Documentary - Gonzo


Gonzo journalism and happy memories as Steve Taylor-Bryant remembers the Alex Gibney documentary about Hunter S. Thompson...

My writing career (all right, hobby) started at the back end of the 1990's. I ran a small nightclub, had a drinking problem, loved my narcotics and was part of a small team that worked on something called Weekender magazine, a monthly release of what was happening in Taunton, Somerset, a town full of the arty and musical types. It was actually here that I met /G-F stalwart Steven Harris, but you will have to wait for my memoirs for those tales. I was tasked with reviewing a drink promotion each month.

Go to a venue, see what was on offer and tell the good folk of the market town basically what Gin tasted like with Cranberry juice in it. Instead I took on the pseudonym of Olly Reed (my drinking hero) and reviewed the night out instead. Very rarely did the tasked item even make it into the article as I went off on drugged fuelled tangents. The Editor of Weekender said he liked my Gonzo style and I had to admit I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. This led to my introduction into the books and letters of Hunter S. Thompson and my life would never be the same again.

Skip forward to 2008 and my life has changed. The drink was under control, the drugs intermittent at best and I was nearly clean, as I am today, but that love affair was still there so when Alex Gibney released his documentary I was insanely happy.

Gonzo is narrated by Thompson friend and actor Johnny Depp, mainly through Thompson's own musings, and goes through some very important moments in the life of this tortured soul. In-depth conversations about his time with the Hell's Angels are superb and anyone who hasn't read the book will want to afterwards. The motorcycle gang members included in the documentary still have a lot hate for Thompson, although it is still tinged with respect. Along with the news media clips and the face off debate on live TV between Hunter and one of the gang, this is an incredible segment and a way into Hunter's head that makes this documentary worth buying on its own.

With Thompson's move to Aspen, Colorado, came more issues. The drug use was more apparent and you could tell that Thompson almost hated himself. After his experiences "On The Campaign Trail" you got to know a different Hunter, a political animal that knew what he wanted. He covered McGovern's presidential battle with Nixon, made up the fact that Edward Muskie took the drug Ibogaine, and enthralled and tormented the political teams in equal measure. He ran for office himself, as Sheriff of Colorado. He didn't win but he played the media enough that the usual run of politicians ended up more open and honest.

His work for Rolling Stone, the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas period and his incredible partnership with British artist Ralph Steadman all get glorious coverage, as does his fall from genius and his inability to write after missing The Rumble in the Jungle through being stoned.

Hunter S. Thompson killed himself in 2005, just before he became a parody of himself. There are interviews and memories with everyone from a biker to Jimmy Carter, from his wife/s to his editors. The documentary is more a fond farewell than an exploitive journalistic film, but this is nice. I don't want an hour and a half about how moody he could be. I want to celebrate the warped and twisted mind.

Image - IMDb.