Today's Autonomedia Jubilee Saint — Hunter S. Thompson


July 18– Hunter S. Thompson
American gonzo journalist, druggie, counter-culture hero.
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*U.S.: Railroad Day. The grand trunk line completed, 1853.

1610 — Master painter of street life, Caravaggio, dies, Port Ercole, Tuscany, Italy.
1870 — Infallibility declared for Catholic popes speaking ex cathedra.
1922 — Philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn born, Cincinnati, Ohio.
1937 — Iconoclastic bullshitter-slaying essayist Hunter S. Thompson born in Louisville, Kentucky.
1969 — Ted Kennedy offers Mary Jo Kopechne a lift home, Chappaquiddick, MA.
1998 — African-American activist historian John Henrik Clarke dies, New York City.

Excerpted from The 2009 Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints: Radical Heroes for the New Millennium by James Koehnline and the Autonomedia Collective

DAILY MAGPIE – March 19 – Brooklyn Independent Cinema Series presents Free Lisi: Fear and Loathing in Denver


Free Lisi: Fear And Loathing In Denver

Barbes, 376 9th St (@ 6th Ave), Park Slope, Brooklyn

7pm, free

The Brooklyn Independent Cinema Series has been screening interesting independent films free of charge every other Monday night for four years.

Free Lisi explores Hunter S. Thompson’s personal mission during his last years to free Lisi Auman, sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of a Denver police officer.  After receiving a letter from prisoner Lisl in 2001, Hunter enlisted the support of the nation’s top criminal defense lawyers, held a rally on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol, and co-wrote an article for Vanity Fair subtitled “Lynching in Denver” – all in an attempt to free Lisl from life in prison.

Directed by Wayne Ewing



DECEMBER 2, 2006 – JANUARY 20, 2007

TEL 310 550 0050
FAX 310 550 0605
TUE-SAT 10-5

“M+B gallery and AMMO Books are pleased to present GONZO, the debut exhibition of photography by famed American author Hunter S. Thompson. The exhibition coincides with the release of Thompson’s final book, of the same name, and chronicles his life through his own photographs and memorabilia.

GONZO began as a personal collaboration with Thompson prior to his untimely death, and has since come to completion with the support of his family and estate. The show will feature many never before seen photographs from Thompson’s personal archive, including shots from his early days as a foreign correspondent in Puerto Rico, living in Big Sur in the 1960s, time on the road with the Hell’s Angels, illuminating self-portraits, and many personal moments with friends and family throughout the years.

GONZO is a visual tour de force that will take you on an incredible journey through the life and times of the legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson. The iconoclastic American author developed his own style of writing that became known as “gonzo journalism”-a completely truthful, but not always factual, hands on method of reporting. With his numerous articles for Rolling Stone and other magazines, his acclaimed books including Hell’s Angels , The Rum Diary , Curse of Lono and the seminal Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas , Thompson influenced generations and established himself as an original and powerful voice in the political and literary world.

Immortalized on film by good friends Johnny Depp (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998) and Bill Murray (Where the Buffalo Roam, 1980), Hunter became a cult hero to counter-culture youth, intellectuals and celebrities alike. Notoriously fond of firearms and hallucinogens, Thompson lived in his self-described “heavily fortified compound” in Woody Creek, Colorado. One of his most famous quotes summed up his anarchist and acerbic philosophy on life, “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”‘

"Maybe this country does prefer tyranny." – Hunter S. Thompson, February 2003

Hunter S. Thompson

The godfather of gonzo says 9/11 caused a “nationwide
nervous breakdown” — and let the Bush crowd loot the
country and savage American democracy.

By John Glassie, Salon

Feb. 3, 2003 | He calls himself “an elderly dope fiend
living out in the wilderness,” but Hunter S. Thompson
will also be found this week on the New York Times
bestseller list with a new memoir, “Kingdom of Fear:
Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final
Days of the American Century.”

Listening to his ragged voice, there is some sense that
Thompson, now 65, has reined in his outlaw ways, gotten
a little softer, perhaps a little more gracious now
that he’s reached retirement age. “I’ve found you can
deal with the system a lot easier if you use their
rules,” he says. “I talk to a lot of lawyers.”

But do not be deceived. In “Kingdom of Fear” and in a
telephone interview with Salon from his compound in
Aspen, Colo., Thompson did what he’s always done: speak
the truth about American society as he sees it, without
worrying much about decorum. “Who does vote for these
dishonest shitheads?” he writes, referring to the
people currently occupying the White House. “They are
the racists and hate mongers among us — they are the
Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis.”

That’s his enduring attitude in this new age of
darkness: a lot more loathing than fear.

Continue reading

"The century's greatest comic writer in the English language."

As Gonzo in Life as in His Work

Hunter S. Thompson died as he lived.
Opinion Journal, Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson was one of those rare writers who come as advertised. The Addams-family eyebrows in Stephen King’s book jacket photos combined with the heeby-jeeby horrors of his stories always made me think of Dracula. When I finally met Mr. King, he was in Miami playing, along with Amy Tan, in a jook-house band called the Remainders. He was Sunshine itself, a laugh and a half, the very picture of innocent fun, a Count Dracula who in real life was Peter Pan. Carl Hiaasen, the genius who has written such zany antic novels as “Striptease,” “Sick Puppy,” and “Skinny Dip” is in person as intelligent, thoughtful, sober, courteous, even courtly, a Southern gentleman as you could ask for (and I ask for them all the time and never find them). But the gonzo–Hunter’s coinage–madness of Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1971) and his Rolling Stone classics such as “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” (1970) was what you got in the flesh too. You didn’t have lunch or dinner with Hunter Thompson. You attended an event at mealtime.

I had never met Hunter when the book that established him as a literary figure, “The Hell’s Angels, a Strange and Terrible Saga,” was published in 1967. It was brilliant investigative journalism of the hazardous sort, written in a style and a voice no one had ever seen or heard before. The book revealed that he had been present at a party for the Hell’s Angels given by Ken Kesey and his hippie–at the time the term was not “hippie’ but “acid-head”–commune, the Merry Pranksters. The party would be a key scene in a book I was writing, (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test). I cold-called Hunter in California, and he generously gave me not only his recollections but also the audiotapes he had recorded at that first famous alliance of the hippies and “outlaw” motorcycle gangs, a strange and terrible saga in itself, culminating in the Rolling Stones band hiring the Angels as security guards for a concert in Altamont, Calif., and the “security guards” beating a spectator to death with pool cues.

By way of a thank you for his help, I invited Hunter to lunch the next time he was in New York. It was one bright spring day in 1969. He proved to be one of those tall, rawboned, rangy young men with alarmingly bright eyes, who more than any other sort of human, in my experience, are prone to manic explosions. Hunter didn’t so much have a conversation with you as speak in explosive salvos of words on a related subject.

We were walking along West 46th Street toward a restaurant, The Brazilian Coffee House, when we passed Goldberg Marine Supply. Hunter stopped, ducked into the store and emerged holding a tiny brown paper bag. A sixth sense, probably activated by the alarming eyes and the six-inch rise and fall of his Adam’s apple, told me not to ask what was inside. In the restaurant he kept it on top of the table as we ate. Finally, the fool in me became so curious, he had to go and ask, “What’s in the bag, Hunter?”

“I’ve got something in there that would clear out this restaurant in 20 seconds,” said Hunter. He began opening the bag. His eyes had rheostated up to 300 watts. “No, never mind,” I said. “I believe you! Show me later!” From the bag he produced what looked like a small travel-size can of shaving foam, uncapped the top and pressed down on it. There ensued the most violently brain-piercing sound I had ever heard. It didn’t clear out The Brazilian Coffee House. It froze it. The place became so quiet, you could hear an old-fashioned timer clock ticking in the kitchen. Chunks of churasco gaucho remained impaled on forks in mid-air. A bartender mixing a sidecar became a statue holding a shaker with both hands just below his chin. Hunter was slipping the little can back into the paper bag. It was a marine distress signaling device, audible for 20 miles over water.

The next time I saw Hunter was in June of 1976 at the Aspen Design Conference in Aspen, Colo. By now Hunter had bought a large farm near Aspen where he seemed to raise mainly vicious dogs and deadly weapons, such as the .357 magnum. He publicized them constantly as a warning to those, Hell’s Angels presumably, who had been sending him death threats. I invited him to dinner at a swell restaurant in Aspen and a performance at the Big Tent, where the conference was held. My soon-to-be wife, Sheila, and I gave the waitress our dinner orders. Hunter ordered two banana daiquiris and two banana splits. Once he had finished them off, he summoned the waitress, looped his forefinger in the air and said, “Do it again.” Without a moment’s hesitation he downed his third and fourth banana daiquiris and his third and fourth banana splits, and departed with a glass of Wild Turkey bourbon in his hand.

When we reached the tent, the flap-keepers refused to let him enter with the whiskey. A loud argument broke out. I whispered to Hunter. “Just give me the glass and I’ll hold under my jacket and give it back to you inside.” That didn’t interest him in the slightest. What I failed to realize was that it was not about getting into the tent or drinking whiskey. It was the grand finale of an event, a happening aimed at turning the conventional order of things upside down. By and by we were all ejected from the premises, and Hunter couldn’t have been happier. The curtain came down for the evening.

ÔøºIn Hunter’s scheme of things, there were curtains¬†..¬†. and there were curtains. In the summer of 1988 I happened to be at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland one afternoon when an agitated but otherwise dignified, silver-haired old Scotsman came up to me and said, “I understand you’re a friend of the American writer Hunter Thompson.”

I said yes.

“By God–your Mr. Thompson is supposed to deliver a lecture at the Festival this evening–and I’ve just received a telephone call from him saying he’s in Kennedy Airport and has run into an old friend. What’s wrong with this man? He’s run into an old friend? There’s no possible way he can get here by this evening!”

“Sir,” I said, “when you book Hunter Thompson for a lecture, you have to realize it’s not actually going to be a lecture. It’s an event–and I’m afraid you’ve just had yours.”

Hunter’s life, like his work, was one long barbaric yawp, to use Whitman’s term, of the drug-fueled freedom from and mockery of all conventional proprieties that began in the 1960s. In that enterprise Hunter was something entirely new, something unique in our literary history. When I included an excerpt from “The Hell’s Angels” in a 1973 anthology called “The New Journalism,” he said he wasn’t part of anybody’s group. He wrote “gonzo.” He was sui generis. And that he was.

Yet he was also part of a century-old tradition in American letters, the tradition of Mark Twain, Artemus Ward and Petroleum V. Nasby, comic writers who mined the human comedy of a new chapter in the history of the West, namely, the American story, and wrote in a form that was part journalism and part personal memoir admixed with powers of wild invention, and wilder rhetoric inspired by the bizarre exuberance of a young civilization. No one categorization covers this new form unless it is Hunter Thompson’s own word, gonzo. If so, in the 19th century Mark Twain was king of all the gonzo-writers. In the 20th century it was Hunter Thompson, whom I would nominate as the century’s greatest comic writer in the English language.


Steadman reflects — EXPANDED.

Hunter S. Thompson RIP: ‘I would feel real trapped in this life if I didn’t know I could commit suicide at any time’

As his creative collaborator and friend, Ralph Steadman remembers the author Hunter S Thompson, who has shot himself at the age of 67

22 February 2005 The Independent

Hunter said these words to me many years ago: “I would feel real trapped in this life if I didn’t know I could commit suicide at any time.” I knew he meant it. It wasn’t a case of if, but when. He didn’t reckon he would make it beyond 30 anyway, so he lived it all in the fast lane. There was no first, second, third and top gear in the car – just overdrive.

He was in a hurry. “Drive your stake into a darkened heart in a red Mercedes-Benz. The blackness hides a speeding tramp. The savage breast pretends. But never mind the nights, my love, because they never really happened anyway.”

So we wrote in a Beverly Hills house one drunken night. I wrote the stanzas, he wrote the chorus. “Don’t write, Ralph,” he said, “you’ll bring shame on your family.” “Those Weird and Twisted Nights.” That was the song.

On Sunday morning, I had just finished signing the 1,200 title pages for a limited-edition Taschen version of The Curse of LONO, which Hunter had signed so uncharacteristically – obedient and mechanical – over the month of December. I thought that was very strange. He has to be cajoled like a child to do anything like that, so I drew his portrait across the last sheet, glaring out, his two eyes in the two Os of LONO, put the cigarette holder with long Dunhill prodding upwards in his grimacing mouth, signed it with an extra flourish and closed the last of the four boxes. The old bastard! He waited to make sure I had finished the task. Then he signed himself off.

I knew it was too good to be true. Now I will be expected to build the monstrous cannon in Woody Creek, a 100ft-high column of steel tubes, with the big red fist on its top and his ashes placed in a fire bomb in its palm.

“Two thumbs, Ralph! Don’t forget the two thumbs!!” It was the Gonzo fist and he really believes I can do it! Such were his demands as he tipped at his windmills. People were fucking with his beloved Constitution and he was born to banish the geeks who were doing it. In that way he was a real live American. A pioneer, frontiersman, last of the cowboys, even a conservative redneck with a huge and raging mind, taking the easy way out and mythologising himself at the same time.

He spent a lot of his early years of rejection writing; verbatim excerpts from Hemingway, Faulkner and Conrad, trying to imagine what it was like to write some classic text. He could be very persuasive.

As a boy he was hired by the milkman to collect bills outstanding from the citizens of Louisville, Kentucky, but he was shunned by his neighbours and especially the literary establishment in the town, so he had a score to settle. I had only just arrived in America in late April of 1970, and was staying with a friend in the Hamptons to decompress. I got a call from JC Suares, art editor of Scanlan’s Magazine in New York. He said: “How’d ya like to go to the Kentucky Derby with an ex-Hell’s Angel who just shaved his head, and cover the race? His name is Hunter S Thompson and he wants an artist to nail the decadent, depraved faces of the local establishment who meet there. He doesn’t want a photographer. He wants something weird and we’ve seen your work.”

The editor, Don Goddard, had been the New York Times’ foreign editor and he thought I was na?Øve enough to take this on. I was looking for work – so I went. Finding Hunter – or indeed anyone covering the prestigious Kentucky Derby who is not a bona fide registered journalist – was no easy matter, and trying to explain my reasons for being there was even worse, especially as I was under the impression that this was an official trip and I was an accredited press man.

Why shouldn’t I think that? I assumed that Scanlan’s was an established magazine. I had been watching someone chalk racing results on a blackboard while I sipped a beer and I was about to turn and get myself another when a voice like no other I had ever heard cut into my thoughts and sank its teeth into my brain. It was a cross between a slurred karate chop and gritty molasses.

“Um-er, you-er wouldn’t be from England, er, would you-er? An artist maybe-er -what the …!”

I had turned around and two fierce eyes, firmly socketed inside a bullet-shaped head, were staring at a strange growth I was nurturing on the end of my chin. “Holy shit!” he exclaimed. “They said I was looking for a matted-haired geek with string warts and I guess I’ve found him.”

We took a beer together and sat in the press box. Somehow, he had got our accreditation and we were in. He asked me if I gambled and I said only once, in 1952. I put two shillings on Early Mist to win in the 1953 Grand National. And it did. I picked a horse but didn’t bet and it won so then I picked another, backed it with a dollar, and lost. “That’s why I don’t gamble,” I said.

“I thought you had been picked up,” he replied. “Picked up?” I didn’t quite understand. “Er, yes, the police here are pretty keen. They tend to take an interest in something different. The, er-um, the beard. Not many of them around these parts. Not these days anyway.”

I was beginning to take in the whole of the man’s appearance, and his was a little different too. Certainly not what I was expecting. No time-worn leather, shining with old sump oil. No manic tattoo across a bare upper arm and, strangely, no hint of menace. This man had an impressive head chiselled from one piece of bone and the top part was covered down to his eyes by a floppy brimmed sun-hat. His top half was draped in a loose-fitting hunting jacket of multicoloured patchwork. He wore seersucker blue pants and the whole torso was pivoted on a pair of huge white plimsolls with a fine red trim around the bulkheads. Damn near six foot six inches of solid bone and meat holding a beaten-up leather bag across his knee and a loaded cigarette holder between the arthritic fingers of his other hand.

Arthritis was to plague him all his life, as was the football knee-injury which left him with one leg shorter than the other, but it never truly encumbered his physical rage or his action-packed approach to a deep respect and love of writing – and righteousness.

We found the decadent, depraved faces of Louisville by the end of the first week we spent together. They were staring at us from a mirror in the gents’ toilet on the in-field, where the rest of the riff-raff, who are not eligible to stand in the privileged boxes of the chosen few, spent their time at the races, just like us.

We spent many assignments together, bucking the trend, against the cheats and liars, the bagmen and the cronies; me an alien from the old country and him raging against the coming of the light. “Fuck them, Ralph,” he would say, “we are not like the others.”

Well, he wasn’t anyway, but I was easily led. Before Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas we tried to cover the America’s Cup yacht race in Rhode Island for Scanlan’s (who were just about to go bust and get on to Richard Nixon’s blacklist) from a three-masted schooner. There was a rock band on board for distraction; booze and, for Hunter, whatever he was gobbling at the time. I was seasick and Hunter was fine. I asked him what he was taking and he gave me one. It was psilocybin [magic mushroom], a psychedelic hallucinogen, my first and only drug trip apart from Librium. I was the artist from England so I had a job to do. He handed me two spray-paint canisters. “What do I do with these?”

“You’re the artist, Ralph. Do what you want, but you must do it on the side of one of those multimillion-dollar yachts, moored hardly 50 yards away from where we are.”

“How about fuck the Pope?” I said, now seeing in my mind red snarling dogs attacking a musician singing at a piano dressed as a nun at a shore-bound bar. “Are you a Catholic, Ralph?”

“No,” I replied, “it’s just the first thing that came to mind.”

So that was the plan and we made it to the boats and I stood up in the little dinghy with the spray cans and shook them as one does. They made a clicking sound and alerted a guard. “We must flee, Ralph! There’ll be pigs everywhere. We have failed.” He pulled fiercely on the oars and fell backwards with legs in the air. He righted himself and started rowing again. We made it back to our boat and while I was gabbling insanely, he was writing down all the gibberish that I uttered. I was now a basket case and we had to get back to shore and flee. Hunter shot off two distress flares into the harbour and we hailed a boat just coming in. The flares set fire to one of the boats, causing an emergency fire rescue as we got to dry land. There’s more and I won’t go on, but I guess that was the genesis of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Such a wild game was possible, but it needed all the genius and application of Hunter S Thompson to make it live.

He has done that and he has proved that a redneck Southern gentleman who has the fire in his belly and the indignation in his soul can make it happen. I had the good fortune to meet one of the great originals of American literature. Maybe he is the Mark Twain of the late 20th century. Time will sort the bastard out. I have always known that one day I would know this journey, but yesterday, I did not know that it would be today.

I leave it to others more qualified than me to assess and appraise his monumental literary legacy.