Hunter Thompson is still all-Gonzo
Commentary: Urges Bush to quit, Americans to vote
By Jon Friedman
NEW YORK (CBS.MW - 13 Sept) -- So, Hunter S. Thompson was saying on the phone Friday morning, he had recently hung out with his
long-time friend Bob Dylan while the rock-and-roll star was on tour in Colorado.
Yes, we're talking about THAT Hunter Thompson and, yes, THAT Bob Dylan. Talk about a meeting for the ages: Thompson, the
maestro of Gonzo journalism, and Dylan, the voice of his generation and still going strong at the age of 61.
Thompson, who turned 63 on July 18, said he and Dylan had been lamenting the current spirit of America, whose fertile imagination
each have tapped into for inspiration, fame and fortune since the 1960s.
Thompson said he shared with Dylan his concern about the country's clamor for what loomed as "World War III and World War IV."
He told CBS.MarketWatch.com in an interview that Dylan was "one of his heroes."
Dylan, whom Thompson first met in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, nodded and said, presumably in his trademark laconic but
forceful speaking style: "But WE don't have to join them."
See the interview Part 1, Part 2
Still Gonzo after all these years
Make no mistake, Hunter Thompson is still outspoken and all-Gonzo.
Contrary to his image as a wild man, Thompson spoke in carefully measured tones. He was calm and considerate. Most of all, he was
We talked on the telephone for about 20 minutes. Thompson is one of America's most acclaimed political and pop culture chroniclers of
the past 30 years. The author of such classics as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" is
famed for his outspoken and brilliant writing style, his wild, partying lifestyle and his liberal politics.
He is as relevant today as when he revolutionized much of journalism in the 1970s with his self-styled "Gonzo" approach. Gonzo was a
kind of shorthand for unrestrained first-person writing. Echoing such writers as Tom Wolfe and Charles Bukowski, Thompson's writing
was equal parts irreverent and without reverence.
Writing about Richard Nixon's pre-Watergate victory over George McGovern in 1972, Thompson eloquently conveyed his outrage and,
well, fear and loathing. He said America had been reduced to a country of used car salesmen, and lamented: How low do you have to
stoop to be elected President of the United States?
When our interview began, Thompson was watching a classic bit of Americana, circa 2002: a live CNN report about the police closing
Alligator Alley, a stretch of highway in Florida, as they investigated a vague but worrisome report from a waitress in Georgia about a
possible terrorist bomb threat.
Thompson said he was stunned by the attention stemming "from a conversation a woman overhears in some diner in Calhoun, Ga." She
then phones her fear in to "some tip line."
Thompson didn't even try to conceal his amazement that the police would go so far as to "shut down the interstate highway" and
BLOW UP PEOPLE'S LUGGAGE!"
The CNN story was an example of what he called the media taking its devotion to sensationalism "past all limits of absurdity." It was
clear that Thompson was more outraged by the media attention being given to the story than to the realism of the threat.
Other points that Thompson made in our interview:
He has a new book coming out in December. The title? "Kingdom of Fear." That's basically how he views the state of the U.S.
The only stock he said he ever bought was the Boston Celtics.
He still has harsh words for the "greedheads" and the Republican oil tycoons who come to Colorado and complicate his life.
His advice for President Bush: "QUIT!"
His advice for his fellow citizens: "Get out and vote."
Getting the interview
It's not easy to interview Thompson.
Thompson lives in Woody Creek, Colo., and prefers to stay out of the limelight in New York and Los Angeles. He lives a nocturnal
lifestyle and is hard to pin down.
Thompson, who has been portrayed in movies over the years by actors as varied as Bill Murray and Johnny Depp, is a hero to people,
revered for his wit, bluntness and spirit of fun. Try as we professionals might to remain detached about our assignments, we all thought
it would be pretty cool to be able to get an interview with Hunter S. Thompson.
(When Rolling Stone founder and editor Jann Wenner first met Thompson in the early 1970s, Wenner is said to have declared: "I know
I'm the voice of the counter culture and all of that, but what is that?"
In fact, it took CBS.MarketWatch.com a few weeks of conversation, planning and arranging. Finally, a Thompson representative said
our interview was a go and asked us to call him at 9:15 a.m. Eastern Time, or 7:15 in Colorado.
We called him 15 minutes early, just to be safe. The MarketWatch newsroom in New York was buzzing with excitement. Thompson, we
assumed from his reputation for wild partying over many decades, was buzzing himself, but in a different way.
We placed the call -- but there was a hold-up.
We were told to call back 15 minutes later -- Thompson was having dinner. At seven in the morning.
You simply can't beat that little slice of life for a classic Gonzo nugget.
Jon Friedman is media editor for CBS.MarketWatch.com in New York.