February 21, 2005 by

Hunter S. Thompson


Categories: Hollywood, Media, Writers/Editors

hsthompson.jpgHunter Stockton Thompson, the renegade writer who stretched the boundaries of journalism, committed suicide on Feb. 20 at the age of 67. He died at his fortified compound in Woody Creek, Colo., of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Born in Louisville, Ky., Thompson finished high school, but missed the graduation ceremony because he was in jail serving a 60-day sentence for robbery. When he got out, Thompson enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and discovered a passion for journalism. He edited the sports section at an Air Force newspaper in Florida, then worked as a correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune and the National Observer.
In the 1970s, Thompson helped pioneer the “New Journalism” movement. Utilizing first person narrative, he discussed current events and politics in a more novelistic and opinionated manner. While writing for Rolling Stone magazine, the gonzo journalist once covered a district attorneys’ anti-drug conference after taking copious amounts of psychedelic drugs.
The unapologetic and self-destructive writer never graduated from college, yet he bestowed on himself the title of “the good doctor.” His original voice filled nearly a dozen books, including “Hell’s Angels,” “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72” and “Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century.” Thompson was best known for “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream,” the 1972 book that turned him into a counterculture icon. His latest book, “Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness,” was published in 2004.
Thompson’s influence reached from bookstores to newsstands to Hollywood. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau modeled the balding, pot-smoking character of Uncle Duke in the “Doonesbury” comic strip after Thompson, a move that angered the journalist. At one point, Thompson vowed to set Trudeau on fire, if they ever met. Bill Murray portrayed him in the 1980 film “Where the Buffalo Roam,” and Johnny Depp did so in the 1998 film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” A film adaptation of “The Rum Diary,” Thompson’s only published work of intentional fiction, is currently in production.
Thompson became more reclusive in recent years, spending most of his time shooting firearms in his backyard. In 2000, he accidentally shot his assistant, Deborah Fuller, while chasing a bear off his property. Thompson also wrote the popular column, Hey Rube, for ESPN.com. In his most recent column (“Fore!”), he called Murray to discuss a new extreme sport: shooting golf balls like skeet.
[Update, March 8, 2005: Thompson’s body was found in a chair in his kitchen in front of his typewriter. On stationary from the Fourth Amendment Foundation, an organization that defends victims of unwarranted search and seizure, Thompson had typed the word “counselor” in the center of the page. He also left behind a suicide note.]
[Update, Aug. 22, 2005: In keeping with his wishes, Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes were fired from a 153-foot tower erected in Woody Creek, Colo., on Saturday. About 250 friends and family attended the private ceremony, including actors Johnny Depp and Bill Murray, musician Lyle Lovett and Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.).]
Listen to a Tribute From NPR
Complete Coverage From The New York Times

29 Responses to Hunter S. Thompson

  1. Ashe

    I woke up to this news and have been crying throughout the time I’ve been here at my home.
    He was a legend and one of my biggest heroes.
    I can’t begin to believe that he’s finally gone. I knew I’d see the day, but I did not expect it this soon.
    Wearing my Gonzo shirt and playing Dylan’s ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ at max volume seems hardly a proper personal ttribute, but it’s all I have right now.
    Thank you Hunter S. Thompson, for everything you’ve contributed and the impacts you’ve made on the lives of many.
    I regret never getting to meet you.

  2. staterejectsbus

    first thing that came to my mind, was his piece on Hemingway’s suicide from ’64:
    “From such a vantage point a man tends to feel it is not so difficult, after all, to see the world clear and as a whole. Like many another writer, Hemingway did his best work when he felt he was standing on something solid–like an Idaho mountainside, or a sense of conviction.
    Perhaps he found what he came here for, but the odds are huge that he didn’t. He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him–not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.”

  3. D.

    I was entirely taken by surprise by the news of the Doc’s death. I spent much of last night, and then this morning, hovering between pissed off and saddened. I go about my day having to remind myself that yes, he really is gone.
    I don’t understand why Hunter chose to leave us so suddenly, but he must have had his reasons, the same as he had to do anything else wacky. Perhaps he was very sick and didn’t want to linger; I regret not knowing the truth, although we may find something out later.
    Hunter’s writing is what got me really interested in Politics and the fate of the nation (because no one could lay out a scene of Ultimate Apocalyptic Disaster like him). I owe him my gratitude for that, and I also regret that I can’t present him with that in person.
    Thanks, Doc, for making it Fun, and making it Good. We’ll miss you, but whereever you are, we know you’re raising Hell.

  4. S. Travers

    Hunter was a remarkable writer, one of the wittiest and finest social critics of the 20th century. His death is a true tragedy, a massive loss to the world and all of those who have been enlightened to the truths of our political system and culture.
    Respect and love to the man.

  5. Stu

    I don’t think I expected the Doc to go out any other way than this really.
    I was suprised at first but soon realised that this was probably how it was always gonna happen. I’m sad that he is gone though, don’t get me wrong. I will miss those books that he didn’t get to write, and now I will probably read all his old ones again.
    “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
    Vale Hunter S.

  6. didget

    What you poor bastards will never understand is that the good Dr. was not writing for you. He was writing for himself, trying to understand The Truth. And what he kept finding pissed him off. It pisses me off too. And I think what Hunter thought was, “if it doesn’t piss you off you are a soulless cretin.”
    Even his alcohol soaked mind, even the mind of a hopelessly addled drug addict could see the banal lies and hypocrisy of what passes for leadership in this god-forsaken country. It’s the sober ones that scare me. A generation of Swine that debates the efficacy of torture over their lattes and drone of American Idol.

  7. john

    Goodbye to the good Dr. Was there ever another of such energy and insight? He had his foot firmly to the floor and blazed a mighty trail. He made me want to write, he made me want to laugh, he made me SEE. A True genius, he will be sorely missed.
    Here’s hoping he’s found some ice for his Chivas Regal as he pulls a stool up with the Big ‘G’ and tell it like it is…..
    John Grace

  8. Wyatt

    ” To weird to live, to rare to die”
    Thank you for taking steps when others were to scared to walk
    You always told it like it is, when others were scared to talk!!!
    You were a real professional, never to be forgotten or replaced.

  9. Scott Crumpler

    I thought Screwjack was fiction, although not the other two stories in the collection. Was it not?
    Anyway, he was a frighteningly skilled writer. Easy for literary snobs to dismiss, but closer inspection of his work reveals a razor precision that is undeniable.

  10. yale yarboro

    An original genius, a corruscatingly brilliant writer, with the wildest sense of humor I’ve ever encountered. His works will be analyzed by scholars for decades to come.

  11. Will Cummings

    I can’t intelligently explain the anguish Hunter’s death has brought me. Given his life and art we’re lucky to have had him as long as we did. Thompson wrote in the Great Shark Hunt how shocked he was to have reached the age of 40. And he squeezed every drop of life from those “bonus” years.
    Thats the true tragedy in his passing. His death is the end of a life dedicated to the pure experience of life: its howling highs and horrible lows. As long as he was alive we could all dream that the brighest burning flames could last long into the night; that the truly crazy can never die.
    Thank you to, in Hunter’s words, “a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out there where the real winds blow-to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whiskey and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.”
    -HST RIP

  12. alex hannah

    nothing i can write could possibly be enough
    i would have to make a song with five hundred drummers and guitarists and piano players and singers playing a song that rings across the land over hills and mountains and through walls and underground jerking people awake from their zombie sleeps infront of their trivial swill.
    it would have to be beyond comprehension or beyond grasp of human intelligence

  13. Brad

    When the words left my wife’s lips I knew there was trouble. “Do you know this writer, Hunter Thompson?” Oh, fuck were the first things I had thought. I had resisted seeing the movie of Fear and Loathing for so long and had finally watched it a few days before, laughing like a lunatic at Hunter’s cameo. “Yeah, he’s probably the best writer I’ve ever read, why?” I knew bad news was ahead. “He killed himself, it was on the news break” For some reason Hunter taking himself out was inevitable. He just didn’t seem like one to hang on to life, but to dictate to it when he was ready to leave.
    7 months have passed and I think I’ve finally read all his ESPN2 pieces that I bookmarked and I miss him. I miss his world view, I miss the passion, I miss the fear and loathing. But the world just seems poorer for him leaving.

  14. sirrahad

    I was somewhere in New England when I heard on an NPR broadcast in a rented car (a Chevy Cavalier, not a red convertible) that the Doctor was Out. It was definitely one of those “where were you when…” moments, like when John Lennon was shot or the space shuttle blew up.
    Ironically, I had just stopped to gas up and was sipping a bottle of grapefruit juice when I got the news.
    (“I never travel without grapefruit. It’s hard to get a good one this time of year, though…unless you’re rich.”)
    God bless the Doctor and keep him at the right hand of Elvis forever.

  15. broodlinger

    Check the police report at thesmokinggun.
    *Juan called it in
    *Juan was firing a shotgun when police arrived
    *Juan was left alone with the corpse
    *Juan placed a scarf on the body
    *Typewriter was only discovered AFTER Juan was alone with the body
    *There was a counselor *on the premises* (called in with the coroner’s team) when the “counselor” page was discovered
    *Two deputies noticed the gun was UNDER the gun case
    *Both arms in his lap.
    *Wife’s story (on the phone/at the gym) is not corroborated. If she heard Thompson shoot himself, then she certainly had plenty of time (1.5+ hours) to drive home.
    My tribute is, “counselor” is most certainly not this man’s dying words.

  16. warsaw hotels

    I woke up to this news and have been crying throughout the time I’ve been here at my home.
    >He was a legend and one of my biggest heroes.
    >I can’t begin to believe that he’s finally gone. I knew I’d see the day, but I did not expect it this soon.
    >Wearing my Gonzo shirt and playing Dylan’s ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ at max volume seems hardly a proper personal ttribute, but it’s all I have right now.
    I do not agree.

  17. David Hitchcock

    Tomorrow being the 20th Feb 2007. The place will be a small but adiqute pub in the heart of london. The reason for being there? Well the world became a quieter place for me and many others on this day two years ago and as we do this year as we will the next, we celabrate the life of a very great man over a few happy and quiet beers. If you wish to join us then please contact me on the following email. dav1dh@hotmail.com BUY THE TICKET AND TAKE THE RIDE

  18. Linda Alberto

    Hunter changed my life and my time doing gonzo journalism was one king hell of a ride, baby. What fun, comedy and… controversy. Without Hunter, none of it would have transpired. I loved the guy! And his favourite song was my favourite song. The ghosts in his closet were the same one’s eating cheese cake in my closet. So let the weird rule! Let your lizard out of its cage! And never forget the man who made Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas because it is a masterpiece of truly twisted comedy. For this, we salute you.

  19. Steve Warton

    Hunter Has Made Me a Different Person And Helped Me Look At The World Around Me Through A Different Perspective. The Lunacy That Plagues The World , His Writting Has Lessened The Pain Of The Constant Bullshit In Our Modern World ….
    Thank You Hunter , You’ve Made All The Difference To One Young Man

  20. Rachel Roberts

    For those who are fans of the Dr. should read Gonzo, an oral biography presented by all the people who knew him best.
    All the loose ends about his suicide were found and there is quite a bit of detail about how he killed himself and his closest friends give reasons to why he killed himself from what they thought was going on in his head.
    After reading that book his suicide doesn’t seem so sad anymore, sure I cried when I read it, but then you see his suicide note and you read it, and suddenly the whole thing comes together, and his death starts to seem more liberating and beautiful.
    The Dr. had lived an amazing, exciting life, an he knew that. If he felt he still needed to accomplish something he would have. But he’d seen it all and, boy, did he live life up! There was no need for him to live any longer. He was in a lot of chronic pain, he was crippled, and those two things bothered him the most. He lived by his own constitution, one he’d made up for himself. Rules that he was determined to live by. Being able to walk was a big thing in his constitution, without having working legs he couldn’t have as much fun as before.
    He was determined to live and die by his constitution.
    Long live the Dr.!
    Hunter S. Thompson
    July 18, 1937-February 20, 2005
    You seemed to have a better understanding of this world, Hunter, then anyone alive now.

  21. Scotto

    My pal Rosales was very big on Doc Thompson many years ago…now I know why…I think. Being the lam 1970s pothead high school kid I was, I never paid any attention to the LA Mexican American situation. At Blackford HS, we had two (keep your head low) serious Mex with slick dirt shinny Levis Super Bell Bellbottoms, so wide; they could have covered the Grand Canyon, which in fact covered Red Wing logger boots that could have crushed a brick. They kept to themselves, and that’s the way we liked it. After four years of HS, I never knew anyone who knew who they were…they weren’t talked about. All I knew is that they were no longer the Mexicans; they wanted to be called Cholos. What a dim view I had. I just finished reading Fear and Loathing, then the jacket copy, then The Kentucky Derby, then finally Strange Rumblings in Aztlan, which in retrospect should have been read first. I was floored. What a little piece of white shit I was. Spoiled rotten American brat. Well, revelation is good if you are willing to keep your eyes open when it finally blares into your face. I could go on for hours writing about the affect that this had on me, but suffice is to say that Hunter Thompson was someone that didn’t screw around with truth. And when it came to half truth/truths like Fear and Loathing, that he completely enjoyed writing, he seemed a completely different author when compared to the factual presentation of Axtlan. Drugs and alcohol could not stop this force of nature, so apparently it had to end itself on it’s own terms. If we all had that kind of steel…perhaps the American Dream would not have had a searcher. Perhaps Old Doc Thompson would no have had to try so hard to shove the cod liver oil down our throats in order for us to create that dream while we still had a chance. I am glad that he left so much food for thought, regardless of the periodic unpleasant flavor of imacreal truth.

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