Page 2

Bill Simmons is a writer for Page 2.

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
  • When I was writing columns for my old website in Boston, my buddies and I went to Vegas in March of '99. At some point during the weekend, I remember thinking to myself, "You know what? I should write about this, this would be a funny column."

    So I did. And enough people liked it that I made it a running tradition -- every time I went to Vegas, I wrote about what happened.

    Here's the point: Without Hunter Thompson, I never would have come up with that idea. Writers are pretty easy to figure out -- we're road maps of everyone we read in our formative years, and eventually, a real style emerges from the abyss. I took pieces from every style I ever liked and made them my own. For instance, when I was still in high school and my buddy Gus went off to college, we wrote each other Lupica Letters -- rambling one-liners that weren't connected to one another, like a cross between Lupica's Daily News column and Larry King's USA Today column. When I went to college, I started writing these Lupica Letters for my school newspaper, in a column that was called "The Ramblings." Eventually, they gave me my own space every week. Sixteen years later, I still have one.

    Does it happen without Lupica's column? Probably not. But he wasn't the only writer who influenced me -- there were probably 10-12 along the way, and I learned something important from all of them. From Hunter, I learned that anything was possible -- as long as it was entertaining, you could write 50,000 words about using a port-o-john and people would read it. That's a pretty liberating lesson. When you're coming up in this business, everyone tells you what you can't do -- you haven't paid your dues yet, you're too young, the piece is too long, you need to tone this down, and so on. Hunter was the flip side. He made you think of the things that you could do.

    Because of his lifestyle, there was always a time-sensitivity issue with Hunter, almost like he was a gallon of milk that remained fresh for months past the due date. The man had been drinking himself to death for 35 years. When I wanted to visit him in Woody Creek and write a column about the trip, his friend John Walsh told me, "You better get up there soon, you never know with him." In other words, make your plane reservations ahead of time, but make sure they're refundable. His friends were astonished that he was still around. Then again, so was Hunter.

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

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

    Eventually, Walsh decided to come with me. We planned on late-October of last year, the only date that worked for both of us. As soon as the Red Sox were knocked out of the playoffs, we would make our reservations and head up there. Yep, that was the plan ... right up until Dave Roberts took the lead off first base in Game Four. Within two weeks, we were rescheduling the Hunter trip for 2005.

    "I just hope he makes it that long," Walsh said.

    Well, he didn't. And looking back, if I had a choice between the Red Sox winning the World Series and spending the weekend with Hunter S. Thompson, obviously, I'm going with the Sox.

    But it's closer than you would think.