Hunter Thompson's last shot

Hunter Thompson is out of here today. His ashes have been packed in among a brass monkey of fireworks shells -- and the delivery mechanism be a thing of beauty: A 150-foot tall tower in the shape of the gonzo fist holding a peyote button, which was the insignia of his Aspen Freak Party.

For a precious moment after Thompson's death, our entire print media devoted some space to consider what was so great about the man. And while many exposed their transparent jealousies and anti-drug bias, the public at least got to hear that yes, there once was a writer who wrote how he pleased about American life and politics while on cocktails of psychadelics and amphetamines, and it just so happened to be some of the most lucid stuff ever written.

Among the countless obituaries, the one I enjoyed the most was William Greider's:


If you go back and read what he wrote, particularly about politics, it was laden with this sense of yearning for something decent and honest and honorable to happen. And that wasn't fake. He really felt that. And on a personal level, he really did share your pain. It's a cliché now, but he wanted you to get over it, whatever it was. It was almost like "let's get out of this, this is bad."
Greider also captures the moment when Thompson goes down to Little Rock, Arkansas, with the Rolling Stone royalty to meet with Bill Clinton after he won the Democratic nomination in 1992:
Hunter had brought down to Little Rock various gifts for Clinton. He had decided this rendezvous we had with Clinton was going to be the four of us delivering the Rolling Stone vote to the Clinton people. That's a put on; on the other hand, he wants to believe this.
We then go to the interview, and the first gift was these reeds for a tenor saxophone. He had gotten these special French reeds which he regarded as really extraordinary. They were actually pretty routine. He gave them to Clinton and Clinton kind of looked at them, rolled them around in front of his face. Hunter later described the future president as "Sniffing the saxophone reeds like a chimp." Which is just right.
His other present for Clinton, which was quite spectacular, was a photograph he had made, and it was blown up huge, like a 3-foot by 4-foot photograph in a frame, that he had had shipped down from Colorado to Little Rock. And the photograph showed Hunter squatting on his haunches in the night, firing a rifle at a big drum of gasoline. And when he fired the drum the gasoline ignites, and blows this huge flame back in his face. It was quite striking, a dramatic picture, and Hunter entitled it, "Politics is a dirty business."
My only complaint about the funeral service for Thompson is this: Johnny Depp is to be the master of ceremonies, and I think Depp isn't up to the task. Hunter, I guess, liked him, vetted him to play himself in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," but that doesn't make it OK. Depp has made a bunch of safe-for-Hollywood counter-culture films, and he wasn't even a very good Hunter Thompson when he played him. HST's judgement wasn't always right, especially in his later life.

The obvious master of ceremonies is the guy who knew him from day one, and helped distribute Thompson to fame through Rolling Stone. His brother-in-arms, Jann Wenner.
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