Tom Benton & Hunter S. Thompson – The Art of Freak Power
“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.
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.
Hunter S. Thompson – Gonzo
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 😀
London Gonzo Fans:Missing Hunter S. Thompson Fax!
THE famous illustrator of Hunter S Thompson’s work had a precious personal letter from the gonzo journalist stolen when he gave a talk to fans in north London.
Ralph Steadman, 72, spoke at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn about the late American writer, after a screening of the new film on his life Gonzo: The Life And Works Of Dr Hunter S Thompson.
While Mr Steadman talked to fans and signed books afterwards, someone stole an original fax which was among the artist’s possessions.
Mr Steadman, who illustrated Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas as well as much more of Thompson’s work, said: “It was a fax he sent me on Christmas day in 1988. It started Merry Christmas! HO! HO! HO! And was handwritten – six pages long.
“I took it along to read out and I just never thought to make a copy of it. I left it on stage while I talked to people and while I was doing that someone just lifted it.
“It is a rotten thing to do. A dirty little trick. I would have been happy to make a copy for the person who took it and I would have signed it for them, done a drawing – anything they wanted.
“I didn’t think that someone would steal it. That is not gonzo it’s bad gonzo – it’s bonzo.”
Mr Steadman is known for his work on Punch, Private Eye and New Statesman, as well as being the long established partner in crime to the writer.
The pair met in Kentucky when Mr Steadman was sent to cover a race meeting for a magazine.
After a week’s drinking they became friends for more than 35 years and started the partnership which is now world-famous.
Mr Steadman was the man who organised the funeral Thompson had been planning for years, after he shot himself in 2005. His ashes were launched into the air with a cannon.
“I’ve got lots of stuff but that’s not the point,” Mr Steadman continued.
“It is part of the gonzo collection. It was a letter in what he would have called his gibberish. It was about an animal he killed – some kind of dog – because it was threatening his peacocks.
“I don’t steal things from people so why should they steal from me?
“I don’t know why people have to be like that but I think that’s the way we are now – we’ve gone down that terrible road of meanness.
“I don’t think people were ever as mean as they are now.”
Mr Steadman travelled from his home in Kent for the talk and has offered to send a signed copy to anyone who returns the original letter.
The theatre is calling on anyone with information to come forward. Tricycle artistic director Nicolas Kent said: “Ralph very generously gave up his time to come and do the Q&A at the Tricycle. I’m very sad that somebody came and took away his treasured possession.
“Maybe they thought it was not important, but I know that it is and I know that he would like it back.
Ok somebody out there knows where this is so please come forward if you have any information. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass on any helpful details to Ralph. Nobody is interested in getting anyone in trouble, it was probably unintentional, so just help get this fax back to Ralph where it belongs.
Help Out Ralph Steadman!
Just came across this on Ralph’s website and as there are many UK Gonzo fans out there I thought I’d pass this on as it looks like Ralph has had no luck tracking down his letter.
Last night I did a Q&A session at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn after a showing of GONZO. The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson. I read a FAX letter that Hunter had sent to me dated December 25th, 1988. It was hand -written and started: Merry Christmas! HO! HO! HO!
and then the letter. It was six(6) pages long and it was my only copy.
Somebody accidentally picked it up and nobody can find it at the theatre. I would very much appreciate its return and have a Merry Christmas. HO! HO! HO!! Please contact email@example.com
Someone out there might know where this is so any information welcome. Feel free to email the above address or if you want email us here at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can pass on the message to Ralph.
Ralph Steadman – The Whole World’s Watching
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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