Tribute: Death of An Icon. Death of A Hero. R.I.P., Hunter.
It’s obvious to anyone that knows me in the world outside the Internet that Hunter S. Thompson had a profound effect on my life. Not just in my attempt(s) to be a writer, but my life in general. Combined with madness of Denis Leary, Hunter’s own mad genius help shape parts of my personality that still run prevalent to this day.
More obvious to anyone who has ever read my work at antiMUSIC, Hunter was a MASSIVE (and almost singular) influence on my style and tone. Hell, I freely admit there were a number of times in my career at antiMUSIC that I FLAT OUT ripped off Hunter Thompson. Why lie about it? It was pretty damn obvious. But I wasn’t necessarily meaning to rip him off, mostly I was paying a bit of homage.
One of my favorite “Hunter” moments didn’t directly involve Hunter at all. It was the summer of 2002 when I combined with my friend Dana and a couple others and we headed to Louisville, KY to attend Krazyfest 5. Louisville, for those of you who don’t know, was where Hunter Thompson was born and where he spent the first 20 or years of his life (give or take a few years.) So, here I was covering a music festival chock full of many of my favorite bands in the hometown of the man who inspired me to write in the first place. Sure, in the big scheme of things it probably means nothing…but to me it was important on levels that I’m not entirely sure I can properly explain. I’ve been back to Louisville since, hell I even got to go back to Krazyfest AGAIN to cover it for antiMUSIC.but nothing will compare to that first time.
In the last 12 hours or so since I found out about Hunter’s suicide I’ve dwelled a lot on what the man meant to me in the overall scheme of my life. And I kept coming back to The Moment That Never Was.” I went to cover the Mid Atlantic Music Experience (again, thanks to Keavin and his wonderful editor-ness.) in Lewisburg, WV. The festival (or Mid-X as it was known by those at the Festival) was strange….3 days of jam bands (and Clutch…a booking I never understood. But I didn’t complain about) playing to a crowd of various forms of hippies at the West Virginia State Fairgrounds in the absolute middle of nowhere. I remember when I first heard about the festival (I was working at a record store 45 minutes or so north of Lewisburg) I didn’t think much about it. I seem to recall my train of thought being something to the effect to “Clutch is playing…but hell I can see them at The Soundfactory pretty much anytime they go on tour. The hell with it.” Then I saw a FULL list of activities for the festival. Among the many, non-music related activities scheduled for the weekend was something called the “Gonzo Film Festival and Voter Registration Drive.” Then, below that, I saw (as my eyes widened) the listed Guest Speaker: Hunter S. Thompson. After seeing that, my goal was clear-Email Keavin, jump through any hoops necessary, get passes for the weekend and above all else GET AN INTERVIEW WITH THOMPSON! Hell, I didn’t care if I got 30 seconds to shake his hand, take a picture, maybe get my copy of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” autographed. An interview would have been nice, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath. Besides, what do you ask your Hero when you’re standing face to face with him anyway? I didn’t want to end up like Chris Farley in those old SNL skits where he had various Celebes on and would be totally piss scared? That was the thought that kept running through my head as I awaited word on whether or not I’d get that chance. “Remember when you wrote ‘Hells Angels?’ Yeah, that was cooooool.” Seriously…who wants to embarrass their self that bad in front of their hero? Anyway, as I’m sure most of you know, the interview never happened. Nor did the chance to meet Hunter. In the last week or so leading up to Mid-X, Hunter had to cancel his appearance due to (if I recall correctly) health problems. Needless to say, looking back on that now it bums me out that much more. The one chance I had to meet my hero came and went. I doubt I would have ever run across as good a chance to meet him, and now I’ll never have the chance. And that is just thing; I still can’t believe he’s gone. And from suicide at that. Now, out of respect for the Thompson family I’m not going to speculate or run off conspiracy theories, but lets just say that I’m having a very hard time believing the fact that the man who (if his legend is to be completely believed) ingested enough drugs to make Keith Richards blush and lived to tell his tale decided to end his own life.
There are easily a hundred things I could say in this, and this could turn into the longest eulogy/column/whatever in the history of the written word. But I’m not going to do that. I’ll close with this: Last week, Hunter FINALLY turned in another column for ESPN.com’s Page 2, the website that he helped bring notice to 4 years ago when it launched. Hunter had a bad habit of going months and months without turning in a column, in the process (undoubtedly) driving his editor insane (sound familiar?) Anyway, if the tone of this column shows us anything, it shows us that Hunter S. Thompson was giving us no reason to think, “This is the work of a suicidal man.” If anything, he seemed as goofy as ever. So, here it is, a link to what is apparently the last thing ever written by the King of Gonzo; SHOTGUN GOLF WITH BILL MURRAY
And with that, I leave you faithful reader.
I’m headed for the bar and I’ll raise my Rum high in your honor, Dr. Thompson.
See you on the other side.
“It never got weird enough for me.”-HST
**Note from the author** Please forgive the rambling nature of this piece. I am still very much in shock over this news - Dr Fever.