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Neighbors support Thompson funeral plans

Naomi Havlen

Neighbors on Thursday agreed to plans for Hunter S. Thompson’s funeral service, which include firing his remains from a cannon atop a 150-foot-tall structure.Friends and acquaintances of the late, legendary author gathered outside the Woody Creek Store for a caucus meeting, sipping margaritas from the tavern next door. Jon Equis, the event producer who is working with Thompson’s family, spread out a map of the area and described the plans so far for the Aug. 20 funeral, scheduled for six months after Thompson took his own life.The invitation-only event includes erecting a 150-foot-tall structure with a cannon on top of it. According to Thompson’s wishes, his cremated remains will be shot out of the cannon onto his property in Woody Creek, known as the Owl Farm.The equivalent of a five-story building, the structure will be 12 feet wide at its base and 8 feet wide at the top, Equis said. Actor Johnny Depp, who starred in the movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” based on Thompson’s book of the same name, is funding construction of the tower, which will resemble Thompson’s gonzo logo – a fist clutching a peyote button.The tower will be constructed 1,000 feet from Woody Creek Road so it doesn’t become a tourist attraction, Equis said. In addition, the structure will be covered with a black drape until it is unveiled for the funeral service, to keep the “looky Lous” from congregating on the roadway, he said.The structure will be temporary, and the public, including throngs of Thompson’s fans, are being discouraged from even coming to the area for the funeral. A public event is expected to be planned for a later date to commemorate the writer’s life. A tented area will be set up for the guests, and the party will consist of “spoken word and live entertainment,” Equis said. The cannon will be fired around the time the sun is setting, so that Thompson’s family and friends can see his ashes dispersing on the property before it is too dark. The party is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.”Our biggest concern is how we impact the local residents,” Equis said. Traffic control officers will be stationed at Upper River Road, along Woody Creek Road at the Aspen Community School and at Little Woody Creek Road, and motorists will not be allowed to stop or stand along the road within a three-mile perimeter of the Owl Farm.Although there is some talk of pyrotechnics during the party, Equis said they would defer to the Aspen Fire Protection District about the safety of fireworks.At the end of Equis’ presentation, all 25 or so residents in attendance raised their hands in support of the plans. The event organizers will next have to get the plans reviewed by the Pitkin County Community Development Department.Woody Creek resident Bob Beattie did question whether the event was necessary, saying his only concern is that it might become “something that’s not Hunter,” that’s too showy and the kind of spectacle that the reclusive author wouldn’t have liked.”Anything that celebrates Hunter and his passing is wonderful,” Beattie said after the meeting. “We loved him to death, and he was loyal to us and loved Woody Creek. I want to preserve that part of him.”Equis said the event fits with Thompson’s “larger-than-life” persona and has elements of his personality that “we wished we had ourselves.””Speak for yourself,” called out Woody Creek resident Bill Dinsmoor, prompting laughter from the crowd. In return, Equis said Thompson deserves an extraordinary farewell and assured residents that the funeral wouldn’t be “Woodstock revisited” with naked people running through the woods.Thompson’s widow, Anita Thompson, applauded Equis’ comments and said the event will be a celebration. Neighbor Shelly Wilcox said she admired Thompson’s ability to protect Woody Creek from overdevelopment, such as at the W/J ranch and when he fought against letting 747 jets land at the Pitkin County airport.”Hunter helped protect this valley because he loved it here – he could have lived in L.A. with an entourage, but he didn’t,” she said. “This was the perfect place for a celebration of his life and to honor what he did for this community.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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