Decandent, Depraved, Beautiful: Happy 43rd Birthday to Gonzo Journalism
Forty three years ago a relatively unknown 33 year old writer was commissioned to write a piece on his native States grandest event, The Kentucky Derby. The final result was The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved one of Hunter S. Thompson’s most brilliant pieces. Pushed to the brink of a deadline with no linear story in hand, Thompson began tearing pages from his foggy notebook and the result was a gorgeously grotesque recalling of a glorified event done only in a way Hunter would dare. Thompson eloquently described the story as “falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool of mermaids” – and thus began Gonzo Journalism and the creation Dr. Gonzo, an alter ego that would eventually take over Hunter completely.
This assignment was also the first time Thompson and his trusted illustrator and partner, Ralph Steadman, met and worked with each other, beginning a weird journey that would continue until the Day Football Season ended. Hunter is a huge hero of mine, no matter how cliché that may seem, and I read The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved every year on its anniversary to remember him by. Since his death Hunter has been co-opted by everyone from drug culture, hippies, hipsters, weirdos, and perpetual 20-somethings – and it’s a goddamn shame. His writing and prose is often an after thought when speaking on his legacy, and he’s too often remembered as Johnny Depp riding through the desert.
Hunter’s been away from this world for 8 long years now and his voice is missed more than ever. Imagine his commentary on the all things from Drones, Smart Phones, The Arab Spring, and the last two Elections. All things must pass I guess, a damn shame though, I can almost hear him pontificating on these savage things…almost.
So on this weekend I raise a toast to Hunter, Gonzo, and the Depraved that still trudge this Earth. Huzzah. Selah. And all that. Rest Easy Good Doctor.
“Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men’s reality. Weird heroes and mold-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ‘the rat race’ is not yet final.”
-Hunter S. Thompson