Hunter S. Thompson cashed in his chips. Casinos never close, so you have to get out while you’re up on the house. They pump in oxygen to keep you dumb, and if you try to count cards, they’ll take you out back and horsewhip you. But if you ride a good streak and stay away from the Oakland Raiders, you might be okay.
The Good Doctor knew this. He ran for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado on a Freak Power ticket and almost won. He dragged an innocent British illustrator through the vomit of the Kentucky Derby and left him shoeless at the airport after the America’s Cup yacht race. They remained friends.
While a doctor of journalism, he maxed out expense accounts and flirted with disastrous deadlines. But he got the job done-most of the time. Most importantly, the Good Doctor proved that you can make your living writing without compromising your integrity. There are important stories everywhere, and none are too niche for a reader if written well. Politics in Thompson’s era were savage and cruel, a burden heaped upon this generation ten-fold. Nixon and his thugs pissed on every picket fence in North America, and while Woodward and Bernstein got the nuts and bolts down, it was Thompson’s insight into the perversity of the president and his covert “ratfuckers” that truly represented the watershed moments that were the downfall of Tricky Dick.
Nowadays, American politics have reached a saturation point of lunacy, and G. Gordon Liddy, convicted Watergate felon, is a “respected” radio personality. But did the Good Doctor fold upon this happening? No, he kept on fighting, penning incendiary attacks on the current administration and still writing a column on ESPN.com right up until last Tuesday, when he phoned up Bill Murray to talk about shooting golf balls out of the sky with shotguns.
Freelance journalism is a hard scramble, but it beats cleaning up the filth of drunken hockey fans and American tourists at a theme restaurant. For those of us who do not see news and writing in a linear fashion, Hunter S. was a dirty saint, someone you could look to and say, “He did it, why can’t I?” Thompson was a true journalist. Narcotics and violence made him famous, but his research and poetry made him good. He never wavered in his convictions, meaning that when the establishment wanted something from him, they had to beg. That greedy machine needs to be fed, and if someone can sneak a cyanide pill in every once and awhile, we might all have a shot.
Thompson’s debauched and eclectic oeuvre, for all of its chaotic excursions into absurdity, is stitched together by a singular, restless obsession with one theme: The Death of The American Dream. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hell’s Angels, and his gonzo reporting for Rolling Stone during the 70s-these classic works bear the imprint of Thompson’s passionate rage, as he witnessed the bankruptcy of a nation’s dreams.
For cynics and anarchists, this was something to believe in: we can see the man behind the curtain, why can’t anyone else? Cops, celebrities, any authority figure-the doctor took aim at all of them. He was the voice of a different breed-one that knew that law and justice were two different things, and that only one needed to be followed. The doctor gambled. He drank, he loved guns and football, and he once shot his assistant while trying to scare a bear off his property. He wrote scripts for Nash Bridges, starring his neighbour, Don Johnson. They were never picked up, but it didn’t matter. He shot at propane tanks with Johnny Depp and Kate Moss, despite the pleadings of their handlers. He was an original. As he once said of his friend Oscar Acosta, he was one of God’s original creations, never to be duplicated.
So where does that leave us? Personally, since I don’t have a shooting range to go to, I’m putting some money down on college basketball today. Utah’s got a seven-foot Aussie that can’t be fucking stopped, no matter how many people New Mexico crams into The Pit. As for Air Force, that’s where the Good Doctor got his start. They’ll beat those Mormons from Brigham Young like a Chicago cop on the weekend. Mahalo, Hunter.