|Subject: "In death as in life, gonzo journalist to be blasted"|
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Date Posted: 15:46:28 08/20/05 Sat
A Gonzo send off
« on: Yesterday at 01:16:00 PM »
Writer's remains en route to funeral
Thompson's ashes, along with fireworks, head to Woody Creek
By Jeff Kass, Rocky Mountain News
August 18, 2005
Hunter S. Thompson's cremated remains, mixed with fireworks and packed into
34 mortar tubes, were en route to Woody Creek Wednesday.
The unusual shipment from New Castle, Pa., via padlocked truck is one of the final steps towards a funeral Saturday expected to mix solemnity with pageantry.
"At that time, with the full moon rising over Woody Creek, it will be the most fantastic celebration happening on the planet," said Matt Moseley, spokesman for Owl Farm, the name given to Thompson's 42-acre Woody Creek property.
Thompson's only son, Juan Thompson, stresses the respectful tone he wants to strike, but acknowledges that his father's funeral wishes were unusual. Based on Hunter Thompson's comments in a 1978 BBC documentary, fireworks launchers will arc his ashes from a 153-foot structure capped by a double-thumbed, red Fiberglas fist.
The ashes wrapped in brown craft paper - similar to a supermarket bag but smoother - are set to fly at sunset, according to Marcy Zambelli, spokeswoman for the prominent fireworks company that bears her family name and will handle the display.
Zambelli said the fireworks will explode 300 feet in the air with a white flourish before Thompson's ashes fall to rest on the rustic property he called a "psychic anchor."
A fire ban that would have scuttled pyrotechnics was lifted last week because of wet weather, said Pitkin County Sheriff's Director of Investigations Joe DiSalvo. But he still expected a firetruck to be on hand.
Thompson's ashes equaled the size of a basketball when widow Anita Thompson delivered them to the fireworks company Aug. 9, said Zambelli. The ashes are expected to return to Thompson's home in their new form - depending on such worldly factors as traffic - by Friday.
Thompson, who some consider one of literature's most influential writers, killed himself with a gun blast in the head on Feb. 20 at his home. He was 67.
An unusual scene will greet Thompson's ashes upon arrival at Woody Creek.
In addition to the "fist cannon," workers are constructing a bar to comfortably accommodate up to 400, said Moseley, a senior associate with the Denver consulting firm -GBSM.
The wooden bar will have chandeliers, Thompson memorabilia, and a "lounge atmosphere."
"Think of Hunter's favorite place where he would love to entertain all his very best friends," Moseley added.
Actor Johnny Depp, a friend of Thompson's who portrayed the writer in a film, is footing the estimated $2 million cost of the send-off.
The Thompson family stresses that the gathering is a closed-door affair only for invited family and close friends.
But Moseley noted that interest in the event is "off the charts" and people from around the country are driving into town.
The funeral includes private security. DiSalvo said his office had no "intel" that hordes of uninvited - whom he referred to as pilgrims - would descend on the Aspen area.
"What we're basically gearing up for is any traffic, or any pilgrims who might be going up to the event," he said.
Sheriff's deputies will post "no stopping" signs in the area and increase their presence from a standard three or four officers in the Woody Creek area to about a dozen at least on Saturday, DiSalvo added.
"That's probably what our day is going to be filled with; shooing people off the shoulders (of the road), hopefully," he said, but added, "Any trespassing won't be tolerated."
George Stranahan, a friend and neighbor of Thompson's who has been invited to the funeral, said Wednesday there was private security here and there, but the neighborhood was "amazingly peaceful."
But he added, "I'm sure that will change."
Stranahan, co-founder of Flying Dog Brewery, said his one contingency plan, at the moment, is to have an extra case of beer at home in case traffic blocks the road.