Fear and Loathing in Gonzo: The Late, Great Hunter (R.I.P.)
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson
Nine years ago, today..the World lost one truly original man, and the creator of Gonzo Journalism as we know it.
Born in the city of Louisville in July 1937, Hunter S. Thompson is best known for authoring Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, also a film made famous by Johnny Depp. Hunter is also credited with creating ‘Gonzo Journalism’ – a highly personalized style of reporting, in which a writer becomes so involved in the story that they become the central character in their own piece. You might say ‘journalism through experience’, taken to the Nth degree..
One Man’s Take:
The future author was the son of an insurance agent who died while he was in high school, and an alcoholic mother, who was left penniless. A natural prankster and troublemaker, Thompson was arrested along with two of his friends for stealing a man’s wallet while in high school. Given the choice between prison or the military, Thompson joined the United States Air Force.
Thompson got his first exposure to journalism as a sports reporter for an Air Force newspaper. After being honourably discharged in 1958, Thompson pursued journalism as a career and landed a series of jobs at a number of small-town newspapers, as well as a short stint as a copy boy at Time magazine. Thompson later said that ‘Gonzo’ was born while he was trying to write a story about the Kentucky Derby. The resulting rambling ‘first-person’ story, was more about the experience of watching the race rather than the actual race. At the time it was published in Scanlan’s Monthly, the piece was hailed as a breakthrough in journalism.
“We can’t stop here, this is bat country!” ~ Johnny Depp (as Hunter S. Thompson) in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Which lead Hunter to probably his most famous piece of writing: ‘FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS‘ – which, many years later would reinvigorate Hunter S. Thompson’s fame and fortune when it was made into a hit hollywood movie, starring the famed, Johnny Depp as Hunter. Thompson was inundated with fan mail and phone calls, which he said was like “falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool of mermaids.”
Fueled by alcohol and drugs, Thompson was always on the lookout for a story and was especially interested in anything that would skewer what he saw as America’s hypocrisy. Thompson chronicled the cultural shift occurring in America during the late 1960s and 1970s. He was not only a cultural observer, but also a participant in that he was often the central part of his stories.
His hard-driving lifestyle, which included the steady use of hallucinogenic compounds, illicit drugs and firearms, made Thompson a counterculture icon perpetually popularized by college students.
After several bouts of poor health, Thompson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on February 20, 2005. Nine years ago, today.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Thompson. And thank you.