• Weird History

Behind The Scenes Of "Freak Power," Hunter S. Thompson's Campaign For Sheriff Of Aspen

You might not expect a wealthy skiing town and famed Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson to have a long history together. However, Thompson and Aspen, CO, go back all the way to 1967. At the height of the hippie peace movement, Thompson found himself in a city divided, and he wanted to lead the way into a progressive future. The writer ran for sheriff and made a slew of ludicrous promises that frightened some and excited others.

While many new voters applauded Thompson's willingness to embrace progressive ideas, others were terrified by his radical viewpoints and Democrats and Republicans eventually banded together to make sure Thompson wasn't elected. Things got contentious, and on the night of the election, armed guards patrolled Thompson's ranch to stop would-be assailants from making good on their death threats. 

Thompson's political campaign was as amusing as it was heavily contested, and when all was said and done the results were closer than many imagined possible. On top of spawning yet another wild Thompson story, an explosive Rolling Stone article, and the fascinating retrospective Freak Power - Hunter S. Thompson's Campaign for Sheriff by Daniel Joseph Watkins, echoes of Thompson's legislative aims - from cannabis legalization to limiting land developer rights - resonate throughout contemporary politics. 

  • On Business: Run The Land Developers Out Of Town

    Annoyed about the increasing exploitation of Aspen's natural resources, Thompson proposed renaming the town "Fat City" to dissuade land developers from building there. Thompson believed the sheriffs office should show no mercy to "greedheads... and other human jackals" who capitalized on the rustic-sounding name Aspen. 

  • Thompson Shaved His Head To Mock His Opponent

    During the race, Thompson's main opponent was Republican incumbent Sheriff Carrol D. Whitmire, who had held the position since 1966. Whitmire was a traditional "good-old-boy" who wore cowboy hats and harassed local hippies. Noting Whitmire's crew cut, Thompson shaved his balding head completely (as seen in the photo collected by Freak Power - Hunter S. Thompson's Campaign for Sheriff by Daniel Joseph Watkins).

    This allowed Thompson to refer to Whitmire as his "long-haired opponent." In an era where long-haired men were considered suspicious counterculture types by men like Whitmire, the insult must have stung.

  • Thompson Helped Design A Campaign Logo Featuring Hallucinogens

    With the help of talented local artists, Thompson designed a Freak Power logo consisting of a double-thumbed red fist holding a button with a peyote design. Peyote - a popular hallucinogen - contrasted wildly with the sheriff's star it was superimposed on in campaign posters.

    The heavy pro-drug aspect of the Freak Power campaign raised a lot of eyebrows and some potential supporters asked Thompson to moderate his message. Thompson held firm, insisting he had the right to keep eating mescaline even after his election.

  • The Campaign Video Is A Work Of Counterculture Poetry

    Video: YouTube

    The Freak Power campaign prepared a television commercial for Hunter S. Thompson's race. The video shows Thompson riding his motorcycle through the rustic Colorado mountains with accompanying narration by his friend and fellow writer James Salter.

    The quirky, ultra-serious narration includes far-out poetic phrases that detail Thompson's sympathy for a "grass-oriented society" and claim his only flaw is "he wants too pure a world."