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Dead Gonzo: Glorification of Suicide?

As in life, there is a twlight blurring of the boundaries between Hunter S. Thompson as esteemed literary figure, and the actual person who lived on this earth. Even his family participates in the myth-making, buying into — at least publicly — the legitimacy and even heroism of his suicide, seeing it as a form of self-determination and consistent with his esprit de vive.

Among the statements, Douglas Brinkley, a historian and author who edited some of Thompson’s work, said the dead gonzo shot himself Sunday night after weeks of pain from a host of physical problems that included a broken leg and a hip replacement. “I think he made a conscious decision that he had an incredible run of 67 years, lived the way he wanted to, and wasn’t going to suffer the indignities of old age,” Brinkley told AP. “He was not going to let anybody dictate how he was going to die.”

So that’s a good thing?

His son, Juan, daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and six year-old grandson, William, were visiting from Denver when he shot himself. His wife was at the gym. “He was trying to really bond and be close to the family,” Brinkley said. “This was not just an act of irrationality. It was a very pre-planned act.”

Again, all of this is good? What nightmares will the little boy have for the rest of his life? How will this influence his views on the sanctity of life. Suicides tend to run in family, you know, it’s a very contagious act.

Our Temple Stark tried to make these points in a long running thread about Thompson and his death and was excoriated for his efforts. Are Thompson’s admirers so blinded by fandom, by the allure of the myth, that they can’t separate the actions of the real person — a person who did all kinds of stupid destructive shit throughout his life (weaponry and inebriation being an unfortunate mix at best) — from the writer’s persona?

Now the family is looking to punctuate and celebrate the method of Thompson’s self-actualized demise by shooting his ashes out of a cannon. “There’s no question, I’m sure that’s what he would want,” said Mike Cleverly, a longtime friend and neighbor. “Hunter truly loved that kind of thing.” Indeed, he kept 44 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, black snubnosed Colt Pythons with bevelled cylinders, .22 calibre mounted machineguns, and explosives around the house for shits and giggles.

“Oh, sweet. I’d love to. I would so love to,” said Marc Williams, owner of Night Musick fireworks company and gonzo fan, regarding the proposed send-off. Williams suggested Thompson’s earthly remains be blasted from a 12-inch-diameter mortar 800 feet into the sky. A second monstrous blast would then scatter the ashes “amid a blossom of color 600 feet across … If you were going to light up a flash-bomb worthy of Hunter S. Thompson, you’d want to make it an earth-shaker,” Williams enthused to AP.

Celebrate the man’s work, a powerful, occasionally incandescent amalgam of close observation and hallucination, marvel at a strength of will that enbled him to get away with more than most any mortal, but don’t glorify suicide, the ultimate act of self-indulgence, self-absorption, and ultimately, failure of nerve, the latter of which strikes me as antithetical to Hunter S. Thompson’s real legacy – the easy way out is just that.

A private memorial service will be held March 5 in Aspen, with a public commemoration planned for spring or summer.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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