Stars Celebrate Hunter S. Thompson

It’s been 40 years since Hunter S. Thompson wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, his classic semi-autobiographical novel about a drug-fueled road trip.

A group of actors and writers who have been inspired by Thompson, as well as an editor who worked with him, took to the stage at Symphony Space Wednesday night to celebrate the anniversary of the landmark work.

The evening featured hilarious stories from Thompson’s life and career interspersed with readings from “Fear and Loathing” itself.

Theater actors Scott Shepherd (star of this season’s “Gatz”) and Anthony Rapp (“Rent”) each read a chapter from the beginning of the book while Michael Imperioli of “The Sopranos” read one from the end.

Terry McDonell, editor of Sports Illustrated Group and former editor of Rolling Stone, edited much of Thompson’s work and famously interviewed him for “The Paris Review.” He talked about the connection between Thompson’s wild, drug-addled life and the “Gonzo” style of journalism that he pioneered.

“The idea that [his life] was all crazy was something that he actually cultivated,” McDonell said. “[He believed] that the best way to work as a journalist was to be more interesting to the people he was interviewing than they were to him.”

McDonell recalled a memorable interaction from 15 years ago, when he brought his two sons, then 4 and 6, to meet Thompson at a party.

“When we got there, Hunter said, ‘Jesus. Where you been? I’ve been waiting for you. Here, do you guys want a smoke?’ And he handed my sons each a cigarette,” he said. “You cannot have that in your life and not smile.”

Chuck Klosterman, author of books including “Eating the Dinosaur” and “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs,” said Thompson’s work was one-of-a-kind.

 “When people want to write like him, they end up ripping off his voice, or the structure of his writing, or maybe just his attitude or his sense of humor," Klosterman said. "But to really be like him, you need to live like him, and no person can — like, there’s no person alive who can actually live the way he did.”

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