An Open Letter to the Thompsons & Acostas

Clayton Luce
9/17/15 Louisville, KY

Deborah Fuller, Jennifer Winkel Thompson & Juan Thompson at DJ Watkins’ Gonzo Gallery in Aspen

Dearest Jennifer, Juan, Deborah Fuller & Will Thompson, and Stephanie & Annie Acosta (and RALPH OK),

On behalf of the entire GonzoToday family from sea to oil-sludged, radioactive sea:

There have been a lot of new and wildly significant and loved faces from Hunter’s life and legacy on the HD satellite observation monitors of all things Gonzo down here in the virtual “GonzoToday Tower of Madness.”

Duke started screeching, and the Great Owl flapped when we heard that the Real Owl Farm was back on the block.

I realize that a conference style group intro like this might be a bit unorthodox, but we are anything but orthodox. I know a lot of you have been curious about who and what GonzoToday is, what our motives are, what’s going on with GonzoFest, etc.

I also know some of you have probably heard some wild and terrible things about us. Some of them are true . . . but one of the lessons we have learned is that The Greedheads have a solid hold on everything pure and beautiful that Hunter stood for. And for 15 something odd years Gonzo fans around the world have watched replays and monetized reenactments of Hunter’s conflicts, personal battles and weaknesses. In effect, the cartoon that seemed to overtake his life has only grown bigger and more detrimental to his personal legacy than it did during his life.

What happened to the actual field of Gonzo Journalism? We all love Hunter. He was a literary father figure to many of us and our hope for success as Freaks in the Freak Kingdom — but what was the point of the man’s life if it all ended with his death?

Fron the Gonzo Gallery Freak Power Exhibit (curator DJ Watkins)
From the Gonzo Gallery Freak Power Exhibit (curator DJ Watkins)

So…what? We just put the double-thumbed fist up on the closet shelf or sell it on ebay? We join Facebbok groups that show the same campaign posters, and illustrations and slogans on the same endless loop? We repost that one picture of Hunter in 36 different filter types and recirculate it over and over again throughout the mind-numbingly repetitive online Hunter S. Thompson fanverse?

Who the fuck was Hunter S. Thompson? Who was Oscar Acosta? What were these people doing during two of the most turbulent and profound decades of American History? Finish the story…

To many “fans” Hunter was Raoul Duke, the myth that he portrayed himself to be for the legions of mindless and vacuously dangerous drones that make up the modern American readership. I have always felt that Hunter was writing two stories. Hunter wrote about society’s most vulnerable, sensitive and shameful truths — a vocation which has led to more than its fair share of accidental deaths, assassinations and ominous disappearances for its more outspoken participants — but Hunter would take those truths and wrap them up in layers of plausible deniability, satire and exaggeration, blurring the lines of Truth and Fiction. Lines that Hunter’s true audience knew mattered very little to the moral lessons, stories and warnings being revealed.

So what now? What happens next? Where are the fucking golf shoes? Hunter left us in 2005, and let’s face it, there was no room while he was alive for anyone else to share the field of Gonzo journalism, but he is not alive anymore. At least not as he was — walking the earth, kicking ass and taking names.

After his death we enjoyed the documentaries, new reprinted editions of his work, occasional updates from the Gonzo Foundation about a contest here or Hunter being honored over there . . . but disillusionment set in. Gonzo Journalism became nostalgia and, like Star Wars, the only good material you had was the original work.

Noble attempts have been made to reinvigorate Gonzo through web content and proposed events, but oddly, the most resistance to the unleashing of Hunter’s Gonzo into the world came from none other than what many considered to be the holy and chosen gatekeeper of Gonzo itself — Owl Farm and the Gonzo Foundation. People have been threatened, bullied and generally ostracized any time attempts were made to open up the doors to Hunter’s world and vision, even among those who Hunter called friends in life. It seems gentrification found its way into even the most holy bastion of Freak Power.

In the fall of 2014, I got tired of waiting. I put out some feelers among other fans and members of social media groups and found a common sentiment among those of us who had actually read more than one or two of Hunter’s books. Immediately we met resistance, and despite many heartfelt and friendly letters on fine parchment sealed in wax sent to Owl Farm, no response was ever received. But we did get stung with a mosquito bite of a minor backlash from other self-proclaimed keepers of the faith spewing libelous fictions and litigious threats. We suddenly realized that a number of greedy vultures had swooped in on mediums from facebook, to blogs and beyond, plugged-in to the magical magnetism of Hunter and were essentially basking in his glory, cheapening his legacy, and in the end contributing nothing at all to furthuring his life’s work.

11088629_611487388985033_2482712088367363690_nIt’s hard to say what happened after that at GonzoToday, but a fire was lit, and we set to work drawing up a model of how the ideals and values of Hunter Thompson and his ideas about journalism, freedom and activism/interaction within the narrative of his work might actually look as a multimedia publication in the modern world of media and information. How could we capture the fundamental mission and life pursuits of Hunter, Oscar, Ralph, and many more who were fighting to provide a counterbalance to our collapsing national character and identity? I developed an idea for an “open source” multimedia, educational, grassroots PR and Marketing platform, which placed value on the individual and not the dollar.

GonzoToday, as it exists today, is an online collective of volunteer amateurs and professionals across the full spectrum of arts and creativity within the fields of writing, graphic design, illustration, art, audio, video, etc. etc. The list goes on. Our mission is to provide an alternative model to corporate mainstream media, which operates under one fundamental difference: the currency we use to measure our bottom lines.

GonzoToday does not use money as its bottom line measure of success. Its projects, resources and efforts are achieved through a concept of communal bartering and shared exposure. We put in the pain communally, we reap the gain communally. We provide opportunities and resources for people to produce content that might not be allowed in traditional media, with a freedom of speech and expression unparalleled anywhere in the media industry. We provide shared affiliate networking; syndication within the growing community of GonzoToday sites, personalities and contributors; exposure to a working newsroom; and the ability to get involved in projects and collaborations that are usually closed to most creative talents.

And that is where I think the biggest misconception about GonzoToday comes from, especially in light of insinuations from greedheads and swine about who and what we actually are. GonzoToday is not a Hunter S. Thompson ripoff site, or a fan site looking to suck up some HST revenue or suckle whatever is left of the Woody Creek Teat. Our site is a living, breathing tribute to Hunter, Freak Power, and the whole cast and crew of family, friends, associates and enemies of Gonzo Journalism.

51Po5B9jsvLWe chose the name, the ink splattered branding, and to offer our unwavering support to Hunter’s Gonzo world, to honor his memory, and to make his mark on this endeavor known, Because all of us who are a part of GonzoToday are in some way where we are today because of Hunter S. Thompson and Gonzo Journalism.

To take a stand against people we respected growing up was a very difficult moral decision to make, but it was worth it. Our Poetry Editor Ron Whitehead stuck beside us under tremendous pressure from the Gonzo Foundation and strains on the fragile diplomatic ties he had worked so many years to create. He also sacrificed many of those ties for us. That took an incredible amount of trust and bravery. Ron hasn’t invested just money into Gonzo. He has invested Time. A life’s worth.

We at GonzoToday are far beyond honored, and because most of us are huge Hunter fans and fans of other characters from the gonzo world, we are also completely geeking out right now. When we heard for the first time that there might be some friends in the original Gonzo camp who weren’t in line with the current direction things have been headed, we started freaking out and have been freaking out ever since. The One Gonzo Spirit is real. The Great Magnet is out there and as whimsical as ever.

We are proud to be teaming up with GonzoFest, and I am honored to be on the production team with such an extraordinary group of people. We are super stoked to be playing such a big and fun role in GonzoFest this year, and we have some amazing ideas for it and a team of volunteers chomping at the bit to make sure 2016 is a year no one ever forgets.

To Juan, Jennifer, Deborah, Will and Steph, welcome to GonzoVille. We are honored and privileged that you want to come to town. I see no greater news stories so far this year than the release of D.J. Watkins book “Freak Power” and the unexpected and long overdue explosion of the True Heirs of the Legacy to the Gonzo Galaxy. Just know that GonzoToday stands behind you all. We will devote our resources to advancing the story, cause and future of Gonzo Journalism and the Legacy of Hunter S. Thompson, Oscar Acosta, Ralph STEADman and all of our Gonzo Godfathers.

So welcome Thompson Family . . . more freaks in the Freak Kingdom . . .

Bardstown Road, Louisville, Kentucky



& the entire
GonzoToday family