Fear and Loathing in the Press Room

It’s fitting, really…

Somewhere, buried beneath the headlines about George Dub and the secret tapes his former friend Doug Wead released… buried beneath the mud slides in SoCal…buried beneath the NBA All Star Game… buried beneath a report in the alarming increase of autism in today’s children… there it was. Hunter S. Thompson is dead.

Dead.

Dead of an “apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound.” Suicide.

You know, if Hunter himself was writing about this, he’d be screaming that it was a conspiracy-that the conservatives had finally gotten to him, infiltrating his Woody Creek compound under the cloak of darkness and pressed a silenced gunbarrel to his temple and finally accomplished what they’d been trying to do for decades. He’d compare himself to Castro… and possibly the Downy fresh bear. And he’d somehow make it all make some sort of twisted, drunken sense.

Hunter S. Thompson is dead.

Suddenly, the landscape of American writers is a bit more barren…

It always struck me as a bit of a malapropism to refer to Thompson as a journalist. That the discussion of his journalistic credentials warranted its own adjective always suggested how outside he was. Journalists are observers and documentarians-people who place themselves above the fracas and live in a holier-than-thou universe of relative benign safety.

Thompson was none of these things. He was a participant. His sleeves were rolled up. He smoked the dope and drank the booze and threw the punches and torched the bar. His scars weren’t borne “covering” a story. They were borne creating it.

That’s why the Times could never carry his byline. Or the Washington Post or any of the stodgy, establishment rags that looked down their long, crooked and warted noses at this soused, gun-toting nut from Aspen. He broke all the rules and ran directly into the fray, usually not without flipping the bird at all the onlookers.

His passing leaves a void, surely-at the very least at ESPN Page 2, where his occasional column, “Hey Rube,” would find a way to tie the Preakness into Ecuadorian guerilla warfare. His brand of insightful, self-deprecating paranoia was as infectious as entertainment as it was wholly believable-or at least as believable as it was after three or four slugs of bourbon and two or three of Thompson’s diatribes.

The rank-and-file of the press room elite note his passing as little more than a peculiarity at best. In all honesty, it’s most likely because they are relieved. Thompson proved that you could get the story AND the girl… and the 8-ball and a gallon of whiskey and arrested and banned from six counties in Alabama… all in one weekend. His was the way of the warrior and the drunkard-a gonzo celebration of literate discourse and besotted chicanery.

And now, it’s all over…

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