August 17 2005, 12:29 PM
Things are shaping up nicely for Hunter Thompson's final blast-off this Saturday. The 150-foot tower, from which Hunter's ashes will be blasted, is on Hunter's Woody Creek property. The ashes have been placed in 34 shells by Zambelli Fireworks Internationale.
Zambelli workers custom-designed brown paper cylindrical shells that will be used in the aerial display. The shells will be launched from a monument modeled after Thompson's Gonzo logo: a clenched fist, made symmetrical with the addition of a second thumb, perched atop a dagger.The Aspen Daily News reports an armored truck with the ash-filled shells left Pennsylvania yesterday and should arrive in Colorado today.
Actor Johnny Depp is funding the event, which organizers estimate will cost roughly $2.5 million, to fulfill the vision that Thompson detailed in a 1978 BBC documentary and to his friends and family leading up to his suicide.Some more details:
Held up by a dozen guide wires toward the edge of a horseshoe-shaped landscape, the gonzo sculpture is positioned less than a half mile from Thompson's main house and is encompassed by two tree-covered hills and a red canyon wall. Fifty feet of faux boulders encircle the sculpture, which is 12 feet around at the base and 7 feet at the tip. The red-clothed fist rises 17 feet, 6 inches and is 16 feet wide and 10 feet deep. A rainbow of colors will shimmer through two peyote buttons -- one of which will be spinning -- implanted in the fist.Not surprisingly, the construction effort was labor intensive. 60 workers put in 10 hour days for weeks on the project. His widow, Anita Thompson, explains the thought behind the final send-off:
"He wanted to hear ice clinking in whiskey glasses. 'No tears, no funeral' is what he said. But there will be an element of sorrow because he's left a huge hole in our hearts. That's why we need to be together to say a final farewell to his body. His spirit lives on in all of our hearts and in his writings, which seem to have a new sparkle to them now that his body is gone," she said. ..."My husband is the only writer in American history that I know of that could inspire this sort of monumental tribute and Johnny is the only one who could pull it off. I think it's his way of mourning and he's helping a lot of people heal by doing this for Hunter," she said. "He's a Southern gentleman. That's why Hunter loved him so much."Security will be massive, so don't even think of crashing.
Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said a private security team is in place to stifle party crashers and that deputies will be patrolling nearby roads. Braudis said he expects some Thompson fans and other curiosity seekers could show up. "I think it will spill over to the Woody Creek Tavern and so does the tavern," said Braudis, who is urging those who are not invited to stay home.But, if you happen to be almost anywhere in Aspen, you won't be entirely left out:
Zambelli Fireworks Internationale, which has performed at the Olympics and a number of events in Aspen, is manufacturing about 30 fireworks sealed with Thompson's ashes for the big moment. They will be fired simultaneously. "In Aspen, you'll hear the boom," Cohn said.It will be a great moment to offer up your personal thanks to Hunter for sharing his incredible literary talent with generations of readers and writers.