In another iconic story about the incomparable and simply majestic gonzo journalist and all-round icon, Hunter S. Thompson, we’re getting festive with what was his annual torching of a Christmas Tree. If you know of Thompson’s work, a stunt like this may well be quite usual to you by now, if you don’t know Thompson, this is about to get wild.
On January 9th, 1990, Thompson was warming himself up for yet another eventful night at his Colorado cabin, Owl Farm, after his secretary Deborah Fuller had finished taking down his Christmas tree and left it on his porch ready to be disposed of. The writer’s plans for the formerly festive shrub burn intently in his mind.
Thompson, who we all know too well, loved to blow things up, set his camcorder to record and began shoving the tree perilously into his living room fireplace and doused it in fuel. With an almost-empty fire extinguisher perched ready and waiting, the Gonzo founder flicked a match onto the tree and watched the flames spill out. “Get in there you fool!” he says as the blaze starts to grow out of control.
Sam Allis, a writer for then TIME magazine, was invited down to the cabin to spend the evening and enjoy the entertainment: “I gave up on the interview and started worrying about my life when Hunter Thompson squirted two cans of fire starter on the Christmas tree he was going to burn in his living-room fireplace, a few feet away from an unopened wooden crate of 9-mm bullets,” he wrote in TIME (via Open Culture).
Allis’ continued with the Christmas-adjacent joy: “That the tree was far too large to fit into the fireplace mattered not a whit to Hunter, who was sporting a dime-store wig at the time and resembled Tony Perkins in Psycho. Minutes earlier, he had smashed a Polaroid camera on the floor.” It’s a chaotic scene many have come to expect perpetually surrounds Thompson.
Allis added: “Hunter had decided to videotape the Christmas tree burning, and we later heard on the replay the terrified voices of Deborah Fuller, his longtime secretary-baby sitter, and me off-camera pleading with him, ‘NO, HUNTER, NO! PLEASE, HUNTER, DON’T DO IT!’ The original manuscript of Hell’s Angels was on the table, and there were the bullets. Nothing doing. Thompson was a man possessed by now, full of the Chivas Regal he had been slurping straight from the bottle and the gin he had been mixing with pink lemonade for hours.”
It may come as little surprise that Thompson was never the biggest fan of Christmas, once telling Rolling Stone: “It is still a day that only amateurs can love. It is all well and good for children and acid freaks to still believe in Santa Claus—but it is still a profoundly morbid day for us working professionals.
“It is unsettling to know that one out of every twenty people you meet on Christmas will be dead this time next year… Some people can accept this, and some can’t. That is why God made whiskey, and also why Wild Turkey comes in $300 shaped canisters during most of the Christmas season.”
It’s a statement which could only come from the blunt and beautiful brain of Hunter S. Thompson. See the mindboggling footage, below.