Hunter S. Thompson - Legacy - Persona


Thompson often used a blend of fiction and fact when portraying himself in his writing as well, sometimes using the name Raoul Duke as an author surrogate whom he generally described as a callous, erratic, self-destructive journalist who constantly drank alcohol and took hallucinogenic drugs. Fantasizing about causing bodily harm to others was also a characteristic in his work used to comedic effect and an example of his brand of humor.

In the late sixties, Thompson acquired his famous title of "Doctor" from the Universal Life Church. He later preferred to be called Dr. Thompson, and his "alter-ego" Raoul Duke called himself a "doctor of journalism". Thompson was as fond of personae as W.C. Fields: besides "Raoul Duke", Thompson also toyed with the idea of taking the names "Jefferson Rank", "Gene Skinner", and "Sebastian Owl" for various purposes literary and non-literary, naming his "compound" in Woody Creek, Colorado, "Owl Farm" after the last of these.

A number of critics have commented that as he grew older the line that distinguished Thompson from his literary self became increasingly blurred. Thompson himself admitted during a 1978 BBC interview that he sometimes felt pressured to live up to the fictional self that he had created, adding "I'm never sure which one people expect me to be. Very often, they conflict — most often, as a matter of fact. ...I'm leading a normal life and right along side me there is this myth, and it is growing and mushrooming and getting more and more warped. When I get invited to, say, speak at universities, I'm not sure if they are inviting Duke or Thompson. I'm not sure who to be."

Thompson's writing style and eccentric persona gave him a cult following in both literary and drug circles, and his cult status expanded into broader areas after being portrayed three times in major motion pictures. Hence, both his writing style and persona have been widely imitated, and his likeness has even become a popular costume choice for Halloween.

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