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.

Aspen Wallposter #5
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.

campaign8

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?

Yr. friend,

Rory

PS: Thanks to DJ for the heads-up on the project.

No Rest For The Wicked

My main luxury in those years-a necessary luxury, in fact-was the ability to work in and out of my home-base fortress in Woody Creek.It was a very important psychic anchor for me, a crucial grounding point where I always knew I had love, friends, & good neighbors.It was like my personal Lighthouse that I could see from anywhere in the world-no matter where I was, or how weird & crazy & dangerous it got, everything would be okay if I could just make it home.When I made that hairpin turn up the hill onto Woody Creek Road, I knew I was safe.”

Hunter S. Thompson – Fear and Loathing in America  

 

I was just settling into a nice dream about George W. Bush being chased out of the White House by a blood thirsty three-headed Hyena called Retirement, when I was rudely awoken by a godawful racket from the van parked in my front drive. The postman round these parts has a rude habit of blasting atrocious music at a deafening volume in the early hours of the morning. I am seriously thinking of stealing the stereo from his car or investing in a pack of vicious dogs. My mood was foul as I collected the post from the front porch but it quickly lifted when I spotted the large white envelope stamped with the Gonzo logo, sent all the way from Woody Creek Colorado. Inside was the latest issue of The Woody Creeker, which I subscribed to many moons ago. Anita sure as hell delivered on her promise to publish it when least expected 😀 The first thing that struck me was the totally cool front cover. Check it out below!

 

So who is the lady on the front cover eh? Well her name is “Jilly” and she appeared in the fourth Aspen Wall Poster, produced by Hunter and Tom Benton between January and March of 1971. It is the Aspen Wall Poster series that featured the now infamous Hunter Thompson for Sheriff poster designed by Tom Benton. There is a great article in this issue by Lynn Burton about the Wall Posters so if you want more details then pick up a copy. There is also a great interview with Tom Wolfe and a nice piece by Ralph. If you haven’t already subscribed then contact the Gonzo Store at gonzowear@gmail.com The Gonzo Store website is being revamped at the moment.

Anyway gotta run, the bats are at the window again… (seriously there is a colony of bats in my garden that appear every night all swooping around the place and driving the women crazy with fear, this is certainly Bat Country)

Ron Mexico

PS: To discuss this post in the forums click here 

 

 

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