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Home » Archives » February 2005 » Author Hunter S. Thompson Kills Himself

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02/20/2005: "Author Hunter S. Thompson Kills Himself"

music: Home on The Range, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane
mood: Shocked

Heres a better story which is now running in the L.A. Times.

'Gonzo' Journalist Thompson Kills Self
Counterculture writer who chronicled the Nixon years dies of a gunshot wound at 67.

By David Kelly, Times Staff Writer

DENVER Hunter S. Thompson, the counterculture literary figure who rode with the Hells Angels, famously chronicled the Nixon-McGovern presidential race and coined the term "gonzo journalism," committed suicide Sunday night at his secluded home outside Aspen, Colo., his son said. Thompson was 67.

"Hunter Thompson took his life with a gunshot to the head at his fortified compound in Woody Creek," Juan Thompson said in a statement. "Hunter prized his privacy and we ask his friends and admirers to respect that privacy as well as that of his family."

Pitkin County sheriff's officials confirmed Sunday that Thompson died of a gunshot wound, saying they received a call from his home about 6 p.m.

Friends and neighbors said late Sunday that they were shocked by Thompson's suicide, but knew he had his demons.

"We don't know anything about the circumstances surrounding his death, but he was a volatile person," said Troy Hooper, associate editor of the Aspen Daily News and a longtime friend of the writer. "I was at his house last week and there was nothing in his behavior that was different. He was no more distraught than usual; he was often either up or down."

Hooper said Thompson had been in pain from back surgery and an artificial hip. And he had broken his leg on a recent trip to Hawaii.

"He said he was executing a hairpin turn at the minibar when he broke it," said Hooper, who said he was acting as the family's spokesman. "Hunter was one of the literary giants of the 20th century. We are all just shocked."

Thompson, whose works included "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," which chronicled the race between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, was a well-known firearms aficionado who took frequent target practice in his backyard. In 2000, he slightly wounded an assistant while trying to shoot a bear on his property.

Woody Creek, a small town about eight miles northwest of Aspen, is home to a number of celebrities including the TV actor Don Johnson and John Oates of the singing duo Hall and Oates. Thompson spent much of his time socializing at the Woody Creek Tavern.

"We're letting it rest for tonight," said a woman who answered the phone Sunday at the tavern, where Thompson ate lunch most days.

Buddy Ortega, 62, a real estate broker and ski instructor, met Thompson in the 1960s at a party. The pair socialized over the years, and Ortega supported Thompson's quixotic run for sheriff though he figured it was a longshot when he saw campaign posters with pictures of hallucinogenic peyote buds.

In recent years, Ortega said, the hard-living journalist had become more reclusive, hanging out at the home he called his "compound" and taking advantage of open space to fire his automatic weapons.

But Ortega hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary recently. He said he last saw Thompson two days ago at Woody Creek's post office, and everything seemed fine.

"We all have demons," Ortega said. "Who knows, man? You sit down, have a few cocktails or maybe nothing maybe you have a cup of green tea and maybe nothing seems right. He was a little more complex than most of us, so maybe some of those demons surfaced and he didn't like what he saw."

Hunter Stockton Thompson was born July 18, 1937, in Louisville, Ky. His father, Jack, was an insurance agent.

In 1963, he married Sandra Dawn, the mother of his son Juan.

He served two years in the Air Force in Florida, where he was a newspaper sports editor. He was the Caribbean correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune in 1959, and worked as a South American correspondent for the New York-based National Observer from 1961 to 1963.

But he earned his outsized reputation for his work in Rolling Stone magazine.

Thompson was the flip side of American novelist Tom Wolfe. Both established themselves as brand names in the literary journalism movement that sought to capture the strife and youthful boldness of the 1960s. Thompson was the wild man who embraced the chaos, while Wolfe was often portrayed as the buttoned-down neutral observer.

Thompson called what he did "gonzo journalism," differentiating it from mainstream reporting by aggressively injecting himself into the story and giving up any pretense of objectivity.

Thompson's style of journalism well-armed, well-drugged and wildly iconoclastic made him a counterculture figure of rare longevity.

"I hate to advocate weird chemicals, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone but they've always worked for me," Thompson said.

His irascible and volatile persona seemed to outsize the books and essays he wrote. Twice his life was brought to the screen once by Bill Murray in 1980's "Where the Buffalo Roam," and again in the 1998 Terry Gilliam film "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," in which Johnny Depp took his turn as Thompson. Both actors remained friends with Thompson.

Thompson also triumphed on the comics page ensuring that the most maverick journalist of his generation could get a spot in the mainstream newspapers that would never dare print his profanity-laced essays. The character of "Uncle" Duke in the "Doonesbury" strip has for decades been a thinly disguised and always mercenary caricature of Thompson.

William McKeen, a University of Florida professor who wrote the 1991 critical biography "Hunter S. Thompson," kept in touch with the journalist.

"He had clearly been amid a great renaissance in recent years where the public had rediscovered his value and their interest in him," McKeen said Sunday night. "The news is stunning."

Replies: 3 Comments

on Sunday, February 20th, HL said

I can't believe this, I am still in shock. Of course the first question is "why?" According to his last books he was very happy with his new wife Anita, and seemed to be having a lot of fun. The only thing I can think of is maybe he was sick, perhaps cancer, and wanted to go out on his own terms. I'll have more thoughts later on "The greatest writer of the 20th century" at least the second half for sure, later. Right now I need to go have a drink, and smoke a fatty for Hunter.

on Tuesday, February 22nd, I-Girl said

Here's a disturbing quote from a reader of about Hunter's death:

Another outspoken (VERY OUTSPOKEN) opponent of the B.F.E.E.
is discovered dead from a gunshot wound labeled "an apparent suicide..."

Color me a conspiracy nut, but I just found it a LITTLE bit troubling to discover
that his neighbor is PRINCE BANDAR! (Or "Bandar Bush" to the Bush family!)

Here's an excerpt from a interview with Hunter S. Thompson last fall.

Bankrate: You've been pretty outspoken in your dislike of our current commander in chief.

Hunter S. Thompson: I was candid about Nixon, too.

Bankrate: Yet you say Nixon pales in comparison to George W. Bush.

Hunter S. Thompson: Oh, yeah, he looks almost like a liberal. You look at the Clean Air Act and
several others back then. Nixon was a crook but at least he operated off of an individual base.
But this yoyo, this stupid little It's cheap opera. Take a look at your pocket. Take a look around you.
It's a hold-up, a looting of the national treasury, and that's what they're doing. The combined spending of
the Kerry campaign is far less than $5 million for advertising. Five million dollars, that's like a goddamned
Susan Anthony dollar compared to $60 billion that is just routine going out to Halliburton. We might lose
if we went to war with Halliburton.

Bankrate: You are neighbors with Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador and longtime Bush family friend
featured in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Hunter S. Thompson: I can see him from my front porch. He's been a pretty good neighbor; that counts for a
lot out here. He will shoot some skeet now and then. I don't want to say anything really ugly about him.
He's an enlightened plutocrat, I guess you call it. Michael Moore is dead right on that, and it's even worse
than you think. Bandar. All kinds of roads cross out here. Networks and wires.

Bankrate: The Bush Administration seems to have lit your fuse. Are you angry again?

Hunter S. Thompson: Very angry. I'm very angry. That's why I guess I have to write this (campaign) piece for
Rolling Stone. This is the darkest hour that I have seen in my long experience as an American. This is evil.

on Tuesday, February 22nd, BT said

Me too. But the commie orgazination I work for drug tests, so I'll only be able to drink a beer for the shade of an American that I am proud of.

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