Collection of Hunter S. Thompson tales underscores his gonzo-ness

CELEBRITY NEWS

September 03, 2007|By George Rush and Joanna Rush Molloy | George Rush and Joanna Rush Molloy,Tribune Media Services

Celebrity news Two years after his suicide, journalist Hunter S. Thompson continues to provide stories so over-the-top it's hard to believe he ever really existed.

"One of the first times I met him, he pulled out a gun in the middle of a house," Jack Nicholson remembers in the forthcoming book, Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson. "Me and a friend of mine jumped out the window."

Jimmy Carter recalls that his staff "tried to schedule certain times for [Hunter] to interview me along with other journalists, but Hunter felt he should be given top priority. He threatened my press secretary, Jody Powell, and one night he even built a fire in front of Jody's hotel room door in an attempt to smoke him out."

Thompson's former publisher, Jann Wenner, and his longtime assistant, Corey Seymour, have tapped the memories of many fellow friends for an oral history that travels with the velocity of Thompson's own dispatches.

In his introduction, Johnny Depp recalls how "Hunter wanted to fire a shotgun off, but needed a target. He had these propane tanks and he handed me some duct tape and these things that were a bit bigger than a matchbook, and we started taping them on the tanks. ... I said, `What are these things?' and he said, `That's nitroglycerine.' I immediately put out my cigarette."

An advance galley for the book, due out in October, includes several pages where names are blacked out, presumably on the advice of Simon & Schuster lawyers. Such as the section where Thompson's ex-wife, Sandy, recalls an acid-fueled party at the farm of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest author Ken Kesey. "[Hunter] felt partially at fault" for "bringing the Hells Angels to the hippie love-in," says Sandy. "He felt sick."

Despite his cockiness, Thompson couldn't conceal his growing depression.

Historian Douglas Brinkley recalls Sean Penn flying the bone-weary Thompson on a private jet to New Orleans. "He couldn't walk 10 yards without people holding him up. ... He'd say things like, `Well, I have to do myself in soon.' I would tell him to stop talking like that and he'd say `What -- I can't talk real with you now? ... Do you think I'm gonna go ... with a goddamn Nurse Ratched ... through some detox thing? (Bleep) that.'"

Says Penn: "The last morning I saw him ... we ran over to his car and he was just sitting in the front seat crying."

"He was a very gentle guy with a lot of problems," says Nicholson, "and I guess he never found the right way to share them."

Bob Braudis, sheriff of Thompson's town, Woody Creek, Colo., still misses the late-night calls he'd get from his inebriated pal. "From now on when the phone rings at 4 a.m., it's just bad news."

Side dish

White House pranksters pimped Karl Rove's ride while he was away at President Bush's ranch in Texas. His colleagues shrink-wrapped his Jaguar and added twin stuffed eagles on the trunk, a stuffed elephant on the hood and an "I Love Barack Obama" bumper sticker.

Sheryl Crow and Eva Longoria met up at Il Sole in Hollywood, Calif., last week for some quality girl talk, laughter and fab Italian food.

Hottie alert: Everyone's favorite bad boy, Colin Farrell, flew into JFK Airport on Tuesday.

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