WOODY CREEK, Colo. – Hunter S. Thompson’s grand finale went off as planned: His ashes were blasted into the night sky in an explosion friends and fans agreed he would have loved. But some said the gonzo journalist would have sneered at the Hollywood trappings — champagne toasts by movie stars and former presidential candidates.
Filmmaker Nancy Cohen tried to organize a group of 100 fans outside the gates of Thompson’s farm to crash the Saturday night party.
“That’s what Hunter would have done,” she said.
“This looks more like a fancy dress ball than a memorial for a counterculture icon,” said Cohen, of New York, producer of “My Dinner With Abbie,” a film about 1960s radical activist Abbie Hoffman.
Crashing the party would have been difficult with the dozens of black-clad security guards who lined the roads leading to the farm.
“It looks like the neighborhood has been invaded by the Viet Cong,” friend and neighbor Mike Cleverly said of the guards.
“I am pretty sure it isn’t how Hunter would have done it,” said longtime friend George Stranahan.
The writer’s ashes were fired from atop a 15-story tower modeled after Thompson’s logo: a clenched fist, holding a peyote button, rising from the hilt of a dagger. It was built between his home and a tree-covered canyon wall.
The guests gathered in a pavilion next to the platform. Inside were blow up sex dolls and a mask of Thompson’s arch enemy, late President
Richard Nixon. With drums beating in the background, trays of champagne circulated before Thompson’s remains flew.
Thompson shot himself in his kitchen Feb. 20, apparently despondent over his declining health.
The national and most local media were barred from the tribute to the groundbreaking writer who was credited, along with Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese, with helping pioneer New Journalism — he dubbed his version “gonzo journalism” — in which the writer was an essential component of the story.
His only son, Juan Thompson, said the hundreds of celebrities, including actors Johnny Depp and
Bill Murray, musician Lyle Lovett and former Democratic presidential nominees George McGovern and Sen. John Kerry, wouldn’t have felt comfortable with the press around.
Depp, who played Thompson in the 1998 film adaptation of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” paid for the $2.5 million extravaganza. Depp and Juan Thompson embraced as the ashes fell to the ground.
Juan Thompson told the Aspen Daily News that the ceremony not only fulfilled the vision his father outlined in a 1978 BBC video, but it “was bigger than he ever imagined.”
Ralph Steadman, who illustrated many of Thompson’s works, had a different take on the extravaganza.
“He’d probably say it wasn’t quite big enough,” said Steadman. “We want him back. (Saturday night) was a kind of pleading for him to come back. All is forgiven.”