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Friends, fans gather for unusual farewell to Hunter S. Thompson

Associated Press
Published August 21, 2005

WOODY CREEK, Colo. - Bill Murray, George McGovern and dozens of Hunter S. Thompson's friends gathered Saturday to give the iconoclastic journalist an unsolemn farewell, with blow-up dolls, liquor and a tower built to blast his ashes into the sky.

"He loved explosions," said his widow, Anita Thompson.

She said the tower, shrouded by tarps for days, was modeled after Thompson's Gonzo logo: a clenched fist, made symmetrical with two thumbs, rising from the hilt of a dagger.

The counterculture author's ashes, intermingled with fireworks, were to be fired from it Saturday night in a field between Thompson's home and a tree-covered canyon wall.

Security guards kept reporters and the public away from the writer's Owl Farm compound Saturday as the 250 invited guests arrived, but Thompson's fans scouted the surrounding hills for the best view of the celebration of the author's life.

Thompson killed himself six months ago at his home near Aspen, but the memorial was planned as a party, with plenty of alcohol, reminiscences, readings from Thompson's works and performances by Lyle Lovett and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

The author's longtime illustrator, Ralph Steadman, and actors Sean Penn and Johnny Depp were among the stars on the invitation list. Depp portrayed Thompson in the 1998 movie version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, perhaps the writer's best-known work.

"Over the last few months I've learned that he really touched people more deeply than I had realized," said Thompson's son, Juan.

Thompson was credited along with Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese with helping pioneer New Journalism - he dubbed his version "gonzo journalism" - in which the writer was an essential component of the story.

He often portrayed himself as wildly intoxicated as he reported on figures such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Besides the 1972 classic about Thompson's visit to Las Vegas, he also wrote an expose on the Hell's Angels and Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, in which the central character was a snarling, drug- and alcohol-crazed observer and participant.

[Last modified August 21, 2005, 00:51:14]

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