The Lost Legend of the Real Dr. Gonzo

By: Yvette C. Doss, L.A. Times, June 5, 1998
Oscar “Zeta” Acosta–an outrageous lawyer who once subpoenaed every member of the Los Angeles County grand jury to prove a pattern of discrimination against Mexican Americans–is somewhat of a Chicano folk legend.

He was a driven, hell-raising attorney who was involved in high-profile civil rights cases in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and early ’70s and inspired the character of Dr. Gonzo in Hunter S. Thompson’s surreal book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Acosta eventually gave up law and wrote two semiautobiographical books, and then disappeared like a puff of smoke off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico, in the spring of 1974. But not before leaving an indelible mark on the pages of L.A. political history and Chicano literature.

His disappearance took place three years after the notorious drug-enhanced trip to Las Vegas that is the subject of Thompson’s book and the current Terry Gilliam movie starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro.

But the book completely obscured Acosta’s background and the film only hints at his real story. The legend of Oscar “Zeta” Acosta–a compelling figure in Chicano history–remains in the shadows.

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