Important Things to Know #10: A Tale of Two Gonzos

Stop and think about this: Jim Henson and Dave Goelz named their new Muppet "Gonzo" at about the same time Hunter S. Thompson adopts the term Gonzo to describe his new brand of journalism.  I'm not so much enamored by the coincidence as I am the different paths those two Gonzos took from roughly the same starting line.

In 1970, Hunter S. Thompson was watching the counter culture's "high water mark" (his words not mine) recede into the abyss.  Drug experimentation was once a means to usher in a New Renaissance and shake hands with your Divine Maker.  Now it had devolved into a chaotic mix of hedonism, addiction, and felony arrests.  The mantra that "All You Need Is Love" had warped into wanton sex - total pleasure, completely devoid of "Love"; bringing only emptiness, guilt and disease.

In Hunter S. Thompson's mind, the fat lady sang when RFK was murdered. It was no surprise to Thompson when Altamont, the Manson murders, Watergate and the My Lai Massacre followed closely behind.  The ensuing decades were nothing more than the backwash of a dream collapsed - disco, Reaganomics, cocaine, and terrorist attacks.  Nothing left to do but watch ESPN and shoot your guns... which is exactly what he did.

This other Gonzo, the Muppet, has much more in common with the Children of the Aftermath.  Generation Xers were born into a world whose dreams had just been sent throught the sausage grinder.  We came into a world that had no Beatles, no Timothy Leary, no Woodstock, no Peaceful Resistance, no transcendental philosophy.... Xers arrived at the party just in time for the hangover.  Gonzo the Great was our guy.

Our Gonzo had no identity, no defined species. John Cleese called our Gonzo "the ugly, disgusting little one who catches cannonballs." Gen Xers weren't "important" like their parents: college campuses, once ground zero in the counter culture movement and bastions of protest, now were quiet.  You can have your damn Kent State and "Sit-Ins", we'd rather watch the Cosby Show and then do some Jell-O shooters.

Perhaps this younger generation, the ones marching on Wall Street, will be able to ressurect a cause and purpose.  Whether the movement is right or wrong, at least there's a cause, a unifying drum beat.  Hunter S. Thompson would be proud.

Meanwhile, Gonzo the Great is just interested in laying down some chickens.


  1. Except they don't have unity. Most of them are stoned and the rest don't know what they'd replace capitalism with. And if you ask me, they're scapegoating. One woman loudly blamed Wall Street for 9/11 instead of blaming who's really to blame - people who choose of their own free will to do evil. It's no different than blaming video games, music, religion, or science for violence - all scapegoating. (Yes, people, science has been used to justify evil. Such as mass murders of anyone seen to be "evolutionary inferior.")

    People need to take responsibility for the evil they choose to do instead of blaming their parents, drugs, or their genes.

    As far as the two Gonzos. Frankly, I feel Thompson is overrated and I've always preferred Animal.

  2. Gonzo the Great went through an interesting evolution. In his early appearances, he is devastated when his bizarre performances are booed, making him a sad-sack character. Later, those traits shifted over to Fozzie, and Gonzo became indifferent to the reception of his work. He embodies a more Thompsonian sense of gonzo, of throwing yourself into the pursuit of personal experience, regardless of whether the world applauds or throws tomatoes.

    Even Gonzo's "sui generis" identity fits. Didn't Thompson call his Samoan attorney, "One of God's prototypes, too extreme for mass production, but too unique to be destroyed"?

  3. If there was a Pulitzer for post comments, you sir would have won it. Well said, mightyfastpig.

  4. Here's the Thompson quote, which fits even better:

    “There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

    Thank you Gilligan!

  5. Interestingly, they will both be appearing on the big screen this fall. There is a new Muppets movie coming out next month, while next week is the premiere of RUM DIARY. This is Thompson's tale of his early adventures that, while wild, hadn't quite reached the level of gonzo. Once again, he will be portrayed by Johnny Depp (after previously doing so for FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS).

    Paul Duca