Volume 77, Issue 2
September 16, 2005

The Great Gonzo Hunt

Elm Staff Writer

Written just under the wire with no real information about the event he was supposed to cover (a concept I think most of us are familiar with), "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" created not only a new genre, but also a phenomenon, and the phenomenon turned the writer, Hunter S. Thompson, into a legend.

It was this legend, his legacy and his very weird funeral that Peter Knox talked about, Thursday, September 8 at the Literary House.

Knox gave a brief introduction into Thompson's life and an explanation of what Gonzo really is. "Gonzo," he said, "is more about people than events."

Starting out as a journalistic device where the reporter is an important part of the article, gonzo has spread to many, if not all, of the other arts.

The essence of gonzo was omnipresentin Thompson's life and to celebrate the end of it, he had made big plans. A canon in the shape of a double thumbed fist (the symbol of Gonzo) was to shoot his ashes out over his property to the tune of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Knox showed us a video clip of Thompson and his long-time collaborater Ralph Steadman go over sketches of the canon, and Thompson showing exactly where he wanted the canon to be placed.

The canon - also nick-named the Giant Red Penis, after the red cloth that covered it all the way up until the launch - was erected in the exact spot that Thompson pointed out on the video, a video Thompson would refer people to when asked about what he wanted his funeral to be like.

Not only did it shoot out his ashes, but fireworks too, accompanied by "Mr. Tambourine Man," just how he wanted it.

Knox actually never made it into the "holy grounds" but he did see the canon go off. He also had a moment with Johnny Depp, while waiting outsideof the Thompson farm.

Knox told us about all the people who were at the funeral, some of them personal friends of Thompson, some of them reporters, some of them, like Knox himself, simply there to see their idol go out in style. One reporter told Knox, "I have all my information, but I just can't leave!" - a sentiment Knox definitely shared.

The talk ended with Knox telling the audience that he hoped and believed that Thompson would become the idol and model for the new generations of writers, and with someone as passionate as Knox around to tell us about him, it is hard to believe otherwise.