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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Writer's genius will be missed by fans

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was one odd duck. The good Doctor would have laughed at that description. He, above all else, would know the description was much too tame for such a unique character.

Well-versed in alcohol and drugs, Hunter Thompson also had an obsession with guns. He once declined to speak to a college forum unless he was allowed to wear his side-arm and bring his ever-present bottle of whiskey. In the end, the whiskey accompanied him to the podium. The gun was left behind.

For those who knew nothing of his life, Hunter S. Thompson was a writer. A helluva writer at that. He was a leading proponent of "gonzo journalism" whereby the writer actually puts himself into the story. If Thompson wrote about Las Vegas (which he did), it was about his adventures in sin city. If he wrote about political campaigns (which he did), it was about his travels on the Nixon campaign trail. The list is was both weird and endless.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson took his life with his faithful shotgun Sunday night. And as is often the case, he left behind more questions than answers.

Thompson wrote a regular newspaper column in his beloved Denver region. The column was supposed to be about sports but it was really more about Hunter than sports. His last column was a rambling story about a 3 a.m. phone call to his good friend comedian Bill Murray on the creation of a new sport that combined golf and shotguns. You'd have to read the column to fully appreciate the character who wrote it.

In some ways, Thompson's take on journalism has evolved into a new arena called "community journalism" which promotes journalists' involvement in the stories they write and the issues they cover. Thompson would have gotten a hoot out of the mainstream press adopting his anything but mainstream approach to writing.

Two movies were made about Thompson's exploits. "Where the Buffalo Roam" starring Bill Murray, chronicled his travels with the Nixon campaign in 1972. "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," starring Johnny Depp, was a take on the drug-induced trip to Nevada that Thompson swears was true. Both were larger than life and both were a glimpse into the world of pure excess.

Thompson was at the Playboy mansion last month spending time with his buddy Hef. He had an on-going bet with John Kerry over politics and baseball. He was in as much demand for his weirdness as he was for his genius. That combination rarely comes along.

As a younger man, I read Thompson's "Great Shark Hunt" which was an adventure stoked by massive amounts of alcohol and ammunition. It was a riot! But more importantly, it was all true.

In the end, the demons won. It really didn't come as a surprise. But his weird voice will be missed, if only by a small group of fans and critics, none of whom could ever figure out what this guy was all about. And Thompson left it just that way.

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