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Jim Irsay is owner of the Indianapolis Colts.

It was tough. I had just talked to him mid-week, and actually had a message from him on Wednesday, I think. It's hard because I'm just really going to miss my friend. In talking to him there was no indication. He had left me a message and it was a little unusual, he said, "You know James, um," -- he always called me James -- "James, uh, I love you, I just want you to know I love you. Ah, I don't want to get into that." Then he kind of veered off the subject.

Remembering Hunter
Page 2 contacted several of Hunter S. Thompson's closest friends for their recollections:

  • "60 Minutes" reporter Ed Bradley
  • Political correspondent William Greider
  • Former presidential candidate George McGovern
  • Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay
  • Satirical cartoonist Ralph Steadman
  • Skiing commentator Bob Beattie
  • Page 2's Eric Neel
  • Page 2's Bill Simmons
  • ESPN Executive Editor John Walsh
  • I knew that his body was failing him in some ways, but his spirit still seemed pretty high. He had a lot of projects going. We were talking about the upcoming season and stuff like that. The thing about Hunter was that he had such a big heart. That's the thing that I loved about him the most. Because really, just like Belushi and Chris Farley, he was just a big-hearted guy, and he was actually a very shy guy, and a very sweet guy. Put away all the bravado and all that stuff, just very brilliant.

    He was a father and a grandfather, and he used to keep the picture of his grandson on his computer, and maybe he'd sock it away and hide it and put some crossbones and skulls up there if someone came to visit. Because of course he couldn't have that up there ...

    I was out in L.A. when the elections were going on, and we were listening to them together on the speakerphone. And we were just laughing. And then he came into L.A. to do a little book show out there. It's tough because I might have had a chance to talk to him, maybe convincing him not to leave us right away. But I guess that he had kind of made up his mind.

    I got introduced to him through long-time friend Cameron Crowe. I helped Cameron on the "Jerry Maguire" movie. He gave me a book, I think it was "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail."

    * * * * *

    Hunter wrote this brilliant five pages of, "James, you know, dark times are going to fall upon you. You're a moneybag bastard, you're going to move your team to Cleveland." Just brilliant, hilarious stuff.

    In lieu of flowers and gifts, donations can be made to:

    The Hunter S. Thompson Foundation
    P.O. Box 220
    Woody Creek, CO 81656

    So we started communicating and just became such dear friends. He loved football, he just loved the NFL. The football games for him on Sundays and Monday nights were a huge part of his life. I think that we met that way, but like anyone that you get to know for a long period of time, the fact that you're an NFL owner or he's the Gonzo journalist, that stuff kind of just melts away, and your true friendship is what's there.

    When you caught him in times of clarity, he was always so brilliant. He could make you laugh. In the end, I think that somewhere in the back of my mind I was hoping that he might choose a different path, but it was hard to turn things around. I just know I'll miss him. It took me by surprise, because I didn't think it was time. We talked about three or four months ago, and he said, "You know, James, I'm thinking of putting my manuscript for 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' up (for auction). What do you think?"

    He knows I have Kerouac's scroll and Jerry Garcia's tiger guitar and George Harrison's guitar and that I collect different things. And I said, "Hunter, you can't do that until you're dead!" He laughed. But it was strange that he had that on his mind. Sometimes when you look back on conversations you read through the lines.

    At first I was really kind of angry, on Sunday night, you know -- "Goddammit, Hunter!" You just wish you maybe would have had a chance to talk to him before it, but I guess it's just the way it was meant to go down. He was a brilliant guy but he was also a sweet man and had a heart of gold.

    Those things you remember, it's not the outrageousness or the brilliance in the writing and some of the things that are more publicly known about him. It's his heart, and the kind of person he was in the sense that he battled the demons, you know, and it's something when those are chasing you. He had a fantastic life, and it was an adventurous life. He was special.

    Many of us didn't think he'd get to 67. I think we were probably fortunate to have him the last 15 or 20 years at all. I thought there was still enough for him to stay on the planet. But I guess when the day was done it was his his body that wasn't. It was a little bit more painful, a little bit harder to exist than I realized.

    He's brought so much joy to so many people. I always kind of thought that humor is the bridge to sanity in a world that can be quite insane. And I think he had that perceptive eye, that if you look at the world through the spiritual eye, you could see the madness of it all. He always captured that. And most importantly, I think he had that ability to be able to take that madness, brutality and suffering in our existence and turn it into insane dark stories that were quite funny. It was always the humor. He always had that knack.