Episode 215: Hunter S Thompson: Gonzo Drug Fueled Journalism

On this episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we look at the truly gonzo life of the one and only Hunter S Thompson. Thompson was a journalist who became famous for his crazed drug-fueled antics and anti-authority stance. Born in Louisville, Kentucky to a middle class family, his father died while he was a teenager, and his mother was left very poor and became an alcoholic. During this time, Thompson started writing, and he had such a skill for it, he was allowed to join an elite writing group normally left for the wealthy. He also fell in with a bad crowd and started experimenting with drugs and started committing crimes ranging from shoplifting to vandalism to robbery.

The robbery landed him in jail, and the judge said he could go to prison or join the military. Thompson decided on the Air Force. He career there was short, and he was discharged in two years for lack of discipline and subordinating other airmen. Once out, he began his career as a journalist, working as a copy boy for Time Magazine. Eventually, he started to get stories to cover, and he landed a big one in 1965 when The Nation hired him to do a story on the Hell’s Angels. Hunter S. Thompson ended up spending a year on the road with the motorcycle club, documenting their lifestyle in his unique literary style. The resulting book was a smash hit, and it gave him enough money to buy his compound called Owl Creek and opened up the door to an impressive (if not unorthodox) career as a journalist.

His next big piece was an article called “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” which was where the term Gonzo Journalism got coined. The story was less about the race and more about Thompson’s personal time spent at the race. It led to his next huge success, which was when Sports Illustrated sent him to cover the Mint 400 race in Las Vegas. This lead to his masterpiece, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Hunter S Thompson covered everything from Richard Nixon to his own race to be sheriff of Aspen, Colorado. He even got stranded in Vietnam during the evacuation of Saigon! His stories are wild and varied and pretty hard to believe.

What happened when he went to Zaire to cover the Foreman/Ali fight? What was his political platform when he ran for office? What did a typical day of drug use look like for him? Why did he kill himself at the end, and what strange things happened at his funeral? Listen, laugh, learn.

Kentucky Derby Article: http://grantland.com/features/looking-back-hunter-s-thompson-classic-story-kentucky-derby/

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