21 02 2005
#623

Thompson is dead


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Hunter S. Thompson shoots self in head

"Fear and Loathing" author dead at 67

By Troy Hooper and Claire Martin
The Denver Post

Aspen - Hunter Stockton Thompson, who coined the term "gonzo journalism" to describe the unique and furiously personal approach to reportage exemplified in his 1972 book "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," died Sunday night of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Woody Creek home. He was 67, family members said.

Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, a friend of Thompson's, confirmed the death. Thompson's son, Juan, discovered his body Sunday evening.

"Dr. Hunter S. Thompson took his life with a gunshot to the head. ... The family will provide more information about (a) memorial service ... shortly. Hunter prized his privacy and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family," Juan and Anita Thompson, Hunter Thompson's wife, said in a statement.

"Details and interviews may be forthcoming when the family has had the time to recover from the trauma of the tragedy," Braudis said from Thompson's compound, Owl Farm.

Countless fans strove to imitate Thompson's startlingly candid first-person accounts that described legally errant escapades fueled by drugs, alcohol and nicotine, yet he maintained a savagely private personal life.

"Obviously, my drug use is exaggerated or I would be long since dead," he told a USA Today reporter in 1990.

He famously threatened to shoot trespassers, providing endless fodder for cartoonist Garry Trudeau's ongoing portrayal of Thompson as the hard- living Duke, named after Raoul Duke, a character in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." The book was made into a 1998 movie starring Johnny Depp.

Pitkin County Commissioner Dorothea Farris, who moved to Carbondale in the late 1980s after living in Woody Creek, called Thompson a "fine" neighbor despite the fact it was common to hear gunfire from his property. Firearms were abundant at Owl Farm, where he had his own shooting range.

The son of an insurance salesman who died when Thompson was in high school, Thompson grew up in Louisville, Ky., as a star athlete. Before graduation, he was arrested for robbery and served 30 days at a correctional facility. When he got out, Thompson joined the Air Force, where he caught up on credits and earned his diploma.

He was still enlisted when he studied journalism at New York's Columbia University, and began his career as editor of the Eglin Air Force Base newsletter, simultaneously moonlighting as a sportswriter for a local civilian paper.

In 1959, Thompson went on to become a Caribbean correspondent for Time magazine and the New York Herald Tribune. After relocating to South America, he wrote for the National Observer, and then returned to the U.S. and became the West Coast correspondent for The Nation.

Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner learned of Thompson from his columns for Scanlan's Monthly and Ramparts, and hired him as national affairs editor. This propelled Thompson and his cynical, heady reporting style to international fame. People who really did read Playboy for the articles began picking up Rolling Stone for Thompson's caroming take on politics, particularly his incendiary coverage of the 1972 presidential campaign.

"A lot of people really loved Hunter, and despised him at the same time," longtime friend and Rolling Stone photographer Lynn Goldsmith said."I know, having been a celebrity portrait photographer, that there are individuals who aren't like other people. That's because they're geniuses. So you can't expect them to act like a normal person."

Thompson seemed to revel in eccentricity. In 1968, he ran for Pitkin County sheriff but lost. He kept peacocks, the descendants of Hannibal, his storied watchdog-peacock in the 1970s.

Friends and acquaintances reeled on learning of his death.

"Oh, my God," sobbed Coleen Auerbach, mother of Lisl Auman, who was convicted of felony murder in 1998. Thompson championed Auman's cause, bringing his friends Warren Zevon and actor Benicio Del Torro to a rally protesting what Thompson believed was a wrongful conviction.

Jim Horowitz, who founded the Aspen Jazz Festival, remembered that Thompson invariably attended his event.

"He always seemed to materialize, kind of out of thin air, and always backstage, and always wearing his hat," Horowitz said.

Aspen friend Gerry Goldstein called Thompson "not only a national treasure but the conscience of this little village."

Thompson married twice, first to Sandra Dawn Thompson Tarlo, with whom he had one son, Juan Fitzgerald Thompson. He later married his longtime assistant, Anita Thompson, a native of Fort Collins. Besides his wife and son, survivors include a grandson, William Thompson.

Hunter Stockton Thompson

Born: July 18, 1937, in Louisville, Ky.

Married: Sandra Dawn, May 19, 1963 (divorced in 1980); Anita Beymuk, April 24, 2003

Children: One son, Juan

Education: Journalism, Columbia University

Career: Time, Caribbean correspondent, 1959; New York Herald Tribune, Caribbean correspondent, 1959-60; National Observer, South American correspondent, 1961-63; The Nation, West Coast correspondent, 1964-66; Ramparts, columnist, 1967-68; Scanlan's Monthly, columnist, 1969-70; Rolling Stone, national affairs editor, 1970-84; High Times, global affairs correspondent, 1977-82; San Francisco Examiner, media critic, 1985-90; candidate for sheriff of Pitkin County, 1968; executive director, Woody Creek Rod and Gun Club

Books: Among his writings, "Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga"; "The Curse of Lono"; "Generation of Swine"; "Better Than Sex"; "The Proud Highway"; "The Rum Diary"; "Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist."

Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2004

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