“What we really need is a riot. This would not only justify the purchase of gas, firebombs, electric zappers and various armored equipment – it would also give Aspen the modern, up-to-date image that it vitally needs. We are fortunate in having people like the sheriff and Guido and Bugsy around, if only to keep a rein on dangerous waterheads like Tom Benton.”
Hunter S. Thompson (On behalf of Martin Bormann) – Letter to Aspen Times & Aspen News March 9, 1968
One of the most intriguing events in the history of Gonzo Journalism has to be the collaboration between Hunter and Tom Benton that produced the now infamous Aspen Wallposter Series. In late 1969 Hunter decided that the political scene in Aspen needed a good shaking up, so he persuaded Joe Edwards to run for mayor on the “Freak Power” ticket. Although the campaign got off to a late start, the Freak Power candidate lost by only one vote. Hunter couldn’t believe how close they had come to overthrowing the fatbacks in Aspen. The following March he decided to launch bis own campaign for sheriff of Pitkin County. The Wallposters proved to be the ideal way to promote his unique brand of politics – the front carried Tom Benton’s eye-catching art and the reverse served as a platform for Hunter to outline his policies and take shots at the greedheads he was opposing. It was here that the Gonzo Logo made its first appearance, featuring on Wallposter #5 – better known as the Thompson for Sheriff poster.
Aspen Wallposter #5
Tom Benton also created the original cover for Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail along with various campaign posters for over 30 candidates including Gary Hart, George McGovern, and Willie Brown. He also produced numerous “cause” posters for local benefits, non-profits, and charitable causes. In the 1980’s and 90’s, Benton worked part time as a jailer for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department and continued to create artwork including re-election posters for Sheriff Bob Braudis.
According to Aspen Sheriff Bob Braudis, “Benton was heavily intellectual and understood the threat that speculators were to our environment before anyone else. Throughout his career Tom remained steadfastly loyal to rock solid values and committed to sending his political message through his art.” Sadly Tom Benton died from lymphoma on April 27, 2007. However I am delighted to inform everybody that there is a project underway to catalogue Tom’s work over at http://www.bentonbook.com and you can also order silkscreen prints and Aspen Wallposters over at http://www.tomwbenton.com. The prints are also on display at the Woody Creek Community Center (WC3). A book that covers Tom’s work is scheduled to come out later this year, published by our Gonzo friend George Stranahan. George started the project to catalogue Tom’s prints and was a patron and fan of Tom’s art. I would highly recommend that you take a few moments to not only check out Tom Benton’s Gonzo artwork but also take some time to examine his other work which is really inspiring and beautiful. Here is an example from his poetry series.
Finally for those of you who want to refresh your memory on the Aspen Wallposters and Hunter;s run for Sheriff check out Freak Power In The Rockies originally published in Rolling Stone but also to be found in The Great Shark Hunt. I leave you with another image from the Wallposters – can you imagine what the land developers thought of this?
PS: Thanks to DJ for the heads-up on the project.
Check this cool little gadget today where you can make your own Obama style poster:
There is a gallery where you can browse other users creations – my favourite so far is a poster of Dubya with the words FAIL 😀
From RalphSteadman.com :
I wrote to my soul sister, Anita Thompson recently: From over here the stakes look weird and unexpected. Many wanted Hillary and it looks like, in the most perverse way, that Palin woman could win for McCain- in spite of 8 years of the most hideous presidency in living memory- a stumbling economy and a divisive Foreign Policy for the dumbest and the silliest. I wouldn’t have known two weeks ago that you could get to here from there. It is almost like a conjuror’s Illusion and you look twice to see how the transformation took place. Beware the fickle! It’s as though party strategists have kept Palin’s ass cool on some floating iceberg up there in Alaska and produced her like a rabbit out of a hat. That’s entertainment and that is exactly the knack she has. It’s a trick but it’s a neat one. And incidentally, has anyone noticed that PALIN is an anagram. LAPIN is the french word for rabbit.
Speaking as a bloke- albeit a Welsh one! I don’t find it hard to imagine armies of heavy-breathing guys from Maine down to Alabama and west across to Sacramento, ogling, guffawing, letching and already shifting their earlier resolve to get the Republicans out once and for all and instead saying the Hell with it. That’s for me and you can bring the old ‘un along too. He’s got a couple of years left in him and he can teach her as they go. Politics goes straight out the window- or maybe that IS the new politics. Politics and Sex! Sex as Patriotism. American flag as Bikini. The riots in Chicago in 1968 were, I guess, the first inkling in modern times, to the fatuous lie called ‘the American Dream’, realised only as Vietnam transformed some Americans from Isolationist do-gooders into thinking protesters. Just a few thoughts as I watch this Capitol Hill Circus regroup and change the shape of what was, up to last weekend, a ruinous Hurricane. There are still over 50 days to go so even more alarming things can happen. I am so sorry that Hillary and Barack wasted so much time and energy on egos.
Surely, it is enough damning evidence to know that while Sarah Palin was Mayor of a town called Wassila, Alaska, she tried to get the local Librarian to remove certain books from the shelves, including The Origin of Species. This is damning dumbness rearing its head as glamour. Courage is toting a gun and invoking God as some patron saint of compassion for the chosen few. God is a private and personal matter and we should be allowed to imagine him, it or her, or not, in whichever way we choose. God as nature is a mean sonofabitch and all are witness to some of the worst examples of its power and have been victims to it since a life supporting atmosphere allowed organisms to crawl around and feel at home. And man evolved and learned from this meanness and ‘humanity’ was born. In my book, ‘THE BIG I AM’ I imagine a scenario and course of events to ‘explain’ how it all came about. But that had to be entertainment just as politics has always been. Now I am lost and hold no compelling convictions. America is lost too, but this election is making a theatrical stab at something while carrying along in its baggage some of the worst, most reactionary bullshit from its blinkered past, into this new century.
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