Hunter Thompson’s family seeks permanent home for his archives
ASPEN, Colo. ” Hunter S. Thompson’s son bounds into the room on a recent Saturday morning wearing a pinkish, plastic visor, circa 1971, that reads “Las Vegas” alongside a picture of two dice.
This decades-old knickknack is among the multitude of items set to become part of the writer’s archives, which Thompson’s family and estate executors expect will elevate his literary standing.
“It will be a good way to help him to continue to be taken seriously,” said Juan Thompson. “Most people don’t (take him seriously). He’s that wild man who did a lot of drugs and did a lot of crazy stuff.”
Thompson’s personal and professional life – which he generally melded together – was, in fact, split between drugs and swashbuckling cultural criticism. The author of such iconic books as Hell’s Angels and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas killed himself with a handgun in the kitchen of his Woody Creek home Feb. 20.
The Associated Press recently was given a glimpse of some items in the archives. They include manuscripts, as well as the visor, cocktail napkins and rental car receipts from Las Vegas. There are photos of the author with the Hell’s Angels and examples of his “shotgun art.”
Thompson’s family and executors hope to place the archives, now in temporary storage at a secret site in Aspen, with a university in a city or state with some connection to the author. Obvious candidates include Kentucky, Thompson’s birthplace; Colorado, where he lived for nearly 40 years; and literary-rich New York, where he once worked.
“Something that would feel right for Hunter,” added presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who also is Thompson’s official biographer. “He’s somebody who didn’t like Phoenix.”
For now, the archives are a hodgepodge of file cabinets, storage tubes, miscellaneous stacks and hundreds of cardboard boxes.
One is labeled “Mags and Newspapers 1967-1980.” A box that reads “Steadman, R.,” surely refers to Ralph Steadman, who illustrated many of Thompson’s works.
And visible in the stacks is a large, multicolored Steadman drawing of the “lizard lounge” scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The book’s original manuscript also resides in the archives, said the late author’s wife, Anita Thompson.
Juan Thompson says his father’s presence remains strongest at his residence, nicknamed Owl Farm. But meandering through the archives gives Juan a sense of finality surrounding his father’s death.
“When he (my father) was alive, he would never, ever, ever have allowed this to leave the house,” he says, wearing his father’s Aztec medallion necklace, which will not go into the archives.
Other items include a swath of padded manila paper that references Thompson’s novel and reads: “Rum Diary Bound Galleys.”
Another box is for Thompson’s unfinished book, “Polo is My Life.” Inside that box are manuscripts, notes and outlines. Anita Thompson cannot immediately locate them, but says polo mallets are somewhere in the room.
Juan Thompson recalls hotel bills from 20 years past, and 1,000 small, hotel-sized bars of Neutrogena soap Thompson probably purchased when he first discovered the brand.
Anita Thompson said her husband learned his archival ways from his mother, a librarian.
Brinkley said Thompson’s letters to his mom when he was jailed at 17 are among the items that have not yet been made public.
Thompson was an avid reader, and books lying about include the 1950 novel “Joy Street” by Frances Parkinson Keyes and “Alice in Wonderland.”
Thompson’s reporter notebooks chronicle him discussing the Black Panthers while at the Louisville, Ky., airport ” a scene recounted in his story, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.”
“He was a chronicler of himself,” Brinkley said, and added, “It’s a unique view of modern America.”
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