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The Five Most Gonzo Stories About Hunter S. Thompson
Terrorizing Jack Nicholson, nearly blowing up Johnny Depp, and more.
By Alex Heigl
A rejection letter that Hunter S. Thompson sent to a prospective Rolling Stone contributor recently popped up online, and it got us thinking about the man, the myth, and the possibly apocryphal pile of stories surrounding his legend. Beyond the stomping by Hell's Angels, beyond the legendary Vegas bender, here are five of the good Doctor's finest moments.
1. He invented the sport of shotgun golf.
The story: Thompson was an avid sportsman and firearm enthusiast, so he was almost duty-bound to combine the two at some point in his life. Enter shotgun golf, first conceived with Bill Murray (of course) at 3:30 in the morning on a Tuesday, then written up for Thompson's last column for ESPN. The equipment list is short and sweet: golf club, golf ball, shotgun. (Preferably a 12-gauge.) The participants are a shooter, a golfer, and a judge, though the game can be expanded for two-man teams. The objective is simple: if you're golfing, you need to make it onto the green. If you're shooting, you need to blast your opponent's golf ball into oblivion. Two points are awarded for success on either end. Thompson played the first game with Aspen Sheriff Bob Braudis... and then John Cusack played a round with him after somehow being coerced (or bullied) into stealing Don Henley's car.
Likelihood that it actually happened: The game? It's real — people still play it. As for Cusack stealing Henley's car? I'd like independent clarification from Henley about that. I'll say it's possible, but only because Thompson must have seen something in Cusack.
Gonzo quotient: "Shotgun golf" is a profound melding of high and low culture, though it's unlikely Thompson had post-modern aesthetics on his mind when he called Bill Murray in the middle of the night. But nothing involving golf can be truly that badass, so this falls relatively low on the scale.
2. He used crates of dynamite as furniture, almost blowing up Johnny Depp in the process.
The story: Johnny Depp lived with Thompson for a while to get his mannerisms down for the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. His quarters were down in Thompson's basement, and apparently they were hastily assembled out of whatever was handy at the time: Depp recalls going to ash his cigarette into an ashtray on his bedside table and then casually noticing that the table itself was a crate of dynamite. He called Thompson down to the basement and asked if the dynamite was real; Thompson replied, "Good God, Colonel [his nickname for Depp]! You could have blown us all to bits!" Explosions seemed par for the course during the tenure of Depp and Thompson's friendship. Their relationship began with Depp blowing up propane tanks in Thompson's yard, and ended with the actor bankrolling Thompson's request to have his ashes shot out of a cannon.
Likelihood that it actually happened: Multiple parties have confirmed Thompson's love of explosions, and a police search of his compound at Owl Creek did turn up several sticks of dynamite at one point, so I'm going to go with "likely."
Gonzo quotient: The fact that Thompson had so much dynamite simply lying around his home that he actively misplaced a crate of it is indicative of how much the man loved to blow shit up. Johnny Depp living in his basement like some kind of wacky sitcom roommate only adds to the gonzoness.