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HUNTER S. THOMPSON Friends gather for writer's farewell festivity



Published: Sat, August 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Thompson committed suicide six months ago.

WOODY CREEK, Colo. (AP) -- Iconoclastic journalist Hunter S. Thompson would have loved the 153-foot tower built to blast his ashes into the sky, said one of his many friends and admirers gathered for an unsolemn farewell.

"It's a beautiful structure. Of course, he would not have been able to resist putting a few holes into it," said Michael Cleverly, referring to his former neighbor's love of shooting guns. "But it weighs several tons, so it could handle a few holes."

The counterculture author killed himself six months ago at his home near Aspen. His ashes, intermingled with fireworks, were to be fired out of the tower Saturday evening in front of a star-studded crowd at his Owl Farm compound.

"He loved explosions," his wife, Anita Thompson, explained during the planning of the fireworks sendoff.

The tower -- intentionally built just taller than the Statue of Liberty -- was erected in a field between Thompson's home and a tree-covered canyon wall. It was shrouded in tarpaulins for days, but his widow said it was modeled after Thompson's Gonzo logo: a clenched fist, made symmetrical with two thumbs, rising from the hilt of a dagger.

About 250 people were invited, including Thompson's longtime illustrator, Ralph Steadman, and actors Sean Penn and Johnny Depp, close friends of the writer.

Depp portrayed Thompson in the 1998 movie version of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream," perhaps the writer's best-known work.




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