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May 7 2010

40th Anniversary of Gonzo Journalism

I had a vision of some nerve-rattling geek all covered with matted hair and string-warts showing up in the press office and demanding Scanlan's press packet. Well...what the hell? We could always load up on acid and spend the day roaming around the clubhouse grounds with big sketch pads, laughing hysterically at the natives and swilling mint juleps so the cops wouldn't think we're abnormal. Perhaps even make the act pay: set up an easel with a big sign saying, "Let a Foreign Artist Paint Your Portrait, $10 Each. Do It NOW!

- Hunter S. Thompson on meeting Ralph Steadman for the first time, from "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved"


That first encounter between Hunter and Ralph wasn't far off from Hunter's prediction, although we don't think they made any money that weekend off of Ralph's drawings. If anything (as Hunter wrote), Ralph "was regarded with fear and loathing by nearly anyone who'd seen or even heard about his work."

The significance of that first meeting 40 years ago goes beyond the now infamous resulting article, "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved." It represents the birth of Gonzo - a term coined by Boston Globe magazine editor Bill Cardoso, which he claimed is South Boston slang for the last man standing after an all-night drinking marathon. Ralph once said:

"Nobody I have read knows what GONZO is, was, or ever could be, not even Hunter, an if he doesn't know what it is, I do. I am the only one who does. Gonzo makes you feel GOod rather than BAd, which is BANZO. Pursue BANZO if you must but don't blame me or even credit me or you will make me sick. GOnzo is GOod. BAnzo is BAd. It is a simple equation."

From those mace and whiskey-filled days during the Running of the Roses on, Gonzo became the lifestyle of Hunter and Ralph, which have been beautifully illustrated through both sketches and words.

From riding motorcycles to blowing shit up to getting drunk (sometimes simultaneously), Hunter was a long-time co-conspirator of Flying Dog owner George Stranahan and had a profound impact on George's life. Hunter's greatest contribution to Flying Dog was introducing George to Ralph, who now illustrates all of our labels.

This past week, we filled oak Stranahans whiskey barrels with our Gonzo Imperial Porter in Hunter and Ralph's honor. It made us feel good.


For "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" and more from Hunter S. Thompson, purchase The Great Shark Hunt: Gonzo Papers, Volume 1 on Amazon.