In memory of a true giant, a conqueror and political junkie. To the journalist, the humorist, the masochist and the rebel. To Hunter.
Hunter will always be a part of me. I happened upon him at the tender age of fifteen, and when you get into Hunter you GET into Hunter. By senior year of high-school I was a full blown addict, with Hunter guiding me in every decision. Once you've been exposed, you'll be inhabited for life, with Hunter popping out at any given moment.
It's amazing how an idea or a character can influence one's own voice, one's actions, allowing the beast relief. Bill Murray, after impersonating Hunter in Where the Buffalo Roam, warned Johnny Depp that once you allow Hunter to enter your brain, he'll always be there, popping out at certain times. You can see this in Depp today. More than ever he has become a surrogate Thompson.
Johnny Depp has portrayed the Good Doctor in two films, Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1998, and Bruce Robinson's The Rum Diary in 2011. Fear and Loathing, while not perfect, is by far the superior film but is also an adaptation of a far superior novel. The Rum Diary is about half an hour too long, mostly from the first half. It succeeds in showing a writer finding his voice, with bouts of humor from time to time, but the movie on a whole is a failure. For the first hour of the film we learn nothing of Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp), and the laughs had in the trailer are edited so poorly that not a single one lands.
The single moment that finally kicks the film into gear is the scene in which Kemp and Sala (Michael Rispoli) take LSD for the first time. Like anyone who has experimented with hallucinogenics, a door is opened that makes sense to Kemp, things fit. He has his epiphany. The voice of Kemp/Thompson/Duke is born, and it is a great fucking scene.
It's a film that's supposed to be a writer finding his voice, his reason for writing, and by the end we are with him. Unfortunately the hour and a half lead up bores one almost to the point of giving up. Hell, you could even skip to the acid scene and you'll get a great 40 minute short film.
Recommendation: Only for the hardcore fans of HST, even then...
I was also enraged by an article in pastemagazine.com entitled "Hunter S. Thompson for Dummies: Five Books to Get You Started". Instead of hurling vitriolic statements of rage and disillusionment, the title alone causes my teeth to grind, I shall provide my own list of the Essential Hunter S. Thompson:
Includes the first experiment in Gonzo Journalism, excerpts and essays on a variety of topics, a collection that makes up Hunter's mission statement. From his first encounter with Ralph Steadman in The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved to his obituary of Oscar Zeta Acosta, the book encapsulates Thompson during his greatest literary achievements.
2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
If you haven't read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you're truly missing out on one of the 20th centuries most important reads. The humor on display is nothing short of brilliance, something recognized when P.J. O'Rourke said he was "the Mark Twain of this generation,". A MUST READ.
3. Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72
Whether meditating on the rumor of Ed Muskie's serious Ibogaine addiction, or seeing a wounded McGovern lose to Thompson's worst enemy, Richard Nixon, Campaign Trail '72 is the definitive book on political campaigns and the humor and vile corruption that balances such a critical industry. If you care at all about politics, this is a no-brainer. Pick it up.
4. Better than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie
If only for the "story" of his first encounter with Bill Clinton, a snorting, sniveling beast of a man who snarls at the slightest sign of anyone trying to share a fry. He eats like he cheats, messily. There's only one dress with a stain on it, but he has a whole collection of suits with McDonald's Big Mac stains on them. This was Hunter's comeback after a disappointing decade: the eighties.
5. Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century
His article on 9/11 is worth the price of the book alone. Here you get an aged Hunter, one who's seen the ups and downs and has nothing to lose. The words display an emotional honesty not seen in prior works. It was almost as if he needed to get it all out, the end was near. It's in the subtitle. It was time.
This past Wednesday was the seventh anniversary of his death, February 20th, 2005. Hunter being Hunter he left a note:
Only Hunter could so succinctly sum up his emotions into a poem of deep meaning and truth. It's beauty is haunting and I miss him very much. In Honor of Hunter S. Thompson, a true outlaw and a drummer to the tune of truth. Cheers.
A short documentary on Hunter entitled Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood: