Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gonzo, a son of Louisville

Whether we know it, like it or embrace it or not, my hometown of Louisville, KY has exported two of the greatest rebels in American history -- Muhammad Ali and Hunter S. Thompson. The boxer who was a poet and the writer who was a fighter. Two men who revolutionized not only their respective genres but challenged the orthodoxy of atheletics and journalism and the world at large. In Louisville we've finally come to our senses and embraced Ali by building a downtown shrine -- mainly becuase he's a shell of his former self and much easier to digest.

The Ali Center is the glitter, giggles and gum of Ali. We ignore the work of the Ali Institute at the University of Louisville, which though under funded is the meat and bones Ali's legacy.

Even though he's been dead for nearly three years after offing himself, Thompson is still harder to swallow and a bit unnerving to a lot of folks from his hometown. There's certainly an underground following in an attempt to "Keep Louisville Weird" but there's not even one of those obnoxious giant posters that say, "(Person's Name) Louisville" in the city. Questions such as, 'Why doesn't Louisville have an institute of journalism with at least his named attached?' may provide answers that are more sad than puzzling. That would be a project I'd love to join.

Anyhow, tomorrow is the debut of a new documentary film about Thompson, entitled GONZO: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, which is written and directed by Alex Gibney. I hope it is showing in his city of birth, regardless I'm going to see it at Landmark's Century Centre. Go check it out, if you can. But first, read this article on the film.

From the Chicago Reader:

As Gonzo makes clear, the pitfalls of augmenting journalism with the techniques of fiction emerged when Rolling Stone assigned Thompson to cover George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972. In a panel discussion taped years later, Thompson chuckles as McGovern campaign manager Frank Mankiewicz calls Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 “the most accurate and least factual account of that campaign.” But Thompson’s mischief had real consequences when he speculated that Democratic candidate Edmund Muskie, whom he despised, was being treated with the obscure hallucinogenic drug Ibogaine by a shadowy Brazilian doctor. After Rolling Stone published his statement, thinking it too ridiculous for anyone to take seriously, it was picked up by the news wires as a legitimate story. “People really believed that Muskie was eating Ibogaine,” Thompson tells a TV interviewer. “I never said he was—said there was a rumor in Milwaukee that he was. Which was true, and I started the rumor in Milwaukee...

I’m a very accurate journalist.”
If you're interested in knowing more about Hunter S. Thompson and you happen to be one of those strange people who still reads books, there's a new biography, Outlaw Journalist: The Life & Times of Hunter S. Thompson by William McKeen.


Anonymous said...

i'm really excited to see gonzo. i'd surely go see the movie if it was playing in louisville. now i'll have to wait until they release it on dvd or it leaks on the internets.

This Is Not Shannon said...

LMAO @ that Ibogaine story. That's the kind of journalist I'd probably be...but for someone who extols the virtues of fact-checking, I'm surprised that you like him so much...NOT.