You can listen to or download the interview at Disinfo. Here are some of the points Ellis made:
In Transmet Ellis was more interested in the effects of celebrity on Thompson.
Celebrity had a corrosive effect on Thompson. Although he became more well known, he was portrayed as a cartoon character and that resulted in him being defanged and not taken seriously.
Because Thompson’s work is so seductively well written, it can actually be a bad influence on writers who try to imitate his style.
The point of drawing on 60s and 70s politics in Transmet was to show how little things had changed in the 90s and 00s when Ellis was writing it, and how unlikely it was that things would change substantially in the future.
I love Thompson’s work but think he can be a bad influence on writers and journalists who wind up writing crappy prose in an attempt to be edgy and play it fast and lose with the facts to be “gonzo.” And because of his image and style, his message was often lost. Too many people remember him as a character.
This is the famous Documentary on Hunter S. Thompson from 1978. You know … the one where he attributes his good health to grass in his whiskey. It’s part of the “Omnibus” TV series. Also, a rare glimpse of the British weirdo, Ralph Steadman and, the less rare, Bill Murray.
We still aren’t entirely sure about Hunter S. Thompson. His personal life has certainly been exhumed, er, to death, thanks to the post-suicide cottage industry of biographies, personal reminiscences and documentaries that have sprung up like dandelions around a gravestone. We do know, for example, that Thompson was a philanderer and a mean drunk on occasion, and that he had trouble setting things down on paper as the years progressed and substance abuse clouded his beautiful mind. And yet when it comes to the work itself — that half-mad hybrid of sharp reportage and venomous rhetoric — mysteries still abound.
When discussing his own creative process, Thompson could be very cagey indeed. For years, readers have speculated about the fact-vs.-fiction conundrum that lies at the heart of 1971’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Doug Brinkley, Thompson’s friend and executor of the author’s estate, has in the past referred to the book as a novel. In his movie adaptation, Terry Gilliam literalized the book’s beastly hallucinations and turned Thompson’s terrifying thought-dreams into a kind of Tex Avery nightmare. When I interviewed Thompson in 2002, he danced around the subject of factual accuracy with digressive charm, a familiar feint whenever someone tried to dig into the marrow of his most famous works.
But for years there have been murmurings about a skeleton key: cassette tapes, thousands of them, that would unlock the mystery and allow us to tease out the truth from Thompson’s Boschian mind trips. Alex Gibney received permission from the Thompson estate to use the tapes for his documentary Gonzo, the best and most insightful Thompson documentary by a wide margin. And now we have The Gonzo Tapes, a companion box set that contains hours of the cassettes spread across five CDs. For anyone but the most fervent Thompson heads, The Gonzo Tapes is a mighty tough trawl. The fidelity of the recordings, which span the years 1965 to 1975, is truly crappy, and given that Thompson often liked to play records in the background while recording, it sometimes takes a Herculean effort to discern what the hell is going on. You have to lean in a bit to catch the nuggets.
Think rabid fans of late author Hunter S. Thompson and knee-jerk bloggers are hyperventilating over Converse’s use of his image in their ad campaign? Wait until they find out Thompson’s estate started talking with the shoe company shortly after the gonzo writer fatally shot himself in 2005 about an HST edition Chuck Taylor low-top.
Thompson was hardly a fashion icon, and by no means a clotheshorse. He did, however, have a look: aviator sunglasses, the occasional Hawaiian shirt, cigarette holder fitted with a smoldering Dunhill, and a Tilley hat crushed down upon his near-bald pate (with a convenient secret stash compartment under the crown)-and white, Chuck Taylor All-Star low-cut sneakers by Converse.
“Since he bought his first pair in the early 1960s in San Francisco he has worn them every day of his life,” the author’s widow Anita Thompson tells Radar. “There are still over 70 pairs of them at the house.”
That hasn’t stopped some from crying “sellout.” And it’s tough to tell whether Hunter himself would have approved of the endorsement. He was never against making a fast buck. He always loved schemes, but was always generous and never greedy. In the 1970s, he had no problem posing for Levi photo ads. In 1999, when I convinced Porsche to loan him a new car to test drive for a review in the San Francisco Examiner Magazine, he got slapped for shilling. And he could’ve given a fuck. He thanked me. We talked on the phone for years afterward.