Hunter S. Thompson
A unique icon of the Sixties and the counterculture did himself in with a gun Sunday night.
Thompson on the death of Richard Nixon.
"If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin."
Thompson was one of those Sixties figures who achieved a mythos much larger and much more attractive than the mere man. Rolling Stone magazine published Thompson's obit for Nixon - Rolling Stone and Playboy exemplify what happened to the Sixites and American culture - and on the latest cover Johhny Depp (see above) is wearing a necklace with the picture of another Sixties figure whose myth and legend overshadowed the reality of the man, Che Guevara. And Benecio del Toro (see above) will be playing Guevara in an upcoming film directed by Steven Soderbergh.
From The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved:
"He grabbed my arm, urging me to have another, but I said I was overdue at the Press Club and hustled off to get my act together for the awful spectacle. At the airport newsstand I picked up a Courier-Journal and scanned the front page headlines: "Nixon Sends GI's into Cambodia to Hit Reds"... "B-52's Raid, then 20,000 GI's Advance 20 Miles"..."4,000 U.S. Troops Deployed Near Yale as Tension Grows Over Panther Protest." At the bottom of the page was a photo of Diane Crump, soon to become the first woman jockey ever to ride in the Kentucky Derby. The photographer had snapped her "stopping in the barn area to fondle her mount, Fathom." The rest of the paper was spotted with ugly war news and stories of "student unrest." There was no mention of any trouble brewing at university in Ohio called Kent State."
The Minor Fall, The Major Lift has links to two pieces by guys who knew Thompson most of his life, Tom Wolfe - who I can't stand - and Ralph Steadman.
Steadman retells the "Fuck the Pope" story:
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?"One of my favorite bits from the book and film versions of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the scene where Thompson is out of his gourd in a casino:
"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.
The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the sixth Reich. The ground floor is full of gambling tables, like all the other casinos . . . but the place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange County-Fair/Polish Carnival madness is going on up in this space."And then he wonders "What would Horatio Alger do in this situation?"
Hitchens's obit mentions Thompson's long-running feud with local police and the local authorities in his hometown of Aspen, a feud which he pursued "with absolutely Corsican persistence." This, along with his enormous talent and capacity to hate and not give a shit, exemplifies what so many young people found inspiring in Hunter Thompson and why miscreants across the country passed around his books and why he will be so missed.