Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Origin of Gonzo

On the occasion of the death of Hunter S. Thompson, the origin of gonzo, reprinted with permission from the latest e-mailed issue of Charles Giuliano's Maverick Arts Magazine.

"A sad but predictable end. Taking to the grave misinformation regarding the origin of Gonzo. My word. First stated during a colorful story I told, think it was about 1969, in which it was the punch line. That occured in the presence of Bill and Suzy Cardoso, Jim Silin, Brian and Patty Dreher. At the time Cardoso was a Boston Globe writer/editor and friend of Thompson. Who famously wrote to him that, "You are a journalist, a gonzo journalist." Cardoso defined the guidelines of Gonzo Journalism that included a group of us but Hunter became its most renowned exponent. Said letter was published on the front page of a short lived magazine called Scanlon's. Cardoso took credit for the term which he had glommed from me. Thompson then stole it from Cardoso. It has been misreported ever since. At the time I published the word for the first time, beating all others to print, and I can prove it, when in a review in the Boston Herald of Ten Years After at Harvard Stadium I used gonzo. My editor at the time, Samuel Hirsch, questioned the usage. I told him it was a hip new term and appropriate to a rock review. It ran. Cardoso later convinced Paul Szep to use it as a caption in a Globe cartoon and the Gonzo wars were off and running. Jim Silin formed a Gonzo band for which I was the drummer. We had one gig at the Plough and the Stars. His wife, Kathy, a genuine gonzo, knew a couple of songs, like “Poison Ivy” and "Love Potion Number Nine." Barry Savenor got Gonzo vanity license plates for his yellow Duster car which soon became so banged up that it too was total gonzo. All this I published in a letter to the editor in the old Real Paper. That was a long time ago. People have forgotten that. So be it. Now Hunter is total gonzo."

From a Hunter S. Thompson website -

"Gonzo journalism is a highly subjective and extremely personal form of reporting. While Dr. Thompson's writing style has not changed dramatically since the sixties (although his form has), the first piece of writing to be called gonzo was The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved written for Scanlan's and illustrated by the Welsh cartoonist Ralph Steadman. As the deadline approached, and with his article still not done, Dr. Thompson resorted to ripping pages out of his notebook and send them to the editors. What resulted was "gonzo", as Bill Cardoso called it. (Gonzo is really an Italian word for absurdities - gonzagas. Cardoso claimed it was a corruption of the French Canadian word "gonzeaux" which means "shining path". To my knowledge, no such word exists)."


Anonymous said...

I'm a reader from out of town - have you seen the painting show at the Anderson Gallery?

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