Hunter S Thompson was born July 18, 1937 in Louisville, Kentucky. He was an American journalist and author, and the founder of the gonzo journalism movement. Hunter S. Thompson, showed a knack for writing at a young age, and after high school he began his career in journalism while serving in the United States Air Force. Following his military service, Thompson traveled the country to cover a wide array of topics for numerous magazines and developed an immersive, highly personal style of reporting what would become known as “Gonzo journalism.” He would employ the style in the 1972 book for which he is best known, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was an instant and lasting success. For the remainder of his life, Thompson’s dedicated lifestyle, which included the steady use of drugs, and an ongoing love affair with firearms. Also, his relentlessly hard work made him a perpetual counterculture icon. However, his fondness for substances also contributed to several bouts of poor health, and in 2005 Thompson committed suicide at the age of 67.
His father, Jack, was a World War I veteran and insurance agent who died while Thompson was in high school, his mother, Virginia, was an alcoholic left with no money and in charge of a charming but incorrigible son and his two younger brothers. Thompson ran with a group of friends that were constantly testing the limits. At the same time, he was also developing a deep love of writing. His was so talented while in high school, he was accepted into Athenaeum Literary Association. An organization whose membership was mostly comprised of the children that came from good homes. While honoring his literary craft, Thompson simultaneously built upon his reputation as a hooligan and prankster as well. Escalating his extracurricular activities, were harmless endeavors, such as dumping a truckload of pumpkins in front of a hotel, to shoplifting, vandalism and, eventually, robbery. It was during this time that he also developed what would become a lifelong fascination with firearms and a taste for drugs and alcohol.
For the next few years, Thompson bounced around the country, working for a string of small-town newspapers and spending a short stint as a copy boy for Time magazine. He also spent a brief period in Puerto Rico, where he worked for a sports magazine. In his spare time, Thompson worked on more personal writing projects as well, including the autobiographical novel The Rum Diary. Hunter S. Thompson was 22 when he began work on this novel that was based on his own experiences working as a journalist in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1959. At the time, many Americans went to Puerto Rico in search of a piece of action in “America’s Caribbean.” The island was considered by tourism companies, developers and banks to be an undeveloped goldmine and suddenly, large sums of money were pouring in from all directions. The American journalists were there to report and, hopefully, to get caught in the currents. Rejected by publishers at that time and for decades to come, it would eventually see the light of day in 1998.
Thompson was also reshaping what it meant to write about politics. He filed 14 dispatches for Rolling Stone from the 1972 presidential campaign trail. He lacerated the water-heads,” “swine” and “fat-cats” of D.C. culture, a tone far different from the reverent approach of the time, he also lifted the curtain on the mechanics of press coverage. He exposed “pack journalism,” puff pieces born out of crazy sessions between journalists and campaign aides. Many of Thompson’s observations ring true today: “It’s come to the point where you almost can’t run for president unless you can cause people to salivate and whip on each other with big sticks,” he wrote. “You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.” Thompson had one final wish. In August 2005, more than 200 friends, including Wenner, Jack Nicholson, John Kerry and Johnny Depp, gathered at Thompson’s Colorado home, where his ashes were shot out of a 153-foot cannon under a full moon. In March 2005, Thompson appeared on the cover of the magazine. He had the remembrances from Depp, George McGovern, Thompson’s son, Juan, and others. Included was a letter Thompson wrote to Wenner in 1998, recalling his early days at Rolling Stone: “My central memory of that time is that everything we were doing seemed to work. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Like an amusement park. Thanx for the rush.”