Freak Power - Hunter S. Thompson's Campaign for Sheriff

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Freak Power - Hunter S. Thompson's Campaign for Sheriff

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Hunter S. Thompson came home from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago disgusted yet motivated by what he’d seen: protests violently suppressed, riots, corrupt politicians and abusive cops. Back in Aspen, he found more of the same. The local police and sheriff’s departments were targeting hippies, charging them with absurd crimes, harassing them on the streets and trying to push them out of town. He knew something had to be done and he realized it had to be done by people like himself. The hippies, intellectuals, and freaks had remained silent long enough. The time had come to organize and seize political power.

 

Freak Power tells the story of Hunter’s plan to become Sheriff, take control of Aspen and transform it from a conservative mining town into a mecca for artists, rebels and activists. Through original print material from the campaign, photographs and political art, Freak Powerchronicles a little known period in Hunter S. Thompson’s life, a period when he wrote prolifically about politics, the environment, drugs and American values. As the conservatives and freaks battled it out, the campaign became fraught with violence, accusations and moments of absurdity that bordered on fiction. As weird a tale as Thompson ever wrote, his own forays into politics may have been his wittiest and most thought-provoking escapade of all.

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“This wonderful book captures both the political activism and colorful personality of the great Hunter S. Thompson. It’s about his run for sheriff and a whole lot more, including how the freaks and activists of the 1960s helped change towns like Aspen and all of America. Dr. Thompson would be thrilled with this book – and very angry if you didn’t buy it.”

– Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute and biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin

"This is a deep and moving, playful yet dead serious, detailed and definitive dive into a seminal time and place in the history of the sixties and of a generation when so much seemed possible and where so many hopes and plans for the future were first articulated and put to the test.  Hunter wrote about this for Rolling Stone, in the midst of his Sheriff’s campaign—we called it “Freak Power in the Rockies: The Battle of Aspen”—which served to catalyze all the interests, cultural and political cross currents fighting to determine the future of this small town, and the nation itself.  For anyone interested in the real history of the sixties and the world of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, this time capsule is a treasure of the first order. Selah."

– Jann Wenner, Founder and Publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine

"Hunter's 1970 run for Pitkin County Sheriff began as an anti-establishment campaign where hippies and freaks were pitted against ruling conservatives. The unintended yet fortunate result was the birth of an enlightened brand of law enforcement and a unique philosophy that spans forty-five years and three generations of sheriffs and is still alive in Pitkin County today."

– Joey DiSalvo, Pitkin County Sheriff

"Freak Power is terrific book about the political awakening and activism of writer Hunter S. Thompson in the mid 20th century when he ran for sheriff and nearly won in his hometown in the Rockies.  It is not just a tale of our own era’s flamboyant Mark Twain, but a chronicle of our time where the greedy lust for dollars has become the reigning ethos of our nation.”

– Loren B Jenkins, Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent.

“Hunter Thompson’s 1970 campaign for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado was an historic watershed moment for the village of Aspen and a movement that has spanned generations of true believers.  D.J. Watkin‘s work lovingly traces the origins of the Freak Power Movement and is a poignant testament to the values that every self respecting child of the ‘60s holds dear.”

– Gerry Goldstein, Hunter S. Thompson's longtime friend and criminal defense attorney

"The Prince of Freak Power Hunter S. Thompson’s fantastical and often hilarious effort to win the race for sheriff in Pitkin County, Colorado is fully captured and well told by Daniel Joseph Watkins in his lavishly illustrated new book Freak Power: Hunter S. Thompson’s Campaign for Sheriff.  Under the direction and inspiration of Thompson and his artist accomplice, Thomas W. Benton, a gaggle of colorful long-haired hippies and modern day Dadaists turn Aspen upside down in their attempt to bring a new kind of drug tolerant law and order to the Old West and at the same time save their beloved city of Aspen from the claws of the dirt pimps, greed heads, and land rapers. The story of the Aspen Liberation Front’s madcap assault on the “establishment,” a campaign closely followed by the national news media, encapsulates all of the chaos, turmoil, and utopian dreams of the radical sixties." 

– Hal Elliott Wert, Kansas City Art Institute history professor and Author of Hope: A Collection of Obama Posters and Prints and George McGovern and the Democratic Insurgents: The Best Campaign and Political Posters of the Last Fifty Years.

"Daniel Joseph Watkins, in his previous book, Thomas W. Benton Artist Activist, brought the work and life of Tom Benton into the illumination and understanding that few artists and activists ever realize.  Now this book, Freak Power, concentrates broadly and deeply the rhetoric, emotions, and strategies surrounding Hunter S. Thompson’s courageous and passionate bid to become sheriff of Pitkin County. Watkins’ research, both physical and chemical, crafts an understanding of the issues of 1970, the solutions proposed by the Freak Power platform, and the effects of these thoughts and efforts upon subsequent reforms and progress in Pitkin County, Colorado." 

– Bob Braudis, Pitkin County Sheriff from 1986-2010