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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Like a Rolling Stone

I've had enough Maltese pop for now. Time to turn back to the rest of the spectrum. Ironically I'm doing this with quite a downer. I've just found out that the great gonzo shot himself in the head at his Owl Creek farm near Aspen, Colorado, last Sunday. Hunter S. Thompson is dead. He was 67.

I can't say I'm surprised. By his own admission, he was "an avid reader, a relentless drinker and a fine hand with a .44 Magnum." If anything, I'm surprised he didn't do this earlier. He's been a gun enthusiast for four decades or more. Still, this was unexpected, because some of us thought that old age had mellowed him. It obviously hadn't mellowed him enough.

Reading his adrenaline-packed narrative Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in my 20s, I was amazed to see how he turned his drug and alcohol-fueled clashes with authority into the best beat novel since Kerouac's On the Road. Thompson was a hero (or is that anti-hero?) for anyone who believed in challenging the quieter norms of established journalism.

For a generation that has taken to moving images rather than literature, Thompson's alter-ego, Raoul Duke, is beautifully captured by Johnny Depp in the 1998 film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Reading some of his obituaries this morning I see that Rolling Stone magazine is seen by some as his best pedestal. That may be so, however, it can also be argued that he was essential for Rolling Stone to acquire its status in the early years. Hunter S. ThompsonRolling Stone held gonzo's stance for a very long time, even though it has lost much of it in recent years. In 1994, when I first arrived in America for my own savage journey to the heart of the American dream, I remember reading Thompson's obituary for former President Richard Nixon in Rolling Stone. Most other commentators offered a re-assessment of Nixon's legacy, as is most often done when someone dies. King gonzo eulogized Nixon as "a liar, a quitter and a bastard. A cheap crook and a merciless war criminal."

His utter contempt for power and his unique writing style makes him one of the top writers in my list of all-time greats. I will forever treasure his quip for people like me: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

Blogger wangateur said...

I will miss him ... BIG HUG for Juan, Jen, Willam and Anita… who will never be able to fill the hole left in there lives by the man in spite of the myth and legend attached to his life..

I am a long time friend of Juan we went to the Aspen Community School together I have been using the blogs to try to send a message of love to him and the family but I know he is totally swamped because of the media attention at Owl farm and I need to let him know that we care for Him, Anita and the whole family in this time of tragedy while respecting his privacy

Let's see if we can get the word out ...
He was first THE MAN….
He became the myth and legend
To me he was several people.
He was my best friend’s dad although he always called his dad Hunter
(At Juan’s wedding he said to a friend about me “Look there’s another little bastard I raised that turned out OK”)
He was Hunter S. Thompson retiring shy southerner who loved guns and his freedom
He was the Dr. Gonzo who we all know who would be in your face and try to kill you if you attempted to try to take away his guns, drugs, freedom, privacy and the god given right to go into an explosive tirade about it.

To be such a person required him to have a unique emotional support structure. These people now need our support, love and understanding in this time of grief.

Bradley Laboe 

1:17 AM, February 23, 2005

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