  subject as his often-crazed mind saw  it.


   Hunter’s most well-known work of Gonzo journalism is the drug-laced, weird-humored Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1972). Already in Las Vegas for a Sports Illustrated's assignment on the Mint 400 motorcycle race, Hunter received another  assignment from Rolling Stone magazine editor Jann Wenner to cover the National District Attorneys Conference on Drug Abuse.  Fear and Loathing was regarded by Hunter as a failed piece of gonzo journalism that turned into a great success. Hunter, writing as Raoul Duke, was on the road with his attorney and close friend, Oscar Zeta Acosta, or Dr. Gonzo, in search of the American Dream, the truthful and democratic ethos of AmericaArmed with a lofty and somewhat necessary collage of drugs and alcohol, including mescaline, cocaine, acid and ether, Hunter and Acosta became disillusioned with the malfunctioning of the counterculture of the 1960s.

            Fear and Loathing was originally published as a two-part series in Rolling Stone in 1971. Hunter would continue to write for Rolling Stone during the 1972 presidentail campaign. Focusing on the Democratic Party's leading candidates -- George McGovern, Ed Muskie and Hubert Humphrey --  Hunter sent Rolling Stone 14 articles that would be published a year later in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72.  During this time Hunter developed a hatred for Richard Nixon based on Nixon's politics and personality.





Hunter, as depicted by Ralph Steadman, who worked

 with him on the Kentucky Derby

 article has illustrated his works ever since.




Cultural Icon



Flying Dog Pale Ale's rendition of a Hunter S. Thompson brew.



Garry Trudeau's Doonsburry created the character "Uncle Duke" to emulate Hunter S. Thompson. Shown here with his staple cigarette holder andbottle of  whiskey.



   Hunter became unable to finish projects due to his growing infatuation with drugs and the full time job of having to keep up with his own persona. Hunter started a project called the Cocaine Papers, a commentary piece on Sigmund Freud’s Cocaine Papers but fell susceptible to the drug it’s self and it was never published.  Hunter was also to cover the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle” Forman-Ali fight, but he refused to leave his hotel room. From this point on Hunter’s work that was published had slowed down tremendously as his age and lifestyle caught up with him. His standard of living made him a cultural icon and several interpretations of his personality surfaced. Three movies starring high profile actors were made starting with Art Linson’s Where the Buffalo Roam in 1980 in which Bill Murray depicts a staggered Hunter working on the 1972 U.S. presidential election to the music of Neil Young. Fear and Loathing directed by Terry Gilliam starring Johnny Depp illustrates the drug infested days described in the book.  Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S Thompson directed by Alex Gibney is a documentary styled biographical account of Hunter’s life.  Hunter also became a comic strip character in Garry Trudeau’s Doonesburry. There are also several replicas of Hunter’s “look” , which consists of the green Las Vegas visor and cigarette holder, for sale on eBay. Flying Dog Pale Ale has a brew named after the gonzo writer, “Gonzo Imperial Porter”.  In 2008 a 5 CD box set of Hunter's Norelco tapes was released by Shout! Factory.  And artist Jonathan Badlwin created a board game based on Fear and Loathing including dose, activity and challenge cards. Hunter’s run for sheriff created a cult following with avid drug users and “freak power” devotees. It is possible to assume that Hunter’s sense of having to keep up with himself and what society made of him could have led to his demise.



The Legacy 

     Hunter died  on February 20, 2005 at 5:45 p.m. in his Colorado hideout of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. His son, Juan, and his second wife, Anita, were in the house and heard a noise they assumed was a book falling.  Police later found a letter in the typewriter with the date Feb 22 '05 and the single word "counselor."  Hunter had given  Anita a suicide letter four days earlier that Rolling Stone published under the headline,  "Football Season Is Over."  On August 20, 2005, a celebration was held in Hunter's name  at his Woody Creek compound. His ashes were packed into fireworks and fired from a cannon to the song "Spirit in the Sky." Designed by Hunter and Steadman nearly thirty years earlier a  temporary monument, a double thumbed fist holding a peyote flower (Hunter's Gonzo symbol), would shine a nostalgic light on the night-long party.  Those in attendance included  John Kerry, George McGovern, Johnny Depp, Steadman and Bill Murray as well as many others who claimed to shared a special connection with Hunter.





"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."



Hunter in his later years at his Woody Creek,

Colorado hideout, Owl Farm



Visual Stimulants


1) A visual remembrance video run after the passing of Hunter.



2) A short culmination of the events described in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to Heart of the American Dream  later depicted in the film of the same title directed by Terry Gilliam.



3) An example of the Gonzo Tapes. Audio was recorded when Hunter spent time with the Hells Angels.



4) A clip from The David Letterman show that Hunter attended to speak about his book Shame and Degradation. A perfect example of Hunter's body language,  fast talking and inability to concentrate on one subject.



5) A interview clip from CBC's Retrobites. Hunter talks about making money, President Carter and running for the Aspen Sheriff.



6) This video showcases Hunter's obsession with excess in relation to food, alcohol, drugs and life.




Works  Cited


1) Thompson, Hunter S. Great Shark Hunt Strange Tales From Strange Time. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992. Print.


This is a collection of Thompson's essays from 1956 to the late 1970s, originally printed in several publications, including The Nation, The Boston Globe, Rolling Stone and more. Topics include his time with the military to Nixon, Watergate, sports, Las Vegas and Hashbury.


2) Thompson, Hunter S. Hells Angels A Strange and Terrible Saga. New York. Ballantine Books, 1996. Print.


Thompson wrote this book after spending time with the Hells Angels to gather material for an article that appeared in The Nation in April, 1965 about the world of motorcycle gangs.


3) McKeen, William. Hunter S. Thompson. Boston: Twayne, 1991. Print.


This is a biographical account of Thompson's life and work that McKeen would later follow up on with Outlaw Journalist. McKeen provides information as to when, why and how Thompson created Gonzo Journalism and what it means.


4) Sourcebook of American Literary Journalism Representative Writers in an Emerging Genre. New York: Greenwood, 1992. Print.


This book gives an idea of what literary journalism is, critiques literary journalism and provides examples of authors of this genre.


5) Keil, Richard. "Still Gonzo After All These Years." American Journalism Review (1996): 30-35. Print.


This article explores Thompson's Colorado hideout. The author sat down with Thompson and his personal secretary, Deborah.


6) Bushnell, Noel. "Not Every Journo Can be Hunter S. Thompson." IPA Review (2008): 33-34. EBSCO. WEB. <http://www.ipa.org.au>.


This article critques the techniques of literary journalism and the effects of journalists making their writing reflective of their personality.


7) Hunter S. Thompson. The Gonzo Tapes The Life and Times of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Shout! Factory, 2008. CD.


This is a five-disc audio compilation of Thompson's work recorded between 1965 and 1975 on topics such as Saigon, the Forman vs Ali boxing match, Las Vegas, the Hells Angels, Mexico and more. The Gonzo Tapes are a companion to the movie Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.


 8) Wenner, Jann S. "My Brother In Arms." Rolling Stone 10 Mar. 2005. Print.


This article by Thompson's editor at Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner, discusses his writing, lifestyle, death and impact on the industry.


9) Wenner, Jann. "Football Season Is Over : Rolling Stone." Rolling Stone: Music News, Reviews, Photos, Videos, Interviews, Politics and More. Web. 8th Sept. 2005. <http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/7605448/football_season_is_over>.
Another article by Jann Wenner on Thompson's celebratory funeral ceremony and suicide note.


Comments (7)

Brandon Quinn said

at 8:31 pm on Nov 11, 2009

If you want, the book I took out of the library, The Gang that Wouldn't Write Straight, has alot about Thompson as well...pretty good book to cite if u want

Maria said

at 12:09 am on Nov 12, 2009

Oh cool thanks. You're doing Tom Wolfe right? I think we should link our pages together. I'll talk to you in class

Brandon Quinn said

at 2:37 pm on Nov 12, 2009

Yea I've put a couple different links to yours in mine...also this may be helpful if u need it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Hr_HNCqTtY

Howie Good said

at 9:04 am on Nov 30, 2009

Your last sentence is incoherent. Where did this happen? Weren't hius ashes scattered?

You also have a caption mixed in with the text.

Spacing keeps changing throughout. Please make consistent.

Maria said

at 11:09 am on Nov 30, 2009

I can't fix the spacing for the life of me! Sorry.

Maria said

at 2:26 am on Dec 2, 2009

white space white space everywhere and not a drop to drink

lydon47@... said

at 2:36 am on Dec 2, 2009

I would stay away from Comic Sans MS. It's an ugly font. Also, maybe make your font a bit smaller to make everything fit better.

You don't have permission to comment on this page.