3. He terrorized Jack Nicholson on his birthday.

The story: Thompson's birthday celebration for his friend Jack Nicholson consisted of the following, outlined in his book Kingdom of Fear: "a massive outdoor amplifier, a tape recording of a pig being eaten alive by bears, a 1,000,000-watt spotlight, and a 9-mm Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol with teakwood handles and a box of high-powered ammunition." Oh, and a frozen elk's heart, which he left on the actor's doorstep while he played the tape through his Jeep and the amplifier, and let off a couple rounds from the Smith & Wesson.

Likelihood that it actually happened: This one's confirmed and corroborated by both Jack Nicholson and his then-partner, Anjelica Houston.

Gonzo quotient: Considering Nicholson had just had a brush with an actual stalker and was home with his two young daughters at the time, this might fall a little to the "jerk" side of the gonzo scale.

 

 

4. He autographed books by shooting them.

The story: Writer Douglas Brinkley describes taking a group of students to meet Thompson at Owl Creek. Though some of the students voiced their concern that Thompson might spike their drinks with LSD (possible, though that was probably more of a Ken Kesey move), Thompson had other plans. He had the students line up one by one, propping the copies of his books they'd brought for autographs up against a tree, then using his .44 Magnum to blast a hole through each book. The ritual was completed in near-silence: Thompson's only utterances were "Next!" and (in Brinkley's words) "the occasional primal scream to keep everybody on high alert."

Likelihood that it actually happened: I've only heard this memory recounted by Brinkley, so it's possible that it was a one-time thing Thompson cooked up for what he must've seen as a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears writing students. But the story seems to be on the level. Physical evidence will have to wait until one of those bullet-riddled books goes up on eBay.

Gonzo quotient: Imagine you're a young Thompson fan. Then imagine Thompson blowing a hole through your treasured, dog-eared copy of your favorite book with a massive handgun. The philosophical implications of shooting holes in your own work are interesting, but Thompson probably just enjoyed playing with guns more than signing autographs. Still — pretty gonzo.
 

 

 

5. He turned a fire extinguisher on Jann Wenner.

The story: One night, while staying at Owl Creek, a pot-addled Wenner failed to pay as much attention to a Joni Mitchell album as Thompson wanted him to. Thompson elected to wake him up by discharging a fire extinguisher at Wenner, who awoke coughing and blinded by the spray. Wenner was often on the receiving end of Thompson's "pranks," to give a kind name to what was often closer to sadism. A now-famous Annie Leibovitz photograph (above) depicts Thompson engaging in one of his favorite party tricks: spitting fire. Hunter called his pyromaniacal tendencies toward Wenner "the ultimate ambition every writer has about his editor."

Likelihood that it actually happened: There's photographic evidence of the fire-spitting. The extinguisher story could just be an invention — but at this point, does it really sound like one?

Gonzo quotient: Considering that Wenner was one of Thompson's biggest champions and his technical boss, and kept him on the Rolling Stone masthead long after Thompson stopped contributing to the magazine, the fact that Thompson continually assaulted him is pretty gonzo. (That said, these days, rare is the Rolling Stone issue that I open that doesn't conjure in me the urge to set Wenner on fire.)

Commentarium (23 Comments)

Aug 19 11 - 1:05am
MSM

I heard--from former Rolling Stone COO Jim Dunning--that Thompson once coerced Dunning to get into a little motorboat and sail from Key West to Havana. At gunpoint. Dr. Thompson will forever be my hero.

Aug 19 11 - 8:16am
AntiSocial

Probably schizophrenic but adored by those who enjoyed his antics more than they cared to help him. RIP Hunter, I hope you found peace.

Aug 19 11 - 1:12pm
KRK

There he goes, one of God's own prototypes, never considered for mass production. Too crazy to live, too weird to die.

Aug 19 11 - 3:48pm
man

Another hack whom hipster dufus apathetically admire....

Aug 20 11 - 11:12am
mb

Read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.

Aug 20 11 - 9:27pm
Steve

Another hipster who thinks the things that other hipsters love are too hipsterish.

Aug 25 11 - 3:44pm
Your Mother

Shut up, Steve.

Oct 17 11 - 1:40pm
Corey

Must fools criticise that which they dont understand. "man" is simply one of these many fools

Aug 20 11 - 9:13am
Brandt Hardin

What an awesome post and article- a couple of these I had never heard, particularly terrorizing Jack Nicholson. Thompson influenced the past few generations with his invention of Gonzo Journalism. His work and antics will live on to influence even more generations to come. I paid tribute to Hunter S Thompson and his work with my portrait and article on my artist's blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/02/in-memoriam-hunter-s-thompson...

Aug 20 11 - 9:27pm
Steve

Imagine a sitcom about Johnny Depp and Thompson living together, with Depp playing both rolls...

Aug 25 11 - 3:46pm
Your Mother

They titled it Californication, and it sucks. Shut up, Steve.

Aug 21 11 - 10:09am
Jay

In Ralph Steadman's book "The Joke's over" He describes the first time he met Hunter S Thompson. Apparently Steadman had never been to American and was at the Kentucky Derby. Baffled by the American's he saw in the diner where he met up with Thompson he began to draw them in his trademark style. Thompson freaked out thinking that the people around them would think he is insane so he began to beat the living crap out of Steadman in the Diner and throw him out the door. Thompson later explained it was for his own good.

Aug 21 11 - 8:52pm
Giggles

Hunter S. Thompson was a true friend of masochistic mouthbreathers who mistook extreme assholery for talent. They are not the same - honest. Thank the effin' gods there is one less asshole in the world, and the best part is that he orchestrated his own exit. Thank you Hunter for killing yourself - you were a misogynistic, self-obsessed, hateful prick.

Aug 25 11 - 10:40am
Louise G.

You are fucking retarded.

Aug 25 11 - 3:47pm
Your Father

And you love asshole men who tell you what to do. Shut up, bitch.

Oct 17 11 - 1:41pm
Corey

i agree go fuck yourself giggles

Apr 02 12 - 9:46am
Danny O'Doul

What is it with these guys who spew nonsense about Hunter Thompson? Have they even read any of his writings? Can they even read? I have almost everything he wrote, and when he was on - he was perhaps the most alive and exciting writers with the most resonant voice.

Apr 13 12 - 6:27pm
Baron Von Buzzkill

I think he's allowed to voice his opinion. Hunter made innumerable enemies in his life and was known for really leaning hard on people and constantly getting away with it.

If you read a lot about the man-- and not by himelf, you'd learn that Thompson was not all he was cracked up to be.. and he knew it too.

sonny Barger, the leader of the Oakland chapter of the Hell's Angels said it right when he said he had the right to think Hunter Thompson was an asshole. Barger says that just because someone is famous and talented and amazing at what they do doesn't make them a good guy.

Thompson is by far my favorite writer and his impression, no doubt, is left on thousands of people including myself. That man is the reason why I took the career trajectory that I did.. but I dont claim to know the man, and just because you've read his writing doesn't mean you should eihter.

Aug 23 11 - 1:22am
gr

Discharging a Smith&Wesson model 29 on a Harley: is there a more American late-20th century pop-culture image than that? Lawdy-Lew, i love them both (although i currently possess two examples of the former and none of the latter).

Yet I wonder about those who diss Hunter: don't they see that he tapped into a very rich and real vein of American culture?

Mr (Ms?) Giggles, however Mr. Thompson chose to make his exit, what about the values -- and elements of American culture -- that he spoke for? You may not like them, but they are here. And -- i should say -- "misogynistic" is not a fair characterization of his written views.

Aug 27 11 - 11:54am
Mack

He was a self fertilizing, self harvesting, jerk...tried too hard, and, thereby, missed always.

Sep 22 11 - 5:39am
Micah

Why read the article if you are just going to troll? Oh, I just answered my own question.

Aug 11 12 - 9:56pm
weirdoiest

What alot of you seem to have ignored is his writing which is completely unique and will stand the test of time. He writes with an energy and a pace that I have never come across elsewhere. He may have been an asshole and self promoter but his art cannot be denied.

Aug 23 12 - 7:02pm
TrickyDick

Guns, drugs, whiskey, high powered vehicles, football and politics. A truly american diet. I think that these Gonzo haters are well, essentially pussies. Im sure that there's the illusion of academic eliteism too..but like I said -bleeding pussies