LAS VEGAS—During a Tuesday press conference at the National Gonzo Press Club, members of the nation's foremost organization of gonzo journalists vowed to carry on the mission of its founder Hunter S. Thompson, who took his life last month.
"Now that the whore-beasts and the scum-sucking degenerate rat bastards in Wall Street and the White House are hell-bent on turning us all into pliant, Scripture-mewling puppet-slaveys, we must take up Hunter's fallen colors and charge into the fray," said NGPC president Gene Zolonga, who is the National Affairs and Shark Hunting Editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer. "The next four years will be an unprecedented monument to bestial human ugliness, but I'd sooner let Yakuza thugs strap a rabid wolverine to my groin than shirk my responsibilities as a gonzo journalist."
The heavily sweating, speed-frenzied Zolonga then removed a Luger automatic pistol from his coat and shot the microphone with a deafening blast.
The NGPC is composed of nearly 3,000 journalists who practice gonzo, a subjective, emotionally charged observational reporting style that is often fueled by recreational drug use. Members of the 34-year-old organization cumulatively hold 14 Pulitzer Prizes, including eight in the Distinguished Weirdness In Feature Writing category.
"It's up to us to carry on the mentor's vision and expose all in American life that is strange, terrible, bad, crazy, or bad crazy," Zolonga said. He then climbed onto the podium and emitted a blood-curdling screech. "I am full of love, you motherfucking bastards. Pardon me, I believe my heart just stopped."
Gonzo stringer Zach Kiel, who most recently wrote "Fear, Loathing At The Owensboro Parks And Recreation Department" for the Louisville Courier-Journal, said Thompson will go down in the history of American letters as "the greatest gonzo reporter there ever was."
"Hunter opposed the editing of half-truths in all of his endeavors," Kiel said. "He had balls like an elephant and a cruelly beautiful prose style to match. He had stiff competition, but I'd say he bested even a hardened pro like Del Armbruster, who once wrote a story about Amazon gold prospectors while engulfed in fire head-to-toe."
Even gonzo journalists who have disagreed with Thompson in the past, such as award-winning New York Times columnist Heck Murdo, count him as a freak comrade.
"We did have sharp differences in opinion," Murdo said. "He thought Richard Nixon should have had his intestines slowly unwound onto a giant cable spool. I thought he should have been lashed to an oceanside cliff near San Clemente, so that ospreys could feast on his eyes. We feuded for years, at one point conducting a bourbon- and mescaline-fueled motorized-cart demolition derby on a Lake Tahoe golf course. But we patched things up when Dubya was elected, agreeing—to our mutual horror—that Nixon far outclassed that Jesus-loving pinheaded man-child."
During the past four decades, gonzo journalists have encountered their share of critical backlash, with college journalism departments around the nation reducing funding for gonzo-journalism programs and local editors questioning the wisdom of covering school-board meetings and slow-pitch softball matches on amyl nitrate.
"The gonzo philosophy is not always an effective or practical way to convey fact," Tulsa Daily Courier managing editor Patrick Jacobs said. "Average newspaper readers want to turn to the weather page and see the next day's forecast. They don't really have much use for a map captioned, 'Leeches are sucking my spinal fluid!' And when the sports page contains an unintelligible 3,000-word screed about ballpark hot-dog buns in place of the major-league scores, I get mail."
Gonzo entertainment writer Gail Nucci said 14 publications dropped her syndicated gossip column "Vacuous Sluts And Perfidious Dandies" over the course of the past year.
"The scores of out-of-work gonzo journalists say it all," said Nucci, an angel-dust abuser who tried to place Hilary Duff under citizen's arrest at the world premiere of Raise Your Voice last October. "Save for a handful of maverick magazine publishers, editors are too busy slobbing the knobs of the men on high to risk publishing an original voice."
In spite of these challenges, Zolonga is adamant that gonzo journalism has a place in this century.
"The world is growing assuredly weirder," Zolonga said. "Just as history remembers such prominent journalist-commentators as H.L. Mencken and Mike Royko, I have faith that future generations of swine will know the name of Hunter S. Thompson."