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Hunter S. Thompson, Cozumel, Mexico, 1974 by Al Satterwhite

Hunter S. Thompson, Cozumel, Mexico, 1974 by Al Satterwhite

It was a brutal winter when Playboy magazine asked Hunter S. Thompson for an interview. On his fortified Owl Farm compound in the mountains of Colorado, the writer was up to his knees in snow. So, naturally, when asked where he wanted to give this interview, he answered, “Cozumel!” – a paradise island in the Caribbean. “Call that guy in Florida, Al what’s-his-face, to do the pictures,” he added. 

Hunter and I had been friends for years. He kept returning to Florida, in his role as gonzo journalist, to cover the presidential campaign of his arch nemesis, Richard M. Nixon. Hunter would call me up, and we would meet in Miami or Palm Beach and head off on some crazy lark.

This photograph was taken on the beach of Cozumel’s El Presidente Hotel. Hunter had just finished several hours of interviews; he was looking forward to heading into town and hitting Pepe’s, the local bar, where we would hang out, drink and talk until dinnertime. Never without my camera, I kept shooting – by no means an easy thing to do while you’re drinking with Hunter. But since we were already friends, he was easy to work with, and Hunter being Hunter, the time we spent together was never dull. 

Considered by some to be a quintessential shot of the great writer, this photograph resides in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and was also used in the gallery's 2014 book American Cool. It’s the cover of my own book too, which I named in honour of that adventure with Hunter: The Cozumel Diary.

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