ShortList is now ad free and supported by you, the users. When you buy through the links on our site we may earn a commission. Learn more

20 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Hunter S Thompson

20 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Hunter S Thompson

20 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Hunter S Thompson
28 July 2014

“He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.” The words of the great Hunter S Thompson. And although we're not about to impart great wisdom like that on you, right now, hopefully we are about to teach you a thing or two about the gonzo god that you (probably) didn't know.


(Images: Rex & YouTube)


Writing for ESPN, Hunter once called Bill Murray (pictured) at 3am to pitch his idea for a new sport which combined clay pigeon shooting and golf. Your opponent would thwack the golf ball and you'd be charged with blasting it from the skies. You can read the transcript here.


Hunter once, for a brief moment, turned on his good pal John Cusack. "He got mad at me a few times. It wasn’t fun." recalls JC. "I once bet against him on a Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears game and he lost. He wanted to double the bet, but I said, “No, just pay me.” And he was like: “You motherf*cking c*cksucker!” and hung up. Then he called me later and pretended it had never happened."


His ashes were fired from a 150ft tower topped by a red fist with two thumbs clutching a peyote button (pictured), the symbol of Thompson's first-person gonzo journalism. Bob Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man played as the ashes launched in a ceremony close pal Johnny Depp paid for. Present were Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, Josh Hartnett, Sean Penn and Lyle Lovett (to whom he once sold a Cadillac Eldorado).


Hunter himself shaved Johnny Depp's head in preparation for the actor's role as Raoul Duke in Fear And Loathing. The moment was caught on camera, check it out here. Thompson can be seen inexplicably wearing a miner's hat.


Prior to filming Fear And Loathing, Bill Murray, who played Hunter in Where The Buffalo Roam rang Johnny Depp with the advice: "Be careful or you'll find yourself ten years from now still doing him... Make sure your next role is some drastically different guy."


The author objected to this scene in Fear And Loathing... where Raoul Duke tosses change at a dwarf waiter. He found it distasteful.


Hunter S Thompson once left this expletive-laden voicemail for a company who installed a new entertainment system for him. The highlight of the message comes when he brilliantly forgets his own phone number.


The "Red Shark" in Fear And Loathing..., a 1971 Chevrolet Impala convertible, is Hunter S. Thompson's own convertible, while much of the clothes worn by Depp were also direct from Hunter's own wardrobe.


At 15, he made an electric go-kart using a washing machine engine.


To improve his writing style and while working for Time he copied F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby" word for word, from start to finish. He's also rumoured to have done the same with Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms,


He started calling himself Dr Hunter S Thompson after buying himself a mail-order doctorate in Divinity. Seeking spiritual guidance from the self-ordained one, Miami Vice actor and neighbour Don Johnson (pictured) once asked Hunter: “What is the sound of one-hand clapping?”.

“He reached up and slapped me upside the head.” said Johnson. The resulting tinnitus lingered for days.


Thompson and Don Johnson, wrote a script for a 2-hour TV movie called "Bridges", about a cop battling alcoholism and drug addiction who works in L.A. with his short Latino partner, while dating a mafioso's daughter. NBC bought the script and turned it into the 1996 series Nash Bridges. Hunter had a cameo as a piano player in the pilot. You can see that moment here.


After covering the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami for Rolling Stone, Hunter went for an evening swim in the ocean to clear his head. When a tropical storm blew up, Thompson was caught in a riptide and swept out to sea. He spent the rest of the night fighting to swim back to the beach, finally crawling ashore at 9am.


His friend Russell Chatham once told of something that happened to Hunter while he fished in Key West: “He told us ‘I was getting out of the boat. My foot slipped and I fell. My hand hit the throttle and the boat took off!’ He sent the goddamn boat away from the dock at top speed and it circled the harbour and came back at him and he had to make a run for it. It came back around, careened off the front of about three dozen boats and ripped the fronts off half of them, and fired up across the dock and across the lawn and into the country club.”


Hunter appeared outside Jack Nicholson's home on the night of Nicholson's birthday. He set off a high-powered spotlight and gunfire and played a tape of animal cries through an amplifier to awaken him. Thompson then left a freshly-cut elk's heart at Nicholson's door as a joke. Fearing a stalker, Big Jack alerted the FBI while his terrified family hid in the cellar overnight.


Bizarrely, given the outcome of the previous gift, Thompson later sent Nicholson’s nine-year-old daughter Lorraine a beautifully-wrapped Christmas present. Inside was a grotesquely graphic model of a dead rat caught in a trap. A note included read: “Dear Lorraine. This will teach you a lesson about trusting men which will be valuable later in life. You’re welcome, Uncle Hunter.”


He and two friends robbed a liquor store by starting a fight with the clerks, then cleaning out the cash register in the confusion. He also once robbed the same gas station three nights on the trot.


Hunter rode the British made motorcycle BSA A65 Lightning while researching Hell's Angels. When he lived in Big Sur in the early 1960s, he rode his Lightning so much he was known as "The Wild One of Big Sur".


Whiskey was his lifelong love. As a young man he liked Old Crow, but matured into Chivas Regal Scotch (liked it best when driving) and Wild Turkey. At his first meeting with his New York publishers, they watched in amazement as he gulped down 20 double Wild Turkeys in a little over three hours, then walked out as if totally unaffected.


Hunter and chums once inflated a tractor tyre with a highly flammable gas until it was eight feet wide. “One of the gang was running late,” wrote his friend Michael Cleverly in The Kitchen Readings: Untold Stories of Hunter S Thompson. “He was four miles away when he saw a massive orange glow in the sky. Then the concussion hit him; he felt it even though he was in his car. Back at Owl Farm [Hunter's Aspen home] everyone was flat on their backs. The only one who counted the broken windows was the guy who fixed them.”