I haven’t given this much thought, so bear with me.
Waking up yesterday, I put my Hunter S. Thompson t-shirt on (yes, I own one) before realizing it was the seventh anniversary of his suicide.
His “final” words:
“No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun – for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax – This won’t hurt.”
Even his suicide note was brilliant.
I’ll never pretend to be Thompson. No one should. There was no one else like him and there will never be another. No one will work like him, write like him or think like him. You can’t fake it.
But any young writer who finds themselves lost in the doldrums of being trapped in a wash, rinse, repeat formula can take a lesson or two from Thompson, one of America’s greatest writers. No, you don’t have to go as far as writing your articles or stories on a head full of acid or spend your weekend on assignment by drinking to excess. There are other ways to learn.
I have a stack of Thompson’s books next to my desk at all times. Not on purpose, they’ve just been sitting there as I have nowhere else to keep them. But boy, do they come in handy. In a lackadaisical or uninspired writing state, opening up one of his collections of stories, essays or articles is instant inspiration. I dare you to read just a chapter of Hell’s Angels and not envy at Thompson’s ability to worm his way into the elusive, dangerous and misunderstood group of what America thought were the most depraved cretins of all time. It makes you want to do big things. In the book, Thompson profiles key members of the group, but also manages to analyze the way the media covered them and the way society thought about them. It’s for me one of the most inspirational journalistic works. Perhaps not the most important, but surely meaningful, fascinating and magical as Thompson adds to the lore of the biker gang’s devious ways.
With Gonzo on my mind and Monday not going my way, I did my journalistic work for the day before retiring to the most supreme visual take on Thompson’s work: Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I’ve now seen the movie more times than I can count. I also own it three times on a few formats (so if you’re looking for an extra copy, let me know). And there I was, diving into the bizarre mind of both Thompson and Gilliam, who dressed up Thompson’s latent and vivid words in the most terrifying way.
“The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride. “
There’s much to love about the film version created out of Thompson’s words. A colorful, drug-fueled atmosphere drive the film’s inner workings. It’s deviant America in a bottle. It’s full of life, fun and joy, but also drives the fear and paranoia into all our minds, whether clean sober or mimicking the behavior seen.
I also don’t think a more perfect combination of creative talent could have been assembled to turn Thompson’s words into wonderfully vivacious and twisted images. Between Gilliam’s quirky sense of direction and vision and Johnny Depp’s wonderful performance and dedication to completing his friend Thompson’s project, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas will remain a capsule of Thompson for the visually minded and can act as lens for its generation – albeit a lens drenched in drugs, blood and all things unnatural.
Thompson will always best be channeled through his writings and will always remain a huge influence on the way I work and live, but there’s something special about seeing it come together on screen. Numerous documentaries have been made on the man, and The Rum Diary and Where the Buffalo Roam also serve as fine film offerings. But nothing will ever touch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And no one should ever try.
Rest in peace, spirit in the sky.