Hunter S. Thompson remains one of the wildest figures in all of literary history. His extensive writing (‘The Rum Diaries,’ ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’), debauched lifestyle, famous friends, and the founding of ‘gonzo journalism’ made him an icon.
In honor of the literary legend’s 80th birthday, we’ve put together eight of his most iconic feats!
1. He shaved Johnny Depp’s head for the movie of his book ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.’
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Hunter himself shaved Johnny Depp’s head in preparation for the actor’s role as Thompson’s alter-ego Raoul Duke in Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas. “I didn’t look in the mirror at all. I was in mortal fear,” said Depp of the experience. “Hunter had a mining light… on his head, we were in his kitchen – and yeah, he shaved my hair.”
2. The Red Shark from ‘Fear and Loathing…’ actually belonged to him!
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In Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas, the ‘Red Shark,’ a 1971 Chevrolet Impala convertible, belonged to Hunter S. Thompson. Many of the costumes worn by Depp were also taken directly from Thompson’s own closet!
3. To improve his writing, he typed out F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” from start to finish several times.
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While working at Time, he did the same with Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
4. His idea of a joke led Jack Nicholson to call the FBI!
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On the night of Nicholson’s birthday, Thompson left a raw elk heart on his doorstep. The heart bled under the door. He then set off a high-powered spotlight, fired a gun, and played a recording of animal cries through an amplifier to awaken the family. Nicholson, fearing a deranged stalker, phoned the FBI while his terrified family hid in the cellar.
5. He wasn’t through with the Nicholsons!
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Thompson later sent Jack’s nine-year-old daughter Lorraine a grotesquely graphic model of a rat caught in a trap along with the following note that read: “Dear Lorraine. This will teach you a lesson about trusting men which will be valuable later in life. You’re welcome, Uncle Hunter.”
6. He referred to himself as Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
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He began doing this after purchasing a mail-order doctorate in Divinity.
7. He lived and rode with Hell’s Angels for over a year.
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Thompson was the founder of ‘Gonzo journalism,’ a style of journalism without objectivity, wherein the writer engages and lives with their subjects. His work on the Hell’s Angels, as discussed in a January 7, 1967 NY Times article, dove deep into a world titled “On the Wild Side,” “presented us with a close view of a world most of us would never dare encounter.”
Of his experience, Thompson said, “I was no longer sure whether I was doing research on the Hell’s Angels or being slowly absorbed by them.”
8. He requested that his ashes be shot out of a 153-foot canon.
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His ashes were blasted from a cannon mounted inside a 53-foot-high sculpture of the ‘gonzo fist’ symbol, which was mounted on a 100-foot pillar, making the monument 153 feet high.
Featured image courtesy of Rolling Stone