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Posted on February 25, 2005
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John Patrick
LV Life Editor

The afterlife got a heavy dose of fear and loathing this past Sunday when famed journalist Hunter S.Thompson killed himself with a shotgun. He was the father of Gonzo Journalism and my personal hero.

His drug-fueled writing has greatly enhanced my life and understanding of the world

I had the good fortune to meet Thompson last October at a book signing held at Book Soup in Hollywood.

The crowd that had gathered to meet him was made up of an entire spectrum of followers.

Aging hippies, young dope fiends, politics junkies, shameless yuppies and all matter of social deviants filed one by one into the bookstore hoping to have their five minutes with the man.

I remember him as being impeccably decked out with his cigarette holder, Hilfiger jacket and trademark hat and glasses.

As he sat there, signing books and sipping some unknown cocktail, I couldn’t help but notice his apparent understanding of his fans.

When some lowly defector from his beloved drug, peace and love movement would approach, he would act crazy, blatantly trying to make them uncomfortable.

When the left-over hippies rambled up, there was small talk and pleasantries.

But when I came to the man, something different happened. His reaction was not what I had expected.

Thompson looked up at me, piercing blue eyes staring intently right into mine, through aviator sunglasses.

I was not prepared for this. After watching bad craziness and small pleasantries, this intent and silent stare was like a crippling blow. I couldn’t speak while he was studying me… there was nothing to say. I just stared back, leaning in and returning the same intense gaze.

“Well, do you have a story?” Thompson said, breaking the silence.

“I do sir,” I said, recomposing myself. “I’m from the University of La Verne, and I just wanted to tell you that you are the only author that has ever made me feel like I truly missed out on something special by not having lived through the sixties.”

“You did,” Thompson said. “Are you a professor?”

“No,” I said, “I’m a journalism major.”

“Well, believe it or not, this is journalism,” Thompson said, pointing to my copy of “Hey Rube” as he signed it. “What’s your name?”

“John.”

Thompson scrawled my name across the top of the book’s title page followed by his own at the bottom.

I took the book and thanked him, not just for signing it, but also for the fact that it was his writing that inspired me to major in journalism.

It was only five minutes with a man who saw me as nothing more than a fan. But for those five minutes he and I shared a sincere conversation. And though it may have meant nothing to him, it meant the world to me.

And that is why when I look toward his home in Colorado with the right kind of eyes I will be able to see the high-water mark—that place where Thompson’s wave finally broke and rolled back.

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
—Hunter S. Thompson

John Patrick, a junior journalism major, is LV Life editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at jpatrick@ulv.edu.