Those looking to physically interface with the aura of Hunter S. Thompson have pretty much been relegated to tipping a few brews at the Woody Creek Tavern, where the late gonzo journalist was long a regular customer — as evidenced by the quantity of Thompson-based décor adorning the walls.
His famed residence — Owl Farm — home to so many wild anecdotes that the residence has achieved justified mythic status among the legions of Thompson devotees, has been off-limits to casual visitation. Owl Farm has played host to a select handful of events — including fundraisers for the Wilderness Workshop — but, as far as people walking up to the front door of the residence where Thompson penned the likes of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and asking to stroll around the premises, well, the myriad no-nonsense “No Trespassing” signs put the kibosh on that notion.
All that is about to change, as Thompson’s widow, Anita, has decided to open Owl Farm’s casita — a “writer’s cabin” next door to the main Thompson residence — for short-term rentals. Though some of the details are still being sussed out, the cabin will be available for primarily for those who are fans of the man who ran for sheriff of Pitkin County under the “Freak Power” banner in 1970.
Says Anita Thompson via Facebook, “Our staff will do a light background check and welcome those who love Hunter’s work to be overnight guests at Owl Farm. The applications are open to the public for those who want to be part of the legacy and consist of a paragraph of why you would like to stay at Owl Farm, located between Woody Creek and Lenado.
“People have been asking for years to see Hunter’s Owl Farm, which is private property,” she continues. “I’ve finally prepared Hunter’s writer’s cabin for this purpose during this season.”
All of the proceeds, Anita says, will go toward the maintenance of Owl Farm and the Gonzo Foundation, which, according to its website, is “a non-profit organization created to promote literature, journalism and political activism through the legacy of Hunter S. Thompson.
“The Gonzo Foundation hosts political debates in conjunction with local Grassroots TV and after-school programs for area students,” the website continues. “We contribute to university endowments to lighten the financial load of students going into the important profession of journalism in a changing world. Although we are a small nonprofit, we are growing steadily with help from friends and those who loved the work of literature, journalism and the activism inspired by Hunter S. Thompson.”
Anita’s personal biography often gets subsumed by the larger-than-life legacy of her late husband, who took his own life at age 67 on Feb. 20, 2005.
Anita Bejmuk was born and raised in Fort Collins by academician parents who eventually went into real estate.
After getting into what she describes as “a bit of trouble” at age 16, Anita was sent to boarding school, first in Connecticut, then in Switzerland. Upon graduation, she attended UCLA, where she started getting involved in environmental politics via the Sierra Club. She eventually worked on getting both the Clean Air and Clean Water acts renewed.
“When Al Gore was elected vice-president, the environmental movement relaxed,” she says. “That was the wrong thing to do. Those of us working for groups like the Sierra Club had to work even harder. I eventually got burned out and had to take a time out.”
She opted to return to her Centennial State roots. In 1997, she moved to Aspen to learn to snowboard. That was a fortuitous decision
“I wanted to come home,” she says. “I had only been to Aspen once. It was never really on my radar. At that time, I didn’t know the difference between Aspen and Vail.”
During her time in the Aspen, during which she worked for SkiCo and as a nanny, she asked a friend a question that would change her life: “What is it about football that bonds men for life?”
According to Anita, the friend responded: “I’ll take you to talk to a guy who can answer that.”
Guess who that “guy” was?
“I had an instant crush,” Anita remembers. “I didn’t know anything about Hunter. I read ‘Rum Diary.’ I thought Hunter was some obscure writer. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. In 1999, he asked if I would consider working for him full time. I quit my jobs. I moved into Owl Farm in 2000 and we were married in 2002.”
Three years later, Anita was a widow.
During that short but intense time, Anita transcribed a lot of Hunter’s work, helping with his letters books.
While Hunter was still alive, Anita began work on a book of her own: “The Gonzo Way,” which is described by Amazon thusly: “In ‘The Gonzo Way,’ Anita Thompson pays tribute to her late husband as a writer and as a citizen, through her own words and through interviews with those who knew him best, including Tom Wolfe, George McGovern and Douglas Brinkley.”
She also edited a book of his interviews that, in 2009, was published under the title, “Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S. Thompson.”
“I never fancied myself as a writer,” she says.
Self-deprecation aside, “The Gonzo Way” became a bestseller and both books were critically well received.
In the past decade-plus, Anita has focused on maintaining and enhancing the legacy of her late husband, at least partially through the establishment of the Gonzo Foundation.
Anita admits that keeping 42.5-acre Owl Farm afloat financially has not been easy, which is part of the reason she has opted to rent out Hunter’s writer’s cabin.
“He left Owl Farm to his trust, and I borrowed money to buy the farm from the trust,” she says. “Hunter was not a wealthy man. It has been a challenge.”
According to Anita, Hunter spent more time in the cabin when it was just a one-room house. It now has two bedrooms, a full bath, a living room and a kitchen — all of which is adorned with Hunter memorabilia. In the living room is found Hunter’s famed IBM Selectric typewriter, which backs up against a “wall of ideas.”
“I created the ‘Wall of Ideas’ out of a new copy of one of Hunter’s favorite books, ‘Bartlett’s quotations,’” Anita says. “The wall is a small protest to Trump’s ‘Wall of Stupidity.’ Juliana Pfister gave me a new copy of the book so that I wouldn’t have to use Hunter’s pages, which, of course, I wouldn’t because his copy is very marked up. It’s fun to read some of the quotes he circled!”
“Over the years, it became the guest house and also a place that his staff lived from time to time,” she continues. “His secretary of many years, Debra Fuller, lived there for almost 15 years off and on. While she was there, he didn’t go there much because she came to the main house every morning after he went to sleep to clean up and take care of daily tasks.
“It was after he asked Debra to retire in 2002 that he spent more time there as we hired new staff and used it as a place to get away once in a while. I spent time there to relax as I was still taking classes at CMC from time to time. I remember reading ‘Heart of Darkness’ and talking to Hunter on the phone while I was at the cabin. Cell phones were not that much in use as they are now. We had landlines and talked on those before I would come home for the night.”
“Home” being the main Owl Farm house, which is about 50 yards from the cabin.
“He came over and spent some afternoons there and it was like a mini-vacation for him during that time,” Anita says. “He wrote in his notebook there from time to time because the cabin sits next to the brook from Salvation Ditch that runs next to the main room during the summers. It’s very relaxing and is probably the reason Hunter spent time there during the summers more than the winters.”
Most of his actual writing however, took place in the main house.
“He wrote ‘Freak Power in the Rockies’ and started his Freak Power campaign in the main house,” Anita says. “He wrote ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ here in the main house. ‘Songs of the Doomed’ was edited here. ‘The Great Shark Hunt’ was edited here, with the introduction written in New York City. He wrote his memoir, ‘Kingdom of Fear,’ here. He also wrote his book that will be posthumously published titled, ‘Polo is My Life,’ here.”
Despite his prolific output, Anita admits that Hunter experienced some significant writer’s block.
“He did go through somewhat of a dry spell during the ’90s,” she says. “It was the election of 2000 that spurred him to recharge his batteries and write more in the last five years of his life than he had in the previous 15.
“He wrote every day again, for many reasons,” Anita continues. “He was very comfortable writing in a shorter format. He was comfortable writing for the Internet, unlike a lot of his contemporaries. He spent his entire life perfecting his craft and earned more confidence in his writing by his 60s. Also, as you know, writing takes a toll on the body. In his 30s, he would spend 15 hours at a time writing.”
There is little doubt that Hunter’s writing in his later years changed with the times.
“When he started writing for ESPN in 2000, he looked at his sports readers through the same lens as he did his music readers of Rolling Stone in the ’70s: a way to politicize his readers,” Anita says. “If you read his columns, he had the same sense of urgency — politics and fun — as he did with his music magazine. But this time it was sports lovers. He considered them a powerful voting bloc.
“I'm looking forward to the days that scholars will write about his later works as they do about his work in the ’70s,” she continues. “His general archives are not open to the public yet, and my archives are not open yet either. So, this is one reason that I’m working to get the main house open as a historic landmark and, although it will always be a by appointment only, it will be open more often when I build myself another cabin to live in on the upper mesa of Owl Farm, where I won't have a daily role in activities here, and can have more scholars working to continue Hunter’s work.”
Until that vision is realized, fans of Dr. Gonzo will have the opportunity to rub elbows with his ghost in the renovated writer’s cabin.
Though rates are not yet writ in stone, the cabin will rent for about $350-500 a night and events, like weddings, can be scheduled for $3,000-$6,000, which can include dinner at the main house.
Anita emphasizes that, despite Owl Farm’s reputation, she will not allow parties at the writer’s cabin.
She also points out that those renting the cabin had best like peacocks.
Those interested in renting the cabin can go to gonzonation.org.
If you’d prefer to approach the edge without a net, send an application to firstname.lastname@example.org