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Hunter S. Thompson: Grace in Depravity

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This obituary was written by Josh Strike, a new contributor to LAist.com.

Unless it's all some elaborate hoax, Hunter S. Thompson died Sunday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and the rest of us are left to wonder: What did it all mean? Common wisdom suggests that here was a man who should have died decades ago in some glorious drug-crazed rampage. He was alternately a born freak or a good-ol'-boy gone awry, a madman or an inscrutable genius. Or, as some have suggested, the Father of Blogging himself.

The fact that the death of such a strange man should make TV headlines the world over is no small miracle. But then, Thompson's words had such potent hilarity and vividness that they always refused to stick to the page. His sense of Gonzo became embedded in our collective consciousness. He built a bridge from Dada to Dexedrine, an absurd antidote to tyranny, propaganda and authoritarianism everywhere.

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LAist met Thompson briefly only two months ago, in the back of a small Rodeo Drive bookshop where he was promoting his new book. He was wild and frenetic, entrenched among his handlers and press agents. He
swilled a drink as he flexed his signing wrist. Three blonde, bikini-clad models had their arms draped all over him; he seemed happy. Benicio Del Toro stood chuckling in the background.

Right now, Del Toro (along with Johnny Depp) is in production on The Rum Diary, a follow-up to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on Thompson's very first novel by the same name. If his vociferous and often strained involvement in the production of Fear and Loathing was any indication, Thompson may well have been in an agitated state at the time of his death over obstacles in the production of this new film.

In spite of the frequent silliness of his content, Thompson took his work extremely seriously, and in some interviews appeared deeply discouraged by criticism and terrified that someone might try to change or misinterpret his words.

My own encounter with Thompson was brief. He was incredibly drunk, rambling and raving at everyone. He waved his hands around, trying to divine where he'd set down his pen. I handed him a copy of my own novel for him to take home. He looked at my book, confused, then tried to sign it. I explained again that it was for him to take home. He rifled through the pages, arched an eyebrow and muttered, "Interesting." The guy next to me was holding a strangely-shaped piece of wood. He proffered it to Hunter, explaining, "It's a pistol butt."

"I know what it is," Thompson snarled, "what the hell do you want me to do with it?"

"I want you to sign it," the guy shrugged.

Thompson seemed perplexed. He turned the wooden handle over in his hands. "I can't sign this, you asshole," he growled at last, "the ink'll come right off."

"One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high
powered mutant never even considered for mass
production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die."

-Hunter S. Thompson. 1937-2005.

Rox Populi covers some of the media and blog reactions.