Zambelli arranges fireworks display for Hunter Thompson's last hurrah

He'll go out as a shining star

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Louisa Davidson, Associated Press
Hunter S. Thompson and his wife, Anita Thompson, pose for photographers at the Pitkin County Court House after their 2003 civil wedding ceremony in Aspen, Colo. The gonzo journalist, suffering from declining health, committed suicide 22 months later.
Click photo for larger image.

Hunter S. Thompson has been granted his final wish and will go out with a bang.

A very big bang.

On Saturday, the self-styled king of gonzo journalism will have a final send-off when his ashes will be dispersed in a fireworks display above his estate in Woody Creek, Colo.

And Zambelli Fireworks Internationale, based in New Castle, has been tapped to be the late author's pyrotechnic pallbearers.

"We have never had a request such as this one in our company's history," said Marcy Zambelli, chief executive officer of Zambelli Fireworks. "But we respect the request of the family and have actually custom engineered an aerial shell specifically designed to carry out his final wish."

A 1978 BBC documentary revealed Thompson's desire to have his ashes ejected from a 150-foot-tall monument at his home.

The 67-year-old author shot himself to death in February.

Zambelli said Thompson's widow Anita Thompson delivered some of her husband's cremated remains to their New Castle office last week. The ashes were then placed in aerial shells and will be driven back to Colorado today, she said.

"We've done ashes before but nothing of this size," said Matt Wood, who designed the display. "We are really excited."

Wood said Thompson's ashes will be blasted out of the 150-foot-tall monument. The ashes will be dispersed from 34 different shells, he said.

Zambelli said the display will start with a series of red, white and blue fireworks and drum rolls. A final set of fireworks will be launched along with those containing Thompson's ashes.

Zambelli said the final display will be launched simultaneously with red, white and blue fireworks and noise salute shells.

Anita Thompson, 32, told The Associated Press that her late husband wanted people to celebrate.

"He envisioned it to be a beautiful party," she said. "The most amazing people would be there. His friends would celebrate his life. And he was even specific that there be clinking of ice and whiskey."

Anita Thompson said Saturday's gathering will include readings from Thompson's work and performances by Lyle Lovett and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. About 250 people are invited, including actors Sean Penn and Johnny Depp, a close friend of the writer.

Depp, who portrayed Thompson in the 1998 movie version of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," is financing much of the send-off, Anita Thompson said.

Thompson's remaining ashes will be kept for private ceremonies, according to his widow.

Thompson's suicide ended a career that included landmark works of new journalism such as "Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs" "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream" and "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72."


The Associated Press contributed to this report. Nate Guidry can be reached at NGuidry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3865.


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