Rolling Stone editor slays king of Gonzo
Knowing I had met and interviewed one of my favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson, at the Kahala Mandarin in 2002, three years before he killed himself, my daughter Sarah gave me for Christmas a new book out on the great man. I sent this e-mail to her at college in Oregon:
I finished "Gonzo," the "oral history" hatchet job on Hunter Thompson that apparently all of his ex-wives, girlfriends and anyone else he ever p--ed off decided to publish. What a brutal tome. Man, this was like the entire Roman senate turning on Julius Caesar.
Et tu, Jann Wenner? Wenner is the publisher of Rolling Stone magazine who masterminded this posthumous character assassination. He also encouraged Hunter's extreme behavior in return for putting Rolling Stone on the political and pop-culture map. Wenner whined all the way to the circulation bank about how hard it was to get Hunter to finish a story, but then would drop acid with him at Hunter's Colorado compound and basically attach himself like a rented remora to Hunter so he could bask in the residual glory and coolness that surrounded the country's King of Weird.
Wenner wrung the last bit of creative juice out of Hunter, finally discarding him like a used grapefruit, leaving him a pathetic, drunken, drug-addled, hobbled (and essentially impoverished) shell. Probably to protect his literary legacy from further degenerating into parody and pathos, Hunter took the .45-caliber express to Shambhala. And how lucky for Wenner. Wenner had a winner of an ending for his alleged biography of Hunter.
With all the whining Wenner did about how hard it was to get Hunter to finish a writing project, it's ironic -- nauseating, really -- that Wenner didn't take the time to actually write this book himself. Like one of those annoying wedding videographers roaming around gathering reflections from guests on the happy couple for posterity, Wenner passed around a tape recorder to a chilling rabble of Hunter's ex-wives, bed partners, political hired guns and celebrities, and allowed them to gnaw and tear chunks from Hunter's carefully crafted public persona. The result of Wenner's cashing in, postmortem, on Hunter's talent?
"Gonzo" is autopsy-by-bacchanalia, pitifully masquerading as objective, historic truth. The few contributors to this heartless enterprise to come off well are Jack Nicholson, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Depp and Hunter's amazingly resilient son, Juan. (Depp wrote the introduction, a funny, moving and brilliant homage to his close friend. Too bad it had to be published in this book.)
Wenner likely has sold the movie rights to this LIED (literary improvised explosive device) and so continues to feed on Hunter's celebrated carcass.
Little did Hunter know when the Hells Angels were kicking the cr-p out of him while he was writing the book that made him famous, that compared with what Wenner et al. has done to him in "Gonzo," the Hells Angels incident was like a big group hug.
There's an old saying: You get the biographer you deserve. But despite his notorious excesses, Hunter S. Thompson didn't deserve Jann Wenner.
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