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Hunter S. Thompson Helps Jack Nicholson Celebrate His 60th Birthday in Gonzo Style

On April 22, 1997, legendary film actor Jack Nicholson, a native of Neptune and graduate of Manasquan High School, celebrated his 60th birthday. Famed “gonzo journalist” and author Hunter S. Thompson decided that it would be fun to pay a visit to his old friend and deliver some special birthday gifts. 

Nicholson had moved from California to Aspen, Colorado, in part because of fears for his safety from a stalker. Now, Jack was living in an isolated home high up in the Rocky Mountains. His kids had flown in to help celebrate the occasion, and Thompson called to say he was coming by for a visit.

Thompson, a longtime Aspen resident, arrived hours later during a blizzard which had caused a regional power and telephone service outage. He brought guns, flares, fireworks, a high-powered searchlight, and a loudspeaker system. He began firing his guns and flares outside Nicholson’s house, shining the searchlight into windows, all while playing a recording of pigs being killed by a bear, at maximum volume. Nicholson refused to come outside. 

Then Thompson placed a bloody elk’s heart on Nicholson’s doorstep.

During all this, Nicholson was convinced someone had come to kill him and had barricaded himself and his children in the basement. 

Thompson later said he was heavily intoxicated and remembered nothing of the matter until the next day, when he learned of police efforts to find a person wanted for what they were treating as an assassination attempt on the life of one of America’s most famous celebrities. 

Once Nicholson found out who was behind it all, the matter was quickly resolved, no charges were filed, and Nicholson and Hunter remained friends to the end. 

Thompson was involved in numerous Hollywood projects and films, but we do not know how he and Jack Nicholson came to be friends. Nicholson attended Thompson’s memorial service in Aspen in 2005 along with Johnny Depp, Sean Penn and Bill Murray. Nicholson, an artist, displayed a portrait he had made of Hunter at the event.  A diptych (pictured above), the dual portrait has one caption from the artist that reads, “All were not wrong” and on the other, “Howd’ya like the elk heart?”


Bane, Vickie.  (2005).  Jack Nicholson Draws Hunter S. Thompson.  People, March 9, 2005.  Available:

Thompson, Hunter S.  (2003). Heart of Darkness. The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Canada, February 23, 2003, P. 32.

Merritt, Jeralyn. (2005). Hunter Thompson’s Memorial Service.  5280, March 7, 2005.  Available:

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