Hunter and Hemingway: alike in life, similar in their deaths
August 17, 2005
“Hemingway’s funeral had been a private affair, admission by invitation only. Most especially no journalists were permitted, though the entire world was eager to learn the details. Every newspaper, radio station, and television station reported the event. After all, one of the greatest literary figures of the twentieth century had died by his own hand.”- “Running with the Bulls,My Life with the Hemingways”by Valerie Hemingway
The similarities between the two literary lions are striking, even in death.Both Hunter S. Thompson and Ernest Hemingway lived lives that were without parallel, both sought and then rejected fame, and both made a lasting impact on their respective communities.They also, of course, ended their lives in the same fashion: with self-inflicted gunshots to the head. And after the deaths, the analogies between the two keep piling up.Authorities here did not perform an autopsy on Thompson, citing the fact that whatever was found would be fodder for media; authorities in Ketchum, Idaho, made “no final determination of whether it was suicide or accident.”On July 6, 1961, four days after Hemingway’s death, Bill Bebout of The Associated Press wrote that “the family had requested a private, quiet service and the people in this community of 750 helped make it that. Only a handful of curious came out to join reporters clustered about the cemetery gate.”Thompson’s family has made similar requests, although the funeral will be anything but quiet when a cannon blast from a 150-foot tower sends the legendary writer on his way.Hemingway’s big blast was with the shotgun that killed him; Thompson used a .45-caliber pistol.In the same article, Bebout described the funeral: “It was a poignant scene as the great Nobel prize-winning author was laid to rest on a bright summer day amid the peaceful mountains and trees of Idaho.”
The funeral attracted reporters from the UPI, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Time and Life magazines, and three from “London papers,” along with two photographers, according to a release from the Sun Valley News Bureau.The spokesman for Thompson’s family has said media inquiries about covering the funeral have come from, among others, The New York Times, Reuters and CNN. As for how many of the “curious” will show up for Saturday’s funeral, one can only speculate.Even their homes are uncannily similar.Hemingway’s former residence is in a beautiful spot, said Paula Barovetto, assistant regional historian at the Community Library in Ketchum.”The homes are sort of hidden and private, and they just don’t want people up that road,” she said, in what could be a perfect description of Woody Creek Road to Thompson’s Owl Farm.Hemingway’s home is in the hands of The Nature Conservancy, which wants to open it to the public for tours. “The rich neighbors are saying, ‘No way,'” Barovetto said. “There’s always a little Hemingway controversy going on somewhere.”Before their deaths, each suffered poor health. Thompson broke a leg after falling in Hawaii in December 2003. In July of that year, he told a columnist for the Las Vegas Review Journal that he had had an alloy spine replacement procedure done at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail.
Whether this was behind his decision to kill himself on Feb. 20 will likely never be known.Hemingway was fighting cancer and depression in the weeks before his death and was also worrying about financial issues. What may have led to the suicide was the fate suffered by a friend with Aspen ties.”He knew he had cancer, and his good friend was of course Gary Cooper. [He] evidently died a painful death from cancer,” said Teddie Daley of the Blaine County Historical Museum in Hailey, a town near Ketchum. The actor was a familiar face around Aspen, especially in the Jerome. “It’s thought that Hemingway didn’t want to go through that kind of a death,” Daley said.In the 44 years since his death, Hemingway has made a lasting impact on Ketchum and Sun Valley.”Looking around Ketchum one sees subtle reminders of Hemingway: his house now owned by The Nature Conservancy, collections at both the Community Library and Historical Association, stone markers in the cemetery, the memorial along Trail Creek and of course the Ernest Hemingway Elementary School,” according to sunvalleycentral.com.It remains to be seen if reminders of Thompson will eventually be all over the upper valley. But perhaps it is high time for a Gonzo Elementary School.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org