In 1970, between publishing Hell’s Angels and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the gonzo journalist, longtime Rolling Stone contributor, and Louisville, Kentucky, native Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado.
Thompson was drawn to the mountain town of Aspen, and made it his home for decades until his death, in 2005. Under his Freak Power Party ticket, his platform included relaxing drug-offense penalties and replacing asphalt with sod. His campaign nearly worked: Thompson lost by only 468 votes to the incumbent, Carrol D. Whitmire.
The writer’s interlude of political theater is the subject of the exhibition Freak Power: Hunter S. Thompson’s Campaign for Sheriff (April 30–September 2) at his hometown’s Frazier Kentucky History Museum. “People remember him because of the drugs and the booze, but during this time he was publishing some of the most powerful writing of his life,” says curator Daniel Watkins, who spent a decade collecting memorabilia from Aspen barns and basements.
The show includes drawings by the illustrator and frequent Thompson collaborator Ralph Steadman and silkscreens by Thomas W. Benton, who created the iconic “Thompson for Sheriff ” image: A two-thumbed fist in the air holds a button of peyote, backed by the bold fever-dream outline of a sheriff’s star.