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R.I.P. Hunter S. Thompson, Outlaw Journalist

            Hunter S. Thompson took muckraking to an outer edge in the early 1970s, when he was among the first to detect the rancid odor of White House corruption. His screeds against the sitting president were overwrought and tinged with paranoia, but Nixon’s resignation would vindicate his torrid animadversions. As California’s secretary of state, I had to yank the notary public commission of Nixon’s personal lawyer. It seems that he notarized a backdated deed of Nixon’s papers so that the president could qualify for a charitable deduction—illegally. These were unusual times.

Thompson’s personal life was not as grounded as his work, but as Dr. Gonzo often observed, via Dr. Johnson: “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”  In the end, it seems, the pain caught up with him out on Owl Farm. Like a Chekhov story, the firearms he favored during a turbulent life figured in the manner of his untimely exit.

            In recent years, Thompson had penned a column on politics and sports for ESPN’s website.  The current political scene horrified him – as did the Oakland Raiders – and he pined for the company of his late fellow football addict, Richard Nixon. “Big darkness soon come,” he predicted in a column last year.

Thompson’s gone and so is much of the 60’s. He had the roughest of edges but such raw journalism—in some unimagined form—might be just the antidote to mendacious media interface.

Ad astra per aspera, or as Hunter would end his pieces: Res ipsa loquitur.

February 21, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink


"animadversions"? wasn't that a warner brothers cartoon show?

Posted by: five_dollar_words | Feb 21, 2005 7:42:45 PM

Hunter S. Thompson will be missed!

There will never be another journalist like Thompson -- and the world is poorer for it.

I've written a bit on his death here:


Posted by: W.C. Varones | Feb 21, 2005 9:31:14 PM

This is an odd coincidence, Mr. Mayor, because back in the '70s when Thompson was riding high I was living in New Jersey and you were as much a celebrity for me as the dearly departed; when I mentioned your post tonight to my wife her first reaction was to remember your romance with Linda Ronstadt. Now you and I both live in the Bay Area and blog, and those days are long past but I still respect your politics and what you've done for California and now Oakland.


Posted by: BillSaysThis | Feb 21, 2005 10:06:00 PM

Mayor, welcome to the blogosphere. Glad to see you using the comments to listen, something many miss.

If you're interested, I can refer you to other elected officials in the U.S. and elsewhere who blog in office or for their campaigns.

- phil

Posted by: Phil Wolff | Feb 22, 2005 8:29:28 AM

A pleasant surprise to see Governor Brown make an appearance in the blogopolis. HST's writing was overwrought if not a bit psychotic in places, yet I think he had a core of Jeffersonian ethics underneath his gonzo shell. Or I hope he did.

Aw, if there was only some HST du jour in sac or the Bay Area willing to take on the Schwarzenegger machine.

Posted by: plebe | Feb 22, 2005 11:19:13 AM

Feel free to write more along these lines as you see fit, Mayor! Great to see you aren't just opining on city politics.

Keep it up.

Posted by: Matt Peterson | Feb 22, 2005 11:29:14 AM

Wonderful memories evoked from your tribute to the good doctor. I was a Cali college student in the 70's - taking in Kerouac, HST, Gunter Grass, Castenada. You were governor then - what a breath of fresh air and an inspiration. I embraced that era and reveled in those times - shaped me into the nonconformist I am today. I am still a devotee of your politics, a practicing Buddhist, and have remained a relentless and intrepid traveler.

"Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one's courage." Anais Nin

Posted by: Sky Canyon | Feb 22, 2005 11:39:12 AM

OT, but if you want something controversial, perhaps you could address "Oakland's Bilingualism - No Americans Need Apply":


Posted by: The Lonewacko Blog | Feb 22, 2005 11:46:02 AM

Mayor Brown, I notice some of Thompson's bracing prose reflected in your own words. (When was the last time I heard a politician use the word "rancid?")

It is all for the best. I urge you to continue being interesting. Defy the norms of these cloned imbeciles that are our modern politicians. As an interesting elected official, Mr. Brown, you are one of the last of a dying breed. Keep on truckin', dude.

Posted by: C-Monkey | Feb 22, 2005 1:31:58 PM

I enjoyed Thompson and his work. But, suicide at age 67, is so cowardly. What a cop-out. The man, supposedly, had strongly held principles and beliefs -- is abruptly quitting this world a reaffirmation of his principles, or does it show us that his principles were ineffectual and possibly way off the mark?

Also, I wonder how the suicide effects his surviving family.

Posted by: Bob Flynn | Feb 22, 2005 1:36:07 PM

cmonkey you are an idiot. there are many words to describe hunter, but coward is not one of them.

anybody who knows anything about hunter is less-than-shocked at his passing, especially the manner. you're goddamned right he had strongly held principles and beliefs - he lived by the sword and died by the sword; just like he wanted.

his surviving family is, i'd imagine, grieved. yet, there is no way they could have not known it was coming.

kudos to you dr. gonzo for having the balls to do end your life in the same way you lived it.

Posted by: PJ | Feb 22, 2005 1:57:08 PM

Mayor Brown, take comfort: Bloggers at their best (raw, unfettered, unabashed) are worthy descendents of the Good Doctor and carry on with the gusto of gonzo. Even the most seemingly benign of webjournal keepers, us Mommy Bloggers, will rage into the night, shelling it out without sappy sentiment and telling the truth about our lives.

Posted by: GraceD | Feb 22, 2005 2:52:16 PM

I will miss him ... BIG HUG for Juan, Jen, Willam and Anita… who will never be able to fill the hole left in there lives by the man in spite of the myth and legend attached to his life..

I am a long time friend of Juan we went to the Aspen Community School together I have been using the blogs to try to send a message of love to him and the family but I know he is totally swamped because of the media attention at Owl farm and I need to let him know that we care for Him, Anita and the whole family in this time of tragedy while respecting his privacy

Let's see if we can get the word out ...
He was first THE MAN….
He became the myth and legend
To me he was several people.
He was my best friend’s dad although he always called his dad Hunter
(At Juan’s wedding he said to a friend about me “Look there’s another little bastard I raised that turned out OK”)
He was Hunter S. Thompson retiring shy southerner who loved guns and his freedom
He was the Dr. Gonzo who we all know who would be in your face and try to kill you if you attempted to try to take away his guns, drugs, freedom, privacy and the god given right to go into an explosive tirade about it.

To be such a person required him to have a unique emotional support structure. These people now need our support, love and understanding in this time of grief.

Bradley Laboe

Posted by: Bradley Laboe | Feb 22, 2005 4:35:43 PM

"The current political scene horrified him", yea and HST was so insightful.
How come you don't mention the corruption of Lyndon Johnson?

As for HST, besides "Hell's Angeles" what did he write that is worth reading now?
I stopped reading his ESPN a year ago becuase it was utter nonsense. No insight to football, politics or gambling. Just the ravings of a nut.

But since you admire him Mr. Brown are you going to start handing out CCW permits?
HST did know how to protect himself, so why don't you let the people of Oakland have the same right as HST or the people of Oakland to stupid to practice self defense?

Posted by: Terry | Feb 22, 2005 4:51:53 PM

Las Vegas uber alles!

Posted by: Ken Shultz | Feb 22, 2005 5:33:37 PM

Grace: I couldn't agree more

Jerry: you were my first start into politics in 1992... then i drifted to perot

became a libertartian after that and now a republican

Posted by: Larry Bernard | Feb 22, 2005 7:22:33 PM

I was struck by GraceD's comment that bloggers are at their best "raw, unfettered, unabashed." But then it was not Hunter Thompson I mourned this week but Thelma Shelley. She was a strong yet gracious soul. During a time of race riots and upheaval, she proved a calming influence. And as Angela Alioto recalled, "when she came before the board (S.F. Supervisors) she always kept her cool."

Posted by: Cynthia | Feb 22, 2005 7:35:41 PM

Bradley Laboe, if I may:

"The current political scene horrified him", yea and HST was so insightful.
How come you don't mention the corruption of Lyndon Johnson?"

Please forgive Mr. Brown. Long-term memory loss is identified as a repercussion of sustained drug use.

"As for HST, besides "Hell's Angeles" what did he write that is worth reading now?"

Hell's Angeles?? LOL probably unintended but nice awyway.

"I stopped reading his ESPN a year ago becuase it was utter nonsense. No insight to football, politics or gambling. Just the ravings of a nut."

I see you found the ESPN.com Open Wheel Racing commentaries. Ditto.

"But since you admire him Mr. Brown are you going to start handing out CCW permits?
HST did know how to protect himself, so why don't you let the people of Oakland have the same right as HST or the people of Oakland to stupid to practice self defense?"

The ranks of elitist politicians and political activist can have no identification with the problem of personal self-protection, the need for such is addressed in their world by to gated subdivisions, armed chauffers, high-tech home security systems, and rapid police response. The judicial revolving door spews its product onto your street, not theirs. Oh to be wrapped in blind idealism.

I find it odd though, the literary hero of the radical left shunned gun control and then took his own life with a gun. Profoundly ironic.

Posted by: SportscarBruce | Feb 22, 2005 8:46:01 PM

The King is Dead: Raoul Duke Cashes His Check:


"I would feel real trapped in this life if I didn't know I could commit suicide at any time," he once told Ralph Steadman, his creative collaborator, who was first paired up with Thompson for the Scanlan's Monthly article at the Kentucky Derby, and remained a lifelong friend.

Mahalo, Dr. Gonzo. Res Ipsa Loquitur

Posted by: syntallic | Feb 22, 2005 9:37:13 PM

Mr. Brown,

In death, Hunter S. Thompson gains what most Buddhists want; nothingness. In life, i imagine you asking him to write with less opprobrium. Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi.
Etiquette Master

Posted by: Etiquette Master | Feb 22, 2005 10:49:27 PM

The Side of the Good in the Battle of Good V Evil has Lost One of its Bravest, Greatest Warrior-Poets. While Corrupt Generals and Lesser Foot Soldiers struggle onward the Loss of a true Hero, Hunter S. Thompson is felt deeply. Even the Degenerate Scum-Fucks on the side of Evil must Mourn the Loss of a Great Adversary.
Though Outward appearances May indicate otherwise, make no mistake that this Warrior died on the field of Battle, in Active Duty. Such was the Nature of His Bravery, he not only Risked his Life, as any Cowardly Fool may do, He Put his Sanity and Soul on the Line. Evil may have taken his Life, But they are Denied the Latter Two. Those who have seen the True Battle Field in this War Recognize this loss and will Take Strength in Remembrance of His Bravery.
Many Fools believe that the Battle of the Good V Evil can be Fought with Fear, Explosives, Bullets, and Cannon Fodder. It is Clearly Apparent to All who Have Seen the Battle Field that these Men Have been Rubed by the Enemy. Make No Mistake the Battle for Good can ONLY be fought with the Pursuit of Truth. Hunter S Thompson Risked it All in the Pursuit of the Truth and Died Sadly of Injuries Taken on the Field of Battle.

Post Script:
You may Think i am Full of Grandiose Horse Sh__, i may be, However i have sustained many different kinds of injuries in my Life and i Assure you: Injuries taken in the Pursuit of Truth are the Most Painful and Difficult in Healing.

Posted by: cmf | Feb 22, 2005 11:03:02 PM

I take it you are anti-gun.

But of course you are.

Posted by: James C. Hess | Feb 23, 2005 4:31:01 AM

his aura smiled and never frowned

Posted by: JackM.Forester | Feb 23, 2005 6:35:27 AM

“He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

Definitely a pyrrhic victory.

Posted by: TSO | Feb 23, 2005 8:20:04 AM

Good commentary, Jerry.

The current political scene is pretty horrifying. Every week Bush or Congress comes out with a new shocker, such as HR418 or Negroponte.

With all the torturers and worse that Bush is nominating, it seems the biggest threat to safety and freedom in the United States is the Bush Administration. Under HR418, Chertoff can waive ALL laws with no judicial review and no relief. The discretion as to which laws he is to waive is Chertoff's alone - according to HR 418. While this clearly violates the U.S. Constitution, there has been too little enforcement of the U.S. Constitution by the U.S. Supreme Court lately. Given Chertoff's involvement with the financiers of 9/11, this seems a potentially dangerous situation.

Jerry, I'd be interested in knowing what you feel can be done to protect the people of California from potential abuses of power by the Bush Regime.

Posted by: Ruth | Feb 23, 2005 4:34:21 PM

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