Hunter S. Thompson - Later Years

Later Years

The year 1980 marked both his divorce from Sandra Conklin and the release of Where the Buffalo Roam, a loose film adaptation of situations from Thompson's early 1970s work, with Bill Murray starring as the author. Murray would go on to become one of Thompson's trusted friends. After the lukewarm reception of the film, Thompson temporarily relocated to Hawaii to work on a book, The Curse of Lono, a Gonzo-style account of a marathon held in that state. Extensively illustrated by Ralph Steadman, the piece first appeared in Running magazine in 1981 as "The Charge of the Weird Brigade" and was excerpted in Playboy in 1983.

On July 21, 1981, in Aspen, Colorado, Thompson was pulled over for running a stop sign at 2 a.m., and began to "rave" at a state trooper. He also refused to submit to intoxication tests. Consequently he was arrested, but the drunk-driving charges against him were later dropped.

In 1983, he covered the U.S. invasion of Grenada but would not discuss these experiences until the publication of Kingdom of Fear 20 years later. Later that year he authored a piece for Rolling Stone called "A Dog Took My Place", an exposé of the scandalous Roxanne Pulitzer divorce and what he termed the "Palm Beach lifestyle." The article contained dubious insinuations of bestiality (among other things) but was considered to be a return to proper form by many.

Shortly thereafter, Thompson accepted an advance to write about "couples pornography" for Playboy. As part of his research, in the spring of 1985 he spent evenings at the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theater striptease club in San Francisco and his experience there eventually evolved into a full-length novel tentatively titled The Night Manager. Neither the novel nor the article has been published.

At the behest of old friend and editor Warren Hinckle, Thompson became a media critic for the San Francisco Examiner from the mid-1980s until the end of that decade. Thompson's editor at the Examiner, David McCumber (who would write a Mitchell brothers biography not long after Jim Mitchell fatally shot his brother Art in 1991), was reportedly deeply disappointed in the quality of Thompson's Examiner columns.

In 1990, former porn director Gail Palmer visited Thompson's home in Woody Creek. She later accused him of sexual assault, claiming that he twisted her breast when she refused to join him in the hot tub. She also described cocaine use to authorities. A six person 11 hour search of Thompson's home turned up various kinds of drugs and a few sticks of dynamite. All charges were dismissed after a pre-trial hearing. Thompson would later describe this experience at length in Kingdom of Fear.

By the early 1990s, Thompson was said to be working on a novel called Polo Is My Life, which was briefly excerpted in Rolling Stone in 1994, and which Thompson himself described in 1996 as "...a sex book — you know, sex, drugs and rock and roll. It's about the manager of a sex theater who's forced to leave and flee to the mountains. He falls in love and gets in even more trouble than he was in the sex theater in San Francisco". The novel was slated to be released by Random House in 1999, and was even assigned ISBN 0-679-40694-8, but was not published.

Thompson continued to contribute irregularly to Rolling Stone. "Fear and Loathing in Elko", published in 1992, was a well-received fictional rallying cry against Clarence Thomas, while "Mr. Bill's Neighborhood" was a largely non-fictional account of an interview with Bill Clinton in an Arkansas diner. Rather than embarking on the campaign trail as he had done in previous presidential elections, Thompson monitored the proceedings from cable television; Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie, his account of the 1992 Presidential Election campaign, is composed of reactionary faxes sent to Rolling Stone. A decade later, he contributed "Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004"—an account of a road jaunt with John Kerry during his presidential campaign that would be Thompson's final magazine feature.

Thompson was named a Kentucky Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky in a December 1996 tribute ceremony where he also received keys to the city of Louisville.

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