Ketchum, in Sun Valley, is where Hemingway killed himself with a shotgun on July 2, 1961, at age 61. He's buried in the local cemetery. The town attracts hordes of fans, and has for a while now made moves, through merchandise stalls and festivals, to profit from the grim connection.
Before his demise, though, ‘Papa’ schlepped his testosterone-fuelled way across the world quite impressively: if he wasn’t participating in wars, he was drinking his way through 1920s Paris, running with the bulls in Spain, taking aim on big game safaris in Africa, or landing Marlins with his bare hands whilst deep sea fishing off Cuba.
And everywhere he went, there’s now some kind of memorial tourist trail where you can drink what he drank, catch what he caught and pass out where he passed out.
I’ve never quite worked out just what is it about Hemingway that makes tourists swoon over his every move and take photos of every bar stool that he plumped his rump down on? Not that I’m immune, mind you – there are photos of me at La Floridita in Havana, grinning like a loon next to his statue. Yes, just like that loon in the photo.
I’ve only ever read one of his novels! I’ve never arm-wrestled a deep-sea fish or drunk fourteen pints of tequila! Yet still, the legend draws you in, and if you’ve been to any of the above destinations, and you’ll have seen the countless bars, restaurants, cocktails, hotels, tours and museums dedicated to him.
Let’s face it, the man props up more bars now than he did when he was alive.
I'd kind of love it to be uncovered that he was actually a less-than-macho charlatan, who was actually all talk and liked nothing more than a quiet night in with a nice romantic novel, some crumpled chinos and his travel iron. I’d like to see people construct an industry around that.
But while his legacy remains one of lion-taming and rhino-boxing and drinking vats of brandy, there’ll always a profitable persona in Papa.