Hunter S. Thompson

Words by Theodora Sutcliffe

Originally from: Louisville, Kentucky
Profession: Journalist
At: New York

So who was Hunter S. Thompson?
Gonzo journalist, writer, hard drug evangelist, sports reporter, literary legend, monster and friend of the stars - also, implausibly enough, a Kentucky Colonel. Thompson lived hard and partied harder, and once opined that "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming 'Wow! What a ride!'"

Where did he drink?
When Thompson lived in New York, he was a regular at McSorley's ale house. His Colorado local, just down the hill from Owl Farm, the rambling house where he lived with his gun collection, his peacocks, an eccentric coterie of friends and, towards the end, his second wife, was the Woody Creek Tavern. In London, he liked to stay at The Savoy, and ran up an impressive bar tab there. On one occasion he stole a journalist's tape recorder in Raymond's Revue Bar. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, he made several memorable appearances at the Pendennis Club.

What did he drink?
Margaritas on the rocks; champagne in the hot tub; Chartreuse of an evening; beers. But his regular sustenance was whisky. Originally, he drank Wild Turkey, he recalled "like some sort of sacrament for - I mean, constantly - for I think fifteen years... I insisted on it and I drank it constantly and I liked it." After a six month break, he returned to Wild Turkey, found it "like drinking gasoline", and switched to Chivas Regal, the Scotch with which he would start his day on waking around 3pm, his tall tumbler replenished with both ice and booze throughout the day.

Any famous drinking buddies?
Just a few... Actors Benicio del Toro, Bill Murray, Sean Penn, John Cusack, Jack Nicholson and Gary Busey, writers Tom Wolfe and William F. Buckley, senator John Kerry, the singer Lyle Lovett... The illustrator Ralph Steadman was a long-term collaborator and illustrated his work. Johnny Depp financed his spectacular funeral and called a beach on his private island after him - it features furniture emblazoned with his face. Neighbour George Stranahan's Flying Dog brewery includes a beer named for Hunter, the Gonzo Imperial Porter.

How did drink change his life?
Drink was, generally, an accompaniment to Thompson's other preferred intoxicants, which he would carry with him in a bulging satchel. "Without that," he once said, "I'd have the brain of a second-rate accountant." Drugs, and, to a lesser degree alcohol, shaped his life and his legend to an extraordinary degree. They're the focus of the student must-read and gonzo classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson's goggle-eyed consumption made him an icon for aspiring writers, a literary legend, and, undoubtedly, contributed to his suicide.

Any drinking stories?
Hunter had a collection of guns, of which he was very proud, and sometimes shot them at visiting journalists for fun. Never predictable, he once caused carnage at a county college, calling the students attending his reading "beer-hippiers, thumbfuckers and loadies". While covering the Rumble in the Jungle, in Kinshasa, Zaire, Thompson took over a hotel car, drove it the wrong way down the city's only dual carriageway, then, realizing his mistake, drove it straight across the central barrier and to the stadium. He once placed elk hearts on his neighbours' doorsteps, while shooting a pistol and playing a looped tape of animals being slaughtered.