Sunday, July 6, 2008

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson

Director: Alex Gibney
Cast: Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp, Sonny Barger, Tom Wolfe, Sondi Wright.

In high school and college I dangled precariously atop that fine line of longhaired hesher stoner, and aspiring writer. Hunter S. Thompson was one the handful of influences that I would consider a gateway drug. A sort of initiation joint you smoke long before you touched the hard stuff. He was required reading for people like me, along with the beats, the counter-culture philosophers, and the vigilant militants.

The first book I ever read by him was Hells Angels, his tale of living amongst and absorbing the baddest biker gang in the country. It was a perspective I had never read. A volatile, disturbingly honest, but also a contrived look at a topic that I had only heard about. It was visceral and raw, and had a rhythm to it that sounded like it came from the silver tongue of Sonny Barger himself. Hopped up on a speedball that would take a week to come down from.

I tired of Thompson shortly after. It always seemed to me that there was a heavier quotient of gibberish in his later works. A kind of arrogance that suggests he had hit his summit a while back and now was spinning hopelessly around it. In essence, he seemed to have discovered his legend and decided to wear it as a costume. Everyday for the rest of his life.

Here's a stoner metaphor for ya. Outside of a glimmer of excellence, Hunter S. Thompson's writing career was like Led Zeppelin's Presence album, played again and again. You don't really love it, but because it's fucking Zeppelin you know there has to be some good in it. And yeah, there are nuggets. Little gems that you dig up out of the heap of burning wreckage. It was pretty easy to surmise that mighty Zep were in for a fade after that album broke. It wasn't a question of when, but how. Thompson's life was mostly about that fade. He burnt out long before he shot himself, but he continued to spin his wheels, if only in brief spurts. The guy started hanging with Jimmy Buffet for Christ sakes. The epitome of the unapologetic waste of space.

Hunter gave up around the time McGovern was defeated by Nixon. Then he showed up again for Carter. Then he buried himself again in booze and dope and peddled some crap that wasn't worth the ink used to type his name on the cover of Rolling Stone.

You have to hand it to the guy for living as long as he did, the way he did. He was a rogue clown embedded like a tick in the straight white-collar jowls of the mainstream. This documentary is a personal look at the man, the myth and the clown with thoughts from his closest friends, and some of his perceived enemies. Superbeast recommends.

P.S. Johnny Depp is an ass. That dude likes the sound of his own voice as much if not more than any Hollywood douche lord living today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that's what happens when you wind up in aspen. unlikely juxtapositions and has-been celebrities congregate to celebrate their self-importance. then you've got everyone else (including self-congratulatory locals who believe that, "it sucks just about everywhere else") trying to catch a glimpse which only reinforces a celebritie's glaring megalomania. it's too bad a bunch a clowns can so easily color an otherwise great mtn. town with a steep-ass ski hill (comparable to jackson) in their back yard which by the way many don't realize or even acknowledge.

-the uncs