GonzoFest Louisville (Saturday, April 14, 2018) is a celebration of the life and legacy of native son Hunter S. Thompson—the self-appointed Doctor of Journalism, the cosmic prankster, the counter-cultural icon. Now in its 8th year, GonzoFest will be held at Louisville Free Public Library, which will provide a literary setting for panel discussions, spoken word performances, live music, film, and art that illustrate Thompson’s literary and visual aesthetic and how it continues to influence and permeate culture today.
Thompson’s well-known use of alcohol and drugs, his wild antics and penchant for violence, have often dominated the persona of the progenitor of Gonzo Journalism. While Thompson credits imbibing as the fuel for his honest insights, focusing on the outlandish, and often illegal, aspects of Thompson’s life ignores the long hours he put into his craft—the technical proficiency and quick wit that he used to show the truth about society around him.
This hard work will be discussed in two panels that focus on turning point moments in his career. In Writing Hell’s Angels: Will the Real Hunter Thompson Please Stand Up? Margaret Harrell, author of the Keep This Quiet! series, talks about experiences as a young copy editor with Thompson during his composition of Hell’s Angels. She will discuss Thompson’s approach at the time to participatory journalism—his seriousness; his professional and literary skill—and how it stands in contrast to the more exaggerated version of Hunter Thompson that later generations have come to know.
The Battle of Michigan Avenue: Chicago 1968, Hunter Thompson, and Violence Against Journalists will be a conversation between author and HST scholar Timothy Denevi and Michael Lindenberger, Louisville native and writer with The Dallas Morning News, and moderated by Kate Howard from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. They will discuss the police riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention where Thompson was attacked and beaten by Mayor Daley’s cops. What happens when the state uses violence to silence its critics, and why does Thompson’s experience at the corner of Michigan and Balbo fifty years ago still feel as pertinent as ever today?
Hunter S. Thompson’s ties to Louisville, and the Louisville Free Public Library in particular, will be further explored with Who was Virginia Thompson? a talk with Hunter’s son Juan Thompson and family friend Ron Whitehead. They will talk about Hunter’s early years in Louisville and Hunter’s mother, a librarian at LFPL during his adolescence.
Award-winning director Phillip Rodriguez and Louisville actor Gaba Gavi will be presenting their film The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo, a PBS documentary on Chicano civil rights activist/attorney/author Oscar Zeta Acosta. Acosta is best known as the inspiration behind Hunter S. Thompson’s Dr. Gonzo character in the 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. A Q&A session with Rodriguez and Gavi will following the screening.
GonzoFest is also a laboratory for new and seasoned writers. Artists from the Louisville Literary Arts collective and Outlaw Poet Ron Whitehead will share their original work. Young Authors Greenhouse and Louisville Magazine will be heading a team of student journalists who will conduct interviews with the bands, panelists, and festival participants and deliver stories for publication at LFPL. Writers also had a chance to enter the annual GonzoFest Literary Contest, with a cash prize of $1,000 thanks to sponsor BiblioBoard and media partner Library Journal.
Judging the contest is a panel of highly regarded journalists in Louisville, Houston, San Francisco, Austin and Paris, France, gathered by Michael Lindenberger. The winners of both the GonzoFest art and literary contests will have their work considered for publication in LEO Weekly’s Gonzo edition.. Contest winners will also be on display at the festival, along with several artists and literary vendors, including the Kurt Vonnegut Society.
No Louisville festival would be complete without music. This year features an all-local lineup with music by Electric Garden, Ron Whitehead & The Storm Generation Band, Jet Lawrence, Anemic Royalty, and Southern Sirens. There will be food trucks and beer tubs, so the bases are covered. LFPL and GonzoFest Louisville welcome the established and the brand new Hunter S. Thompson fans to deepen their understanding of this literary icon.
Saturday, April 14
Louisville Free Public Library, 301 York Street