High Times Greats: Death of Gonzo King Hunter S. Thompson

A 2005 tribute to the late, great Hunter S. Thompson.
High Times Greats: Death of Gonzo King Hunter S. Thompson
AP/Wide World

For the June, 2005 issue of High Times, then-editor Steve Bloom penned a loving memorial in “The Message” section of the magazine, dedicated to the late journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005). Thompson was (and remains) a counterculture icon for his singular, often drug-fueled perspective on American society. He served as an embedded reporter for the 1967 book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs; ran as sheriff in Colorado in 1970; and his 1971 book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was later adapted into a 1998 film by Terry Gilliam, featuring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. Thompson sadly committed suicide at age 67, with his ashes fired out of a cannon at his memorial service. In honor of Thompson’s passing on February 20, we’re republishing Bloom’s heartfelt eulogy below.

Besides founder Tom Forcade, no one had a greater impact on High Times than Hunter S. Thompson. Could High Times even exist without the incredible contribution Thompson made to drug lit? I doubt it.

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” That’s the first line from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the counterculture’s Moby Dick—Melville on Mary Jane, Ahab on acid.

I still have my paperback copy, published by Popular Library in 1971. The cover features a Ralph Steadman drawing of a skeletal Thompson behind the wheel with his deranged “attorney” riding shotgun. The cover blurb touts “the Best Book on the Dope Decade,” and it doesn’t lie.

No book had a greater impact on me. I read it as a freshman in college in 1972 and can still remembering laughing uproariously while devouring all 204 pages of this slim volume. My favorite line? In the “Circus Circus” chapter: “Shoot the pasties off the nipples of a 10-foot bulldyke and win a cotton-candy goat.” It wasn’t the substance of the line that got me, it was the rhythm, metaphor and alliteration. Fear and Loathing was a primer for every young writer trying to bust free of journalism’s shackles and just soar.

At High Times, we called him “The Gonzo King.” Before Thompson, journalism was a stodgy occupation inhabited by traditionalists who never dared insert themselves into the proceedings they covered. But not Hunter. He didn’t just report the story, he became the story.

Hunter S. Thompson is gone now, just like Tom Forcade, but he will never, ever be forgotten.

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