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Erratic Chicano writer who vanished is focus of new documentary

Oscar Zeta Acosta inspired character in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’

ALBUQUERQUE — Oscar Zeta Acosta, a volatile Mexican-American writer who was the inspiration for Hunter S. Thompson’s Dr. Gonzo in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” is the focus of a new VOCES/PBS documentary.

“The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo” traces the life of the preacher-turned-lawyer-turned-writer who became a central figure in the Chicano Movement before disappearing without a trace in Mexico in 1974.

The PBS documentary uses actors to dramatize Acosta’s own words and the testimonial interviews of friends. As a lawyer in Los Angeles in the 1960s, Acosta defended radical Mexican-American activists.

He later traveled with Thompson on a drug-fueled Las Vegas trip where he was portrayed as a 300-pound Samoan lawyer in Thompson’s novel. Afterward, Acosta wrote two memoirs that become Chicano literature classics.

The documentary airs on most PBS stations on March 23.

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