Obsessing over Hunter

There are a host of new posts about Hunter appearing on main-stream media thanks to the new Johnny Depp movie based on The Rum Diary. There are more things to look forward to than just the movie. From here,

Bouncing in and out of development and pre-production, by the mid ’00s most fans had largely given up any hope of the film coming to fruition. But alas, in 2009 — apparently defying considerable odds — filming commenced in Puerto Rico, helmed by director Bruce Robinson, with Johnny Depp once again reprising his role of the good doctor.

The trailer looks great, but even if the end result turns out to be a stinker, Thompson fans have nonetheless been blessed via the various ancillary elements surrounding the film; not the least of which includes the recent online release of Playboy magazine’s Hunter S. Thompson archives. Spanning four decades the collection rounds up all manner of ephemera ranging from Thompson’s first impressions of longtime illustrator/accomplice Ralph Steadman to the 1983 Hawaii piece which served as the backdrop for The Curse of Lono. Carve out some time this week with a fork and knife and dig in.

Additionally, last year ESPN reinstated their online archive of Thompson’s Hey Rube column which ran from 2000-2003. If you didn’t keep up with these during their original run they are well worth checking out now, gratis, via the web (the 83 articles were collected/published posthumously in 2o04 by Simon & Schuster).

A “life-lessons from HST” post for n00bs  at AskMen (quite nicely done, actually)

We’re revisiting Thompson to see what normal guys can learn from this decidedly not-normal cult figure. While some may look at Thompson’s life of drugs, booze, guns, and general excess and think that’s all there was to him, there’s actually a lot men can take away from the maverick journalist — although we’d recommend avoiding his newly revealed hangover cure (“12 Amyl Nitrites [one box] in conjunction with as many beers as necessary”).

Thompson famously said, “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” Since we can’t exactly encourage following that mantra, here are five other life lessons men can learn from the legendary writer.

“When The Going Gets Weird, The Weird Turn Pro”

Sure, Hunter S. Thompson may have driven editors and publishers crazy with his blatant disregard for deadlines and word counts (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was famously supposed to be a straightforward 250-word photo caption that ballooned into a 2,500-word manuscript), but while his methods may have been unconventional, there’s no denying they produced some pretty impressive results.

Thanks to his signature “gonzo” writing style, Thompson was an expert at turning a failed or floundering story around with bizarre digressions, but he worked hard at developing his craft. When he was younger, Thompson would retype the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald to study their sentence structure, and while his lifestyle and persona were certainly over the top, Thompson still managed to produce a steady stream of work, whether articles or novels, right up until his death in 2005.

Don’t Mince Words

As part of the gonzo mantra, Thompson hated to edit himself or his writing. That extended to his private correspondence as well. Thompson’s letters, meandering diatribes that were often profane and equally hilarious, are notorious, as the no-nonsense author wasn’t afraid to let people know how he really felt about them. Even if that meant calling the studio executives who, at one point, were in charge of the The Rum Diary adaptation “Zombies who live in cardboard boxes under the Hollywood Freeway” (and that’s the relatively polite version). While he saved most of his choicest vitriol for Richard Nixon over the years, take a page from Thompson: The world respects a straight shooter, even if they don’t always like what he has to say.

Challenge The Status Quo

With gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson developed a new breed of reporting, inserting himself (along with a few exaggerated fictionalized elements) into his frequently stream of consciousness stories. It may not work for The Wall Street Journal, but for Thompson, it allowed him to offer deeper insight into his subjects than traditional objective reporting would’ve — and with more style points. Thompson said of his approach, “With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

You don’t have to invent a new writing style to follow Thompson’s example, but you can develop your own style, whatever that may be, rather than blindly going along with long-standing traditions. For Thompson, “gonzo” wasn’t just a way of writing; it became a way of life.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You

The old adage is trite but true: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Thompson’s lifestyle was certainly reckless, but it just as certainly wasn’t boring. A notorious instigator, Thompson wasn’t afraid to mix things up, whether that meant spending time with the Hell’s Angels for his first book (a move that earned him a brutal beating at the hands of the biker gang) or jumping headfirst into his stories. Thompson wrote, “Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.” Obviously, there are such things as unnecessary risks, but you can’t know how to distinguish between them if you never take any to begin with.

“Absolutely Nothing In Moderation”

The Rum Diary tag line certainly makes for a fitting epithet for Hunter S. Thompson. Famously celebrated for his outlandish and eccentric persona, the author threw himself into whatever he was interested in at the time with careless abandon, whether it was sports, politics, music — or, yes, guns, drugs and alcohol. Even Thompson’s funeral was memorably over the top, as his last wish was for his ashes to be fired into the sky from a cannon while music blared. But you don’t have to mimic Thompson’s lifestyle (or strict drug regimen) to learn a valuable lesson from it: If you’re going to do something, go all out.

Why does the man still mesmerize?

Fanboys bring out tales of their own emulation of Hunter

In Telegraph by Neil McCormick

His writing style is easily pastiched but difficult to match, because at its heart is a rage – the black humour and moral righteousness of a brilliant man out of place in the world.

On CNN (Mike Hayes):

Buy the ticket, take the ride. On WSJ.   A book review.

For fans of the Good Doctor of Journalism, the man Tom Wolfe fairly called “the great comic writer of the 20th century,” this is not an intolerable development, even if the eulogizing has long-since passed the point of saturation. Gonzophilia is an industry. Thompson’s cigarette-filter-and-safari-hat get-up is now a popular Halloween costume. Biographies roll off the line. His widow has turned “The Gonzo Way” into a self-help book and an online store. His literary executor, the omnipresent historian Douglas Brinkley, holds “Gonzo Journalism Workshops” at the Norman Mailer Center and will be dropping a third voluminous brick of Thompson letters next summer. If Thompson left behind so much as a grocery list (10 grapefruits, 3 bottles of Chivas . . .), odds are even that it will get slapped between hardcovers.

Thompson was lost for much of his last quarter-century. He admitted as much to a BBC film crew all the way back in 1978, bemoaning the fact that he used to report stories and now he’d become one. Even by then, he was better known for his pharmacological sideshow than for the main attraction of his matchless prose. Lots of his “fans” had never bothered to read his work. “The myth has taken over and I find myself an appendage,” he said, spilling his whiskey on-camera in the middle of the BBC interview. “I’m not only no longer necessary, I’m in the way. It’d be much better if I died. Then people could take the myth and make films.”

Thompson’s wildness should not be confused for carelessness. Even when wielding cattle prods and Tasers, or when Mace-ing entire restaurants, he took his writing seriously.

Thompson was a musician in prose, his words his rhythm section. He was Buddy Rich and Tito Puente and John Bonham rolled into one. His paragraphs kept perfect time—never laying a false beat. He often wrote to music, which he called “fuel.” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was written entirely to a live version of the Rolling Stones’s “Sympathy for the Devil.” Thompson felt writing should resemble a great song, that, like music, it should move people through the ear. Frequently, he would have guests at his Woody Creek, Colo., compound read passages aloud, telling them to slow down and just how to punch the emphasis, as he enjoyed the sound of his sentences hitting like blunt rocks. As a young writer, he’d gone so far as to re-type the works of Dos Passos and Fitzgerald, just to feel their cadences vibrate through his fingers.

For even when he wasn’t saying much of anything, pumping gibberish for our amusement or his own (“About twenty miles east of Baker I stopped to check the drug bag. The sun was hot and I felt like killing something. Anything. Even a big lizard. Drill the f—er”), his flights of absurdity have the feel of authority and finality, of fire and judgment rolling down the mountain.

But by reminding us of the words themselves, “Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone” performs a valuable service. It turns down the noise so we can once again hear the music.

The Best of Reasons – Figuring out Hunter S. Thompson

In the end, this is more epilogue than epitaph. The good Doctor will continue to make house calls. Why? Because we will always want the truth. A man who could write a line like this will never be truly forgotten: “Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish — a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out where the real winds blow — to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whisky, and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested … Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll.”

And an introduction, which is aspirational, at the rationalwiki

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


Hunter Stockton Thompson, aside from being someone we all might aspire to be one day, was a journalist, writer, small-time politician, drug abuser, heavy drinker, chain-smoking, gun-toting explosion-liker and all round nice guy. He quickly rose to fame after writing his seminal work, Hells Angels – A Strange and Terrible Saga, which describes the time he spent riding around with the Hells Angels motorcycle club. He became quite close friends with the Oakland chapter and then Hells Angels big man Sonny Barger. This collaborative friendship came to a grinding halt when the Hells Angels discovered that Thompson did not plan to share any of the book’s proceeds with the club (although in a later interview Barger said all Thompson owed them was a keg of beer) and they viciously stomped him, nearly to death. After the Hells Angels episode, Thompson went on to write for Rolling Stone Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, failed magazine Scanlan’s, and wrote several well regarded books.

He is a Kentuckian, though very few people there will ever admit it.

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