Home / Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Remembered by Former Presidents and Distinguished Writers

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Remembered by Former Presidents and Distinguished Writers

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Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was not a shallow, selfish schmuck.

Al Barger on Blogcritics.org leads with:

    “Hunter S Thompson was a shallow, selfish schmuck.”

Then Mr. Barger quickly allows:

    “Now, he made some at least moderately valuable contribution to the art of letters. His first person narrative style was innovative, and highly readable.”

The second statement of Mr. Barger seems to be far more accurate than the first.

No less than Henry Allen in The Washington Post called Thompson the “Prose Laureate of the Age of Paranoia.”

And look what President Jimmy Carter and Pat Buchanan have to say about Hunter below.

Schmuck?! I don’t think so. Talk about shooting a dead man in his grave. Simply unconsciousable.

A tribute to the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson appears in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. The magazine published many of Thompson’s original gonzo journalism pieces and editor Jann Wenner should be acknowledged for its risky publishing.

Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner writes in his tribute “My Brother in Arms”:

“These are sad days here at ROLLING STONE. This morning I cried as I struck “National Affairs Desk: Hunter S. Thompson” from the masthead — after thirty-five years. Hunter’s name is now listed with Ralph Gleason’s on what Hunter would have called “the honor roll.” Hunter was part of the DNA of ROLLING STONE, one of those twisting strands of chemicals around which a new life is formed. He was such a big part of my life, and I loved him deeply.”

Here are a few highlights of the issue via washingtonpost.com:

President Jimmy Carter:

“Hunter Thompson was a delightful, unpredictable and unforgettable friend of mine for more than 30 years. He interviewed me for many hours, tape-recording extensive conversations about every conceivable subject, some of which were quite discomforting. Later, I learned, with some relief, that he had lost all the tapes.

Thompson threatened my press secretary, Jody Powell, if he didn’t gain immediate access [for a re-interview]. One night he even built a fire in front of Jody’s hotel-room door in an attempt to smoke him out.”

Pat Caddell (George McGovern strategist on the ’72 campaign): [On a white-knuckle car ride with fellow passenger Warren Beatty and Thompson at the wheel].

“He nearly drove them off a bridge into the Potomac. He was jumping the medians and scaring the [expletive] out of everybody.”

Pat Buchanan (aide to Richard Nixon during the ’68 campaign):

“Hunter and I were holed up in some hotel in Nashua [New Hampshire] and discovered that we were in possession of either a gallon or a half-gallon of Wild Turkey. I had a lot of stamina in those days, and the two of us stayed up all night arguing fiercely about communism — it got pretty vicious by dawn.”

More on Thrasher’s Blog and Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo Journalist and Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Remembered.

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About Thrasher

  • Thrasher, thanks for posting this.

    You know what the great problem with Internet forums is? The old fact that it’s easier to make charges than it is to defend them. This is never more true than in sudden events like Thompson’s suicide. In the immediate hours and days following, the airtime and the webtime belongs to people who basically like blowing off steam. This, of course, requires no work at all, just a point of view — “Hunter S. Thompson was a shallow, selfish schmuck,” for example — and the energy to restate it as many times as possible with as much venom as you can muster. The Internet is like cable news — the beast must be fed! More anger! More bile! More cheap assertions without proof! Just type, type, type and hit the old post button!

    If you want to answer all this, of course, it takes time. Time to read or re-read Thompson and bolster whatever views you have with passages from his writing. That can be hard to do within a small time frame — as my own measly piece attests — but I genuinely believe over the long haul that the Al Bargers of the world will not have their way with Thompson’s corpse. More people will read his best work, and I think they’ll see that it isn’t going to go away any time soon. Ars longa, vita brevis — suck on that, yuppie scum.

  • Thrasher, thanks for the thoughtful reply to my criticisms. This is SO much better than some of schmucks in my HST threads who have no better defense than to curse me- not that I don’t deserve a good cussin’ from time to time.

    Also thanks for noticing that I didn’t simply trash him or call him worthless. He had some good points in his favor as a writer.

    Still, I don’t think you’ve really disproven the basic “shallow, selfish schmuck” charge. Yes, he had some famous friends and admirers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

    None of the quotes you provide here are even an argument that he was profound or concerned with the welfare of others, which would be the opposites of what I was charging. Particularly, that quote of Pat Caddell absolutely re-inforces my point particularly of selfishness. He was recklessly endangering the lives of other people both the VIPs in the car and other people on the streets for cheap thrills. How does this show anything other than selfish, schmuckish disregard for the welfare of others?

  • Charles Dickens children hated him. Who gives a shit?

  • And by the way, you do realize of course that one could very easily assemble a column proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ayn Rand was a shallow, selfish — that’s a good thing with her and you, isn’t it? — vindictive old bitch, right? I mean, there are BOOKS on the subject…

  • Nick Jones

    Rodney, you missed this and this.

    “Ayn Rand presented Objectivism as a philosophy of reason. But is it? That is the question Scott Ryan seeks to answer in this careful examination of the Objectivist epistemology and its alleged sufficiency as the philosophical foundation of a free and prosperous commonwealth. Sorting painstakingly through Rand’s writings on the subject, Mr. Ryan concludes that the epistemology of Objectivism is incoherent and debases both the concept and the practice of rationality.

  • See, you have no positive defense of HST here, Rodney. You’re showing nothing but bitter, mindless partisanship and hatred.

    I guess these are discussion and debate tactics you learned from Hunter.

    And how the hell does a criticism of Rand’s views on epistemology constitute a defense of the foolishness of HST?

  • >>And by the way, you do realize of course that one could very easily assemble a column proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ayn Rand was a shallow, selfish — that’s a good thing with her and you, isn’t it? — vindictive old bitch, right?<< Um, I think she was aware of this and perhaps even proud of it. Dave

  • I would say that Rand’s book “The Virtue of Selfishness” pretty well solves this ‘mystery’.

  • Rodney – Thanks for the comments. Yes, the rush to judgement does tend to distort things quite a bit.

    Art – Also, thanks for your comments, too. Appreciate the level response.

    I do think the direction this thread goes does raise a lot of salient arguments about the artist and his art.

    I strongly believe that all art should be interpreted strictly only on its merits. The artists’ personailty, etc should not be relavant.

    Of course, this takes us off into all sorts of rocky terrain.

    For instance, do folks think less of the Who’s music based on allegations against Pete Townshend? Likewise, Michael Jackson & his music? And on & on.

    If we throw out art because of artists personality flaws/mistakes we would not be left with much would we?

    Lastly, let’s discuss Dr Thompson’s work on it’s merits and not on his personality and its flaws. No argument that HST isn’t exactly the best role model for youth, but his ourve ius a force to be reckoned with.

  • OK, but understand that Al takes huge loads of crap over Rand for her personality and how it reflects on her work. I understand if Al’s is deflecting in the same way here.

  • there’s something inherently funny about seeing the words “hunter s. thompson” and “oeuvre” in the same sentence.

  • The personal life of an artist is sometimes relevant to understanding their art to a greater or lesser extent. Stephen King’s personal life wouldn’t shed much light on his novels, for example. Nor would there be much reason to care who Tom Clancy is sleeping with.

    Other people, though, are somewhat different. Their life is their art to some extent. Bob Dylan, for example, went to great effort to build up a personal mythology that’s bigger than any of his actual songs.

    Hunter Thompson certainly falls squarely into this category. He was writing to a significant extent just exactly about his personal adventures. You’re not primarily reading about the 1972 presidential campaign in Fear and Loathing, but about Thompson’s adventures in covering it.

    If Thompson hadn’t put so much emphasis in the actual writing on his personality and (mis)adventures, I wouldn’t mention them. I wouldn’t even be aware of them in the first place.

    Rand’s personality and private life were not the topic of her writing, and thus much less relevant to a discussion of her art. Perhaps, though, her personal life might help illuminate her work. Thing is, people mostly bitch about Rand’s private life as a cheap smear rather than answering her philosophical arguments. Certainly, Ayn Rand’s private life is utterly irrelevant to a discussion of Hunter Thompson’s writing.

    The idea of “selfishness” does rate a comparison between Rand and Thompson, perhaps. As I said in my essay, contrast objectivist ideas of enlightened self interest against Thompson’s pure thoughtless self indulgence. There’s all the difference in the world between a Randian businessman hero and HST getting wasted and giving a bunch of grief to some security guard or hotel staff.

  • Eric Olsen

    as has been stated, there are three issues here: the art, the life, the intersection of the two. I would say there is general agreement, including from Al, that Thompson was at minimum an important writer who had a very stron impact on the culture. There is much more disagreement on his basic nature, but I see even his staunchest defenders are not really denying that he was a selfish, heedless asshole, but basically say — as I recall Dan Aykroyd did in the wake of John Belushi’s grim, tawdry death — that some people are above the constraints of “normality,” which ironically sounds pretty damned Randian to me.

    Because of Thompson’s highly autobiographical (if also fantasmagoric) style of writing, his personality and behavior are certainly fair game, if also untimately not determinant of the value of his writing.

  • gonzo marx

    oh my stars and garters…

    an interesting juxtaposition of HST and Ayn Rand going on here..

    especially since both were quite influential due to their Writings and the philosophies inherently implied

    one Thought to share here, both were quite influenced by consumption of prodigious quantities of chemical substances..

    in Hunters case it was most everything he could get his hands on…weed, wild turkey, acid, mescaline, coke..you name it..and Hunter at least tried it , if not lived off of it..

    with Rand, on the other hand, there is the spectre of her 20+ year dexedrine habit…a simple comparison of the tight, thoughtful prose utilized in the Fountainhead as compared to the rambling pounding of the same few points over and over again blatantly apparent in Atlas Shrugged will show just how a runaway speed addiction will affect your creative output and thinking process.

    but i digress…

    what tickled me about the comparison of these two Literary figures is the simple fact that they were both working from a similar underlying principle in all of their Work…

    i put it to you, gentle Readers, that both of these Writers were communicating the same Thought…the the Right of the Individual in all things that did not Harm any other Individual superceded any claims made by the State.

    this is a very Powerful political statement, and it is my Opinion that both of these Authors were Advocates of this position..

    “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”…this is the Creed that is supposedly underlying the American way of Existance…and what better Way of Manifesting that Spirit than in the thoughtful comparison of these two authors?

    to me, Hunter was more about conveying his Points via Parable than he was about any type of “objectivist” journalism…as many “reporters” of his era had put it “Hunter may well have written the least factual, but most truthful, account of the ’72 campaign”

    in this, the use of Parable to make a point, HST should stand in good company…many great Teachers in human history utilized this technique…Aesop, Buddha, Yeshua ben Miriam, Robert A. Heinlein…the list goes on and on…

    does he belong up near the top of such a list?

    who the fuck knows, i doubt it since most of his Work is so implicitly tied to the Times of his Life…that is for those that come after us to think about and Judge, as History is wont to do…not for your humble Narrator..

    as for the comparison of a Randian, idealized, capitalist “hero” in juxtaposition to HST giving some security guard or hotel staff “grief”

    i might point out that they were doing the same type of Thing…the Randian “hero” tweaking the nose of corrupt “authority” and the System that held down the “hero” from pursuing his Objectivist goals and HST’s semi-mythical rebellion against the petty rules of small time Authority as represented by that guard or clerk…

    just my one six billionths of the world’s Opinion…what’s yours?


  • I went to a good HST tribute Thursday in San Francisco. It was so packedIhadto wait an hour to get in. I haven’t had a chance to put the photos I took online yet.

    There also will be another one at the main library in SF on May 22nd.

  • godoggo

    1st of all, curse you, Al Barger, you bastard. 2nd, Christ, you’re the one who brought up Rand in your post, what do you expect?

  • Tristan

    “curse you” ~~~
    that’s an awfully strong expletive for use in this space don’t ya think ~~???

    and why do all these people crucify hunter just because he liked to use every substance known to man to inebriate himself with~~

    so what …????

  • godoggo

    We curse because we love.

  • Eric: “I see even his staunchest defenders are not really denying that he was a selfish, heedless asshole…”

    I didn’t know him, Eric. Neither did you. Neither does Al. Neither do 99 percent of the people who write in here. If you want to know what he was like as a person, talk to the people who knew him; you’ll get a variety of responses, including those of Jimmy Carter, George McGovern, Jann Wenner, Johnny Depp, and a lot of other friends and acquaintances who thought well of him.

    If we don’t always know whether what HST said was true and what wasn’t, it applies equally that we don’t really know how much of a prick he was — and if we did know, it’s not relevant. Yes, true, he went out in a pretty selfish way, it would seem, but so do a lot of otherwise decent souls.

    The point I’m making is that Thompson’s oeuvre (is there a better word?) should be — and will be — judged by more interesting and important and less sensational criteria than how nice a guy he was and whether he followed the civic club virtues we like to think we espouse.

    “And how the hell does a criticism of Rand’s views on epistemology constitute a defense of the foolishness of HST?”

    All I’m saying, Al, is that it’s just as easy to nail Rand for her personality as it is Thompson. Don’t Rand’s defenders think her life is as exemplary as her thought?

  • gonzo marx

    well said , Rodney…

    very similar to the points i was attempting to make in my previous Posting in this Thread

    what galls me in this whole debacle revolves around tiny souled folks attempting to tear down the good Doctor after his untimely Demise..

    typical of the times in actuality…let someone Left of center Fall and the vultures stream out, cawing and pecking before the Corpse is even cold…

    yet do make note that the Reverse has NOT been the case…when Nixon died, or even Reagan, NO ONE started tearing them down..folks either said something Positive about them, or said nothing at all…the only comment i have been able to find about Nixon that HST made was “he sure knew his football”

    how’s that for the Grace of a southern gentleman, eh?

    two different Postings made about HST’s demise by Al Barger were on the Thread list today…both with highly negative connotations..and my meager sense of it all runs something along the lines of, and i paraphrase here, “he did drugs, therefore everything he did was bad”

    hence one of my Points from aforementioned previous Posting..many great Artists have accomplished quite a bit while puruing the “high” that helped them thru the day…Thompson was definately one of them…so was Coleridge, Poe…too many modern Musicians to list…

    ah..i can hear the slavering Minions of the “Right” now…let me cut some of their Thunder off at the pass…if i may be allowed to mix Metaphors…

    you believe that no one on the same side of the Fence as you are in the same boat?

    Al’s own Ayn Rand was a well documented, notorious speed freak (20 years of doctor prescribed dexedrine habit), we will not even get into alcohol since it is “unlawful” drugs that will raise the ire…

    how about good olde Rush Limbaugh?..oh, you say it was for pain that all that oxycontin was consumed for more than 10 years?…i beg to differ, as any junkie can tell you, you take the pill for pain…you crush the pill up and snort it for the High

    and so on and so forth

    so let the Doctor rest..and show the same Courtesy that has been shown to your Revered Dead…it IS very easy to slam on folks that can’t defend themselves…

    i mean…c’mon…even Nixon would have blushed on getting in bed with the Mafia to import cocaine to finance buying guns from the Iranians to foster a revolution in central america after congress told you not to..

    but i digress….


  • Thanks Godoggo, I needed a good cussin’

    Also, I do not object to comparisons between Rand and HST, just trying to point them in a useful direction. I absolutely intended to encourage such. However, simply claiming that Ayn was a dirtbag does not constitute much of an attack on her literary merit, and no argument whatsoever FOR Hunter Thompson.

    However, I would say that tales of Ayn’s personal misbehavior are overstated, and blown out of proportion. She was harsh in her personal assessments sometimes, and some folk found her difficult or impossible to get along with. However, she never heedlessly risked the very lives of many innocent people as per the Pat Caddell quote in the original article here.

    Also, as to who to raise their hell with, Rand was generally much better than Hunter. She tended to take on the big fish, ready to tangle asses with William F Buckley or every university professor in the land. She did not give, but also did not ask quarter.

    On the other hand, she generally got on reasonably well with working class people. She would never in life have dreamed of some Barbara Streisand nonsense where the help are instructed not to look you in the eye. I’ve heard very little in the way of personal complaints from personal staff, gardeners and maids and such. She would tend, within the limits of what she could wrap her mind around, to express a fairly egalitarian access to the machinations of her meritocracy.

    Hunter Thompson, however, was notable for sucking up to cool famous people- but screw the pee-ons. Wanting to get on with Jimmy Carter or Warren Zevon, he could certainly be very charming.

    But I notice that none of the tributes to HST have been by any of those security guards, maids, and other nothing creatures whose purpose was to be the amusing butt of his hijinks.

    Arguably, Rand was arguably not entirely 100% able to fulfill her own perfect ideals, but she tried. The relatively little ways in which her life was a failure were arguably mostly caused by the darker moments where temperament at times overwhelmed her better judgment.

    All of which, again, is neither an argument against Rand’s philosophy, nor an argument FOR HST.

  • gonzo marx

    ah…more spin..

    c’mon Al..address some of the Points i raised?

    or am i ..as a common peon, to beneath yer notice?

    if you would actually take the time to READ any of HST’s works in their entirety, then perhaps you would get a brader viewpoint that might disagree with your preconceived notions..countless bits in there of himn and “normal” folks interacting on the friendliest of levels..as i stated elsewhere..he tended to “pick on” small souled , self important “authority” figures…not regular folks..so i will take you poorly conceived comments as partisan spin , especially since you have no FACTS to back them up..so much for Objectivism…tsk tsk

    but i digress

    or perhaps the recent show on Biography, with the personal interviews from his son, ex-wife, even Ralph Steadman, who had been the butt of many “jokes” by the good Doctor might shed some light on the Issue and thus enlightened you further..many others made more comments, including the current sheriff of Aspen

    as for Rand’s “darker days” as you put it..my only beef with anything she did personally was her attempt at making Nathaniel Branden an “un-person” after their romantic break up(ironic for someone who escaped Stalin and professed hatred for all it stood for, eh?)..tossing him from the Objectivist offices, which he helped found, and removing all mention of him as much as possible..as well as her public diatribes against him during that time period..

    i believe it may have been partially due to the dexedrine’s notorious paranoia side effect, or perhaps a little un-Objective hurt that her ex-lover had rejected her…after all , she beleived she had created this very real “john galt” herself…how dare he have his own mind and Opinion?…but those are merely my own speculations

    Mr. Branden still refuses to speak ill of her…in the same way that Hunter’s ex-wife, Sandy does not speak ill of him, quite to the contrary…she who was his mate for 20 years had nothing but good to say of him, all the while making no excuses for his excesses and strangeness

    add to that her personal accounts of how many of the “little people” in the Aspen community cared for him, and he for them…add even more how many of the “pee-ons” stood with him, stayed at Owl Farm, and spoke only well of him during his run for Sheriff…

    the list goes on and on…

    but i see you just simply cannot be “Objective” on this subject…instead you must spin and smear …keep it up, perhaps someday you will get to be a flack/writer for O’Reilly, DeLay or even Herr Goebbels…err…Gingrich

    so much for Objectivism…too bad..i always thought it had potential..a shame the last vestiges of it died when Alan Greenspan shifted from Expert to political hack…

    at least i can still hear Nathaniel Branden speak on occasion…the only true Voice to come out of that Movement..

    too bad we never got him and Hunter into the same room with a video camera…that would have been Fun!!


  • Stephen King’s personal life wouldn’t shed much light on his novels

    i know what you’re getting at al, but King isn’t a great example.

    there are all sorts of bits of King’s life spread throughout his books. much of it had to do with stuff going on in the state of Maine while he wrote them.

    …but i think you had to be in living there at the time to know that (which i was).

  • Tristan

    Photographer for White House child sex ring arrested after Thompson suicide:


  • I wonder what Thompson would have thought about Katrina, etc…

  • OK… so let’s not discuss John deCamp-Rusty Nelson-Gannon-Gosch-Guckert etc.
    Let me just note in passing, how our beloved anti-establishment icon is held in adoring reverence by such prominent CFR members as:
    -William F. Buckley
    -Ed Bradley
    -Douglas Brinkley
    -Jimmy Carter
    also a very good pal of Pinochet apologist Pat Buchanan-maybe Pat got HST a good deal on cattle prods…