Hunter Thompson is Dead

Journalist Hunter Thompson fatally shot himself tonight. Aspen Sheriff Bob Braudis, a close friend of Hunter's, has confirmed the sad news. He was found by his son, Juan Thompson. Family Spokesman Troy Hooper told the LA Times that "Thompson had been in pain from back surgery and an artificial hip. And he had broken his leg on a recent trip to Hawaii." The Denver Post and the New York Times have more.

Here is Hunter's latest Hey Rube column, dated February 15, 2005. It ends with this line:

So long and Mahalo.

Update: I've decided to write a few lines about the last two times I saw Hunter. One was five or so years ago at Thansgiving in Aspen, at the home of his very good friends Gerry and Chris Goldstein. It was a small dinner, as compared to the huge party that would follow later in the evening. At dinner were Gerry and Chris, Hunter, 60 Minutes' Ed Bradley with one of his daughters and New York lawyer Jerry Lefcourt. No, there weren't any drugs at dinner, but what we all talked about afterwards was how Hunter had been the most lucid person at the table that night. In fact, he was downright eloquent.

The last time I saw Hunter also was in Aspen, about three years ago, at a summer party at the Goldsteins, attended by more than 100 people, most of whom, like me, were there for a NORML continuing legal education conference. Towards the end of the evening, Hunter and Webster Hubbell (who was speaking at the conference) took off in Hunter's huge, classic red convertible, top down, waving to the rest of us. We all wondered if someone should go after them, so Webster would get back safely, but nobody did. And they both made it back just fine.

One more note: Hunter was a mensch. He approached lawyers Gerry Goldstein and Jerry Lefcourt and asked them to convince the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to help publicize the plight of Lisl Auman, a young Colorado woman serving a life sentence for a murder that occurred after she was in police custody. The organizaton did, writing an amicus brief for her. Hunter devoted several of his Hey Rube! columns to Lisl, attended a rally for her in Denver, wrote a great article about her in the June, 2004 Vanity Fair, and more. Lisl's case could be decided any day by the Colorado Supreme Court. If the Court rules against her, she will spend the rest of her life in prison. Here's some of what Hunter had to say about her case:

I have a flash of Good News from the Police Atrocity front, which is heating up in Denver. Stand back! Good News is rare in the Criminal Justice System, but every once in a while you find it, and this is one of those times.

To wit: The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has formally entered the Appeals trial of young Lisl Auman -- the girl who remains locked up in a cell at the Colorado State Prison for the Rest of Her Life with No Possibility of Parole for a bogus crime. Lisl is a living victim of a cold-blooded Political Trial that will cast a long shadow on Denver for many years to come -- she is the only person ever convicted in the United States for Felony Murder while in police custody when the crime happened.

The NACDL brings a heavyweight presence to this case that will quickly level the playing field. Nobody needs a public fight with a team of Elite warriors from the NACDL. It will be like having to fight Joe Frazier every day for six months. There will be injuries, and there will be more than one trip to the Emergency Room this time. No more easy wins for the black hats. The worm is about to turn. That is also a good early bet. Take my word for it.

Two weeks later, he wrote:

I don't do this very often -- Never, in fact -- but this case is such an outrage that it haunts me & gives me bad dreams at night. I am not a Criminal Lawyer, but I have what might be called "a very strong background" in the Criminal Justice System & many of my friends & associates are widely known as the best legal minds in that cruel & deadly business.

It is no place for amateurs, and even seasoned professionals can make mistakes that are often fatal. The System can grind up the Innocent as well as the Guilty, and that is what I believe happened to 20-year-old Lisl Auman, who was unjustly found guilty of murder and sent to prison for the rest of her Life Without Parole.

In all my experience with Courts & Crimes & downright Evil behavior by the Law & the Sometimes criminal cops who enforce it, this is the Worst & most Reprehensible miscarriage of "Justice" I've ever encountered -- and that covers a lot of rotten things, including a few close calls of my own. Which might easily have gone the other way if not for the help of some hammerhead Lawyers who came to my aid when I was in desperate trouble. (See "Songs of the Doomed," Summit Books, 1990.)

I learned a lot about Karma in those moments, and one thing that sticks with me is a quote from Edmund Burke that says: "THE ONLY THING NECESSARY FOR THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL IS FOR GOOD MEN TO DO NOTHING." That is what got me into the Lisl Auman case, and that is why I will stay in it until this brutal Wrong is Righted....

Indeed. It is no small trick to get a "Convicted cop-killer" out of prison -- but it will be a little easier in this case, because Lisl no more killed a cop than I did. She was handcuffed in the backseat of a Denver Police car when the cop was murdered in cold blood by a vicious skinhead who then shot himself in the head & left the D.A. with nobody to punish for the murder -- except Lisl. It is a long story & I can't explain it all now. But you can find it on the Web at Lisl.com.

Hunter, Rest in Peace, you will be missed. My sincere condolences to his wife Anita and son Juan, whom I've never met, and to Sheriff Bob Braudis and Gerry and Chris Goldstein, whom I know well enough to know that Hunter's passing will leave a major hole in their lives.

For younger readers who may not be familiar with Hunter, who was a true cultural icon, or his great writings, his bio at the end of his Hey Rube! column reads:

His books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "The Curse of Lono," "Generation of Swine," "Songs of the Doomed," "Screwjack," "Better Than Sex," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary," and "Fear and Loathing in America." His latest book, "Kingdom of Fear," has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears regularly on Page 2.

One of my favorite Hunter pieces ever was his eulogy to Richard Nixon , "He Was a Crook," published in Rolling Stone (June 16, 1994.) One quote:

If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

Here is his more recent take on the evil Bush empire , Kerry and the 2004 election. Or go to Rolling Stone and read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 2004.

Update: Crooks and Liars has a video clip of Hunter. Steve Gilliard has a journalist's perspective. Author Marc Cooper has this great assortment of Hunter material.

Update: We continue our eulogy with links and Hunter writings here and here.

< Blogger of the Year Apologizes for E-Mail | More Hunter Thompson Musings >
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    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#1)
    by scarshapedstar on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 09:01:50 PM EST

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 09:21:58 PM EST
    It's a big loss to the voice of dissent in this country. You could always count on Thompson to tell it like it is. At least he died doing what he loved to do...shooting weapons. RIP

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 09:22:19 PM EST
    I was very sorry to see this news. Thompson's fear and loathing view remain with us. Rest in peace, Hunter. Condolences to the family and friends.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 09:40:10 PM EST
    Hunter. I found you right after I found Kerouac and Ginsberg. When I was young I partied in the desert under the stars with many of the lovely mind-altering substances you prescibed. You were always in our conversations. I will sorely miss you.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#5)
    by apsyhn on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 10:01:24 PM EST
    i dont even know what to say. this guy is like miles davis, but white. or michael jordan, but white and weird. hopefully now, in death, he will fully achieve the mainstream icon status he never would have accepted in life.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#6)
    by Che's Lounge on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 10:05:58 PM EST
    Via con Dios you iconoclastic so-of-a-b***h! Tell St Peter NOTHING.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#7)
    by Johnny on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 11:59:29 PM EST
    Goobye and we will miss you and we will feel the ache of knowing that emptiness is tangible... Peace Hunter...

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 12:39:25 AM EST
    Now will come the inevitable rumors of a terminal illness, a vague conspiracy, hounds in the distance. An iguana can hardly understand the loss of a case of Jim Beam in the trunk of a stolen Cadillac, abandoned in the first panic of an AM angel dust run. The hotel clerk looked strangely familiar, but then he realized he was looking into a mirror, and the clerk was missing. This was some strange CIA narcotic, full of black opium and napalm. It was vintage madness, and loss, that much seemed sure.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 02:10:22 AM EST
    He'll be sorely missed. The miserable true to life Surreality of the Bush era exceeded even his wildest fantasies, what more was there for him to say? The Brown shirts have arrived and even he could not garner enough attention to this fact for anyone in the media to much notice. He knew we were lost and losing America, and he knew we'd be damned forever by history and posterity for it. He loved America so much that he could not stand by and see her raped, murdered, rendered and buried in the neglected unmarked grave that BushCo has planned for our once proud Republic.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#10)
    by bad Jim on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 02:28:49 AM EST
    Weep for us, that we'll not hear his voice again. At least he knew, immediately, on seeing someone ill-treated, tortured, deported, which side he was on. We've lost one of our touchstones of humanity. Who can we now rely upon for a reality check?

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 05:59:57 AM EST
    Sad news, Great person, but he was wrong to do that. But do you really think he did do a Ernest Hemingway and was he alone at the time of his suicide? sad,world.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 06:03:52 AM EST
    I read of Hunter's death on CNN.com over my Cheerios this morning. I feel like I've lost a friend. I met Hunter briefly in Baltimore many years ago. I've read most everything he's ever written. It's going to be a long day today.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 06:47:10 AM EST
    He has looked upon Man, and his eyeballs are clear -- (There was One; there is One, and but One, saith Kabir); The Red Mist of Doing has thinned to a cloud -- He has taken the Path for bairagi avowed! To learn and discern of his brother the clod, Of his brother the brute, and his brother the God, He has gone from the council and put on the shroud ("Can ye hear?" saith Kabir), a bairagi avowed! (from "A Song of Kabir" - Kipling.) A generation has passed.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 08:13:10 AM EST
    sad. i nearly drove off the highway when i heard the news. thought of you.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#15)
    by desertswine on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 08:15:36 AM EST
    Hunter Thompson was brave enough to write what others only thought about.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 08:31:30 AM EST
    As a Louisvillian, I thought I would share my two cents. He was a great guy and will be missed. I have links up to the hometown obit and reprints of past articles.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#17)
    by Adept Havelock on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 08:38:03 AM EST
    You'll be missed, Hunter. "The deeper sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." -Khalil Gibran

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#18)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 08:46:25 AM EST
    I'm saddened indeed by this news. I have met Juan, as it happens, and he seemed a polite, soft-spoken and intelligent young man. I'm deeply saddened that the burden of discovering HST fell upon him, and I hope he can find peace and comfort in the difficult days ahead.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#19)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 10:07:52 AM EST
    There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. Camus (1942)

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#20)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 10:40:25 AM EST
    So many strange "suicides": Mark Lombardi, Gary Webb, Dr. Kelly in London, James Hatfield, and now Hunter Thompson. All knew of the rooten core of our politics. Did Hunter's friends and family sense any indications of his future action. - Stan

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#21)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 10:48:55 AM EST
    I haven't felt this bad since Nov 3. I wish it were possible to go back in time and show him how much he would be missed.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#22)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 12:04:18 PM EST
    Rest in peace, Hunter, or in whatever condition you'd prefer. And may those you've left behind find comfort in the days ahead.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#24)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 01:16:35 PM EST
    no fan, or even knowledgeable about his works, but he's all over the blogasphere, must have inspired and/or po'd quite a few people, from all walks.
    "... For them, the romance of life is long dead and they are forced to go through the years on a treadmill, cursing their existence, yet afraid to die because of the unknown which faces them after death. They lacked the only true courage: the kind which enables men to face the unknown regardless of the consequences."
    into the great unknown!!! as it is said, so it is written, so shall it be done. walking it the way he talked it, you gotta admire that.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#25)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 01:26:35 PM EST
    Dagma at February 21, 2005 02:08 PM keep quite!, react!, keep quite!, rip!, keep quite!, tear!!! ?reasonable amount of time passed? yes! ok go; there's a time and a place for everything, trolling not withstanding, and this ain't it. this thread is kinda like a eulogy, so, if you ain't got nothing good to say, just shut the f___ up.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#26)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 03:48:00 PM EST
    Mmm. Susan Sontag and Hunter Thompson within the same year. Humans are poorer for it.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#27)
    by jondee on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 04:07:06 PM EST
    Dagma - proof that Koko's teacher is still batting 500.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#28)
    by jimcee on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 06:00:18 PM EST
    Like him or not ,if you are a boomer of a certain age HST came across your bow. He is/was a social icon that is accessable to all regardless of whether you agree with him or not. His death is a mile-post for the "Birkenstock" crowd and I mean that in a nice way as I was one myself. Hunter S. Thompson: RIP Trolling not necessary or constructive.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#29)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 06:14:59 PM EST
    We have lost and continue to lose our best and brightest from a generation of activists who fought with courage and conviction... when it's obvious that we need them the most. Hopefully, the masses will somehow wake up, and some new faces will step up to the plate. Until then, I guess a few of us will do what we can to enlighten people and wait until someone, something gets America's attention and wakes up the silent majority. I hope we don't run out of time, before it's too late. God Bless Hunter Thompson and his friends and family. As long as America exists, he will be remembered.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#23)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 07:22:10 PM EST
    I hate to see anyone leave this world before his time has come, but in all honesty, [he] out lived his purpose long long ago (if he ever had a valid purpose?) I'm not surprised to hear how much the left will miss him though. [name calling deleted]

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#30)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 09:29:18 PM EST
    I beg to differ; what better time to be iconoclastic (in the true meaning of the word)? Look at yourselves, absorbed over Thompson, a drug-addled entertainer. Proof positive that the left once again lives up to one of the sharpest charges against it: ...deadly serious about frivolous things and shallow about important things.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#31)
    by rob on Tue Feb 22, 2005 at 07:19:38 AM EST
    Urm, what kind of Doctor considers the death of a dear friend frivolous? Those of us not lucky enough to meet Hunter still felt like he was a friend. A totally insane friend that would turn up on your doorstep at four in the morning, with a car full of whores pimps and politicians and a trunk trunk stuffed with medication of every sort, wanting to borrow twenty dollars for an urgent trip to South America. But a dear friend nevertheless. We've lost one of the people we wish we had the balls to be. Ciao Hunter.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#32)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Feb 22, 2005 at 07:34:44 AM EST
    Q.E.D., Rob. I don't mistake people I never met for "friends". I consider people for what they accomplish, not merely how you feel about them. I read "Hell's Angels" and "Fear and Loathing". I laughed and was entertained. I also grimaced as HT attempted to belittle hard-working people and as he celebrated the dissolute. Big deal. A frivolous entertainer. Cult of personality obviously lives on with the left, "dear friend" indeed.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#33)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Feb 22, 2005 at 09:54:16 AM EST
    What the h%@l? You peice of s%@t! I know you didn't kill yourself. I'm going to look for the f@#ker who did this. I was going to show up at your doorstep on a head full of acid at new years 2000, but I still have some dangerous pig f@#kers after me. H@ll, the reason I'm writing this is because they're calling it a suicide! I knew Hunter and I know that he had enemies of his own. I hope his murder wasn't my fault. Don't worry, if this Chicano can puke blood for 35 years and still be alive, than he sure as h@ll can find your killer.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#34)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Feb 22, 2005 at 06:05:38 PM EST
    Later tonight I will drink to him properly. I will miss his sage gambling advice and his Words. He had the Right kind of Eyes.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#35)
    by rob on Wed Feb 23, 2005 at 07:48:31 AM EST
    Dr Ace. This is not the place or the time for a rumble. I respect your rights to your opinions and your right to exercise them. I will not indulge in trolling with you as it does neither you or I any good. Hunter was a friend to a great number of people who he never met, and if you can't or won't understand that it makes not one iota of difference to my life. I will still miss him. Rob

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#36)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 23, 2005 at 10:06:39 AM EST
    I feel very sad. Another guy I will never met. rest in peace. From France.

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#37)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 23, 2005 at 12:40:31 PM EST
    Please pull your lollypop out of your Ace! So "addled" was the Hunter that he saw and reported Bush& BinLaden raping the Constitution in order to loot the USTreasury in a sports column! By comparison all modern American journalists resemble hatchet wielding myrmidons drugged to mob indolence at the incestuous corporate trough! Stupify this...Hunter is no more dead than your precious Jesus. The voice is now loose among us all. So let's share the DMT with the bohemians as well as the escondiditos and be grateful that he spoke peacefully and gracefully for those of us who will paranoia at the burning of care. Fear & Loathing indeed!

    Re: Hunter Thompson is Dead (none / 0) (#38)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 26, 2005 at 10:53:55 PM EST
    Fear and loathing in heaven