Monday, February 21, 2005

Say goodbye to Hunter S. Thompson

21 February 2005

WOODY CREEK, Colorado - There's mourning in the streets in Woody Creek today for the town's most famous resident and someone who an entire generation of journalists will miss tremendously, Hunter S. Thompson.

Ironically, just before learning of Thompson's death, I watched an hour-long program with David Halberstam and Ben Bradlee talking about journalism's golden age - the late 1960s and all of the 1970s, the very time I was a fulltime journalist and David Halberstam and Ben Bradlee were two of the stars I used to guide myself by.

But the third star in the my observations was Hunter S. Thompson, whose wild ramblings were always amusing and frequently accurate. He provided the maniac balance to the objective journalism we all practiced soooooo carefully. And in his rants more truth sometimes came out than through all the careful sentences of people like Halberstam and Bradlee's Washington Post newsroom.

When I first taught Literary Journalism in 1989, Thompson was on the top of my list as a writer for the students to study. His madcap techniques always caught the imagination of the students, though their attempts at imitation were always difficult to read. My colleague, Bill Dorman, wouldn't use Thompson when he taught the class. Thompson was too looney and not enough journalist Bill would argue.

True, but still lovable, right up to the end.

I lost track of Hunter S. Thompson's writing in the last few years, but he was even on the campaign trail watching the Bush-Kerry debacle, and showing that his writing and observation skills were just as keen as they were when he was skewering Richard Nixon. In a campaign piece I ran across on the web today, Thompson says that he would vote for Richard Nixon over George Bush.

Hunter S. Thompson's work also encouraged me to begin work on a book about growing up in Lakewood, New York - The Class of 66. Perhaps in his honor (though he would puke at that expression), I should crank up on Grey Goose and bang out the last chapters of that book, libel laws and simple good taste be damned.

Here's to you Hunter.


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