He was a self-confessed freak, a maniac, a drug fiend greatly enamored with guns, whiskey, and quantities of hallucinogens that could knock out entire metropolises at a time. Today, we're speeding into 10 lesser known facts about Gonzo himself, Hunter S. Thompson.
Johnny Depp was his roommate, partner in crime and close friend
We know that Johnny Depp played Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. What most don't know, however, is that while Depp was learning his mannerisms and demeanor, he lived with Hunter, developing a close bond of friendship. He was given the basement quarter to live in; in which Depp tells a story of the time he went to ash his cigarette into an ashtray atop his bedside table, when he inadvertently noticed the table itself was a crate of dynamite. Their friendship would build its base upon explosions, beginning with Depp exploding propane tanks in Hunter's yard, and ending with the financing Thompson's final wishes.
Ran for Sherriff for the city of Aspen
In 1970, Hunter S. Thompson would run for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, and the surrounding Pitkin County area. Using his "Gonzo fist" superimposed upon a sheriff's star for his campaign, his platform detailed in the Rolling Stone, called for the streets of Aspen to be ripped up throughout Aspen; and a massive parking and auto-storage lot to be constructed on the outskirts of town, as well as changing the town's name to "Fat City" in an attempt to avert "greed heads, land-rapers, and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name "Aspen". The final proposition of his platform was, predictably, a relaxed policy for drug offenses. His final admonition on his docket was that dishonest drug dealers should be set in stocks on the courthouse lawn, and that "it will be the general philosophy of the Sheriff's office that no drug worth taking should be sold for money." He would ultimately lose the election; 173 votes to 204, promptly ending his run in politics.
He Helped Free A Wrongly Convicted Woman
In 1998, an innocent woman by the name of Lisl Auman, would be sentenced to life in prison for the shooting and murder of a police officer. Despite the fact there was no way for her to have committed the crime, as she was handcuffed and in the back of the police officer's car during the incident. The official version of events goes like this: Auman was catching a ride from a friend of a friend, they were pulled over by police officers, and she was immediately handcuffed then put in the back of the police vehicle. During all of this, the driver pulled out a shotgun and shot the arresting officer. It looked like she would spend the rest of her life in jail; until Hunter S. Thompson heard of the case and became involved. After he received a letter from Lisl, he became zealous in procuring her freedom, that he spearheaded a nationwide campaign to bring the case to light. Using his connections to celebrities such as Benicio Del Toro, Johnny Depp, Jack Nicholson, Thompson started a campaign to seek justice. Eventually, seven years later, Auman would be acquitted and released; unfortunately, Hunter would not live to see the day, having died just months earlier.
The Origin of Uncle Duke
First appearing in the comic strip in July of 1974, Uncle Duke was a straightforward caricature of Hunter S. Thompson's Raoul Duke persona with a little bit of Thompson, too. From his ill-fated political stint, his love of firearms and drugs, to his dabbling in business and crime. Even more so, when Uncle Duke first appeared in the strip, he was a journalist working as a writer for the Rolling Stones magazine; where his boss would often become aggravated by his lack of ability to meet deadlines and maintain coherence within his articles, often due to the use of controlled substances. The comparisons, so blatantly evident, especially in the beginning of the character, as his first ever strip featured him drunk on tequila and using cocaine, attempting to kill invisible bats with a ruler.
He was a "Doctor"
Sometime in the late 1960's, Thompson received his now famous title of "doctor", from the Universal Life Church, after buying a mail-order doctorate in Divinity, for no other reason than because he could. Preferring to be called Dr. Thompson, later in life, as his "alter-ego" Raoul Duke called himself a "doctor of journalism". So fond of the persona was Thompson, that he toyed around with the idea of taking on the names of "Jefferson Rank", "Gene Skinner", "Sebastion Owl" and naming his home in Woody Creek, Colorado, the "Owl Farm". Hearing of his doctorate in divinity, Miami Vice actor Don Johnson would go on to ask him the answer to the famous Zen riddle, “What is the sound of one-hand clapping?" Thompson's rebuttal was to slap Johnson across the face as hard as he could; an interview with Johnson would reveal that he had ringing in his ears for three days after. I guess Don never heard the old adage, don't ask questions that you don't want the answers to.
A Brush with the Hell's Angels
While living, drinking and riding along side of the notorious Hell's Angels motorcycle club, to write his celebrated story for The Nation newspaper, Hunter would get more than he had bargained for when he would interview a man's "personal argument" according to Hell's Angels member Clifford Park "Skip" Workman. The story goes as such; Hunter confronted a member named "Junkie" George, while he was beating his wife. At that point "Junkie" George's dog bit him on the leg; resulting in the dog being beaten as well. Hunter approached George and exclaimed "Only a punk beats his wife and dog!" George, taking insult by this, since Hunter wasn't patched or a part of the club, proceeded to beat Thompson along with an undisclosed amount of others. Afterwards, Hunter would go to his car and leave. The severity of the assault was argued by both sides of the conflict, hunter claiming it was excessive and brutal, while the Angels claim it was just more of a rough and tumble.
No Gifts For You
On the night of Jack Nicholson's birthday, Thompson would show up in the middle of the night; turned on a high-powered spotlight aimed at the actor's house while firing off his 9mm pistol... all while playing a tape with sounds of animals mauling each other through an amplifier. Nicholson, home with his two daughters at the time, for obvious reasons would not answer the door. He would later see blood running under his front door, into his house; Thompson, being the "joker" that he was, left a freshly removed elk's heart on his front door as the finale to the prank. Jack, being unaware as to who left it, and just recently dealt with a stalker, alerted the FBI about the incident while his family hid cowering in the cellar overnight. As if his history of terrible gifts wasn't enough, Thompson would later send Nicholson’s nine-year-old daughter, Lorraine, an ornately-wrapped Christmas present; inside, a gruesome and graphic model of a dead rat caught in a trap. Attached, a note that reads: “Dear Lorraine. This will teach you a lesson about trusting men, which will be valuable later in life. You’re welcome, Uncle Hunter.” See ladies, there are worse gift givers than your man!
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
During the start of his journalism career, admittedly, Hunter could not find his niche and lock into a proper style that he liked. Though he continued to develop on his own, he would take other methods to improve his writing style as well. While working for Time, he would copy F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, "The Great Gatsby", word for word, front to back over and over again. He was also rumoured to have done the same with Hemingway’s, "A Farewell to Arms" as well. By replicating these authors of influential style, he would begin to develop and create the now coined "Gonzo" journalism; a style written without any claim of objectivity, often times including the reporter as being a part of the story.
Discharged from the Air Force
During his senior year of high school, Thompson was arrested with two others after one of them stole a man's wallet. This not being his first incursion against the law, would find him facing incarceration; the judge would give him the choice between prison or military service; he would choose the latter, considering the experience be more grist for his legacy. After his brief stint in jail, Hunter would enlist into the United States Air Force, where he would study in the field of electronics. He didn't let this deter his dream of reporting, and while serving at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida, he would become a sports editor at The Command Courier; lying on his application to get the job. He would be honorably discharged in 1958 as an Airman First Class, being recommended for early honorable discharge by his commanding officer in a written statement claiming; "In summary, this airman, although talented, will not be guided by policy" also stating that "Sometimes his rebel and superior attitude seems to rub off on other airman staff members."
On February 20th, 2005 at the age of 67, in Woody Creek, Colorado, Hunter S. Thompson would die by a self inflicted gunshot to the head. His body would go on to be cremated so that his final wish could be accomplished; for his ashes to be fired from a cannon into the stratosphere. While Bob Dylan's, Mr. Tambourine Man played, he was loaded into a 150 foot or 47 meter cannon adorned with his famous symbol, a double thumbed fist, clenching a peyote button. Those of note in attendance included Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, Josh Hartnett, Sean Penn and Lyle Lovett. A close friend of Thompson, Johnny Depp, would finance the eccentric ceremony. I guess Hunter went out with a bang after all.