When Johnny Depp stepped up to a podium to address Hunter S. Thompson’s family and friends Saturday night at the elaborate memorial service he had planned and funded, he kept his remarks characteristically modest. “It’s nice to be able to give a little something back,” Johnny said. “Hunter, this is for you.” Later, he played the guitar and sang “My Old Kentucky Home” with Lyle Lovett and Jimmy Ibbotson of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band–a gesture to Hunter’s Kentucky roots (which Johnny shares).
Two hours of tributes and reminiscences preceded the launching of the fireworks containing Hunter’s ashes. His widow Anita spoke first, reading Hunter’s favorite poem, Coleridge’s visionary “Kubla Khan,” through her tears. “We’ve been through a lot together,” she told her guests. “Hunter just wants to come home.” CBS news reporter Ed Bradley and Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, both longtime friends, spoke of their affection for Hunter and their admiration for his groundbreaking journalism. 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, whose doomed campaign was documented by Hunter in a brilliant book, saluted Hunter and wished him “a happy journey in that land of mystery.” Juan Thompson, Hunter’s only child, was the last to speak, and dismissed the idea that the farewell ceremonies were designed to bring closure. “I don’t want closure; I want to remember him,” Juan Thompson said. “Missing him is a way of loving him.”
Mint juleps–another Kentucky tradition–were given to arriving guests, but no alcohol was served during the tributes until just before Hunter’s ashes were launched. Then trays of champagne circulated so Hunter’s friends could raise a toast. The Gonzo monument was unveiled to the strains of “Spirit in the Sky.” A troupe of Japanese ceremonial drummers reached a crescendo as the fireworks exploded in the Colorado night. Johnny and Juan Thompson solemnly raised their champagne glasses and then embraced one another as the ashes fell.
The brightly lit monument continued to shine an image of the Gonzo fist on the clouds over Owl Farm as Hunter’s guests lingered to the wee hours of the morning. Boston attorney George Tobia, one of the executors of Hunter’s estate, told reporter Jeff Kass, “I really think this is the greatest celebration that anyone has ever thrown for anyone else.” Given the breadth of soul of the man who inspired it and the man who created it, it could not be anything else.
The Zone thanks emma for posting reports from the New York Times and the Rocky Mountain News; johnnysboots for the article from the Denver Post; sjc, who posted a radio interview from NPR with one of the guests; and Charly, Reemi, and theresa who posted news videos. Links to the videos and many news stories can be found on the Zone’s News & Views forum.