I am in Love with Gonzo

I know that I have mentioned him before, but I will continue to write about Hunter S. Thompson until someone rips the keyboard from my fingers, or I die. Either way, it will be a sad day for you. Because that day has not arrived yet, I will share more of his genius stories and writing with you today. I want to tell you why this man and his crazy-ass life continue to fascinate me, even though I am a young women who should be appalled by his disgustingly brilliant behavior.

While browsing through one of the several rare/used bookstores in our District of Columbia (Second Story Books, to be exact), I stumbled upon the shelf labeled “Journalism” at the end of one of the long aisles of dusty hardbacks. Sitting prominently at eye-level were several books and/or compilations penned by my literary lover, Dr. Hunter Stockton Thompson. How could I resist? Every time I see his name, the section of my brain that stays dormant in everyday professional settings comes alive with hunger pains for excitement and crude adventure.  I anxiously scroll through pages of essays, articles, or story lines for an idea to inspire my next big life event. (Although, I don’t necessarily condone week long binges in Vegas with drug cocktails and Gila Monsters, unless, of course, you are actually accompanied by the real Hunter Thompson–impossible, or Johnny Depp as a stand-in–unlikely).

I picked up one of HST’s compilation books that holds some of his ESPN columns written between 2000-2003 called, Hey Rube. Anyone who knows about HST knows that the man LOVED his sports. Sports and politics; it is almost as though we were made for each other. This particular book’s Forward was written by John A. Walsh, who was the Senior VP and Executive Editor at ESPN at the time of HST’s death in 2005. Walsh was the managing editor of Rolling Stone magazine during Gonzo Journalism’s heyday.

I started reading the Forward on the metro on the way home from work Wednesday afternoon, and I must have been mistaken for a crazy person by other riders around me; the big smile that would appear randomly on my face as I read the first few pages was probably hard to ignore. Crossing over the Potomac on the Yellow line metro to the Pentagon under the late afternoon Washington sun just seemed to be the perfect setting for reading this particular piece, mainly because a large chunk of Walsh’s commentary was a description of one of Thompson’s Sunday football feasts here in Washington. It was nothing short of my idea of a perfect room service order.

Here is an excerpt from the Forward by John A. Walsh:

“Hunter visited Washington in the fall of 1978 and invited me to a Sunday football feast at his Hyatt Regency hotel suite. Before the first kickoff, Hunter, the always gracious host, ordered room service for the game. “I’d like a fifth of Civas Regal, three six-packs of Heineken, a half-dozen bloody marys, and everything chocolate on the menu.” I was the only other person in the room and informed my host that I was on a diet that precluded sweets and alcohol. One hour later, two waiters delivered the order with looks only cameras could capture. The chocolate tray included a German chocolate cake, a vat of Breyer’s chocolate ice cream, a half dozen chocolate cupcakes, a plate of chocolate cookies, one chocolate sundae, two chocolate cream pies, and a buffet of various chocolate pastries. And of course, the requisite postprandial chocolate bonbons. Hunter was ready for some football.”

Do I have you hooked on this man yet? Chocolate and football? Heaven.

Walsh also described Thompson as “genetically predisposed toward uncertainty, adventure, and risk,” and a man whose “ultimate goal is to be named the Prime Minister of Fun.” These attributes clearly showed through the work that Thompson is famous for– I’m thinking Fear and Loathing at the moment.

After the Forward, and before the Author’s Note to this book, there is a page with a copied document from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida dated August 23, 1957. Some of you may know that Thompson was actually in the Air Force at one point in his life (a man of paradox, no doubt). This particular document is actually a copy of one of his personnel reports. I wish that I could scan the whole page to show you on this blog, but if you want to see it all, you must go find Hey Rube.

Here are some of the statements made in this report:

“Airman Thompson possesses outstanding talent in writing. He has imagination, good use of English, and can express his thoughts in a manner that makes interesting reading. However, in spite of frequent counseling with explanation of the reasons for the conservative policy on an AF Base Newspaper, Airman Thompson has consistently written controversial material and leans so strongly to critical editorializing that it was necessary to require that all of his writing be thoroughly edited before release.”

” In summary, this Airman, although talented, will not be guided by policy or personal advice and guidance. Sometimes his rebel and superior attitude seems to rub off on other airmen staff members. He has little consideration for military bearing or dress and seems to dislike the service and want out as soon as possible.”

Thompson was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1958, as recommended by his commanding officer, Col. William S. Evans, who wrote the above statements.

I will leave you with one quick quote written by Dr. Thompson in the Author’s Note to this book.

“Barnum (P.T) knew what people wanted: Freaks, Clowns, and Wild Animals. The Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town only once a year, and those days were marked as sacred holidays on the John Deere calendars of every Rube in America…Those dates were Special; many schools closed when the Circus came to town, and not every student returned when the public frenzy was over. “Running away with the Circus” was the dream of every schoolboy and the nightmare of every mother with a bored and beautiful daughter.”

-Hunter S. Thompson


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