Sad News of Thompson’s Death is Also Big News for Aspen Paper

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By: Brian Orloff

While tributes and memories of Hunter S. Thompson have been filling newspapers across the country, the late gonzo writer is being remembered by his local newspaper, the Aspen Daily News, as a friend, former guest editor, and football fanatic.

“I’ve known him for between four and five years, and during football season I’d be over there just about every Sunday,” Troy Hooper, the Daily News’ associate editor and a Thompson friend, told E &P. “I haven’t missed a Super Bowl with him for four years.”

He added: “Covering Hunter’s death was not easy for me. I had several emotional breakdowns and, at times, felt conflicted about intruding on the privacy of his loved ones during such a disturbing time.”

Hooper, 29, has written a spate of articles — including one set to run Sunday about Thompson’s influence on Aspen — since the famed writer’s death last weekend. In fact, it was Hooper who first learned of Thompson’s suicide, and who broke the national story.

“I did break the news, the first news,” he said. “Sheriff Bob Braudis called me up immediately and told me to get the story out on the wire as soon as possible because all the calls from the media were crippling his communications system. He didn’t want to talk to anyone else. And he gave me an exclusive family statement about what had happened.”

Thompson had also served as the paper’s guest editor in the late-’90s. “He wrote a story and a column, and he also had oversight over every word that got in the paper,” said Hooper of Thompson’s role.

“What really pains me about this is he had spoken about wanting to come back during our conversations,” he adds. “In the last year and a half, he’s mentioned several times that he wanted to be a guest editor again. He was just in poor health. It just never worked out.”

Thompson had written a journal entry after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in which he first coined his famous phrase “fear and loathing.” At Thompson’s request, the Aspen Daily News ran the piece on the fortieth anniversary of Kennedy’s death; the peice also reran last Tuesday.

Among the newspaper’s other Thompson-related coverage of late: a story about online consumers eager to snatch up Thompson-related works and memorabilia and an article about his legendary workspace, his kitchen.

“I wrote a story about his kitchen,” Hooper said. “His kitchen was where everything happened. That’s where he typed. That’s where he wrote. That’s where he thought. That’s where he lived. That’s where he drank. That’s where he smoked. That’s where he sniffed. That’s where he did everything. So, I wrote a story about his kitchen and what happens there. And my first sentence was: ‘Hunter Stockton Thompson lived and died in the kitchen.'”

Thompson’s trust and friendship with local reporters allowed the Daily News to write about aspects of his life that would remain unreported elsewhere. And, Hooper says, Thompson would occasionally call in with news tips.

“We’ve done a lot of local stories,” Hooper said. “His peacocks were murdered one time, as he phrased it, by a wild pack of dogs. He called me up and said, ‘We’ve got bodies down here.’ And we did a fun story on that one.”

Since Thompson’s death, Hooper said, e-mails have been pouring in to the Daily News, thanking the newspaper for its consistent coverage of Thompson, who famously avoids interviews. Hooper says he’s received more than 100 e-mails so far.

Aspen denizens and Daily News readers will probably remember Thompson as a rabble-rouser.

“He liked to get involved in local issues — like the airport, which is not too far from his home,” Hooper said. “He fought anything that would expand the airport and sell out Aspen and Woody Creek as he saw it. He loved to rail against what Aspen was turning into because it was so opposite of what he was.”

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