hunter s. thompson·back to gonzo Julen Azpitarte   At the Bilbao FANT fantasy cinema festival, which finished last May, Gonzo: The Life and work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (Alex Gibney, 2008), a documentary about the US writer Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005), was projected. The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs was an acute observer and chronicler of the counter cultural explosion and political confusion in the US in the 60's. His professional life became as tragic as it was dangerous. In fact, on the 20th of February, 2005, he committed suicide. He loved drugs, women and weapons; a provocative man, he almost became a sheriff; a rare bird, he went to cover the legendary fight between Mohamed Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa in 1974 but stayed in the hotel swimming pool... Thompson's life was an up-and-down journey along the most dangerous bends in the road.

The creator of Gonzo journalism and imagery was born in Louisville. With precise, subjective descriptions, he wrote his journalism in the first person, and that was its main Gonzo attitude permeates all of Thompson's texts and so the events in themselves become no more important than their effect on the writer. His greatest work using his obsession about describing things just where they happened was Hell's Angels, his book about the motorcycle gang. The book's origins are in the two articles which The Nation magazine published in 1965. The writer spent a year living with the trouble-making bikers and used his experiences to the book. But the Hell's Angels got angry when he started to make money: they demanded their part of the earnings. In the end their connection finished when they gave Thompson the hiding of his life. The documentary included scenes from a television programme with the Hell's Angels and Thompson insulting each other face to face. The book Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs was published in 1966.

Even so, Thompson didn't hear the word Gonzo until 1970 when he was writing an article called The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Deprived. When his deadline was almost up, the writer tore the pages out of his notebook and sent them to Scanlan Monthly sports magazine without putting them in order. The editor thought it was great writing. What's more, from then on Thompson worked closely with the draughtsman Ralph Steadman, who illustrated his writing. The journalist Bill Cardoso read the article and said it was Gonzo style. Thompson was happy to take the label on.

fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Thompson's best known work is definitely the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam took it to the cinema in 1988 with the actors Johnny Depp –a close friend of the writer's– and Benicio del Toro). It's based on when the writer himself (Raoul Duke, in the book) and the lawyer Oscar Zeta Acosta (Dr. Gonzo) went to Las Vegas to write about the American Dream on what became a psychodelic, surreal journey. The two of them, up to their eyeballs in drugs, ripped off whoever they could and created chaos wherever they went, destroying everything and insulting passers-by. This work is a savage criticism of the American Dream and US society of the time. It's become a cult work, especially among followers of New Journalism and Gonzo journalism. Rolling Stone magazine published the book in 1971 with Steadmen's illustrations. It's also worth mentioning that in 1972 he wrote Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 about the presidential election campaign between Richard Nixon and senator George McGovern.

>i>The Gonzo documentary deals with all these articles and also gives an audio-visual biography with numerous testimonies. The film ends with the fist-shaped vertical mausoleum built for Thompson after his death. The tomb was designed while the writer was still alive. The sheriff of Pitkin (Colorado) had started his election campaign with his political party Freak Power's symbol on top of a column: a six-fingered fist with the peyote symbol.