'Gonzo'

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Hunter S. Thompson in 'Gonzo: The Life & Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.'

Hunter S. Thompson in 'Gonzo: The Life & Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.' Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

I can think of few subjects for a documentary richer than the legendary Hunter S. Thompson. Journalist. Drug enthusiast. Candidate for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado. Those things come as little or no surprise. But to me, a casual consumer of his work (I read Fear and Loathing, and I'm familiar with the iconic depictions of his world drawn by his friend and collaborator, Ralph Steadman), Alex Gibney's new documentary Gonzo: The Life & Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson filled in the blanks with feeling and nuance. My favorite segment of the film reveals Thompson's Carter awakening — apparently, Thompson attended a speech given by Jimmy Carter at the University of Georgia Law School in May of 1974. He had no interest in Carter, and repeatedly slipped out to refill his glass of iced tea (read: Wild Turkey) instead of watching the event. And then Carter credited Bob Dylan with changing his understanding about the balance of power between the landowner and those who work on the farm (and thus, the rich and powerful who make the rules, and everyone else), and Thompson was transfixed. He later wrote about the speech, "by the time it was over, it had rung every bell in the room." It's a beautiful sequence. If you'd like, leave your favorite Thompson quotes here.

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I lived and worked near his home in Woody Creek as a waitress in a local restaurant, My 6 yr old son was sick and I took him to work one morning. Hunter came in at about 1000am and ordered bourbon straight and sat down at the table in the back with my son and chatted about what he was coloring for about an hour. 1986?

Sent by Karen Munroe | 3:47 PM | 7-1-2008

I just want to say that Hunter had the amazing ability to verbalize like no other. He made me laugh and made reading so much fun and I do miss him greatly.
Thank you for remembering such great writer.
John S. in Tamarack Idaho

Sent by John Steinebach | 3:50 PM | 7-1-2008

In my opinion, Mr. Thompson is and was a failure personally and professionally. His tortured writing is a light into his tormented soul. To honor and admire such a man is pathetic and speaks of the quality of our character.

Sent by Steve_G | 3:52 PM | 7-1-2008

"Freelance writers almost never make enough money to live on, much less ride exotic motorcycles and buy season tickets to 49er games. But I am here to tell you that it can be done - and done without ever resorting to shadowy gigs like pimping or selling drugs. There were times when I was sorely tempted, due to overweening poverty, but I have always believed that anybody with a personal lifestyle as flagrant as mine should have a spotless criminal record, if only for reasons of karma."

~ HST

Sent by B | 3:58 PM | 7-1-2008

I babysat for Hunter and Sandy for a couple years when they went out. It was scary as I knew he wrote the book Hells Angles and always thought they would come to the house. He always had a glass of scotch in his hand even when he was driving me home.

Sent by Cora | 3:58 PM | 7-1-2008

I saw HST give a lecture in Iowa City circa 1986. He talked about the Washington Redskins offensive line for about forty minutes, got booed off the stage and left. A friend who later cleaned his room at the Iowa House said the bed was untouched but the two bottles of Crown Royal HST had requested were emptied. HST spent all of about four hours in Iowa City, total.
His imprint on journalism in general can be summed up in one glorious middle finger extended.

Sent by Joe | 4:00 PM | 7-1-2008

His two greatest, of course:

'The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

and, more apropos of his suicide:

"The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."

He is sorely missed by everyone who believes fervently that the world would be a better place if only it were more weird.

Sent by Kasreyn | 4:56 PM | 7-1-2008

Mr. Thompson is a personal idol of mine, and I admire him for being a failure,(at least in the traditional sense). Someone who writes me off as "pathetic" for admiring said failure is a wonderful illustration of why Hunter is, and always will be, an unforgetable anti-hero. It seems to me that Hunter made his personal decisions in a spontaneous and impulsive but personally calculated way. In my opinion, he didnt strive for success in the traditional sense, he went his own route. Often times against the grain. He was chalk full of grit, and for that he will be remembered and revered. "Buy the ticket, take the ride". And yes, "He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the pain of being human".

Sent by Simon Zander | 5:31 PM | 7-1-2008

I've never read HST's writing; I am only aware of him through the Johnny Depp film & what I've heard/read on NPR. He may have been an engaging writer; he may have offered thoughtful insights into our political & cultural theater. But if the Depp film is accurate (and Depp was a friend of HST -- I can't imagine he'd skewer HTS unfairly), then he was a dangerous, violent, self-involved human being -- faults which, in my mind, outweight any literary contributions he may have made.

Sent by Frank | 12:14 AM | 7-2-2008

well done B

Sent by Ben | 12:16 AM | 7-2-2008

Steve: other tormented writers include Kafka, Voltaire, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Twain, Wilde, Byron, Poe, and Hemingway. Do *they* all get a seat on your "personal and professional failure" list, too?

While I don't dare put Thompson up as an equal to those writers, I think it's a bit disingenuous to judge the quality of an artist by the quality of his art. I suspect rather that it's Thompson's modernity and topicality that bug you; there were many during Voltaire's life who said much the same about him. They're forgotten now, and he's remembered as a genius.

Sent by Kasreyn | 8:01 AM | 7-2-2008

"...when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro..."

Sent by appelquist | 2:12 PM | 7-2-2008

I'm not prone to comment posting (See: "No You Suck!" in under three-seconds) but I was very offended by Steve's comments. Thompson was my inspiration to get into journalism, embrace literature, and receive my looming college degree. His writings lead me to Hemingway, Fante, and Twain. "Pathetic" may be the word for it. The knowledge that you would not have had the courage to say it to his face, instead posting as an Internet tough-guy also brings to mind a word I can't recall. P...P...shoot, I forgot it.

Sent by Billy | 5:52 PM | 7-2-2008

Bottom line: for any one who knows the breadth of experience and knowledge life has to offer, HST was just a ball to read. I'm not saying he'll be remembered as either the best journalist or most inventive writer, but he carve a niche in both spheres NO ONE else can approach and tossed out a hell of a lot of vicarious fun in the process. Read his collections: Great Shark Hunt, Generation of Swine, Kingdom of Fear and witness how prophetic much of his psycho-political writings have proven to be. Wherever you are Hunter, go get 'em.

Sent by Matt Sellman | 12:50 AM | 7-4-2008