The widow of Hunter S. Thompson this week defended the $3 million that actor Johnny Depp spent on the famed author’s funeral in 2005 — a sum listed in a bitter legal dispute between Depp and his former management company — as well as additional money spent on acquiring and preserving Thompson’s archives.
The management company, sued by Depp in December for allegedly mismanaging his funds, filed a counterclaim Tuesday that documented a litany of the actor’s extravagant expenses. They included Depp funding Thompson’s star-studded funeral in Woody Creek, a legendary send-off involving a fist-and-peyote-shaped cannon atop a 153-foot-tall tower that, per his wishes, blasted the author’s ashes over his Owl Farm estate.
“Depp spent lavishly on various luxury items, including spending over $18 million to acquire and renovate a 150-foot yacht,” says The Management Group’s counterclaim. “Depp spent millions more acquiring and/or maintaining at least 45 luxury vehicles. He spent $30,000 per month on expensive wines that he had flown to him around the world for his personal consumption.
“Depp also paid over $3 million to blast from a specially made cannon the ashes of author Hunter Thompson over Aspen, Colorado.”
Anita Thompson said in an email that she was dismayed the management company brought up her late husband’s funeral.
“Hunter and Johnny were very close,” she said of Depp, who portrayed Thompson in the film version of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” “Hunter thought of Johnny like a son. It was a time of chaos and trauma for all of us when Hunter died. Whatever Johnny spent, it was personal for him.”
She said she remembered safety being the primary concern during the monument construction, overseen by engineer Steve Cohn. Today, the ground where the monument stood remains a meditation labyrinth that is used every day at Owl Farm, Thompson said.
“The pristine land above the labyrinth is in the process of being preserved in Hunter’s memory,” she said. “The land was vulnerable to development, as was the wildlife and ecosystem of the land that is adjacent to the wilderness areas on Owl Farm’s 42-acre parcel, where Hunter’s ashes remain, thanks to Johnny.”
Depp also purchased Hunter’s original manuscripts and, eventually, Hunter’s archive. The purchase is not mentioned in the counterclaim filing. According to totallygonzo.org, it included some 800 boxes of letters, unpublished material and artifacts. Anita Thompson, who declined to say how much Depp paid for the material, said the actor plans on one day making them available to scholars in a university setting.
“It’s a tremendous value to American scholars and historians,” she said. “During the negotiations, the primary concern was what was best for Hunter’s legacy and his contribution to American literature.”
Citing several journalists who studied Hunter’s output during the final years of his life, she said Hunter wrote more in the last five years of his life than he did in the previous 15 years combined — “a few reasons for that would be that George W. Bush became president, [and] he loved his ESPN column.”
That work includes the book, “Hey Rube, Blood Sport, The Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness,” his last. Anita Thompson provided a link to a YouTube clip of former Pitkin County sheriff Bob Braudis reading, in the author’s famed kitchen, from the book as their friend and renowned defense attorney Gerry Goldstein looks on. During that period of time, he also published the book “Kingdom of Fear”; some 200 columns for espn.com; and “Prisoner of Denver” in Vanity Fair. The latter, written with journalist Mark Seal, focused on the plight of Lisl Auman, a woman wrongfully convicted of the murder of a police officer and sentenced to life without parole. Her cause championed repeatedly by Thompson, Auman was freed several months after the author committed suicide.
Anita Thompson said she is grateful Depp purchased her husband’s archive and that she wants to add to the collection.
“I look forward to him donating the archive that he bought to a university and combining some of my archive of the boxes that Hunter gave to me,” she said.