Cannon Wanted for Thompson's Bang-Up Salute

If you have a cannon and don't mind blasting a member of the media, the friends and family of the late Hunter S. Thompson need your help.

Thompson died on Feb. 20, and as a final request in his bizarre life, the self-described "gonzo" journalist wanted his cremated ashes blasted into the air over his farm in Woody Creek, Colo., as loudspeakers play Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man."

Johnny Depp -- who portrayed Thompson's drug-addled alter ego in the 1998 film "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" -- is among the friends hoping to cannon-ize the outrageous writer. Step one, of course, is finding proper military ordnance.

To help the family out, Thompson's local newspaper, the Aspen Daily News, is organizing a "Cannon Blast-Off Contest," asking entrants to answer, in 100 words or less, "Why should your cannon be used to blast Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's cremated remains into the sky?"

The paper is looking for cannons with historic value or possibly one from Kentucky, where Thompson was born. Photographs must be included. The entry deadline is March 13.

The fact that the 67-year-old writer died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound isn't dissuading friends and family from this unusual memorial. Perhaps the only surprise to Thompson's hard-core fans is that he didn't already own his own cannon. Over the years, strange blasts and the crackle of high-powered guns frequently brought police to his door.

In his 1989 book "Generation of Swine," Thompson recalls blowing up a Jeep with high-powered explosives, purely for his own amusement.

"The explosion shook the whole valley and sent chunks of red shrapnel flying over the house and all the way back to the White River National Forest," he wrote. "All traffic stopped on the road and the elk herd scattered in panic.

"But not for long. It was over in 22 seconds. Nobody was injured and no animals were killed ..."

In recent years, Thompson wrote a weekly column for ESPN.com, where, among other things, he advocated "Shotgun Golf," a sport he invented, which involves shooting balls out of the air rather than hitting them with clubs.

"It will bring a whole new meaning to the words 'Driving Range,' " his friend Bill Murray remarked in one column.

Clearly, Thompson's writing was not for everyone. But he had a cult following. At a private memorial service in Aspen on Sunday, Depp and Murray were joined by such Hollywood headliners as Sean Penn, Jack Nicholson and Benicio Del Toro.

Guests say celebrity speakers recalled Thompson's days riding motorcycles with the Hells Angels, his reportage as national affairs editor for Rolling Stone and the wild tales that made him legendary.

The event surely would have pleased the author, who had a viciously dark sense of humor and a strange reverence for ceremonies.

In 1994, after the death of former President Nixon, who was the central figure in Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," the journalist wrote:

"If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning … His body should have been burned in a trash bin."

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