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Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off

Bump and Update: More details from Saturday night's blastoff. The New York Times reports:

Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone, whose early history was entwined with Mr. Thompson's emerging career, said that Mr. Thompson was "the DNA of Rolling Stone" and called him "one of the greatest writers of the 20th century." ... Mr. Wenner recalled his drug-crazed exploits with Mr. Thompson but spoke of his feelings as well, saying at one point that he had been jealous of how close Mr. Depp had become to Mr. Thompson. "Now those days are gone," Mr. Wenner said. "Once I had Hunter all to myself, and now I don't have him at all. And none of us do."

....Mr. Thompson's fans were kept at bay, as were most of the news media, and guests were barred from bringing cellphones, cameras and recording devices. Orange cones marking a tow-away zone extended for three miles beyond Mr. Thompson's home off a narrow strip of rural roadway. Black-clad security guards, aided by a dozen county sheriff's deputies, patrolled the 40-acre property, which Mr. Thompson bought in 1968 for $50,000 and is now worth millions.

Norman Greenbaum's 1969 anthem "Spirit in the Sky" then rose from the sound system, with the lyrics: "When they lay me down to die/ Going on up to the spirit in the sky."....The final send-off began with Japanese ceremonial drummers and Buddhist readings in Tibetan. Then, with a bang that Matt Wood, a Zambelli fireworks designer and producer, described as just below the level of a sonic boom, 34 lines of fireworks streamed from the ground. The whole display lasted less than a minute, after which a recording of Bob Dylan wailed with "Mr. Tambourine Man" ("I'm ready for to fade/Into my own parade"). The partying then commenced, with jam sessions into the wee hours.

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Original Post 8/20 8:50 p.m.

Around 8:30 pm MST tonight, Hunter Thompson's ashes, contained in capsules, were blown from a 153 foot tower with 350 or so of his closest friends in attendance. [Update: Sen. John Kerry and George McGovern were there.] The Rocky Mountain News got a tour of the tent next to the tower on Owl Farm, his Woody Creek, CO property outside of Aspen.

A round bar looms in the tent's center. Above the bar hang five chandeliers. Thompson worked out of his kitchen, and that feel has been recreated on either end of the bar with a refrigerator. A large drum sat atop one refrigerator. The other, unusual mix of items in the tent also mirrored Thompson's kitchen.

Three blow-up sex dolls lay on a set of chairs stacked near the tent's entrance. A stuffed peacock, a bison head, a gong, and a hockey mask were among the other items. Couches and dozens of lounge chairs rounded out the scene.

The tower is the main attraction.

The centerpiece is the 153-foot fist — two feet taller than the Statue of Liberty — near the tent. The structure was still covered in blue and gray tarps blowing in the wind Saturday morning, with a red tarp covering the fist. Around the base of the conical structure were enough fake boulders to fill three semi trucks, said designer Gregg Lacy, who was looking up at the piece he began work on nearly six months earlier.

Near the top of the structure, which features a sculpted red fist holding a peyote button with different colored lights, chrome sections gleamed in the sun. Maybe 200 feet away sat an unassuming, white truck. Inside were the 34 mortar tubes that contain a mix of fireworks, and Thompson's cremated remains.

Lots of people have been wondering what Hunter would have made of all this. Hard to say. Video should be available after the event, and I'll update with links.

Update 9:08 pm: I just saw the blastoff on the local news. It was pretty big, like fireworks. You could hear the cheers go up.

Associated Press: A Deafening Boom.

Update: From the 10:00 pm local news: 8:40 pm, the drapes came off the giant double thumbed fist, a band played, the ashed were fired, it was like fourth of July fireworks. The 400 invited guests are expected to party until the wee hours. There was a great live shot of a round ball of fire still glowing in the air above Aspen.

More articles:

Hunter is home now. May he rest in peace, he will be both missed and remembered.

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  • Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#20)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Aug 31, 2005 at 06:28:16 AM EST
    Long live the DOC!!!!!!

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:33 PM EST
    Excuse me, as an avid HT fan from days of yore, and as someone who has an (expensive) autographedy Kesey EKAAT, but, who cares? A drunk prone to waving guns kills himself and gets a $2M fireworks display? Think of the charities that could have gone to. -C

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:33 PM EST
    Cliff-You don't sound like a big fan of HT. Think of all the starving children in India.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:33 PM EST
    squeaky - I was just in India for three weeks. Hiring college graduates at a fully loaded cost of $2,347/year. (Is your job safe?) There aren't a lot of starving people in Bangalore, though it could use a lot more flush toilets. More to report on Delhi in a month. _C

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:33 PM EST
    cliff- The problem of poverty and starvation in West Bengal is severe. Maybe you can find even cheaper labor there?

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:33 PM EST
    This thread is about Hunter Thompson, not India. Off-topic comments will be deleted.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:33 PM EST
    Well, perhaps Hunter's rocket could have launched a weather satellite, rather than his corpulent ego, into orbit? -C

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#7)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:33 PM EST
    gee, i kind of liked the blow-up sex dolls, nice touch.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#8)
    by desertswine on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:33 PM EST
    Actually, this was a lot more tasteful than that idiot Reagan's funeral.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#9)
    by Repack Rider on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:34 PM EST
    A drunk prone to waving guns kills himself and gets a $2M fireworks display? He checked out on his own terms, and I wouldn't second-guess his reasons. You don't get famous for doing things the way everyone else does them. Despite his problems with drugs and alcohol, he saw right through phoniness and exposed truths of a sort we won't see again. I don't know what kind of a person he was, but I read his books and they moved me. Fireworks makers need jobs too.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:34 PM EST
    Comparing Thompson's reporting to S. King isn't noteworthy, but HT also wrote about stuff people had a curiosity about. For many, and they living the life what HT wrote about, his writings meant little and may have anger some. His investigation into the Angels, although very interesting and enlightening, was not completely accurate.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#11)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:35 PM EST
    "It is for us, the living." I think Thompson would approve of any celebration as long as it involved more than a moderate amount of explosives mixed with depraved revelry.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:35 PM EST
    Pearyb, Thompson practiced Gonzo journalism, remember? The facts don't necessarily matter as much as the underlying truth, insert yourself into the story, etc. All things that would get any normal reporter fired, but a wonderful literary concept...and no one could do it like he could.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:35 PM EST
    Also, squabbles about whether or not his works were just a way for normal folk to rebel vicariously or whether he came very close to being our Fitzgerald aside, his writings meant a whole lot to people like Lisl Auman (sp?).

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#14)
    by Aaron on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:35 PM EST
    Hunter S. Thompson, perhaps the first and the last of the self realized freethinking maverick journalists, a true warrior poet. I spark a bowl to your memory Duke.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:35 PM EST
    The great American Dream is what you make of it. Living and Dying the way an individual desires is the whole way, at least IMO, Hunter S. Thompson lived and now died.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:35 PM EST
    Despite his problems with drugs and alcohol
    What problems? Hunter enjoyed alcohol and drugs, I don't see a problem there. Nobody got hurt, unless you are implying his use of certain substances led to his suicide, which I don't believe to be the case.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#17)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:35 PM EST
    The man came & went in the manor he chose so no should-a, could-a, would-a from me and when I consider myself I could care less about what is said if I check out the way I want to. I miss the Duke and will wonder if there was one more written work at the end of that barrel???

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#18)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:37 PM EST
    Cliff you say your a fan, but i to dought those words. A true fan would not say they have a book thats worth a lot of money, for the book should be priceless to you. i have many copies of Hunters books that i would not sell for any amount of money. They are his words that i have grew to love over the years. I am glad to see such a tribute done to celebrate his passing. Its how he said he wanted to be sent off, oh so many years ago in front of a camera crew. So why not do what he wanted. i don't think it could have been done any better. What saddens me is the fact the giant fist must be taken down. (Aspen laws prohibit the thing from staying) but a lake will be created in that aera and a tombstone will be placed there. As for the question of books, there should be 3 book of his work coming out. (this was said by his wife) so i figure there should be some thing. Plus a rumor is that he left a 352 page sucide note, poking fun at Paris Hilton and Rush Limba. it was bought for 10 million and is set to come out next march (acourding to rumor) tho i dought it will be that soon, if it is true... Hunter, the true fans miss you.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#19)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:38 PM EST
    Cliff, Anyone can send a check to a charity, but not everyone can erect a 150 foot fist holding a peyote button! Move to India.

    Re: Hunter Thompson's Final Blast-Off (none / 0) (#21)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:19 PM EST
    When I heard of the Doctor's suicide, I have to say I wasn't at all surprised. As many have observed here, HST lived and died the way he wanted, when he wanted, and at speeds many of us could only hope to endure. He was, after all, a Man of Action. He saw things. He didn't Do things so much as he DID THE HELL OUT OF THEM. And that is why we revered him. How many of us wanted to be him? Or write like him? Still, I felt a profound shock and sadness, maybe a selfish awarness that I would no longer be able to check up on what HST had to say about the state of The Union. I advise you all go and get a copy of "Kingdom of Fear" and read what the Doctor has to say about George W. Bush. Read and laugh and exult with a grinning "Right On!" and tell me you knew he was the only one who could express in those short sentences what so many of us feel; Look to him to express them for us, our voice of righteous outrage in a time where dissent is Illegal and Fascism is just around the corner. Somewhere in Heaven, Hunter S. Thompson is drinking Hemingway under the table, grooving on Jimmy, and heckling Nixon relentlessly for betting on the Lions. So long, Doc. Thats How Long....