I’m glad Hunter S. Thompson isn’t alive to see the world like it is in 2014. If he were alive today, he would shoot himself.
Does that come off too negative for an opening line? I don’t know. It’s the ninth anniversary of my favorite writer’s death, the last true American patriot and probably the last literary celebrity as we used to know it. Hunter S. Thompson is a lot of things to a lot of different people; a druggie, a visionary, a guy who Johnny Depp played in that Vegas movie… To me, he’s an inspiration and a curse. He’s a mountain that can never be climbed again and a specter wearing bright red lipstick, hovering over every sports journalist born after 1954.
I’m burning heroic amounts of wood in my fireplace right now. Staring into the flames, I’m glad Hunter S. Thompson isn’t alive to see the rise of ‘list journalism,’ if that’s even a thing. I don’t even want to Google the phrase, ‘list journalism.’ I just thought creating this list would be a fun way to look back at Dr. Thompson throughout the years, and I even get to tie in a number (how clever)! But now, I feel like a whore without her prescription glasses that’s searching for money on night table that may or may not be there.
I’ve painted myself into a corner, and that’s why I’m a fool for writing the intro last, and this bottle of Wild Turkey is turning on me, sliding into my brain like a rotten tumor. It’s too late now. Roll with it. The clips speak for themselves. I’ve made a Hunter Thompson list and there’s nothing I can do about it anymore.
Hunter Thompson on Charlie Rose (2003)
Hunter was a guest on the Charlie Rose show multiple times, but never was he more poignant than when he was on his media blitz for Kingdom of Fear in 2003. Post 9-11, Hunter is in rare form as he discusses the Child King that was Bush Jr, seeing the beginning of the end. A decade later, time validates Hunter’s foreboding title of his book.
Every time I read Screw-Jack I think of Gary LaPlante. Not that Gary would ever treat a cat violently in any way at any time, even to intimidate as a show of superiority,but I still picture Gary every time Raoul Duke describes sticking his tongue through the fangs of Screw-Jack and rubbing against the ridges of the top of the cat’s mouth.
Screw-Jack is my favorite HST short story, and you can read it all right here for free (which is making Hunter turn over in his grave, so to speak).
Hunter on conan (2003)
The 2003 media tour for Kingdom of Fear was so utterly fantastic, it culminated in HST appearing on a prime Conan O’Brien show in which they drink booze and shoot guns in a moderately-controlled environment somewhere upstate New York. I have nothing more to say other than –
**** you, Bear!
Hunter S. Thompson on Letterman (1988)
Hunter had a plethora of appearances on Letterman, but this is my favorite of them all. I’m realizing now that that this list is nothing but my personal favorite moments, which makes sense in a behind-the-curtain sort of way and because I’m an egomaniac as all writers are, after all.
Whatever, Hunter’s mysterious injury that requires a bandage across his digits, the heavy slurring, his clarification that he does not actually want to stomp then vice-president George Bush to death live on stage… It all adds up to a brilliant appearance and reinforces my love for Letterman while we’re on the subject. Damn, this whiskey is strong and that fire is bright.
The Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 25th Anniversary panel.
No book taught me more about politics, real politics, than Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail. Before I read this during my senior year of high school (the year Bush Jr. was elected) back when I thought the election process was an honorable battle between the grey shades of right and wrong on a nationwide scale. No. It was nearly just as nasty and corrupt back then as it is now. This book brought one of the best quotes about a Hunter Thompson work ever, “It was the most accurate and least factual accounts of that campaign.” That comes from Frank Menkewiecz.
Watch for a truly great history lesson as Hunter cusses up a storm on C-SPAN.
The Suicide Note
I truly wonder if I will live to an age in which I’ll make the decision to kill myself. I know that seems dark, but I’ve come to peace with the fact that if the circumstances are right, I’m offing myself rather than dying at the end of a tube or in some freak accident. I really hope I don’t die suddenly and someone comes back reading this thinking, “that’s weird,” but that’s the egomaniac in me coming out again (only masochists and demons choose to write for a living).
Hunter S. Thompson is the funniest writer in the history of mankind (to me), and his alleged suicide note punctuates his end in the most perfect way possible. As a football fanatic, I can relate to wanting to end it in February, and the sheer sense of mortality in the note is heartbreaking and undeniable.
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.
Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angel’s.
Stop watching Sons of Anarchy, pick up Hunter’s book, Hell’s Angels. While you’re at it, grab The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and experience Sonny Barger while you’re at it.
One of the most notorious members of the most famous biker gang ever, to understand that Hunter ran with these guys for a year speaks to his journalistic character and willingness to do whatever it takes to get to a good story.
While Hell’s Angels isn’t (in my opinion) Hunter’s best work, it’s still a fascinating look on the biker gang, and it’s incredible to think Sonny outlived Hunter, if not most of his… Contemporaries from that era.
Click here to pull the curtain back on the Hell’s Angels.
Hunter on the post-9/11 America
Hunter left us right when we needed him most, that much is undeniable now. I was born in 1982, but I can still feel the sting of when the fun stopped. Nothing is as it used to be, everything has taken a turn for the weird. Our police state has only grown, yet, ironically, we are one of the most free societies in all of history.
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t right on the money. The most fascinating part of this exceprt is the fact that it came from his Page 2 column on ESPN at the beginning of the 2001 NFL season.
This is arguably the greatest thing ever written in a sports column.
The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now–with somebody–and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives. It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed–for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush….He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won’t hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.
Hunter on Sports Journalism
Hunter once said sports journalism is, “a rude & brainless subculture of fascist drunks,” which, it could be said, is what attracted me to the business in the first place. But, in Hey Rube, Hunter once again rings prophetic and true. To some commenters, this could come off as the medical condition known as being ‘butthurt,’ but the cold, hard realities of living the life of a sports writer at a certain level have never been so accurate:
There was a time, about ten years ago, when I could write like Grantland Rice. Not necessarily because I believed all that sporty bullshit, but because sportswriting was the only thing I could do that anybody was willing to pay for. And none of the people I wrote about seemed to give a hoot in hell what kind of lunatic gibberish I wrote about them, just as long as it moved. They wanted Action, Color, Speed, Violence … At one point, in Florida, I was writing variations on the same demented themes for three competing papers at the same time, under three different names. I was a sports columnist for one paper in the morning, sports editor for another in the afternoon, and at night I worked for a pro wrestling promoter, writing incredibly twisted “press releases” that I would plant, the next day, in both papers.
RIP, Hunter. This bottle of Wild Turkey is almost done, and the fire is nearly past. Until next year.