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Ten things you may not know about Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was a larger-than-life character whose writing career helped shape America’s political and cultural landscape. Discover 10 things you may not have known about the founding father of "gonzo journalism."Read More
Ten things you may not know about Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was a larger-than-life character whose writing career helped shape America’s political and cultural scene. His unique writing style of injecting himself into his articles and foregoing any sense of objectivity also led to the coining of the term “gonzo journalism.”
Here’s a list of our favourite facts about Hunter S. Thompson.
1. He once ran as town sheriff, and almost won:
In 1970, Thompson decided to run for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado after deciding that the nation’s “freaks, heads and dropouts” needed a voice. Taking an unorthodox approach to campaigning, Thompson ran on a platform promising to tear up the city’s asphalt and replace it with sod, changing the name of Aspen to “Fat City” in order to deter development and legalizing drug use. Thompson also shaved his head bald in order to refer to the Republican incumbent as “my long-haired opponent.” In the end, Thompson fell short on election night, coming in at 173 votes to his opponent’s 204.
2. He almost killed Bill Murray:
While Murray was spending time with Thompson in order to play him in Where the Buffalos Roam, the two began a contest of one-upmanship. The contest culminated in Murray claiming he could escape being tied to a chair and thrown into a pool. Thompson freed Murray after it became clear the actor couldn’t untie the ropes a few minutes after being submerged.
3. He once applied for a job at the Vancouver Sun. He didn’t get it:
Prior to becoming something of pop-culture revolutionary, Thompson started out like many a young reporter; idealistic and hungry for work. And it was that attitude that led Thompson in 1958 send an unsolicited letter to the Vancouver Sun seeking employment. Explaining that his previous employment situation was “a dung-hole,” Thompson offered to help move the Sun away from the “bog of stagnant mediocrity” that the rest of the industry already seemed mired in. Writing, “I'd rather offend you now than after I started working for you,” Thompson concluded his letter by stating he could write anything from “warmongering propaganda to learned book reviews.”
4. He shot up his neighbour’s house:
Thompson loved Colorado. He loved it so much that he ran for sheriff (see above) partially on a promise to keep developers away and retain the area’s natural beauty. You can imagine then, Thompson’s reaction when multi-millionaire Floyd Watkins moved in to the property beside his and immediately began erecting concrete walls, diverting streams and demanding the paving of local dirt roads. When Watkins became the recipient of threatening phone calls, graffiti and other acts of vandalism, most people assumed it was Thompson’s doing. Watkins vowed to shoot anyone he found vandalizing his property and one night Thompson apparently decided to fight fire with fire. As Watkins was out scanning his property line, someone opened fire on the house with an automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol. Watkins, already in his vehicle, proceeded to chase down the perpetrator and found none-other than Thompson, who claimed he was merely trying to defend himself from an attacking rabid porcupine. When Thompson was asked to bring his rifle to court for testing, it had already been destroyed and thus no charges were laid.
5. He once gave Jack Nicholson an elk heart for his birthday:
Throughout his life, Thompson developed friendships with several celebrities, one of whom was actor Jack Nicholson. During their friendship, the two got into the habit of sending each other weird gifts. One year, on Nicholson’s birthday, Thompson decided to shine a spotlight directly into the actor’s living room while blasting audio of a shrieking pig and firing a pistol in the air. When Nicholson, who was dealing with a stalker issue at the time, refused to come out, Thompson retrieved a frozen elk heart, left it on Nicholson’s doorstep and called it a night.
6. He didn’t really have a doctorate:
It may come as a surprise to some that the man famously and consistently referred to as a doctor for the majority of his life had no such accreditation. On second thought, this is Hunter S. Thompson that we’re talking about. Indeed, Thompson merely decided to add the “Dr.” prefix to his name after purchasing a mail-in doctorate from a non-profit religious organization – and the rest is history.
7. He spent a year living with and associating with the Hells Angels:
One of Thompson’s earliest claims to fame was his behind-the-scenes look at the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. For his book, Thompson befriended and spent a year with the Californian branch of the biker gang, observing and partaking in their vices and learning their way of life. When Thompson attempted to stop a member from beating a dog, he was subsequently set upon by the group and thus ended his association with them.
8. He and Bill Murray invented a sport called shotgun golf:
Thompson’s love of guns was no secret. The man had a veritable arsenal at his disposal and was a fan of all things that went boom. Seeking to incorporate this into other aspects of his life, Thompson, with the help of Bill Murray, conceived of Shotgun Golf, which is exactly what it sounds like. Essentially a game of golf with the added feature of being able to shoot your opponent’s ball off course after it’s airborne, the “sport” didn’t go very far in terms of widespread adoption.
9. He rewrote other people’s novels to learn book writing:
What better way to learn the ins and outs of writing than to copy great writers? Thompson took this sentiment to heart by rewriting literary classics using his typewriter in order to get a feel for the flow and structure of a great book. Some of the books he did this with were F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
10. His ashes were shot out of a 150-foot cannon, as per his final wishes:
Following his death in 2005, Thompson’s final gift to the world was a loud and violent display commensurate with the life he led. Financed by friend and actor Johnny Depp (who also narrates Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson), the writer’s funeral saw his ashes fired out of a 150-foot cannon into the stratosphere, complete with fireworks display. After a lifetime that saw more than its fair share of explosions, Thompson’s final gift to the world was to leave in the biggest way possible.