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Woodstock with The Pranksters

August 26th, 2014 · Kerouac and The Beats, Music, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

The Prankster Woodstock


“I’ve got to get back to the land and set my soul free … “

Two of the coolest events of the ’60s just came together in the 21st century — and I lived it from start to finish.

The Merry Pranksters’ Bus, which pulled out of Ken Kesey’s house in La Honda on my June 14th birthday in 1964, came to Max Yasgur’s farm where Woodstock was born in 1969.  Since then each of these events — painted buses traveling around full of fun-loving friends, and gatherings in fields for weekend concert communes — have become part of world-wide culture.

But this is where it all began — with a Bang!


And this time it all began with a last minute dash — when the Kesey bus got cancelled last minute out of some other festival and suddenly was heading for Woodstock … where it shoulda been goin’ in the first dang place!

Ahhhh … home again.  Gotta be there —

on Max’s farm, where “Woodstock” as we know it began … and where the Oregon creamery boys first joined up with the New York dairy farmer.

If you don’t know the backstory on Max, he was a respected, if iconoclastic, ‘elder statesman’ farmer and thousand-acre landowner in this area of Sullivan County, NY, even though he was only 49 years old at the time of the festival.  (And what a 50th he must have had that December, almost the same day as my dad!)  He was known to speak his mind and go his own way in a conservative old-world rural culture that was very much go-along-get-along.

The festival organizers were thrown off of their months-of-development site just 30 days before the festival was to begin.  Max had been reading in the local papers about the trouble “these kids” were having, and told them when they first met, “I want to help you boys. You got the raw end of the deal.”  He had a very evolved philosophy of equality and justice — a living 20th century Thoreau, he was a pro-active ethicist for whom a handshake was a binding contract — and injustice did not sit well with him.  Plus, he was also a pretty sharp businessman.

Picture Woody Allen meets Jack Benny – as Max is visibly noodging n noodling around his farm all weekend licking the end of his pencil and jotting down every bucket of milk a cow didn’t deliver to make sure he was covered for it.  But beyond his pencilings, because it was Max, and the respectful relationship they evolved, the promoters spent months and tens of thousands of extra dollars restoring his land to what it was when they arrived.

One story, to give you the idea, and something only his wife Miriam could relate: When word spread that Max was talking to these ‘hippies’ about having this banned festival on his farm, somebody put up a sign along the Route 17B road in front of his house — “Stop Max’s hippy music festival — Buy no milk.”

When Max & Miriam saw it for the first time, as she recalled, “I thought, ‘You don’t know Max.  Now it’s going to happen.’  That did it.  He just turned to me and said, ‘Is it alright with you?’ … I knew he was not going to get past this sign, so I said, ‘I guess we’re gonna have a festival.’  And he said, ‘Yup, we’re gonna have a festival.’  And that was it.”


Max would have been a great political leader or writer or millionaire businessman if just a couple cells had been different.  But ol’ Jack Fate cast this activist philosopher as a farmer — who happened to have a perfect natural amphitheater in the same neck of the world as that little artists’ colony that Dylan happened to stumble into a few summers earlier.

And thus, in one of the festival’s innumerable karmic twists, the organizers were thrown out of the town of Wallkill and onto Max Yasgur’s farm along Happy Avenue in Bethel(hem).  There was a whole lotta Shinin’ goin’ on with this man and this moment.

And up to his homestead we did roll — bought in 1985 by Roy Howard and now run by his widow, Jeryl Abramson, in The Spirit, letting Woodstockians the whirled over gather on Max’s land every anniversary since 1998.  And this was only the second year it’s been legal!


Jeryl Abramson taking The Oath at The Bus.

As soon as you come up the small rise onto the land — there’s Max’s house — where the deal for the festival was consummated — and where it’s honored with an official historical marker befitting an official historic figure.



And there’s The Bus!  The Magic Bus.  The Kesey Bus.  Furthur.  The psychedelic painted school bus that spawned it all.


It wasn’t the same Beat-up 1939 International Harvester that Neal Cassady drove across the country in 1964, but as Father Ken maintained:  It was the same spirit — much like Max’s homestead wasn’t the actually field for the concert in 1969, but was the same spirit being created by its current inhabitants.

Crazy Karma 2014:  So, we hang out Thursday night in the anticipation glow, then I retired to the nearby cheap motor hotel I found for the night — flipped on the CNN — and there’s Kesey’s bus!!  . . .  Wait — what?!?!  And there’s Kesey and Babbs talkin’ about La Honda and the birth of it all!  And they’re ravin’ on about Kerouac!!!  Rub my eyes and ding my bell!  It’s their series “The Sixties,” and the “Sex, Drugs, & Rock n Roll” episode!  Jack didn’t make Woodstock and didn’t ride on The Bus — but here he was being described on CNN as The Father of us all ! — the On The Road back-to-the-land mountain climbing searcher who put into poetic prose the rose we were all smelling so sweetly.  And The Chief saw to it that they were reunited in the driver’s cockpit of the new starship to deep space.



On Friday morning, there was Zane bright and early manning the merch tent, selling everything from painted buses and fridge magnets (I got one of each), to prankster t-shirts and DVDs of “the world’s mightiest home movie” as the original pranksters dubbed their footage from the first trip (I scored a shmancy original Acid Test poster t-shirt – already had the movies).

Floating around The Bus were the film crew — appropriately from British Columbia — and all sorts of Next Generation Pranksters like Chris Foster who appeared as The Wizard, Carmen Miranda, and a psychedelic cowboy over each of the three days, and actually lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where I’d just recently summited with Neal’s son John Cassady, director Walter Salles, and On The Road scroll preserver Jim Canary for the “On The Road” movie premiere.


And then there was Milton, the George Walker of this incarnation, responsibly covering the practical bases;  and Thumpah who came from the High Times Cannabis Cup tribe and had actually filmed my induction of Jack and Neal into the Counter-Culture Hall of Fame in Amsterdam in 1999.  And in the role of Babbs on this tour of duty is Lieutenant Derek Stevens making sure the operation ran with military precision.  Or at least Prankster precision.

But this was no dosed-kool-aid acid party.  It was a business, and they’re rightfully concerned The Bus is a blazing target in this crazy militarized America — so they have to play it clean.

The real action and spirit evocation was out in the woods where decades of the owners hosting events had resulted in dirt roads and footpaths and campsites and drum circle centers and full-on stages for non-stop performances all day and night.  There were deliciously elaborate kitchens making the best pizza I’ve had since New York, and a breakfast guy making vegi-rich omelets that put the best restaurants to shame — in price and quality.  Then there was the giant tent general store selling everything — camping supplies, toiletries, first-aid stuff, cigs, batteries and whatever a prankster or camper of eternity might need.

Then there were the art installations, like Christopher VanderEssen’s, who created a florescent blacklight dreamcatcher weaving through the woods —


and also custom painted clothes like the back of new Kesey Acid Test poster t-shirt — with Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, The Grateful Dead and The Merry Pranksters listed as the entertainment!


Or Eddy Miller the bubble man using giant nets to create clouds of bubbles sparkling across the fields as little kids screamed in joy chasing them … 


and eyeful Canadians captured them …


It’s where you’d meet people named Dragon Fly or Band-aide or Normal or Sky or Lake, and every single person is saying “High” to every single other person in this church of camaraderie.  . . . “Everywhere was a song and celebration …”


Meanwhile, back at The Bus, I ended up talking to this colorful couple, Rick and Sherry.  He went to the first Woodstock, arriving early Thursday, parking his car, settin up their tent in the woods, then wandering over to the field where they found a spot about 30 feet from the stage and never moved (or went back to the tent and car) until Monday!  He was wearing this cap of rainbow dreads, and she was in a colorful jester’s hat with dangling bells, and to be quite confessional I was feeling a little under-dressed.

And they were like most of the people I met here — super smart.  This wasn’t a bunch of brain-dead loogans, but rather highly sophisticated and evolved explorers and Pranksters.  People who knew how to Adventure, and survive on a farm for a long weekend, and how to make fun happen.

In fact, it was over an in-depth discussion of Obamacare (not positive) that Rick & Sherry & I really bonded, and were joined by The Wizard, Chris Foster, talking through his costume, and the four of us thereafter became a fairly inseparable quartet.



The Spirit of Woodstock was alive — and being created by the people, not rock stars or anyone dictating from on high.  It was an organic connection among souls who’d been called to drive some distance to spend a formless whacky weekend in the woods.  Not only was no one aggressively drunk, but I never heard a harsh word spoken over four days.  When I first heard someone impatient and frustrated a few days later, it sounded so foreign and out of place and unnecessary and unhappy.

And that’s what these things do — the fabric of your soul becomes dipped in a rainbow dye and permanently transformed by the swirling colors of love and happiness and peacefulness and camaraderie all collectively blending together — all based on happenstance … with a purpose.  Who knows what’s going to happen or who you’re going to meet?  But tossing yourself into this tribal gathering of like-minded Adventurers, you’ll go lots of somewheres cool.

Like the endless jam sessions going on all over the fields — with the Grateful Dead dominating the airwaves — and sumpthin I never saw before — a tent with two drum kits!!


Then there was the woman running the booth for the non-profit Eden’s Rose Foundation that sells handmade alpaca clothes and hardwood carvings (including the Ice Cream Kid and Cats Under The Stars and all sorts of Grateful Dead images) made by the native tribes in the jungles of Peru and Brazil and Bolivia and such, and the money goes directly back to the local tribes to keep their ancient cultures self-sustaining.

And hanging here at this soulful booth I learned about “spunions” — the new term for people who are well spun and happily blazing in the middle of the night.  And in this scene — where no one is drunk and stumbling around and starting fights, but so many are so high — it really puts a lie to our drug & alcohol laws.  High people wander through the woods like a pack of wild comedians cracking each other up, their laughter heard long before you see them, or like gentle little children in a fairy tale amazed at everything they see.  Hanging at the booth and seeing all the traffic flow in and out, it would have been completely different if they were as drunk as they were high.

And in a weird parenthetical, the Woodstock Museum Director confirmed what other friends and facility staff had already mentioned — that it was the drunks, particularly at the “country” shows that were the only times they had problems.  Anyway . . . 

There was this HUGE arc of people — an anthropologists delight! — from 4 & 5 year old kids running around playing, to 70 or 80 year olds shuffling along who’d been at the first Woodstock — and both ends of the spectrum beaming beatific faces of joy.  Whatever your age, there was a gorgeous farm full of friendly people to play with.



And a funny-nice thing from Sunday afternoon . . .
All weekend we’d been hearing excellent bands play their own stuff along with The Dead, The Band, Santana, CSNY etc. … as you do at any of these Woodstock reunions or music festivals in the woods.  But all of a sudden I’m hearing some girl singing “Brand New Key” by Melanie!

“No way! This is so great!”  Melanie and I had a memorable flirty evening on the night of the Folk City Anniversary concert and afterparty in New York in 1980-something, and I always thought she was the real deal — very spiritual and spirited.  So, I’m boppin’ away to this, and what does the girl singer on stage do next?  but the hit song Melanie wrote about her historic unplanned performance at Woodstock, “Candles In The Rain.


And dancing in front of the stage is Rachel, who’d been Stage Manager on the main double-stage all weekend.  You don’t meet many women stage managers period, let alone running the main stage of a major festival — with acts one after another using two stages side-by-side so each band has the other’s performance time to set up.  And they had a different act every 15, 30, 45 minutes from 9:30AM till 3AM.  Finally by Sunday afternoon here she was dancing with me and everybody else to “Candles In The Rain.”  And after it’s over we have a big hug, and I say, “How great is it to hear Melanie played at Woodstock?!”  

And she goes, “And by her daughter no less!”


And sure enough … a little later I’m hangin’ at the Blue Bomber which was centrally located between The Bus and The Woods, and I look over next to me and there she is!  Jeordie, Melanie’s daughter, with her guitar player!  And the poor bastards are trying to open some nice indi beers without an opener.

See … that’s the difference between our two countries — even cool Americans don’t know how to pop a cold one with a lighter.  And these micro-breweries with their lively brews have a terrific pop in ‘em — and I could send those puppies half-way across the field, impressing the hell out of ol’ Melanie Jr.  And suddenly we’re huggin’ n flirtin’ and I’m thinkin’ this whole Woodstock thing is alright.


Back at The Bus, there were any number of adventures.  At one point they said they wanted to go “out front” and take some pictures with The Bus.  ‘Course I wanted to be in on that, but Prankster plans are like dreams — they might be real or they might go poof — they might be right now, or in two days, or just a goof.

At some point I’m hanging in the woods at the dual main stages when some telepathic spark went off in me bean — “Wait a minute — maybe they’re takin’ the picture!”  And as I walked out into the clearing — sure enough — The Bus was missing!  I scooched as fast as my skinny legs could scooch me back to The Mighty Blue Bomber, jumped in to go find The Bus, and Boom! right around the corner there they were parked under Yasgur’s big barn sign.  Bolted over with my camera … just as they were coming down off the roof!  …  Bummer!

But there was no way I was going to miss this if I could do anything about it, so I ran over and spotted this girl I’d been talking to in the scene, handed her my camera with instructions to shoot away like crazy, then ran to the back of the bus before everyone got off, and climbed on up and said I had to get my pic with the Woodstock and Yasgur’s signs — which was a bit forward of me telling these stray cat Pranksters what to do — but sure enough they went for it — and it led to a whole new round of shots — with other photographers falling into the scene who’d missed the spontaneous moment earlier now catching it, and suddenly there was a whole second photoshoot going down cuz I’d insisted on it!



As my new best friend Sherry wisely says, “What’s meant to be will not pass you by.”

See … these are the truths you re-learn at Woodstock.

Or then there was the time The Bus was thinking of maybe going to the original Woodstock site and museum just a mile down Route 17B at the new Bethel Woods Arts Center.  ‘Course this plan muddled around all day until I decided I wanted to go over there for reasons also including porcelain facilities and free wifi.  So I did, parking with a nice view of the road, and sure enough before long this bright blue bus came barreling along out of the dark tree tunnel with a loaded rooftop including Thumpah tootling the multitudes with his flute and everyone whooping and waving and pranking the unsuspecting touri wandering the fancy grounds.


Furthur at the Woodstock corner — Hurd and West Shore Roads.

And just as this was happening, in the magic Crazy Karma synch that is Pranksterhood, Museum Director Wade was just leaving for the day and spotted them and screeched over in his car, and offered to let them drive up the walkway to the front doors of the museum!  So, suddenly there was the larger-than-life Magic Bus parked at the doors to Woodstock, just like the first Bus had been.  And of course Mr. Museum Director comps us all in (normally $15 per) and before you know it the unsuspecting museum goers are overrun with Camp Prankster colors and voices and giggles and music.

I hadn’t yet shown Zane the fancy Bethel Woods pamphlet that had an aerial shot of the ’69 crowd on the front cover — and a Prankster bus on the back!


And just as I’m showing him this, we turn a corner in the museum — and there it is!  A bus based on his dad’s is the promotional and literal centerpiece of The Woodstock Museum!  And we climb aboard and … they’ve made a movie about The Bus and the Hog Farm that’s playing on the inside windshield of the bus!  And they’re interviewing Max’s son Sam … and here I am … sitting with Ken’s son Zane … in a psychedelic school bus watching a movie about his dad’s psychedelic school bus at Woodstock while we’re at Woodstock … with Furthur sitting out front!

Mind = blown!




Or there was the time we all went for a Pranksters Walkabout late Saturday night, about 20 of us in a roaming nomadic crazy loud krewe with light sticks and magic wands and guitars and flutes and drums and pretty girls and silly boys making noise and begetting smiles and breaking into song as we ambled along.

At some point we found ourselves at the nearly abandoned 3-ring drum circle in the jungle dark, and the band members and some singers broke into funny falsetto versions of Led Zeppelin songs, while Zane’s throwing out zany one-liners like his father would — delivered dry and coming from some alternate universe.  Somebody said, “There’s certain things that must remain unsaid.”  Zane pops, “That’s the first rule of Prankster Club.”  Somebody mentioned the bell that fell off the bus and almost hit the follow car.  He goes, “That car isn’t done being hit yet.”  And it was all in perfect harmony with The Unspoken Thing of the weekend being San Francisco comic and de facto Prankster comedian Robin Williams who we just lost and were collectively mourning.

It wasn’t dark, but it was comedy in the dark.  You didn’t know who was riffing unless you recognized their voice, and everyone was playing along, banging the gong, beating the drum, all with a Robert Plant falsetto as the giggling soundtrack.



Or there was that sunset moment on Sunday where I was tuned into the sacredness of the celestial and human event and going around suggesting to people like new Prankster Moray that I use their camera to take pics of them in that special light, when Zane picked up on what I was doing, the moment I was capturing, and he rounded up the stray cat krewe and wandered us out to the open field between Max’s house and barn and took our jumping-for-joy-Woodstock photos.


And right after that, Zane tells this story of how his dad would gather people for sunset and watch for the green flash of light just as the sun crosses out of sight, and of course we all do this … and I think I’m seeing flashes — but it may have been from all the jumping we just did!  Anyway, as he’s telling the story in his big booming Oregon farmer Kesey voice, he’s looking me right in the eye and telling it directly to me, and I’m thinkin’ this whole Prankster thing is alright.


Later I started riffing with the Canadian film crew, some B.C. buds that went by Colby and Puds, and even though it’s late in the proceedings I’m spewing my usual nonsense that to some people occasionally sounds articulate, and Puds sez, “I gotta interview you for the movie. Would you mind?”  It felt like I hadn’t had a shower since July or a full night’s sleep since June, but The Bus was clanging it’s bell to leave for Washington in the morning, and now the bell hath tolled for thee.

Puds starts lookin around for a set — someone’s on The Bus doin’ sumpthin’ — and he remembers the giant Woodstock banner he bought that afternoon using Prankster dollars, which was just play money they printed but were able to trade for cool shit. So, BOOM!  We hang the flag over the inside of the back door of their equipment truck (which Zane calls, “Our trunk.”) and climb inside and do a whole long interview there where I riffed on some lessons I learned from Father Ken (soon to be available in my book about our first meeting), and how I could see the father in the son with his quick dry one-liners, and about how the bus has influenced generations — and even in my three-days-of-Woodstock madness I knew any answer had to be 15, 30, 45 seconds tops.  No long winding Brian stories here — conscious to speak almost in soundbites because they’re making such an epic new Mightiest Home Movie that there’s gonna be a lot of noodles to tootle.

And by the time we’re done it was 10:30 Sunday night, and Lieutenant Brian’s watchin’ his watch and knows the only nearby beer store is closing at 11, so in this wonderful living flashback to our Canadian roots, me and ol’ B.C. Puds make a last-dash Beer Run just like the old days — two wise Canucks swimming away from the ducks to try our luck and sure enough!  Bingo!  We’re bongo with bounties of brewskies for blast-off!

And after Zane and I had not really connected when I first arrived, by the end of the last day, it was just he and I together at the back of The Bus as he wound up the giant flags into ropes so he could tie them to the ship — the Stars & Stripes and the Oregon State (the only state flag in America with something on both sides, he tells me with pride) in preparation for their highway driving departure tomorrow morning.  It was just the two of us rapping and wrapping the show — about what worked (everything above plus the impromptu gig they did one morning that I missed), and what didn’t (they shoulda been parked down in the woods), but he had a beatific smiling calm about him that another show was successfully done, and of all the sites they visited this was the first one The Bus had been to before, and that living history was meeting living history (maybe it was me who said that) and that the two family reunions had blended so well.

And by now the Woodstockians and Pranksters are blended back into the world around us, and maybe you can’t even recognize who we are.  And The Bus has continued it’s Trip, toootling the multitudes in Washington and New York and Cleveland and Chicago and Buffalo as the never-ending Road Trip started by Jack and driven by Neal and jumped on by Jerry and captained by Ken continues to hug hearts with loving arms still ever going  → .





If you wanna go Furthur here — there’s the part where I compared the first Obama Inauguration to Woodstock — and one Michael Lang, conceiver and creator of Woodstock, chose to use it as the climax of his book on the matter.

Or here’s Levi Asher’s tale of meeting the Pranksters in New York.

Or there’s this whole Prankster riff on the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

Or speaking of unusual road trips, there was this early feature story in Relix about the Festival Express.

Or there’s my tribute to Neal’s wife and my dear friend, Carolyn Cassady.

Or here was another Road Trip where a bunch of us Beats including the Cassadys invaded Jack’s longtime hometown of Northport, Long Island.

Or here’s the tale of first meeting Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, John Clellon Holmes and Herbert Huncke at “the Woodstock of the Beats” — the Boulder ’82 SuperSummit — where I also met Ken for the first time and he invited me back to his house and I wrote a whole book about it coming out later this year.

And since we’re takin about The Road and The Bus made Manhattan for the first time since 1964, here’s a Wild Tale of driving the whole length of that badboy island in one fast shot.

And since On The Road seems to be a working theme, here’s going to the movie premiere in London via Carolyn Cassady.

Or here’s the North American premiere story in Toronto where by wonderful Pranksterness I ended up becoming good friends with its director Walter Salles.

Or here’s a colorful riff on doing Beat-and-music shows in Greenwich Village with the likes of Cassady’s kids.


by Brian Hassett

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Seinfeld and The Beatles and The Beats and such

July 29th, 2014 · Movies, Music, Weird Things About Me



Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld were the Lennon & McCartney of comedy.

That’s the way I see it, anyway.

Larry was a Lennon — mercurial, opinionated, sharp tongued, bull-headed, idea generating, creatively uncompromising, a supremely gifted artist born to his medium, with an enormous elaborate expansive vision.

And Jerry was the McCartney — an equal creative master, but more easy-going, conciliatory, more camera-friendly, certainly more camera-comfortable, and definitely more “pop” and popular.

They each excelled at things the other didn’t — while collaborating in their common passion — and making each other laugh. They found their equal, their sparring partner, their riff mate, their sentence finisher, their line perfecter, their bullshit detector — or as Jerry called it, their “cross filter.”

Like Lennon & McCartney, Larry & Jerry might have ended up having successful individual careers had they not met the other, but the two forces collaborating, bouncing ideas off each other, harmonizing on both the surface and the deepest levels, created something that outshone all their peers around them.

Michael Richards actually makes the comparison here — at 19:57 (the year Lennon & McCartney met!) —


And both duos have fans who still argue over which of the pair was better!

Both the band and the TV show lasted 9 years, and the dissolution of each was a major cultural event when it happened.
Here you can hear Jerry citing The Beatles as the reason for ending the show when he did.


And they were both Fab Fours — both based on four creative characters, all of whom were masters of their domain. I mean — their instrument.

And it was the senior creative pairings who selected their supporting players, which in both cases were integral to the endeavour’s overall success.

And each one of both pairs went on to acclaimed solo careers, but in this case Larry was more the hit-making McCartney with his Emmy-winning “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and Jerry more the reclusive John with his unannounced small club appearances and out of the mainstream (not on TV) “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.”

And in the synchronistic symmetry of it all, both pairings had a fellow creative genius in the booth with the same name as one of the principals — Larry Charles collaborating with Larry David, and George Martin with John, Paul, George and Ringo.

And both tandems were based first and foremost on writing — 2:30 songs or 23 minute episodes. Without the writing, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.



Early in the Seinfeld run, Jerry said, “People always ask me, ‘What show is your show like?’ And I always answer Abbott & Costello.” The rapid-fire banter — or what Jerry calls the “musical math” — runs through the whole series, especially in, say, The Bubble Boy, or the classic Kramer–Newman exchanges in The Ticket when Kramer’s been hit on the head and can’t remember his alibi. Although there was a wide spectrum of colorful characters to employ, the dialog Larry & Jerry were naturally predisposed to write was up-tempo duets.

And in further keeping with their love for Bud & Lou (as they called them) and their other comedic hero duo Laurel and Hardy, they were conscious to have the physical distinctions of the short chubby guy (including Newman) and the tall lanky guy — with the hair that started to stand straight up and make him even taller by season 3.

Larry & Jerry even bequeathed George Costanza the middle name of Louis as an homage to Lou Costello; and as Jerry says, he saw his role as the Bud Abbott straight man. He talked about some of this with places like the New York Times and Major League Baseball (and here) discussing “Who’s on first?”

The brilliant comic Larry Miller said of the Seinfeld–Abbott & Costello comedic harmony — “They’d both take a premise that it tissue thin, and just keep dancing on it.”

Jerry talks a bit about his love for Abbott & Costello here —


And here’s the ’93 Abbott & Costello special he refers to —


Their roots in the classic comic masters runs deep.

Jason Alexander said Ralph Kramden was a big inspiration for how he played George. Michael Richards talks about studying the Marx Brothers and how he consciously brought that ensemble rapport to the Seinfeld team. Among other things, the show did their take on the classic stateroom scene from A Night At The Opera in the episode where Elaine’s using a broom closet as a fake apartment. At different times Jerry can be seen doing the besieged and flustered Don Knotts. And of course the futile yet never-ending scheming by the less than honorable leads follows in a direct comedic lineage from Sgt. Bilko to The Three Stooges and W.C. Fields.

Another source Larry & Jerry drew heavily from was The Jack Benny Program where an always put-upon well known comedian played an always put-upon well known comedian of the same name, involving the typical events and wise-cracking characters in the performer’s life. And their homage extended to stylistic choices like using exaggerated facial expressions as punch lines, putting a painfully petty cheapskate front and center, and being happily impolitic, unsentimental, and unrepentant — living up to the famous Seinfeld writers/cast motto: “No hugging, no learning.” ;-)

A noted cinephile friend of mine, Ted The Fiddler, pointed out other subtle connections between the two show’s writing styles — “Having Kramer hit a golf ball into the ocean at the end of an episode as the credits roll, and then George finds a golf ball in the blow hole of a beached whale two weeks later. The idea of setting up the joke a week or more before the punch line. Each joke having three punch lines, each one getting a slightly bigger laugh. 19 major events in a half hour show … the pacing of the show. As a big Jack Benny fan, those are the echoes I enjoy the most.”


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


When Jerry, Larry & Larry describe the motivation behind the writing, they use words like tight, dense, clean, no fat. In fact, the shows were so scrupulously trimmed that a “scene” might be less than 5 seconds with only one word or line of dialog before the next fast cut. Because of this precision sculpting and intricate four-story plotting, Seinfeld scripts often ran up to 70 pages — 20 pages longer than a one hour show.

Also of interest — every joke, routine, and script Seinfeld ever wrote, was originally written longhand on a yellow legal pad using a clear-barrel blue Bic pen. From his first days striving to be a comedian until the present, he’s never varied from his method.

Here’s an excellent NYT video on how he crafted his material –


The initial casting was so determinative to the success of the show. The talent and alchemy of The Founding Four was the reason it became a show. The series was such a longshot to begin with and got the smallest first season order in the history of network television — 4 episodes. If they had scored about one percentage point lower in ratings, it would not have just made the cut for a slightly longer trial of 13 episodes for a second season, which it then only barely survived to be given a full order for the third season. If the three hired principals — Jason Alexander, Michael Richards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus — had not been as exceptional as they were, it never would have survived those lean early years.

When the show first aired, prolly like most people, I focused on George. Jason Alexander was already a well-known (and Tony-winning) theater actor in my and the show’s hometown of New York, and he was the fresh television voice of the never-heard-before Larry David.

When I revisited the series in reruns, I couldn’t take my eyes of Julia, especially when she was not delivering lines — all the little things she was doing to support the moment.

And then in the last year, watching all the outtakes and interviews and the “How It Began” doc and so on, Michael Richards has absolutely blown me away. What a masterpiece of a character he created. And it was largely Michael who did that. Kramer was written (at first) as a “hipster doofus” but it was Richards who came up with the idea that Kramer was not dumber than everybody else — he was smarter. And that became the key to how the character evolved from Larry & Jerry’s original concept.

As Jason Alexander put it, “Michael drove himself to these levels of creativity that were extraordinary. I don’t think I’ve ever come across another actor that had that combination of manic drive, that off-beat sensibility, and the genetics of what his body could do to create that character. It was one of those kismet meetings of actor and role that becomes legendary.” Or as Jerry Stiller put it succinctly, “He had a mercurial mind in a weightless body.”

If there had to be multiple takes, he would play every one differently, which in turn kept his castmates on their razor’s edge. And he was so funny, as the blooper reels reveal, he regularly caused the other actors to lose it in the middle of a scene, often literally doubling over with laughter … and the whole time, he never breaks character.

And then to learn how he studied with Stella Adler (who studied with Stanislavsky, and who taught his Method to Brando, De Niro and loads of the other best actors you’ve ever seen) … and all of the on-set stories about his concentration and preparation … and how he was the first of them to win an Emmy … then won three of them … and how he’s equal parts cerebral and slapstick, and an absolute master of both … he’s now up there in the very highest pantheon of actors in my book, even if just for this one character … one who can pratfall alongside Basil Fawlty and Ed Norton as the funniest physical characters in the history of sitcoms.

He did the role for 9 years and there isn’t a bad Kramer episode. In fact there isn’t a scene — or line — that he doesn’t absolutely slay.

And as a funny aside and proof of his effectiveness, the producers eventually had to instruct the studio audiences to not applaud his entrances because it was throwing off the timing of the scenes.

I highly recommended this clip on how Michael Richards created Kramer —


On a personal level, during the entire run of the show, I was the same age as the characters, living uptown in Manhattan, working and performing in the arts (like Jerry), with all sorts of crazy friends like Kramer and George, and a girlfriend whose face looked very much like Elaine’s.

For us New Yorkers, it was kind of “our” show, and it always sort of surprised us that it was also so popular everywhere else. The issues were our issues — parking spaces, urban dating, transitory jobs — and the characters were the characters we lived with — cab drivers, street people, oddball proprietors. It was so definitively New York — even though the creators were by then living in L.A. — like James Joyce creating Dublin from France.

In fact, the out-of-town popularity is exactly why the show was picked up in the first place. The first four episodes did well on the coasts and in large urban markets, but what surprised NBC was that the ratings in small towns in the Midwest were the same as they were in New York and Philadelphia.

It really did become “Must See TV” as the NBC slogan of the time called Thursday nights because you knew whatever you did the next day, somebody’d say, “Did you see Seinfeld last night?” … plus … you really wanted to see it!

My theory is that although it was a take on big city life, Jerry himself grew up in the quintessential suburban town of Massapequa (Long Island), which could be Anytown, North America. As Jerry said of his world, “Massapequa is an old Indian word for ‘near the mall’” — with noodgy parents, gossiping friends, and the same first world problems and aggravations that everyone else was trying to shake off by watching a little tube after a long day.

And then there’s the whole Kerouac angle I love. One of my favorite authors was an early proponent of using the stories of one’s life as the subject for his autobiographical novels — and here’s autobiographical comedy!  There hasn’t been a sitcom in the history of television that was the writers’ real lives as completely as Seinfeld.

When the network made one non-negotiable demand for the first season greenlight, it was that there had to be a strong female character equal to the three male leads. Larry David thought of an old girlfriend, Maggie Cassidy, I mean Monica Yates, who became a friend after they broke up, and realized that was the way to do it. Jerry had had a similar experience with the comedian Carol Leifer, and so with each of the creators strongly grounded in the concept of the ex-girlfriend as friend, Elaine Benes was born.

And of course the roman à clef copping extends to the real nextdoor neighbor named Kramer — and to countless scripts — from the Soup Nazi to waiting in a Chinese restaurant, from negotiating rules with an ex so they can have sex to the entire show-within-a-show storyline. And they also actively encouraged and mined the other writers’ and friend’s real-life moments and stories as comedic fodder. The B.O. in the car, the cutting a chocolate bar with a knife and fork, the trying to help a small neighborhood restaurant and endless other storylines and details were plucked from their personal conversations and turned into national conversations, yada yada yada.

But I mean … the whole Kerouac / Beat symmetry … set in New York … almost in the same neighborhood around Columbia … young New Yorkers on the town, on the make, out for kicks … with George Costanza as their Gregory Corso or Henri Cru, always scheming, always workin’ the angles, but never hitting the jackpot.

Kramer is obviously Burroughs — the tall, skinny, knowing, oddly dressed, unpredictable eccentric who didn’t quite fit in with the others but yet was somehow part of them.

Jerry is clearly Kerouac — at the center of everything and using his friends as the inspiration for his work. And of course Jack’s longtime hometown of Northport isn’t that far from Massapequa in geography or mindset.

The Beats never really had an Elaine, but in a way she was the Ginsberg through-line, collaborating with all the others, ambitious, always with an eye for the boys, and an ability to turn on the charm and work the room that the others just didn’t have.

And if anybody’s Neal Cassady it’s the behind-the-scenes (unpublished) Larry David, the catalytic partner for Kerouac/Seinfeld, the manifestation of the entire enterprise, the “god” the others looked up to.

And I think I’m fine with keeping Leo & Gabrielle as Jerry/Jack’s parents. But since we’re here, I’m gonna go ahead and cast Truman Capote as Newman, Lou Little as the Soup Nazi, and Peter Orlovsky as Puddy.


Some tasty tidbits I came across on the journey …

NBC President Brandon Tartikoff after the Michael Richards audition:  “Well, if you want funny … .”

George Shapiro and Howard West, who managed up-and-coming comic Jerry Seinfeld in the ’80s, also handled Carl Reiner, so they had regular contact with his son Rob, who had just started Castle Rock in 1987 (along with 4 others), and who ended up producing the show starting in 1989.

For Jason Alexander’s audition, and in his performance in the pilot and first couple episodes, he was playing George as Woody Allen.  A couple episodes in, he found out George was based on Larry David, so then began doing “the best Larry David I could.”

It originally premiered as “The Seinfeld Chronicles” before being shortened to “Seinfeld” — but when Jerry & Larry were developing it and submitted the first script, they called it “Stand-Up.”

Just before the show first aired, Jerry asked the most experienced veteran in the ensemble, Jason Alexander, if he thought the show had a chance.  Jason answered it didn’t, “Because the audience for this show is me, and I don’t watch TV.”

Larry David wrote / created and was George.
Jerry ditto Jerry.
But it was Larry Charles who specifically focused on / wrote for and developed Kramer (along with Michael Richards).

To see how Larry and Jason created George, check this out —


Every episode title (except “Male Unbonding”) begins with “The…” then names something from the episode. Larry & Jerry instituted this because they didn’t want the writers wasting time creating clever titles.

Although Larry & Jerry have official writing credit on only 60 and 16 of the 180 episodes respectfully, they re-wrote / transformed / “worked their magic” (as the other writers put it) on every script once it was handed in.

Not only were the NBC execs famously opposed to the Chinese Restaurant episode, but also to the entire show-within-a-show story arc.  And so was Jason Alexander. (!) They all quickly came around, however, once the first shows were taped.

Both Jerry and George had two dads. Each of their fathers started out with actors who were replaced by different actors by the character’s second appearance and thereafter.

Keith Hernandez found out after-the-fact that his two-episode storyline was written to be cut back to one if it turned out he sucked.

Joshua White (of the famed psychedelic Joshua Light Show of the late ’60s) actually directed an early episode of Seinfeld (“The Library,” 3rd season, 1991). He had directed a Carol Leifer special the year before, so that’s prolly how it happened, but it certainly shows the renegade Prankster mindset of the project. ;-)

And yet, from what I’ve learned, none of the principals drank at all, and definitely didn’t use drugs.  Just about every other artist in every medium I’ve ever loved, had a drug or alcohol problem.  But all four leads plus L.D. (and probably most everybody else, if that was the standard set from the top) were mind-bogglingly stimulant-free.

Jerry’s fictional apt. was at 129 West 81st Street, apt. 5A — but the exterior used in the show is actually a building in Los Angeles. Then the real Jerry Seinfeld ending up buying his multi-condo New York uber-pad at West 81st & Central Park West.

The trademark funky bass lines between scenes were actually played on a Korg synthesizer.  Bummer.

Out of the four central characters, Kramer is the only one to never have had an “inner monologue.” ie; He’s the only character whose inner thoughts we never hear.

During the show’s run, players on the Buffalo Sabres nicknamed their teammate (and the greatest goalie of all time) Dominik Hasek, “Kramer” because he was so weird and funny (to go with his tall and lanky).

Michael Richards crossed over and appeared as Kramer in a first season episode of Mad About You, playing the guy who subletted Paul’s bachelor apartment.


In another crossover, on The Larry Sanders Show, Hank (Jeffrey Tambor) wakes up on Jerry’s couch.

But most cooly — Sopranos creator David Chase suggested after both series had concluded that his show and Seinfeld should have switched endings.

Think about THAT for a minute. ;-)



Various recurring and one-off guest stars  (many of whom were not “stars” at the time) —

Jerry Stiller (as George’s father)

Lloyd Bridges (in his final TV appearance)

Philip Baker Hall (the great character actor from Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Argo and about a 150 other movies)

Paul Gleason (who was Jack Kerouac’s friend in the early ’60s)

Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill Murray’s brother)

Bill Macy (Maude‘s husband)

Robert Wagner and real-life wife Jill St. John (Diamonds Are Forever)

George Wendt (from Cheers, whose time-slot Seinfeld took over the following year)

John Randolph (as George’s first father)

Bill Saluga (the “You can call me Ray, …” guy)

Candice Bergen (as Murphy Brown)

Teri Hatcher (and she was spectacular!)

Raquel Welch (and what’s more than “spectacular”?)

Bette Midler (who’s always spectacular!)

Marisa Tomei

Jeanneane Garofalo

Amanda Peet

Catherine Keener

Carol Kane

Kathy Griffin

David Letterman

Larry Miller

Bob Balaban

Stephen Tobolowsky

Clint Howard

Peter Krause

James Spader

Bryan Cranston

Pat Cooper

Wilfred Brimley

Fred Savage

Corbin Bernsen

Bob Odenkirk

John Larroquette

Jon Favreau

Jon Lovitz

Judge Reinholt

Jeremy Piven

Mario Joyner

Taylor Negron

Ben Stein

Courtney Cox pre-Friends

Kristin Davis pre-Sex and The City

Michael Chiklis pre-The Commish

Debra Messing and Megan Mullally pre-Will & Grace

Rob Schneider and Molly Shannon pre-SNL

Sarah Silverman pre-anything

Ana Gasteyer in her first television appearance

Denise Richards, age 21, playing a 15 year old with cleavage

the Farrelly brothers (as writers) before they’d ever done a movie

the Flying Karamazov Brothers in their first and only acting appearance

and Keith Hernandez and numerous other baseball players.


The Vagaries of Network Scheduling:

Season 1 — The pilot originally aired at 9:30 PM on Wednesday, July 5th, 1989, following Night Court.

The four episodes of the first “season” were run as a summer try-out in NBC’s prime slot following Cheers at 9:30 PM Thursdays, in May and June 1990.

Here you can watch Jerry first talking to Johnny Carson about the show the night before the series premiere (starting at 6:30 on the clip) —


Season 2 — ’90 – 91 — When they came back for 12 episodes as a mid-season replacement in January of ’91, they were first slotted in their original 9:30 Wednesday spot following Night Court (replacing the soon-to-be-cancelled Dear John starring Judd Hirsch) and up against time-slot winner Jake And The Fatman. But when NBC’s soap-opera satire Grand underperformed in the post-Cheers slot, they were moved back there for the next 7 episodes, before once again being bumped back to 9:30 Wednesday by the end of the season.

Season 3 — ’91 – ’92 — When they came back for their first full (22 episode) season in the fall of ’91, they were still in their original Wednesday slot following Night Court (now it its final season) but they still consistently lost in the ratings to Jake And The Fatman. At least, for the first time, they stayed in the same slot for the entire season.

Season 4 — ’92 – ’93 — In the fall of ’92 after Night Court finally ended its 8-year run in the spring, Seinfeld moved into their 9 PM Wednesday slot for their 4th season, followed by a new similarly New York 30-something show, Mad About You. But then half-way through that season (in Feb.) they were switched back to the prime 9:30 Thursday slot behind Cheers when Wings was failing to hold the audience. Finally having cracked the Top 30 rated shows in the country (finishing 25th overall for the year) Seinfeld became the network’s heir-apparent when their top-rated Boston bar show finally closed its doors to much hoopla that spring.

Season 5 — ’93 – ’94 — At the start of the fall ’93 season Seinfeld took over the prime 9 PM Thursday slot once Cheers vacated the premises, where they would finish as the 3rd overall show in the ratings for that season.

Season 6 — ’94 – ’95 — Thursdays, 9 PM (for the next 3½ seasons) — finishing the year as the #1 highest rated show on television.

Season 7 — ’95 – ’96 — Thursdays, 9 PM — the last season with Larry David.  Finished as 2nd highest rated show of the year, behind only George Clooney’s E.R. (also on NBC).

You can watch the cast and crew talking about the impact of the Larry departure here —

Season 8 — ’96 – ’97 — Thursdays, 9 PM — again finished 2nd only to E.R.

Season 9 — ’97 – ’98 — Thursdays, 9 PM — until January ’98 when the network moved it up to 8:30 for its final five months. The show finished its last season #1 overall in television ratings. The only two other shows in television history that ended while in first place were I Love Lucy (in 1957) and The Andy Griffith Show (1968).


Most watched TV episodes of all time in the U.S.:

#1 — M*A*S*H  finale (106 million viewers)
#2 — Cheers  finale (84 million)
#3 — Seinfeld  finale (76 million)


Bloopers and Outtakes

You’ve prolly seen every episode many times and there’s no chance you’ll ever see anything new, right?

Don’t be so sure about that!

Check these outtakes! They’re as funny as the show.

Once you get started with this, if you’re on YouTube you’ll see all the other seasons appear in succession at the top of the righthand column.


Also check this “Must See TV” — The Making of An Episode — if you wanna know how this masterpiece was painted.
Spoiler alert:  it’s all about the writing … ;-)

If you pause at 12 minutes you can get a visual of how the show was structured — the table read with LD (and director Andy Ackerman) at the head, Jerry and “George” right next to them, Michael and Julia next, then the priceless “Puddy,” and on down the creative line.


And here’s the super insightful documentary on How It Began with interviews with all the principals telling the story from concept to on-air success.


And you can read all the scripts for every episode here.



For a rough primer on one of the other funniest shows ever produced, here’s my loose riff on Fawlty Towers.

For more on John Lennon check out my story of being at the Dakota the night he was killed.

For more Henri Cru and the krewe surrounding Kerouac, check out this excerpt from my book.

For a Kerouac on Long Island story, check out The Northport Report about a bunch of the Beats gathering in ol’ Jack’s hometown.

Or for another Long Island story, check out the Long Island Mansions Adventure.

Or for a more Manhattan story check out this tale of downtown to uptown.

Or for more on Kerouac and the Beats on screen, check out the story of the On The Road” movie premiere in London.


by Brian Hassett

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Jerry Garcia Band in Toronto

June 16th, 2014 · Music, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

 Not Fade Away — Birthday Adventure 2014



The start of the Adventure.


Just home from the 5-show birthday blow-out!  Sheesh!  Started with New Orleans’ Soul Rebels outdoors in a park with my New Orleans Soul Brother Ross Perlmutter.  The funky brass-n-drums combo were joined for some songs by Toronto’s own frontline horndogs The Heavyweights, creating a new 11-piece band called The Soulweights, or maybe The Heavy Rebels. But whatever it was, it was a living incarnation of the collaborative jazz that’s makes New Orleans the birthplace of music as we know it.




The show’s part of this massive luminous 2-week Toronto arts festival called Luminato with thousands of artists from all over the world putting on theater, film, photography, readings, magic, dance, installations, interview talks, improv street theater, and of course — music!

And as part of the park concert scene, this Cuban collective called Los Carpinteros (art carpenters) created the illusion of a beach with deck chairs, beach umbrellas, cabanas, and even a lifeguard tower — all made out of cardboard!  You could lounge on the beach chairs or climb up in the guard towers of this temporary installation … but all made from recyclable paper products!

Ross and I groove post-show on the picnic tables in the enormous outdoor bar with some frosty Canadian microbreweries for company as we’re sharing crazy tales of mother Nawlins.  After I walk him to his car to end Part One of the day, I head back to the park and sure enough Ziggy Marley’s doing his soundcheck for the evening show!  I smooth-talk a security guard that I’m an out-of-town promoter and wanna scout the site, and he lets me in!  And there’s the son-of-a-Bob and his enormous band that just won the Grammy for Best Reggae Album for his “In Concert” live disk last year, and he’s rockin’ steady with the real roots including a couple joyous run-throughs of his Dad’s inspirational incantation “Lively Up Yourself.”

Then it was a mad dash up to Bloor Street to hit my favorite little bookstores, where I walked away with a cool Evergreen Review collection with Kerouac and all the boys in it, and the Jann Wenner oral biography of the mighty doctor, Hunter S.  Then it was a synchronistic sojourn back to the site of my 50th b’day, The Cadillac Lounge on Queen Street West, to meet up with the next round of loogans, Damo, Greg, Peanut and the boys, who were all caught up in a New Year’s Eve-like party of screaming World Cup “football” fans from a half-a-dozen face-painted countries in this multi-cultural metropolis, guzzling beer using pitchers as glasses!

With a Herculean effort, I finally pour my bloods out of the sports stream, and we toss Damo’s bike in the back of the Blue Bomber, put Dr. John’s “Locked Down” on the jukebox, and bolted off to the next big park party scene — with a Led Zeppelin cover band!  Of course just as we’re walking in they begin the ultra-trippy “Dazed and Confused” which they proceeded to play for about the next week.  Then in keeping with the New Orleans theme, they noticed we were there and broke into “When The Levee Breaks” which I thought was quite nice of them.

From there it was a bolt over to the main course of the day’s feast — a Jerry Garcia Band in a funky old neighborhood pub, the Linsmore Tavern, that’s been hanging there on the same corner wonderfully unchanged since the 1930s. Fulla Deadheads — in a place you wanna go where everybody knows the game.  And they’re already playin’, both band and audience, in that magic unspoken collaboration between listeners and musicians that we all know and live — playing in combo and rising with the tide of the vibes.




It was Mark Thackway’s band, and of course I ended up hanging with him and the Merl Saunders/Melvin Seals keyboard player, Wayne “Shakey” Dagenais. Although you’d never know it, it was actually these two veteran’s first public performance together — a new musical adventure for both them and the audience.  And work it did!

They played three sets and all the songs you’d wanna hear … That’s What Love Will Make You Do, Sittin’ Here In Limbo, They Love Each Other, How Sweet It Is,  After Midnight with an Eleanor Rigby woven in the middle, SugareeThe Weight, Deal . . .

But it was really this one Moment that brought it all together:

In this perfectly small bar, the quartet was perfectly replicating the small bar the Garcia Band was born and raised — the Keystone in Berzerkeley, California.  With the band set up by the front windows and the tables and chairs cleared away all around the stage and corner door, the dancing music energy was at its vibrating peak at the very threshold where you stepped into the room.

And that’s right where this Magic Moment occurred numerous times . . .

As the musically motivated would arrive mid-set, when they pushed open the old inner smoke-windowed door they were already sporting a grin from ears to cheeks, and their face was beaming like an incoming stage light, as they gratefully, gracefully, dancefully floated into the improvised scene — not looking for a seat, not ordering a drink (till the set was over) — but falling seamlessly into the rhythm groove and group move, strangers dancing with strangers, just to shake their body, rub-a-dub dubbed, and the hugs were free.


And speaking of hugs, Magic Moment #2 happened right in the middle of this mayhem as some girl I’d been sorta dancin with n stuff overhears somebody wishing me Happy Birthday, and goes, “Oh — it’s your birthday!”  Big smiles.  “Well, what kind of a drink do you want, birthday boy?”

“Well, aw geez I don’t know …” cuz see, I don’t really drink the hard stuff anymore.  But she’s quite persistent, she is.

“You gotta have something special.  I’m buying.  It’s your birthday …” And finally I come up with my old go-to — tequila & orange.  And she squeals in delight and jumps me with a hug and kisses me on the cheek!

“I LOVE it!” she says, and heads to the bar, and all of a sudden I’m headin for trouble.

And, ya know … we start dancing side-by-side arm-in-arm, swayin’ in the groove and talking in the downtimes, and she’s very soft and bright-eyed, and it’s definitely The Old Flirty Bar Fling Routine.  But to be perfectly honest I’m still in love with all the girls I’ve ever been in love with, and all my memories of intimacy are fairy-tale idyllic.  And in this moment in this bar on this reflective day, I just didn’t want to mix some new bleary beery images with the tender magic I’ve lived. Not to mention mixing bodily fluids with a complete stranger.  I believe it’s written somewhere — When A Girl Buys You Drinks On Your Birthday, You’re Supposed To Go Home With Her.  But then … see … I’ve never been much of a rule follower.

And THEN right when this is not going down … The Giant Downer Happens — where my ever-present everything-in-it over-the-shoulder bag was stolen! What an insane birthday bring-me-down!  I’m talkin to some other vivacious girl post-show and go to grab something out of it — and … it’s gone.  I mean — gone gone.  Nowhere.  Definitely.  A bunch of people start looking around for it, so I bolt out the door to see if maybe I’d see somebody leaving with it or find it ditched somewhere or something … but of course … not.

My camera. Cell phone. Notebook. Car keys!!!  What?!  I’m totally fucked.  It’s totally gone.  I’m shaking, white as a ghost.  I tell my bloods Damo and Greg while the blood is draining from my face … lost and gut-punched, in a trembling trance.  Then at some point I turn around blankly and hear some guy say, “Did you lose a bag?” …  And he’s wearing it!  The guy was so dazed and confused by the end of three sets of Jerry, he walked out and started heading home with my bag instead of his own!!  Oh my Lord!  I had it back!  Cashin’ in a buncha karma coupons right there!  Had to have a whole sit-down chill-down after THAT!

And THEN as a final evening musical encore — out on the sidewalk along the Danforth at 2-something in the morning, some brother strapped on an acoustic and began singing us all onto the road and into our night with “On The Road Again,” which I always thought harmonized so beautifully with my brother Jack’s most famous motif. ;-)

And THEN he breaks into one of my handful of favorite songs ever written!  “Not Fade Away” by the immortal Buddy Holly, which became a climactic singalong anthem in the Dead’s repertoire for their whole 30-year run.  And not only is it a personal favorite, but it’s also the song where I appear in the movie of their Radio City shows, Dead Ahead!  And there we all were, singing like buskers without a case on the street-corner of eternity.

And that’s the name of that tune.

“Love for real, not fade away.”




A smoky night in The Big Smoke.
(miraculous photo and tale exactly as happened)


For more Grateful Dead birthday adventures, check out “The Grateful Dead Played My 30th Birthday

or here’s where Furthur brought the magic back to Madison Square Garden

or here’s a feature story I wrote for Relix Magazine about Jerry & the Boys on the Festival Express train trip across Canada

or here’s the Toronto Dr. John adventure from last year

or there’s the Johnny Clegg adventure from a couple months ago

or the Paul Simon in Hyde Park adventure

or here’s some riffs from a recent New Orleans Jazz Fest

or here’s a fantastic collection of the best live music performances I reviewed for RockPeaks


by Brian Hassett


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Spring Peace piece

May 27th, 2014 · Poetry



Spring Peace piece


Gonna ring a big ding
Calling out from Sing-Sing
Gonna have a spring fling
Kinda have an inkling

Everything is gonna sell
Comin’ out the dripping well
Middle East a burning hell
Clanging morning warning bell.

The toast is up, the jam is done
Twisted people think it’s fun
Blowin’ neighbors with a gun
Sneaky-creepy bang-bang run!

B for bombing and belabor
S for slitting with a saber,
I don’t know, but “Love thy neighbor”
Seems to me was from your labor.

Jumpin’ Jesus what went wrong?
Rodney King sez “get along”
Lennon leaves us with a song
Bloomberg does it with a bong!

The Dalai Lama makes the case,
And Jerry did it out of space,
Alicia’s singing soul’s new face
But best of all is this new place!

I’ll tell ya why, it’s cuz we’re here,
It’s live, it’s now, ya have a beer!
Top me up with living cheer!
I’m Sargent Pepper feeling gear!

We’re … water water everywhere,
Make us grow and make it better;
Water water everywhere
Take the dry and make ‘em wetter

Spring is here, I smell the bloomin’
Many minds on Bowery zoomin’
Beatin’ back the glummy gloomin’
Trippin’ like you’re mushy schroomin’
Honest like you’re Harry Truman
Shooting wicked witches broomin’
Martin Luther King exhumin’
Everybody here’s a crewman,
Take your soul and keep on groomin’
Spike the spirit, keep on zoomin’

All it takes is bein’ human.


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Some other poem riff-rides you may enjoy  . . .

Love Is

Be The Invincible Spirit You Are

Where Wayward Jekylls Hyde — The Mighty Bama-Rama Rap

The Royal Woods of Cassady County

The Boys Who Grew From Northern Lands

A Song of Enid I Sing 

The Carolyn Cassady Birthday Poem

A Shakespearian Cassady

Smokin’ Charlie’s Saxophone

The Ballad of The Profiteers

Sittin’ On My Roof In New Orleans


by Brian Hassett

photo by Brian Hassett — Olympic Park, London, 2012


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Johnny Clegg concert in Toronto

April 20th, 2014 · Music, Real-life Adventure Tales

“It’s Your World, So Live In It”




Note:  Years ago when I picked the best musical performances I ever saw after watching thousands and reviewing hundreds for RockPeaks, it was a Johnny Clegg clip that I considered the greatest single musical performance I ever saw.

*          *          *


At the end of the darkness following Jerry Garcia’s death, the first instrument I heard played live a month or two later was a solo violin in an art gallery — and it was so beautiful it brought me to tears.  After that breakthrough, when music seemed possible again, the first ensemble I went to hear was Johnny Clegg.  He felt like the right and only music worthy of breaking the spell of silence — one of the few musicians whose impact transcended the medium — and it stole my face right off my head!  That this similarly inspiring polyrhythmic mystic music was still being played broke down a wall and made me believe in the magic of the musical muse once again.

And here he was … comin’ around … in a circle.

The only floor ticket left five months ago was one of those wheelchair companion seats.  As a former caregiver, I knew the routine, the seat next to the wheelchair spot, in this case towards the back of this gorgeous new 1,100 seat Royal Conservatory of Music hall, which feels even smaller with the two tightly stacked circular balconies.  It’s got the best of everything, is acoustically immaculate and visually melodic, with plushy seats, high-class uniformed ushers, and royal everything.

When Johnny’s son Jesse was doing his half-hour opening set, during the last song I went down for a first-hand recon and the only empty seats were a nice 4-spot on the aisle in the 9th row!  Ha!  So of course that’s where I experience the show from — until the manic dancing up front for the climactic half-dozen songs with a bevy of joyously bouncing Canadian spirits.

The show was great, and as usual I was fully charged by the magic conjured by this all-South African troupe, and ready to groove-sail into the blissful Torontonian night.  But when you exited the theatre into the lobby, they’d actually hired another South African band to play as people were leaving!  It was so Bill Graham of them … simultaneously encouraging people to linger and sponsor a World Vision child as Johnny’s promoting, and generally continue the experience and perhaps have another cold beer or wine or whatever and dig on some music and bask in the aftershow glow with fellow concert goers before heading out into the cold late-snap April air.

And bliss it was, too — including a nifty outdoor balcony a person could slip out on for a smoke or a call.  But fine groove though it was, after a wee buzz it was time for a wee pee before the drive home.  And just for the trip of it, I decide to take the nearby elevator down instead of the faraway stairs.  And as I’m waiting by the silver doors, these two bubbly well-to-do women come along, being ushered by a straight-street walkie-talkie Security Lady.

I’m trying to go down to the ground floor, but the elevator comes and it’s going up, which is where this trio was headed.  And I’m, “Hmm … let’s see … you three are going to the third floor / upper balcony … after the show … why would that be?”

So, naturally, in an elevator ride of two floors, I become total besties with the happy duo who are just blubbering over some new Johnny CDs in their hands and still jammin in the joy of the just-birthed show.  “Make friends with everybody,” I always say.  Might as well.

At the third and top floor, Security Lady tells me there’s no bathrooms up here and I have to go back down.  But … I know there’s bathrooms on this floor.  I pre-scouted the shit outta this place.  And the two friendlys walk out the elevator and go, “Oh, look, there’s one right here!”  Uh-huh.  So I slip out the doors behind them, turn left down the carpeted hallway, and Stop — in the name of … them having enough time to walk away.  Turn, go back to the edge of the hallway/elevator alcove in time to see Security Lady leading the two birds diagonally across the balcony atrium into the only room up there, about a 20-foot lobby-cross away.

So … disappear — the old into-the-bathroom routine, give Security Chaperone time to leave.  Back out … and it’s the third floor of this wild open atrium that goes all the way down to the band playing below … and the two outer walls … are made of glass!  Ah-ha!  So I stand back against the opposing alcove wall and with the pitch-black midnight mirrors can recon the empty lobby with the Shining bar along the wall and no one there except the lone bartender and one old security suit aimlessly pacing around, way past his bedtime by the looks of things.

As soon as I spy him turning and slumber lumbering off in the opposite direction I speed-walk on an urgent mission from my elevator cave to the cross-lobby sacred door alcove … which turned out to be two doors!  Both wide open!  And BOOM!  The first person I see is … Johnny!  

Keep goin’, no hesitation, you belong in this room.  And the very next face I see is son Jesse!  Who’s name is pronounced Jess, or at least that’s what Pops calls him.  Anyway, he’s not surrounded like “the old man” is — as he calls Pops.

So I walk right up and tell him I liked his opening set, which was actually really good, hypnotic, up-tempo acoustic, just him and the old man’s guitarist who’s been with him since the Savuka days.  Jess’s girlfriend’s from Toronto and he recorded his latest album here at David Botterill’s Rattlesnake Studios and we got talkin’ about Canadian immigration and visas and gigs … and that they’re doing this whole tour by bus, and I mention how they were soon playing both Boulder and Saskatoon — two usual places I’m familiar with.  And he goes, “Yeah — and they’re back-to-back.”


“Fourteen-hundred miles.  We’re staying an extra night in Mile-high to rest up the driver.”

And then he starts telling me about how the Old Man just gave a lecture at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and how he riffed for an hour-and-a-half without notes, and I told Jess the truth: “Your dad’s as good a storyteller as he is a musician.”  Cuz all during the show tonight he told the most wonderful and elaborate tales about South Africa and life and death that echoed with the rich anthropology that Johnny not only lived through and studied but also taught at the university in Johannesburg.

Then Jess tells me about how he and one of the crew slipped off afterwards to a Dartmouth keg party … in order to study first-hand the anthropology of American students in their natural habitat, you understand.

And the whole time he’s talking with that great lyrical British/South African accent that also weirdly comes through in their singing sometimes.  Ya know how you don’t hear much of an accent in most British groups/singers’ recordings?  Well, somehow in Johnny’s singing, his accent often comes through.  It’s weird, and wonderful.  Anywho, they both talk with that lovely lyrical sing-songy lilt.

And as Jess and I are hangin’, we’re right near the Old Man, who has a kinda unofficial receiving line going on.  And all these different people including my two winking elevator besties are hanging around biding their time to go up and shake his hand.  And it’s the same thing for all famous people who’ve affected others in a deep way — each person wants to share their story — how much the music meant to them, some pivotal moment where their life changed after hearing it — and he’s really gracious as he listens to each confession.

Then this funny thing happened where … when somebody came up to talk to Jess, I’d just spin over to Johnny beside me, and we somehow fell into this improvised routine where he started using me as his sidekick.  He’d already seen me groovin with Jess, and … he’d often say these funny things, but the person he was meeting was so sorta nervous or whatever that they wouldn’t get he was making a joke.  But I would.  And he’d turn and twinkle wrinkle his eyes to me … and I ended up playing Ed McMahon to this Johnny all night.  What a hoot!



Johnny Clegg, yours unruly, son Jesse Clegg

Note the eye line   ;-)

And another funny part was later when things were kinda winding down I blurted my own gushing moment!  I told him how the climax of tonight’s show actually had me choked up seeing all these (I didn’t say it but, normally reserved) Torontonians up and dancing.  It was crazy cuz it was what I call a “PBS audience,” all these lefty greybeards and beardettes in an already absurdly restrained audience city that does not get up and dance almost ever.  But it was the women especially who were breakin’ ranks and excuse-me dashing from their mid-row seats out to the aisles and letting loose and we all had a helluva dance party out there, lemme tell ya! :-)

It was so heartening and joyous I actually started choking up in the glowing love energy moment … having to force myself to not start bawling outright cuz I was, ya know, in a room full of people.  But it was that beautiful a moment …

So I tell ol’ Johnny this emotion he evoked, and he’s like, “Yeah, uh-huh. Next.” !  After all my Ed McMahoning I was a little disappointed!

Nah — he didn’t really say that, he said something really nice.  But the point is everybody, including me, thinks their precious anecdote is of vital importance … but people like Sri Clegg have heard so often stories of transformation from their art … it’s just part of the soundtrack of their lives.  Imagine having people come up to you, multiple times a day, telling you how you changed their life.  And it happening day after day, year after year.  Psycho trips, man.  Then add psychotropic drugs.  By the bushel … … …

Wait, where were we?  Oh yeah, I worked around pop-stars-of-the-month at MTV and it’s such a totally different trip when it’s artist-fans who’ve been sharing the same spiritual journey for decades.  And Johnny’s been on this path since he first heard a guitar in the streets of Johannesburg in the 1960s.  As a South African I met recently responded when I mentioned Johnny Clegg — “You just said the magic words.”

So, there we were, eye-to-eye — the two of us exactly the same height — check out the eye-line in the photo.  It’s not often you talk with someone who’s on exactly the same level as you. ;-)  Anyway, I ask him about his Asimbonanga performance when Mandela came out that was cited and quoted and shown all over the world after Madiba died a few months ago, and how I reviewed that very performance years ago and was now finally able to identify the heretofore unknown location of the gig straight from the horse’s source.  He told me it was the closing night of some world health conference in Frankfurt, Germany, where Mandela had given the keynote speech, then stuck around for brother Johnny’s show.

Also … it hit me a couple days ago playin’ old discs n tapes that Savuka’s album cover had Johnny with a kid on his shoulders and I asked and sure enough that’s now 25-year-old Jesse.

I love this multi-cultural world-beat human-collage city.  And so do a bunch of other people.  And some of the locals are white South Africans tellin’ Johnny about how he and his music gave them strength and vision and direction of how to act with both purpose and dignity in their country’s racial revolution.  And then there were these black-as-night South African Zulus who’d talk with him in their native tongue, and oh MAN!  Is that one weird language!  Holy surreal syllables, WhaKooBan!!  Not exactly rooted in yer Latin!

And the son’s drinking white wine, and I’ve got a frosty local Steam Whistle, and Johnny’s got a straw in a tall glass of Coke, which somehow me and Jess start goofing with him on his line about “kinky kola” in “Digging For Some Words” and I ask him straight-up, “What the hell does that mean, anyway? Sexy Coke?” and he smiled and nodded a sort of Yes but wasn’t about to elaborate, as is the poet’s prerogative, and at least not with his son standing right there.

And it was all magic and fun and then that part was over in the blink of a bus dash … but just to flash back …


There was this stupendous two-hour concert …

The thing that’s different from his ’80s and ’90s shows is — he’s really evolved into a storyteller!  It’s so enchanting and inviting and inclusive.  I remember Sinatra did this.  Randy Bachman does it.  Neil Young’s been rambling a lot lately.  He doesn’t do it every song, maybe every second or third he tells some wild elaborate wonderful story.  It’s great.  But unlike those other narrative troubadours, some of this guy’s tales involve band members and friends being killed in the warfare in South Africa.  The whole show was kinda like a Director’s Commentary … explaining the motivations and background behind his shots/songs — like how the ground stomp was as important as the kick in the tribal dance he did.  If you don’t know, this guy studied and performed with Zulu dance masters since childhood and was fluent in the spoken language by 16.

And it’s all about The Songs.  It’s still that ripple from The Beatles’ splash — musicians writing Their Own songs.  And Johnny now has a lifetime of them — anthemic authentic Zulu-Western songblends that grew out of the streets and tribal lands of a segregated country that he brought together musically.  He’s got so many hits spanning so many decades he didn’t even have time to play them all in a two hour show.  

And it’s the Unpredictable Arrangements … in an uncategorizable sound.  It’s jazz, it’s pop, it’s world beat, juju, gospel … and all with a rock band foundation.  It’s multi-linguistic, multi-ethnic and multi-instrumental.  It’s multiple forms of magic, is what it is.

And it’s all about The Players!  This band!  These harmonies!  Great 3-part all night, including the soprano he’s been teamed with since the ’80s, Mandisa Dlanga.  And the guitarist and musical director, Andy Innes, who’s been with him since the ’92 Savuka days and switches off on electric, acoustic and mandolin as the song suggests.  And then there’s the all-purpose horn man on alto and soprano sax as well as the keyboard fills, Brendan Ross.

And it’s all about The Vibe.  It’s some sort of crazy mix between a black Baptist Sunday revival and a folk singer protest rally.  It’s Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and Bob Dylan, “With God On Our Side.”  At the same time.

And in this spiritual preacher space, he climaxes the main part of the show with “Cruel Crazy Beautiful World” (written for son Jesse) with its joyous endless chanting refrain, “It’s your world, so live in it,” over and over as the audience starts LIVING a few degrees higher than they were before.

And in the truest gospel tradition, he ends the final encore, “Dela,” with its benediction — “I’ll pray for you,” and makes a point of saying it directly to every person in the room.

And … that’s sorta what Johnny Clegg is like.




 *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Set list  (except for a couple songs I didn’t know):

Heart Of A Dancer
I Call Your Name
Take My Heart Away
Bullets For Bafazane
Digging For Some Words
Step Into My Circle Of Life
The Crossing
Great Heart
Cruel Crazy Beautiful World
Dela (I Know Why The Dog Howls At The Moon)


The band:

Johnny Clegg — acoustic guitar, concertina, lead vocals and storytelling

Andy Innes (from the U.K. and S.A) — guitars, mandolin, vocals (the band’s Musical Director, who’s been with Johnny for 22 years)

Mandisa Dlanga (from Lusikisiki) — vocals (harmonizing with Johnny for 26 years)

Brendan Ross (from Pretoria) — alto and soprano saxes, keyboards, vocals

Trevor Donjeany (from Durban) — bass and vocals

Barry Van Zyl (from Capetown) — drums and percussion



Here’s a whole page of musical tributes to Nelson Mandela including lots more Johnny 

or for some other adventures there’s also the Sneaking onto the Pittsburgh Penguins Bus During the Playoffs story 

or for another Toronto concert night that ended with hanging with the band, check out what happened at Dr. John

or there’s the sneaking backstage at the On The Road premiere and meeting Walter Salles story

or going to Shakespeare’s Globe and hanging with the cast doing magic tricks afterwards

or this Long Island Mansions Adventure with Steve Winwood, Sheryl Crow and a bunch of others 

or that one with Carolyn & John Cassady at the Northport Big Sur reading 

or that time I drove the whole length of Manhattan in about a non-stop minute story

or speaking of on the road here’s the account of what went down the day the Original Scroll was auctioned

or that whole Obama Inauguration Woodstock was just insane!



Brian Hassett

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Shakespeare’s Globe Adventure

March 29th, 2014 · Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

The Taming of The Shoobeedoobie”




Next stop, Shakespeare’s Globe,” says the driver downstairs on the red double-decker bus winding its way through the narrow South Bank streets of London.

I went early so I could do the official tour of the theater, and of course the guide was extremely well-versed, among other things explaining how back in the day the audience would drop their pence or two in the admission box, and then they’d go lock up the box in an office. That is, the “box office.”

And of course he and I start jammin’ and it causes our little tour to run way overtime.


Then I ask Mr. Cool-Guide if I can go back into the private area and look at their wall with all the founding donors’ signatures cuz I know Carolyn Cassady who I’m staying with is one of ‘em.  And he lets me!

But when we get to this huge bronze wall of little signatures at the top of the stairs, he’s thinking, “Why did I let this guy back here?  He’s never gonna find one signature …” and right away starts mumbling out loud, “Um, people aren’t really supposed to be back here, and uh … ”  Boom!  —  “THERE IT IS!!”



And as I’m taking a picture of it he’s sayin – twice –  “I can’t believe you found it that fast!” :-)

After this score, I do the whole two-floor exhibit on Shakey Willie and how this theatre’s exact replica reconstruction took 50 years to happen, and I spend the whole afternoon totally living it and transported back to the horse & peasant days.

I’d made a bunch of really awesome daytime plans for a boat ride on the Thames and exploring Potters Field by Tower Bridge for the Olympic screen-scene, but once I was back in ancient England it was, “I’m not leavin’ Shakespeareville!”


At some point I slip through the back gates and end up backstage sitting at a courtyard picnic table with the props guys, and one of ‘em says, “You wanna beer?” and hands me a frosty Corona from the crew cooler and proceeds to tell me all these wild stories of how they do the “O.P.” shows, Original Practices, and how everything’s done exactly like it was in 1600 and all the costumes are dyed with animal fluids, and washed by hand, and the neck ruffs are made with pins-only — about 200 of them! — and how they toured America and played a prison and the guards counted every pin coming in, and the crew had to manually count and account for every pin coming out!

Next thing I know I’m in my freakin front-row-center lower balcony seat overlooking the groundlings on the floor — best seat in the house — and the show’s to die for!


And one of my questions going in was — are they gonna do the opening Induction?  It’s this whole weird set-up to the play that’s often not performed — this elaborate premise that there’s some debate about whether it actually connects to the play or not.

But before it even starts there’s this drunk guy on the floor who gets into a fight or something with the staff!  And it starts to escalate, and to get away from it the guy actually runs up on the stage!  And security’s called, but before they can get there the guy starts taking a wiz against one the pillars!  And then he starts stumbling around and literally pisses on the audience!  And this poor guy in the crowd runs out screaming for a towel!  And the drunk guy passes out or worse on the stage and the freakin’ paramedics get called!  And the stage manager in her headset runs up there and is telling everybody what to do, and the crew and actors all peak out from the wings, and eventually she says the show has to be cancelled.


And I’m like, “Dude!  This is two times in a row!!  Can’t you guys put on a show in this town?!”  This just happened when I went to Long Day’s Journey Into Night last week!  They had some electrical fire backstage and the stage manager came out and cancelled the show half-way through the first act!

But eventually they wake up the drunk guy and decide to put on a play for him.  Just as Shakey Willie designed it.

And thus it was we were introduced to the supreme majesty of THE theatrical master.


And of course the whole play — “The Taming Of The Shrew” — is insanely great, and they work with the groundlings on the floor during the entire show.  At least half the stage entrances and exits are done walking down into the standing audience — pushing through them, starting arguments with them, hugging them, seeking their guidance — extending the play to forcefully include the audience whether they like it or not.  No getting around this one.  Yer in it.

And Then!  All of Shakey’s plays back in the day ended with a jig!  I never knew that.  But all the actors would come out and have a party on stage and dance and improvise songs and interact with the audience and confirm to them this was all a play and a party and they’d end with a dance, the healthiest of human activities, London Olympics be damned.  So this whole theatre-wide dance party happens, with everybody on stage and in the audience up and dancing and clapping and hooting and whooping.

And when the show’s finally over … I don’t leave.  It’s just the way I don’t roll.  I let everybody else make like sardines while I stay in my seat soakin’ it in, the last guy to leave the balcony.


And even after that, I linger in the second floor lobby of the modern building we exit into, and Boom!  there’s the absolutely gorgeous delicate blond young-Michelle-Pfeiffer-looking actress, Sarah MacRae, who of course I had an instant crush on, walking right towards me!  I jump at it and thank her for the great show and she’s all smiles and lovely and graceful and grateful.  And as I can’t take my eyes off her I see her slip through some unmarked door.  Ah-ha!

The power of the pre-scout, baby!  I knew that that Open Sesame actually led to an adjacent Shakespeare-themed bar.  So I follow her in, and right away meet one of my favorite actors from the play — in a supporting role, but he just Crushed it all night — Tom Godwin.  In fact, he was also one of the musicians and at one point riffed a really funny “Johnny B. Goode” that got a theatre-wide laugh.

So we start talking and really getting into it and after a bit he pulls a cig out of a pack and I’m like, “Oh, can you smoke in here?”

And he’s, “No, I’m gonna go out there,” nodding to the outdoor patio.  And I’m, “Oh cool, I’ll get a pint and join you,” and he’s like, “Yeah, great, do that.”

So I go out … and the guy’s actually waiting for me!  And it’s this whole private patio garden bar overlooking The Globe and the mighty Thames and the whole cast is there including Michelle Pfeiffer looking like a white rose in bloom, and Tom & I start jammin’ fast n furious on Shakey Willie and theater and how to do it.  And right away we fall in with one of the leads, “Lucentio,” and we’re all jamming the rehearsal process and turning the words into actions and creating the direction and Shakespeare vs. O’Neill and the overt sexual entendres in this 400 year old play and how slapstick isn’t a bad thing, and I’m having such a good time with these two I go ahead and have them sign my program.  Gotta be the first time since I was a kid that I asked for an autograph, but we were having such a grand old groove of it on this riverside balcony with couches and cold ones, and I had one of these cool new £4 programs they sell insteada giving you a free one, but they’re so much nicer, and how many times do Shakespearean actors get asked for autographs?  So the program gets passed around and about a dozen of them sign cool chit in it.


And I’m telling them the “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” story about the stage manager coming out to cancel the show, and how that’s now happened to me twice in a row in London!  It kills.

And then one of the actors, he’s 26, in his first Shakespeare play, and is a total freakin’ Prankster, starts doin’ magic tricks right in front of us in the latenight trip of it all.  In the middle of a conversation he suddenly starts spitting pins out of his mouth as though they kept unexpectedly showing up there.

And then he gets prodded by his troupe for more, so he tears off a long strip from a paper napkin on the table, hands it to a brother actor, and says, “Is that just a piece of tissue paper?”


Hands him a lighter.  “Prove it — light it on fire.”  So he does.  And as it’s burning the guy reaches into the middle of the flame with his finger and thumb and pulls out … a crisp 10-pound note!

And then some New York actress falls into the scene, and the volume kicks up, but there’s also some bar manager nosin’ around startin’ to bust us for being in a pub after 11 PM in this Puritan country, and finally people start to cut out — and fully half the actors leave by bicycle!

For the first time all night I look at my watch and — “Holy oh-oh!” — it’s 20 minutes till the last train outta London!!

So I book it down the back stairs to the Thames — and on this pedestrian-only walkway … sits a freakin cab!  What?!  No way!!  Boom!  And he even knows a place between here and Waterloo Station to grab some late night beers-to-go, hits it on the way, and I’m once again on the last train outta Dodge with a pocketful of prosody.





Or for some other adventures there’s also the Sneaking onto the Pittsburgh Penguins Bus During the Playoffs story 

or the sneaking backstage at the On The Road premiere and meeting Walter Salles story 

or sneaking into the afterparty with Johnny Clegg

or this Long Island Mansions Adventure with Steve Winwood, Sheryl Crow and a bunch of others 

or that one with Carolyn and John Cassady at the Northport Big Sur reading 

or the tribute to my U.K. friend Carolyn Cassady

or that time I drove the whole length of Manhattan in about a non-stop minute story

or speaking of On The Road here’s the account of what went down the day the Original Scroll was auctioned

or that whole Obama Inauguration Woodstock was just insane!



Brian Hassett


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Kerouac Birthday Bash in London

February 15th, 2014 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales


Roaring at The Lion


He’s Ninety-Two

Let’s Hoist a Few

The Jack Kerouac Birthday Bash

On The Road in London

March 12th, 2014, 9 PM

The Red Lion


 Brian Hassett — from New York City

 John Cassady — from San Francisco

 Sam Hammond — Swiss Lips bandleader

 Julian Joyce — Jam Junkies blues blower

 Paul Kirkby — British bandleader

Readings, music, songs & stories



Sponsored by: The Beat Museum and LiteraryKicks

A  Spirit  Production


For more Brian and John Cassady Adventures — check out The Northport Report.

For more on John and his mum Carolyn — check out The White Knight & The Queen.

Or for other On The Road Adventures in England — check out the On The Road movie premiere.

Or for a whole other wild ride — check out hanging with director Walter Salles at the On The Road movie premiere in Toronto.

Or for a complete overview of all the Beat movies — check out The Beat Movie Guide.

Or for a poetic riff of one of these Beats and music shows — check out Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.


by Brian Hassett


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Olympic Hockey Sochi 2014

January 2nd, 2014 · The Hockey Hippie

Olympic Hockey — Sochi, Russia, 2014




The Eastern Time Zone in North America is 9 hours earlier than Sochi, Russia.

The broadcast networks are — CBC and NBC.

Canada is currently ranked 5th in the world — we’ve sure fallen a long way since The Golden Goal!

Current IIHF World Rankings — click on country name for each 2014 Olympic roster

1. Sweden
2. Finland
3. Russia
4. Czechs
5. Canada  — here’s their jerseys.
6. U.S.A.  —  here’s their jerseys.
7. Switzerland
8. Slovakia


Or all rosters are officially laid out on the NHL’s site here.


The Goalies:

Carey Price — .924 Sv % — 2.30 GAA (Montreal)
Roberto Luongo — .933 Sv% — 2.22GAA (Vancouver)

Ryan Miller — .927 Sv% — 2.60GAA (Buffalo)
Jonathan Quick — .918 Sv% — 2.05GAA (L.A.)

Henrik Lundqvist — .914 Sv% — 2.58GAA    (Rangers)
Jonas Gustavsson — .914 Sv% — 2.39GAA    (Detroit)

Tuukka Rask —  .929 Sv% — 2.11GAA    (Boston)
Antti Niemi — .913 Sv% — 2.39GAA    (San Jose)
Kari Lehtonen — .915 Sv% — 2.65AGAA    (Dallas)

Semyon Varlamov — .927 Sv% — 2.34GAA   (Colorado)
Sergei Bobrovsky — .916 Sv% — 2.53GAA  (Columbus)

Ondrej Pavelec — .899 Sv% — 3.02GAA   (Winnipeg)

Jaroslav Halak — .912 SV% — 2.29GAA  (St. Louis)


For some reason Canada lucked out in the groupings — playing our three seed-determining round-robin games against, in order, Norway, Austria and Finland.

Whereas the USA has Russia & Slovakia in their group;   and Sweden and the Czechs are in the same group.

We also have the preferred time slot for all the round-robin games — the last game of the day, 9PM local, or Noon in the Eastern time zone in North America.
Whereas the USA is playing all their games at 4:30PM local time, or 7:30AM on the East Coast.


Canada’s Schedule:   . . . . . (all times Eastern)

Noon Thurs Feb 13th — Canada vs. Norway

Noon Friday Feb 14th — Canada vs. Austria

Noon Sunday Feb 16th — The Big GameCanada vs. Finland


The U.S.’s Schedule:

7:30AM Thurs Feb 13th — USA vs. Slovakia

7:30AM Sat Feb 15th — USA vs. Russia

7:30AM Sun Feb 16th — USA vs. Slovenia


Other important dates / times:

Opening CeremoniesFriday Feb 7th — prolly around 9AM our time.

Sweden vs. Czechs — Noon Wed Feb 12th


Hockey Elimination / Playoff Games:

Quarterfinals — Wed Feb 19th — games at 3AM, 7:30AM, and Noon

Semi-finals — Friday Feb 21st — games at 7AM and Noon

Bronze Medal — Noon on Sat Feb 22nd

Gold Medal — 7AM on Sunday Feb 23rd


Useful Olympic newsfeed link from the NHL —


May luck, flukey bounces, and referees have nothing to do with the outcomes.




Here were the complete rosters including jersey numbers, stats, position, everything, for the top seven hockey nations for the 2010 Olympics.

Or here’s my Everything You Need To Know page for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Hockey Division.

Or here’s my photo album from attending the 2012 Olympics in London —

Or here’s my wild Sneaking Onto The Penguins Team Bus during the playoffs story from a few years ago.



by Brian Hassett  


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Nelson Mandela Musical Tribute

December 5th, 2013 · Music, Politics



With the passing of The Giant I thought of all great music he inspired …
and interestingly enough I’d reviewed a lot of it over the years so thought I’d put some of the best together here …

This is my single favorite clip of all the live music performances I’ve ever seen on film … by anybody, ever … you just have to experience it …

And then that captured moment was so priceless and impactful that the performer, Johnny Clegg, used it in his 2013 concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London.  And as The Great Spirit provides, one audience member up front was capturing it on his camera and shared it with the the world …

And here’s the same song, “Asimbonanga,”  sung by the Soweto Gospel Choir a few days after Madiba died . . . as a flash mob in a store!!

And then here he is two days later doing it solo with a choir at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory …

Or here’s an interesting version with Peter Gabriel on most of the lead vocals … and that builds to a rather choirific climax …


Then there was The Specials’ “Free Nelson Mandela” — the very first song in Western culture that brought attention to Mandela’s plight in early 1984.

Here’s the earliest live version of the song captured on film, on the offbeat Channel 4 show Tube, just before the song’s writer Jimmy Dammers would leave the band.  And don’t miss the surprise appearance by Elvis Costello.  ;-)


To these ears, the most powerfully rockin of all the Mandela songs is “(I Ain’t Gonna Play) Sun City,” written by Little Steven and recorded by his all-star assemblage Artists United Against Apartheid in 1985, following in the draft “We Are The World” earlier that year.

Here he is whipping the best live version ever captured on film — in the small-venue Ritz in NYC with brother Bruce showing up to join Little Steven’s Disciples of Soul … and whoever the hell that teeth-rattling bass player is — I want him in my band!


Here’s the long-form video of “Sun City” that Little Steven’s collective of masters made.  Some of the legends I noticed — Miles, Herbie, Dylan, Ringo, Springsteen, Bono, Lou Reed, Joey Ramone, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Wolf, Jimmy Cliff, The Temptations, Clarence Clemons, George Clinton, Afrika Bambaataa, Run-DMC, Darlene Love, Nona Hendrix, Ruben Blades, Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil … and … my old front yard, Washington Square Park, was the setting of the climactic choir scenes!  ;-)


And in 1988 when Jimmy Dammers, the guy from The Specials who wrote “Free Nelson Mandela,” organized the massive all-star “Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute” at Wembley Stadium, he was able to summon the likes of Little Steven, Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, The Eurythmics, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Joe Cocker, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Simple Minds, UB40, Youssou N’Dour, Jackson Browne, Chrissie Hynde, Tracy Chapman, Paul Carrack and loads of others.

Here’s the first five minutes of the all-star “Sun City” from this gig — including Little Steven’s rippin rap about “the terrorist government of South Africa” before being backed by Simple Minds with Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Jackson Browne and others …


Or here’s where Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour join Simple Minds for an hypnotic “Biko” — a song about another political anti-apartheid activist in South Africa — but who was killed by the police in 1977 …


Or here’s Aswad leading Sly & Robbie, Gabriel, Youssou and a ton of others in a joyous “Set Them Free” …


Or here’s Simple Minds — who were the basically the house band at the Wembley 70th Birthday Tribute — doing their “Mandela Day” …


And, okay, this has nothing to do with Mandela, but The Eurythmics do a “There Must Be An Angel” with the most soaring melodic harp solo I’ve ever heard delivered in a stadium … you just gotta experience this … it’s the climactic two minutes of the song …
and not fer nuthin but … the best female vocalist on the stage is not Annie Lennox.
Check it.


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

For more Adventures in music you can check out the (Route) 66 Best live performances ever captured on film.

Or for the similar time we lost a global giant — John Lennon

Or the time I met and hung with Madiba’s #1 music man Johnny Clegg.

Or Paul Simon playing Graceland in Hyde Park in London. 

Or the night Dylan showed up at Springsteen’s show at Shea Stadium in New York.

Or the New Orleans Jazz Fest ride.

Or how The Grateful Dead came to play my 30th birthday.

Or when Dr. John came to Toronto and I hung with the band afterwards.

Or when Neil Young returned to Massey Hall in Toronto.

Or Furthur came back and reprised the Dead at Madison Square Garden.

Or when the Dead, Janis, The Band and others took the Festival Express train trip across Canada.

Or here’s the day I finally “got” Bob Dylan

Or for all the music stories in general go here.




Brian Hassett

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Haiku for Carolyn Cassady

November 28th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats, Poetry

I just came across this in the files.  Glad I did.  Kinda cool.

They’re not really traditional 5–7–5 haiku — they’re what Kerouac called Western Haiku — “simple 3-line poems that make a little picture” — written while I was living with and inspired by Carolyn.  There certainly was something about that woman that inspired.  She had so many arts flowing through her at every given moment — painting, writing, theater — it couldn’t help but transfer to those around her.

This outcropping, sketched over the summer of 2012, is a portrait of her, using a tiny haiku brush.

Everything comes directly from something she said or I saw.



Haiku For Carolyn


Portrait painter, married Adonis
loved a movie star
could still draw their faces from memory


Houseful of books
skyscraper stacks
grow on every surface


Still watches movies
like the set and costume designer
she always was


Still cooks every meal
meat, potatoes and veggie
like her bio-chemist father taught her


Touch-typing emails
looking at giant Mac screen
words flow with ease


In love with history
so much a part of it
and not just this lifetime


Designed her own garden
and put in a waterfall
knowing I was coming


WACed a war
mothered a family
batted away suitors by the battalion


Hung with heavies
but keeps it light
as fans gush their hearts


Still twinkles by day
and beams at night
reading in every morning


Turquoise and purple
color her home
herself and her life


She enjoyed this life
as much
as she enjoyed all her others


At home in her home
her skin
her life



Carolyn Cassady — 1923 – 2013 — RIP



For a nice remembrance upon her passing — check out my tribute to her.

Or for another ode to her from several cycles ago you can riff the Carolyn Birthday Poem.

Or for one of our many great adventures together, check out this one in Jack’s Long Island —  The Northport Report.

Or for a picture of her and John together check out this short portrait of their duet.

Or here’s another poem from when I was there about her as living history — The Royal Woods of Cassady County.

Or check out Kerouac’s own “Book of Haikus” masterfully put together by Regina Weinreich.

Or America’s foremost haiku authority Cor van den Heuvel’s definitive “Haiku Anthology



Brian Hassett

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Edie Kerouac Parker, Henri Cru and Allen Ginsberg — The Boulder Summit ’82

October 29th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales

Some of Jack’s oldest & dearest friends

Edie, Henri and Allen 



Edie and I in her living room in Grosse Pointe with her Jack paintings.

Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book about
the Jack Kerouac Conference in Boulder, 1982 —
the Woodstock of the Beats


Jack’s first wife Edie was the one I could talk to back then — and in fact would grow to become close friends with shortly after the conference.  She even enlisted me to write her autobiography with her, which seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime, until I learned she’d already scratched out a thousand pages … and wasn’t even up to where she met Jack! She was absolutely insistent that every detail of every moment of her life be included, and even at my young age with this huge opportunity before me I knew this would be an impossible task and we’d end up fighting over every detailed description of every piece of clothing she ever wore … so I didn’t end up joining her on the journey and we stayed friends instead.

Where Jan and Carolyn were shy and quiet, Edie was a ball of fire — always talking, often to more than one person at once, telling stories, and relishing the spotlight. Where Jan didn’t want to go in front of a microphone, Edie would eat them up like the six sauerkraut hotdogs she ate the first time she met Jack, the story of which she probably told 60,000 times over that week.

She was a hoot, a bona fide character, “a real pisser” as they called people like her back in the day, a “dynamite broad,” a catalytic woman, gregarious, a natural chatterbox, a female Neal in her confidence and making the party jump wherever she went.

She came with all these paintings she claimed Jack painted, but nobody was ever able to authenticate them. She had them displayed in her room and at an art gallery show that was part of the conference and she was trying to sell them or get them in a museum or something. Never happened.

She and Henri Cru were a real going concern for a while — until Henri made the mistake of introducing her to his friend Jack. That kinda put a damper on their relationship for oh about 40 years. But the old lovebirds finally reconnected in 1980 and became fast friends again for the rest of their days. And I could sure see why after I also became friends with ol’ Henri in the months following the conference.

These two birds were sure flappin’ the same feathers — always workin’ the angles to hustle a buck. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. They were both generous, giving, loving, people people, but they always had some wild get-rich-quick scheme and about 20 deals in the middle of being made at all times. Jack coulda written whole books about either one of these two.

The thing about Henri was — he had the greatest laugh in the world — but Jack already told you that in “On The Road.”  And yeah — there was a pattern here among his old compadres. Henri was a born dry comic who loved to deliver these drop dead funny lines totally straight and only move his eyeballs to see if you got it. And if you did, he’d explode with this high-pitched hee-hee-hee which would make you laugh even more which would make him laugh even more.

He had these stock lines he’d deliver over and over — “You can’t teach the old maestro and new tune.” Or “Plant ya now and dig ya later.” Or if someone wasn’t talking, “You wouldn’t say shit if you had a mouthful.” And for years he’d been immortalizing these sayings into rubber stamps he had made at some little shop in Chinatown. He had hundreds of them stored in various old fishing tackle boxes — sometimes whole 3-sentence jokes he thought were hilarious but were really just extremely corny puns. Maybe this was his way of getting his words in print like his friend Jack, I don’t know, but sometimes he’d send out whole letters to people that were nothing but pages of his stamped jokes and quotes of wisdom!

Unlike the people who’d made the pilgrimage to Boulder, which Henri couldn’t do because he’d just recently been confined to a wheelchair due to losing half a leg to diabetes, but he also wouldn’t do it because he didn’t share the assembled’s awe of his friend since high school. As Henri said, he “wasn’t entirely pleased” with how Jack portrayed him in his novels (even though anyone who knew Henri knew Jack painted a vividly true and loving portrait), and he didn’t care much for Jack’s “fruity” friends, or how rude he could be when drunk. ‘Course, that didn’t stop him from listing himself in the Manhattan phone book until the day he died as “Remi Boncoeur,” the pseudonym Jack gave him in “On The Road.”  What the old buddies were, more than anything, were two dashing young men on the town on the make. Neither of them, as it turned out, were really the settle-down marrying types (as Henri put it, “I don’t breed well in captivity”), but they both loved to have a pretty woman on their arm and in their bed — and sometimes it turned out to be the same woman.



Henri Cru’s 70th birthday – April 1991.
Henri in the chair — me in the peacoat,
Stringbeans Kurman & Tim Moran in the back,
Mary & Alexandra behind Henri,
outside the Blue Note Jazz Club
where we saw Maynard Ferguson,
West Third & Sixth Ave. in the Village,
with the famous Waverly Theater over our shoulders,
where “On The Road” would finally open in NY 20 years later.

This gathering in Boulder was the first time Edie’d ever appeared anywhere to talk about Jack — but then that was the case for a lot of these people, this being the first major summit and all.  But she knew Jack before anyone else who was here — having met him when they were both teenagers in 1939 and fallen in love not long after.

In fact, she had this whole thing she called “the ’40s group” — which was just her, Allen, Burroughs and Huncke — the core four who pre-dated everybody.  Neal, Carolyn, Holmes, Corso, Ferlinghetti — they all came years of youth later.  You remember who your oldest friends are — who came first, who dates back the furthest.  And same with Edie — acutely aware of who the original gang was, and she made a point of reconnecting with each of them, but especially with Herbert who, for whatever reason, she seemed to dig the most. But then — that was my vibe, too.

And just to be clear — Allen was The Man. This whole thing happened because of him, start to finish.  As an event producer myself … you don’t get to hang with your friends and have fun.  I mean, you do on a deeper and long-term level, but in the present it’s all work, check lists, constant mental mapping of the future minutes, hours and days.

And that’s what Allen was doing — working his ass off — starting more than a year before this happened, and then all during it, not only coordinating every damn thing that went on, but also conducting writing workshops, doing reading performances (where he killed), press conferences, conflict resolution, into leading silent meditation sessions, then back into administrative crap, and more hassle defusing, and croissant monitoring, and panelist rescheduling, and housing management, and dinner arranging, and most importantly — Vibe Establishing. It was all from his Tender Heart that this whole thing sprung and kept springing.  And he was everywhere at once.

Neal Cassady + Bill Graham = Allen Ginsberg

But first came Edie — who introduced her brainy boyfriend Jack to this cool guy from her Columbia art class, Lucien Carr … who in turn introduced Jack to his life-altering partners in crime Allen Ginsberg and Bill Burroughs … making it pretty easy to peg the Beat Generation’s inception to Edie’s introduction and the all-night drinking and talking and phonograph playing sessions they danced across the universe in the four rooms of the Morningside Heights apartment she shared with one Joan Vollmer Adams.

As much as Jack and the Beats were products and practitioners of the male-centric world of the 1940s and ’50s, it was almost comically common for the women to be the real catalysts of change and creation.  It was Jack’s mother who gave her grown-up son the love and shelter and stability to write and preserve his manuscripts. It was his last wife Stella who was keeping his filing cabinets and archives intact after Memere’s death.  It was Ann Charters who was the first scholar to take him seriously — and while he was still alive — showing up on his doorstep in 1966 to begin the work that would become his first biography.  It was his second wife, Joan Haverty, who had the job that paid the rent on the apartment at 454 West 20th Street that gave Jack the space to write his career-changing scroll of On The Road in that 20-day shot in 1951.  It was Carolyn who first moved to San Francisco, 1947 — long before Ferlinghetti or any of them — and THAT’s why Neal went there, followed by Jack, Allen and the domino tumble of history.  And it was one wild fun-loving woman named Frankie Edie Parker from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, who chose to room with a like-spirited woman who would soon be Mrs. Burroughs just as she’d be Mrs. Jack and who together hosted the rented Eden from which an entire generation spawned.


For more from the SuperSummit, check out Who All Was There.

Or … Meeting Your Heroes 101

Or another Beat summit adventure at the Big Sur gathering in Northport.

Or my tribute to the mighty spirit and my close friend Carolyn Cassady.

Or for an over-all on all the Beat movies that have been coming out lately and throughout history check out The Beat Movie Guide.

Or for another Henri Cru story check out When The Legend Turned 70!

Or for a nice Beat riff about the live shows we did so often in the Village you can check out Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.




Brian Hassett

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Carolyn and John Cassady

September 27th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats

The White Knight and The Queen




Ya know how our favorite Beats were not exactly role-model parents?

How there aren’t a lot of heart-warming parent-child stories in Beatlandia?

Well, …
there is one.


Carolyn Cassady and her son John were sumpthin else.
Honestly I’m tearing up just now picturing them together.
It was the greatest thing.
They loved each other as much as two people can.

And they were like a comedy duo, like a Burns & Allen, or Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man couple, wise-crackin’ all the time — so in synch you’d think they’d been jamming since birth!

They had each other’s rhythms and thoughts DOWN — and could just play the other — it was amazing — like two instruments trading off in a band.

There could be a room fulla people and they’d be in different clusters and they’d still somehow be hearing each other and one would say something and the other would laugh from 10 feet away.

And they could tell the most risqué jokes or one-liners that would make me blush — and the two of them would just roar!

There were so many nights in hotel rooms or restaurants that we’d all be talking and laughing so loud there were noise complaints.

And this was never ending. They didn’t even have to be on the same continent and they could make each other laugh — just by hearing the other’s voice in their head.

When I mention in my tribute to Carolyn about her inspiring me with my own mom, it was really seeing them together that exploded my framework of what a parent-child relationship could be.

They were like two little kids when they were together.  Look at that picture above.  I bet that’s the exact same expression of giddy silly playful joy Carolyn had when she was 4 years old. 

And they could also be like two complaining old fogies on a swing on the front porch grousing about how things ain’t like they used to be — then crack each other up at the irony.

What I’m saying is — there was at least one tremendous parent-child relationship up on Mount Rushmore in South Beatlandia.

And those two were living it.



For one of our many great adventures together, check out this one in Jack’s Long Island —  The Northport Report;-)

Or for a sweet ode I wrote for Carolyn several cycles ago you can riff the  Carolyn Birthday Poem.

Or for the tribute to Carolyn upon her sad passing — check out my tribute to her.

Or here’s another poem about CC as living history from when I was living with her — The Royal Woods of Cassady County.



Brian Hassett

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Carolyn Cassady tribute 1923 – 2013

September 20th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales



Another giant has fallen — another angel taken flight.

Carolyn Cassady has just left us to join Neal and Jack on that great road trip in the sky.

Her son John, the light of her life, was there by her side till the end.
After a year’s refusal of entry into the U.K., just 3 months ago he was able to return to England to be with her.

She was her regular rockin self up through Sunday, woke up with a tummy ache Monday morning, had an infected appendix, and checked out by Friday.

We should all be so lucky.  She was 90 years old and still drank her white wine and smoked her More menthol ciggies every day.

That is to say — she was living the life she chose, on her own terms, in her own house, until the very end.

Besides Neal’s love for her, it’s my considered opinion she was also the love of Jack Kerouac’s life — and they pledged to be together in the next one.

So there’s that.


Carolyn was spiritual, an intuitive channel, naturally smart, well educated, well read, independent, creative, curious as all get-out, strong yet loved hugs, uncommonly forgiving while still holding a firm sense of right and wrong, and was a helluva gifted portrait painter.  She sold hundreds of them.  

She grew up in a library of a house, with a biochemist father and English teacher mother, and intellectual discourse and reading were the orders of the day.

She got her BA as one of the first students at the revolutionary Bennington College in Vermont, then earned her MA in Theater and Fine Arts at the University of Denver, where she was living when she met Neal.

Carolyn was the first of the then unnamed generation of Beats to move to San Francisco, and she was the reason Neal went there, which is why Jack went there … and so tumbled the dominoes of history.

I used to phone her at her cottage home in the forest around Windsor Castle every few months just to chat, and a little over a year ago she told me she didn’t expect to be here next year.

Since none of her three kids could get over there at that point, and I was sort of freed up for the first time with my mom just passing, I went and lived with her for 3 months, and boy did we have a time!

When we first started hanging out in the early ’90s, we were having so much fun, it made me realize I could be doing this with my own mom, who was about the same age.  And for the next 15 years my mom and I took our adventure even further and were even better friends than we had been before — and it was thanks to Carolyn opening those doors wide so I could see how much possibility there was.

Carolyn was born a week after my mom in April, and died a week after her in September.  I always wanted to get the two of them together but I guess we were always a week off.  Talk about fabulous roman candles exploding across the stars — those two together woulda lit up the night sky till dawn!

And she wasn’t just a surrogate mother to me, but was the den mother to the entire Beat Generation, the only one in that whole crazy krewe who maintained a home with kids and a garden – and a Kerouac bivouac under the backyard tree.  And she remained a mother figure until the end to hundreds of fans who would email her, and she’d write every one back, offering her advice and years of wisdom to help with any problem anyone else had.

She maintained a routine for at least the last decade of her life, where she would do emails in the morning, read from a stack of books beside her bed all afternoon, and by 5:00 it was okay to have a glass of wine and watch the local and then Beeb national news, then quiz shows or nature documentaries in the evenings.

She also had shelves full of Beat movies that I went through and had us systematically watch every damn one, and I could ask her any question and we’d hit pause and go off on crazy tangents and get another glass of wine and maybe watch another five minutes then something else would come up and it would take us about ten hours to get through one movie!

And she’d always say to whoever was talking in a documentary, “That isn’t how it was!” and be correcting the history as it’s being presented.  And the funniest time was when she was yelling at the screen, “That’s completely wrong! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” and it was her being interviewed!   :-)

She is survived by her beloved son John Allen Cassady — named for Kerouac, Ginsberg and Neal — but she called him Johnny.  As well as by her daughter Jami “Jack liked me best” Cassady-Ratto, and her first-born Cathy Sylvia, as well as her grandchildren Jamie, Becky and Bill, and her great-grandchildren Jon, Ellie, David, Bradley, Elizabeth and . . . Cody. ;-)


Carolyn rocked —
              but she also held down the Beat so others could solo.


Carolyn Cassady      1923 – 2013       R.I.P.



For a sweet ode I wrote for her several cycles ago you can riff the  Carolyn Birthday Poem.

Or here’s another one about CC as living history from when I was living with her — The Royal Woods of Cassady County.

Or there’s our great adventure in Jack’s Long Island—  The Northport Report. ;-)

Or for some pictures of her and her house when I was there last summer you can check out the FB photo albums …


For a riff on my Carolyn-like Mom … check this  Song of Enid I Sing.




Brian Hassett

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Kill Your Darlings movie review

September 11th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats, Movies


Allen & Lucien — I mean, Radcliffe & DeHaan — sharing a laugh at the premiere gala at TIFF, next to Michael C. Hall (Kammerer) and Jack Huston (Kerouac).


Just home from “Kill Your Darlings” — the second of three movies based on Jack & the Beats being released within a few months of each other in this 2000-and-lucky-13.

The following goes into a lot of detail about the film.  Even though the storyline is not a mystery, if you want to keep the film a mystery for yourself, you should skip this.  On the other hand, there’s a lot of cool chit that’ll enhance your experience — or at least let you know what you’re in for.

This may be long and complicated — but to quote a memorable line from the movie: “I like complicated.”

The Setting:
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) — at the festival and the city’s premier venue, Roy Thompson Hall — a high-end 2,000-seat symphonic concert hall.

The deal with having your film at this schmacy space, I found out, is that it has to be sponsored.  Mega-corps like (in this case) Audi, Visa & a corporate law firm, buy the venue including renting secondary rooms for VIP/client schmoozes — in fact, with full china sit-down table settings pre and post film for the suits ‘n’ manicures set.

Turns out — the only seats sold to the public are the balcony — in which I of course score front row.

So … playing in this huge ritzy showplace is a Beat movie about people who couldn’t afford a small bag of ($5) popcorn in the joint. And speaking of joints, it was a buzz to smell the righteous Canadian sweetleaf being sparked up as soon as the lights went out!

I talked to lots of people in line and in the theater and couldn’t find a single person coming because it was a Beat story — it was basically all Radcliffe fans — bringing serious flashbacks of the people swarming the On The Road premiere at TIFF a year ago this week for Kristen Stewart.

If they weren’t there for Radcliffe, most seemed to have come for some completely random reason, like they got a free ticket or it was the only movie they could get a ticket for.

And also bizarrely similar to OTR, the line-up outside was about a 70-30 majority of women over men.  Seems weird — but this was true of both these films’ premieres at TIFF, and the London premiere of OTR.  Except in this case, of the 30% who were male, about two-thirds were gay couples.  Apparently this movie is sorta big in the gay community — it has gay main characters, a gay director and screenwriter, male movie stars kissing each other, and a naked gay sex scene.
So, there’s that.

Outside it was the now-modern-classic image of all these people standing in line with their heads down typing on their phones.  I spotted four different people reading books — none of which were Beat related.  One guy wrote a paper last year on Burroughs, and one girl heard about the Beats in her English course at the U of T, but those are the closest connects I found in talking to a score or more of people.

The movie is an Allen’s-eye-view of meeting Lucien and discovering New York and his own identity.  It’s so crazy sad that he couldn’t live to see this or Walter Salles’s On The Road.  He would have loved both of them.  At least he’s giggling safe in heaven’s theater.

This is not really a movie about the murder (as portrayed in the trailers and ads) — it’s the story of Allen growing from an insecure recent high school grad through his journey to college and writerhood.

I haven’t seen Big Sur, the third film in this 2013 trilogy of Beat dramatizations, but this does make for many interesting harmonics with On The Road.  There’s the jazz club scene, the benzedrine scene, the small bohemian apartment scenes, the gay sex scene, the wild young buddies getting blissfully drunk together scene — many of the same adventures, but set a few years earlier in the same 1940s Manhattan — with Lucien in the role of Neal Cassady.

In Jack’s epic Duluoz Legend, this would come just before Road.  (For the complete list of films chronicling The Duluoz Legend by date, see box at end.)

One difference between the two films:  you should definitely experience On The Road on the big screen — for which both the auteur’s vision and the cinematographer’s lensing were very much designed.  Kill Your Darlings could probably be just as well experienced on any home screen.  Maybe this has to do with it being made by a first-time director and/or someone who grew up watching and living with smaller screens versus a director who’s made 20 films and has a big landscape vision, both for the screen and life.

Also like On The Road, this features tons of high-end actors in a low budget indi film — because most of them were fans of the subject, as were the screenwriter, director, and production and costume designers — Beat fans all.  In fact, Michael C. Hall, famous as the eponymous lead in Showtime’s “Dexter,” who here plays the doomed David Kammerer, met Allen a couple times (being the oldest of the young gang of actors) and confessed to being awe-struck by the gentle living legend.

And that’s this generational transference that’s never stopped happening with the Beats.  The screenwriter and director were college roommates 10 years ago when they were inspired by these writers and first hatched the idea as a theatrical play.  And the TIFF Grand Pooh-bah introducing the film called the Beat Gen “the most pivotal artistic movement of the 20th century.”
So, there’s that, too.

And you should know this was a no-budget movie. It got made on less than a shoestring, shot entirely in 3 weeks, all on location (mostly upper Manhattan), and all on film (not digital – so I guess that’s where whatever money went). DeHaan and Radcliffe managed to squeeze in a total of 5 days of rehearsal beforehand.

The film does succeed in taking you back to New York circa the late war years, including a great soundtrack with “Sunny Side Of The Street” and lots of others.  And there’s a cool use of a period Manhattan subway map to take the viewer around town.

Besides the overall capturing of the Beat milieu, this is also a classic bad-boy buddy-picture that fits comfortably in the same pranksterish cinematic school as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Blues Brothers and Rumble Fish.  And that it was made by two real-life college buddies, about real-life college buddies, makes it all the more resonant and cool.

It also quite candidly and bravely explores a not-long-ago time when “hymies” and “queers” were routinely and acceptably stigmatized.  The way the film deals with these terms and sentiments so casually yet impactfully is one of the its real strengths.

And this Dane DeHaan who plays Lucien!  Meet your new movie star!  This guy has the charisma, looks, chops, brains (as revealed in interviews) and screen-presence of someone we’re gonna be seeing a lot of in the future.

Lucien was the New York catalytic Cassady, the guy who sparked the fire, who had the mind that could hold the attention and confidence of a some pretty smart and challenging writers. And DeHaan’s performance would make me follow this guy anywhere.

And Radcliffe . . . it’s so reminiscent of OTR with this HUUGGEE megastar in the movie.  Most of the public who paid to come, came for him; most of the fans at the red carpet were there for him; … and would the sponsors be throwing this gala if it wasn’t him in that role?

One interesting thing about this kid, I mean this versatile young actor, is something he confessed in an interview when the film was premiering at Sundance — “I’m in a very fortunate position where I don’t have to be on a set where I’m not completely enthused and passionate about what I’m doing.  I can be selective enough that I only do things that I really believe in and think can be something special.”

And another interesting note – his acting career is based on playing a famous literary character — not some Home Alone kid or something — and one of the first roles he takes after that is to play another famous literary character.  And Allen Ginsberg was quite the character!

I don’t know if I’ve watched 10 minutes of all nine Harry Potter movies combined.  Maybe others will, but I did not see the actor.  I saw the character.  To me he was a very believable Allen — frantic, frenetic, passionate, crazy, insecure, heart-broken, eager, curious, challenging.  And not fer nuthin but Allen has sure gotten some great portrayals lately — James Franco, Tom Sturridge, and now Daniel Radcliffe. Two of whom are British! Go figure.

And Burroughs is just doppelganger dandy!  First in the “trilogy” Wild Bill was personified brilliantly by Viggo Mortensen, and now here by Ben Foster, who (like Viggo) was a big Burroughs fan before he got offered the role.  When the director first called him about maybe being involved, he answered the phone as Bill.  And he pulls off the blinking, shifty eye movements and lip twitching to a T.

And then there’s Jack.  Who, if you’re a fan of, is A) kind of written out of the story, and B) looks the least like, is played the least well, and has the least lines of any of the principals.  What’s up with that?  I have yet to see a cinematic portrayal of Jack that comports with the visual, audio and written accounts of the man.  He had “classic” good looks — and was just about the only writer in history that a Jon Hamm or Rob Lowe or any of a million handsome up-and-comers could play and it wouldn’t be unrealistic. His wife Edie and others who knew him then summed him up simply with, “He was movie star handsome” — as any of his mid-40s thru mid-50s photographs attest.  It’s weird and sad to think one may have to go back to John Heard in 1980′s “Heart Beat” for the closest thing to Jack on screen.

Even though the film was cooked up and populated by 20-somethings, it also has respected veteran actors like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyra Sedgwick and John Cullum joining this very independent unglorified college-film.

That Allen’s parents are played magnificently by Leigh and David Cross (who recently played Allen circa 1965 in the surreal Dylan film “I’m Not There“) shows the depth of casting, and the commitment to Allen and his story.  Leigh, who to these eyes has never been less than mesmerizing in any role she’s done, is yet again in a class of her own here as the Kaddish Queen.

Then there’s the story

We already have Jack’s version of the events leading up to and following the Kammerer murder — 3 times! — The Town & the City, Vanity of Duluoz, and And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks.

We have Burroughs’ version in his chapters from Hippos.

We have Edie Kerouac’s wonderful telling — the most flushed out of any of them, spanning nearly a hundred pages — in her “You’ll Be Okay” posthumous autobiography.

And now we have this film of Allen’s version — drawing from his posthumous “The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice.”

In other words — we have many different first-hand accounts of the meeting of these minds and the unexpected extreme event that occurred in their midst.  Ya gotta just be happy that at least one of them ever got made into a full-length motion picture.

The problem is — telling the Kammerer murder story from Allen’s point of view is sort of like telling On The Road from Al Hinkle’s.  Allen was the least involved and the last to find out.  That this key moment in the birth of the Beat Generation should be portrayed as a trio that does not involve Jack Kerouac is like making a movie about the birth of America without Thomas Jefferson.

Then there’s just so much they got factually wrong, at least compared to every account I’ve ever read — and they’ve been working on this thing for ten years.
In just this one viewing I noticed …
They have Lucien going to see Jack first after the murder, and then Bill, when it was kind of importantly the other way around (!)
That Lucien had a steady and traffic-stoppingly gorgeous girlfriend at the time, and that the two of them along with Jack & Edie were a regular dating foursome, and that these two robo-babes were living in the same apartment together while going out these two uber-dudes — who were the central ones involved — is completely absent.
And according to Jack, Lucien kept saying to him, “I’ll get the hot seat for this.” But in the script he says, “I’ll go to jail for the rest of my life.”  This may seem small, but since Jack was the only one there to hear it, and reported it differently, repeatedly, and that the real line is so much more impactful and distressing, not to mention historically significant as he’s referring to the famous “Old Sparky” electric chair in Sing Sing just up the Hudson that was still in use at the time — how after ten years of rewrites would you not have this right?
Or they have Jack phoning his dad for bail money, and the character asks for $5,000 — not the $100 Jack actually asked for and needed (as documented in every account of his incarceration, including his own).  And since his dad famously turns him down … $100 (the real amount) would have been so much more dramatic and to the point.
Or how they have Burroughs happily doing cut-ups a decade before scissors were even a gleam in his eye.
Or, startling to any New Yorker … they portray the Hudson River shoreline in Riverside Park … as a sandy beach fer chrissake!

I’m no Allen scholar, but it sure makes you wonder how much about him they got wrong as well.

Then there’s my biggest beef by far — that Frankie Edie Kerouac Parker is portrayed as a shrew.  This is so wrong, on so many levels.  Edie was the catalyst, and for sure the coolest, most fun, most go-along simpatico chick Jack (and maybe any of them) ever hooked up with.  Edie “got it.”  Big time.  Her apartment was the center of the gang’s activity — when not at their neighborhood clubhouse, the West End Bar.  And she was cool with that.  In fact, the crazy messy endless party scene bothered Jack more than her.  She was the one who created it, and more often than not was the only one paying for it and anything else.

It was Edie who first met Lucien in her evening Columbia art class and introduced him to her boyfriend Jack — which led to him meeting both the movie’s protagonist Ginsberg, as well as Burroughs.  It was Edie who made that pivotal connection — cuz she dug both these smart, wild-eyed happening guys.  Not to mention that Burroughs met and then married her next cool apartment-mate Joan.

And if you don’t know, since the filmmakers didn’t seem to, Edie at the time was this gregarious buxom blond knockout who was always having a good time and attracting attention wherever she went.  Jack described her as looking like Mamie van Doren.  That she’s written and portrayed so completely 180 degrees opposite of who she was, really brings into doubt the integrity of this entire endeavor.

Then there are all these disconcerting overt implications — that Allen’s dad sent his mom to the insane asylum so he could have an affair;  that Lucien was the one who first said, “First thought, best thought;”  that Kammerer verbally asked to be stabbed and killed.  When you think of the obvious well-known facts they got wrong … that they’re committing these implications to celluloid is something of a crime against real people’s reputations.  I mean, the movie’s being sold as “A TRUE STORY!”

But in the end … the loving movie they made is an energetic passionate creative youthful super-college-film.  Good for them for sticking with it and making it happen.  What a dream-come-true for these young Beats to see this showcased at Sundance, TIFF and Venice.  And they definitely captured Allen’s ride … with his parents, in his classrooms, with his friends, losing his virginity … and I assume most Allen fans are gonna love this.

But after it was over, some guy outside on a phone was telling his friend — “It was Harry Potter in a weird gay porn movie.”

Which may sum it up for the unBeat masses better than I ever could.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Kill Your Darlings” opens in limited theatrical release in the U.S. starting Friday Oct. 18th.


The Duluoz Legend sequence of films (so far) would be:

Kill Your Darlings — set in 1944  (released 2013)
The Last Time I Committed Suicide — set in 1945  (released 1997)
Heart Beat — set in 1946-66  (released 1980)
On The Road — set in 1947-49  (released 2013)
Beat — set in 1951  (released 2000)
Pull My Daisy — set in 1955  (released 1959)
Big Sur — set in 1960   (released 2013)

For a full Beat Movie Guide to all the dramatizations check my summery with links at — The Beat Movie Guide.


How they all met (in 1944) —

Lucien — knew Kammerer and Burroughs from St. Louis;  met Jack thru Edie, who he met at an evening art class at Columbia that they both took;  he met Allen when they were both freshmen living across the hall from each other in the dorms at Columbia.

Jack — met Lucien thru Edie;  then via the Lucien revolution he met Allen, Burroughs & Kammerer.

Allen — met Lucien living across the hall from him at Columbia dorm;  thru Lucien met Jack, Burroughs, Kammerer.

Burroughs — vaguely knew Lucien from St. Louis; thru Lucien he met Kammerer, who introduced him to Jack; thru these 3 he met Allen.



Brian Hassett


For another TIFF story from the world premiere of the final version of On The Road — check out the Meeting Walter Salles Adventure.

For the On The Road New York City premiere and afterparty Adventure — check out On The Road Comes Home.

For the London premiere of On The Road outdoors in a palace courtyard — check out On The Road To On The Road — Sex, Drugs and Jazz.

For a really funny video review of “Darlings” by a cool British chick — check out her CinOphelia’s joyous riff.

For an excerpt from my book about the ’82 Kerouac Conference in Boulder — check out Meeting Your Heroes.

For more from the Boulder Beat Book — check out Who All Was There.

For a vivid account of being at the historic “On The Road” scroll auction — check out The Scroll Auction.

For a complete overview of all the Kerouac / Beat film dramatizations including clips and reviews — check out the Beat Movie Guide.

For a story about Henri Cru’s birthday — check out The Legend Turns 70.

For a beautiful poem to Carolyn Cassady on her birthday — check out the Carolyn Cassady Birthday Poem.

For an inspiring description of being at a Beat jazz-&-poetry reading in Greenwich Village — check out Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.

For an account of the historic Beat show at the Whitney Museum in New York — check out Wailin’ at the Whitney.


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The Northport Report

August 30th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

 The Northport Report




Whale, we had another Jackfest — dancing with Big Sur by the Sea, My Brothers! — this time in Jack’s wave-lapping hometown of Northport, the idyllic little living Rockwell harbortown where he went to dock near the darkness of the city but still remain a slip away.

I’m just back from the novel-performing road trip with Cassady, and his bottle’s still spinning on the table but not falling over as he’s dashed out the door to JFK to hop the bird back to Cali, so before the body gets cold and the news gets old lemme be so bold as to share some gold …

Sunday, July 22nd, 2001 began with a proclamation where the mayor gave Carolyn & John Cassady the keys to the city or some such thing at a very official ceremony. And as part of it, Carolyn read two revealing letters Jack wrote to her. One, from Oct. ’61, was just after he finished writing Big Sur, and describes the big bursting Cassady-Kerouac reunion scene in Ferling’s tiny cabin that, wildly, we were all going to read together later. Both letters were full of longing and heart-felt passion — and Carolyn’s just a beaming gem in a tender-heart treasure-chest. Jack and her were really close, and it’s so nice she was around for the whole weekend being open and accessible to anyone who wanted to talk.

It was Sunday morning in the Universe, and this being the crumbling Empire of New York, there were no liquor stores open! So, Big Tim Moran and I — he was Edie, Henri & Herbert’s friend — bolted back to our Chalet hideaway to collect the only bottle of cold white wine in town. It was a dizzy hounds of hair morning for more than just myself after a night of howling at the Jackmoon out on George Wallace’s back deck. We were bad. Clearly could have used some parental supervision.

So Tim and I follow the directions to where the all-day reading of the novel will be, and he looks back at the paper and says, “That’s it right there,” pointing to a sign that reads “Northport Police Station”!

He kept driving looking for a parking spot as I’m looking back over my shoulder, but still see the word “Police”, as I’m tryin to shake the picture clearer in my beer-soaked lab, but it still, “Looks like it said ‘Police Station’ back there.”

“Yeah,” Tim bursts out with a long-suppressed laugh. “That’s where it is.”

“Hmm,” I say, turning around, trying to count how many laws I was breaking at the moment. “First time we ever played a cop shop,” I Jaked to his Elwood.

We go up the stairs and on the right is the door directly into the precinct, and in the center are 2 glass doors leading to . . . a courtroom. Sure enough, we’re celebrating Jack’s judgement day novel in a court of law. There’s a poem in here somewhere. But we must have been acquitted cuz in the end (tho I don’t want to give it away) we were all let go on our own recognizance.

Levi Asher and others are sitting up in the judge’s bench area, there’s a big camera from the Metro Channel in the witness stand, and the room’s packed with rows of chairs that are all full in the early excitement. Maybe a hundred people, then a spilling overflow anti-chamber room just outside the courtroom by the glass doors where the pacers and racers had a space to zoom. Printed on the front of the table with the books and CDs for sale it says in big bold letters: “Defendants Stand Here” — as if we needed this reminder when we’re admitting our guilty pleasure!

Outside the doors, the front steps became the green room hang-out scene. You could just open the glass doors and hear the show from right there, and sorta pick whichever chapter or reader you wanted to catch, then take a break and hang with the cigarette smokers and surreal surfers.

It became obvious that we needed a proper dressing room, so I brought out a nice chair for St. Carolyn By The Sea, and that pretty much evened out the Universe — except that we didn’t have a corkscrew! We thought of going in the police station to see if they’d confiscated one recently but instead John & Big Tim went across the street to the old brick house that was the Northport Hysterical Society with two old ladies behind glass-top counters containing artifacts and tiny labels like, “Hammer – circa 1850” or “Mabel – circa 1925”

“Uh, do you have a corkscrew by any chance?” asks our dangerous duo. “No, I should say not!” Then Ambassador John turns on the charm and they get to talkin’ and he says, “It’s for me mum, she’s the co-chair at your event across the street.”

“Oh, who’s she?” asks the inquisitive matron. John looks down at the countertop and there’s a picture of her & Jack & John’s two sisters. “That’s her right there.” And the motherly one behind the counter smiles and says, “Just a minute,” and goes and unlocks one of the glass cabinets and takes out this large bone handle corkscrew that Walt Whitman used or something and goes, “Here, maybe this’ll work.”

So we popped open the bottle, and oh yeah, we’d brought one crystal goblet from the sweet suite, and got Carolyn perched on a throne sitting at the top of this grand staircase like Abe Lincoln, holding a glass of wine and holding court, surrounded by her coterie of boys as different people would come by to visit her. Most would squat down to be close to her, and each would have some story they wanted to share, always including the line, “I first read On The Road in 19whatever and it changed my life . . .”. Eventually I snuck out a few more chairs and smuggled over some Heinekens from my secret iced 2-4 stash in the trunk and it evolved into a full-blown, feet-up, room-with-a-view backstage party — on the front steps of the Main Street police station at high noon on a Sunday!

Inside the reading, Dave Amram’s set up in the corner with his 7,000 instruments strewn all over the place, with drummer Kevin Twigg workin the brushes on a full kit, and bearded John Dewitt thrummin’ the upright bass. There’s about 5 different little digi cameras rollin, and it looks like a two-camera shoot from The Metro Channel. There’s musician-poet Casey Cyr, painter-poet Susan Bennett, installation artist China Blue, filmmakers and actors Michelle Esrick and Peter Gerety, architect and photographer Larry Smith, poet George Dickerson, and on and on.

And if this wasn’t already enough of a Surreal Circus — in between some readers there were these — belly-dancers!  Ya’huh. Jingling little-bell-tingling colorfully costumed barefoot belly-dancers weaving to Amram’s best Middle-Eastern snake-charmer, and yer goin’, “Okay, which one’a you Pranksters slipped the acid in my joe?”

Within this belly-dancing 3-ring courtroom, some readers really rose to the occasion — like Levi Asher on chapter 9 who was understated and funny and riveting reading Jack’s first sea-me breakdown. And then this actor John Ventimiglia who’s in The Sopranos among other things, plays Artie the restaurant owner, he’s way into Jack (had just played him in Joyce Johnson’s play Door Wide Open) and as John smiled later, “He sounded more like Jack than Jack does.” And Carolyn said, “When I closed my eyes I thought I was listening to Jack.” So he was pretty good. He read chapters 10 and 11 including Jack’s great description of Lew Welch & Phil Whalen’s S.F. Zen-East House crashpad.

And then this local woman Kate Kelly came up for 12 and kicked the thing into another gear being really passionate and playful and strong and forceful and funny, all done with a smile as Jack rages thru his confusion. Then, with Amram on piano, John Cassady read chapter 13 — and John’s funny cuz he throws in all these little asides and commentary on the text as it’s passing. “’… in the old photo …’ Hey who took that? ‘… throwing tires all over the place …’ Oh this is so accurate, it’s great,” he says, laughing along to a quick memory movie. He picked chapter 13 cuz it’s about their life in Los Gatos, and he’s tossing off comments to his mom who’s keeping a running commentary right back in a smile sharing across a half-a-stage and half-a-century of them playing together.

After John read, we had a break until the three of us were on for our chapter 23 group jam, so we drifted down Main Street and popped in Gunther’s Tap Room, Jack’s old drinking hole, and you can see why — nuthin but a bar and a pool table. Except today there’s just tons of people sitting around with orange & black Big Sur paperbacks in front of them. So we shambled off like dingledodies down the sidewalk like we’ve been doing all our lives until we found a front window booth in some joint who’s motto was: “If you want service, serve yourself.” No sooner did we sit down than Levi and his sister Sharon come along (who was into the Beats before Levi was, we learned this weekend) and they stand there looking at the outside menu as we’d done seconds earlier and make the same call we did. And then Regina Weinreich … and now there’s a whole whack of us Beats munchin the Big Cereal recovery brunchfast. But this is also how ya miss part of the show, you understand.

So of course I get us back to the gig about 5 minutes before we’re supposed to go on, as Carolyn’s proclaiming with a raised I-told-you-so finger, “Brian gets things done!” followed by a big smile and laugh. She’s been riffing that refrain since we first started hanging together and by now it’s a running joke.

For my reading, even before we knew they were coming to Northport, I’d picked chapter 23 about the Cassadys arriving at the cabin and surprising Jack and McClure. I wanted to do it justice if they weren’t gonna be here to do it themselves (it is a courtroom after all) — then Lo and Behold! The Angels! They showed! So we weaved it into having John do the Neal & “Timmy” parts, Carolyn doing her parts, and me playing narrator Jack. We’d read together in Amsterdam — the first time John & Carolyn ever performed together thanks to High Times and the Cannabis Cup of all things. Then John and I just did a duet in L.A. at the Jack scroll-writing celebration that S.A. Griffin & I put together for Jack-finishing-On The Road-Day April 22nd, so we were already old hams at this.

And it was funny cuz everybody else was reading solo and suddenly we’re a trio with god knows what kind of improv winginess, and I’m sure ol’ producer George Wallace was kinda, “Oh jeez, what are these guys gonna do?!” ‘Course, we had no idea either. We’d gotten together the afternoon before and attempted to block off paragraphs and passages, but we were all just seeing each other for the first time in ages and much more gushy gooey gabby than rehearsey.

And it was funny — I wuz tryin to funnel some paragraphs or passages to Carolyn cuz she didn’t have too many “lines”, and each time I’d pass over something she’d scan down it and then go, “Aaa-no.” She loves the writing but it’s too close to home and some pretty graphic details about Cody’s lovelife.  But it also has the stuff about Carolyn having two husbands for a while, which she loves, so we just go, “Ah, wheel wing it. No potholes on this golden road.”

So we get to the courtroom and Amram’s just taken off for soundcheck at his evening concert, but our “song” was gonna be so chaotically theatric we’d be more than making our own music!  So we start off, bouncing back & forth, and John takes the McClure dialogue so we get to perform the cabin rap in two voices, and then he also rides the “Boom!” Cassady-bursting-in-the-door scene. When Jack lists the kids’ character names John starts laughing at his sister Jami’s Jackname ‘Gaby’. “See, that’s so perfect for her cuz she used to get up on his knee and just gab-gab-gab-gab-gab.”

And John takes off on the Neal raps, channeling Pop, rollin fast like the road, with animated hand gestures, laughin’, goofin’, playin’.  Carolyn yells out “Grape” when Cody’s tryin to think of his new jeep’s color.  At Jack’s comical adage for Neal, “He Lived, He Sweated”, John cracks up and starts doing this classic Cassady Sweating Shuffle dance at the podium, laughin and hemmin ‘n’ hawin and ah-shucksin’ and ya-had-to-be-therein’, then laughs again and says, “Ah man, that’s the best line in the book. I’m only serious.”

At Carolyn’s dialogue we all get it about half right which of course makes it even funnier and everybody’s laughin but it’s workin and there’s Carolyn gentle and petit and lady-like laughing away and gamely trying to hit her mark and it was a sweet tender family-beaming moment in Beatport.


After the reading we went off on a wild adventure to two of Jack’s three houses in town. The first one at 34 Gilbert was Really Nice!  Couldn’t believe it.  He bought it for $14,000 in March ’58 on a one-afternoon road trip with Robert Frank and Joyce Glassman (Johnson) just after On The Road splashed down.  It’s a large Victorian, 50 years old when he bought it, with brown shingle siding, a big front porch, high front hedge, massive tree in backyard, and a big old double garage for both the cars he couldn’t drive. The house has three floors, with an attic garret for his writing zone, and as Levi kept commenting on, this beautiful stained-glass window in the front, looked like a reclining cubist nude, maybe 3′ wide, 18″ high. “You’d think this would have made it into the fiction somewhere,” Levi says.

So we take a buncha snaps with Levi and John and China Blue and Anthony who booked us in Amsterdam and who grew up right behind Jack’s house here as he tells us about Memere inviting them in for cocoa in the winter and disheveled Jack shuffling around in his terrycloth bathrobe and bedroom slippers.

All weekend there were different people with different memories of Jack. The artist Stanley Twardowicz was softly sharing stories of their drinking exploits, and Larry Smith who took their pictures remembering the mix of solemness and revelry, and all these other locals with little anecdotes about him. He really did live in Northport a long time — April ’58 to September ’64, minus a few excursions to Orlando.

Stanley was a great guy, by the way. Very friendly and open and sensitively remembering his old friend. Larry Smith had a few photos he’s never had published that were haunting. One of them from ’64 just gave Carolyn the willies. “It’s all in there. It’s all in those eyes,” she’d say emphatically pointing and shivering all over.

Then we went to his second house at 49 Earl Avenue after getting lost for about 500 hours. This was the “secret hideaway” he moved to after he sold Gilbert Street and their plans to build a house in Florida fell through — and where he was living when he took the Big Sur trip.  He bought it in part for the finished basement he envisioned as his study, but later insulated the attic and put in a little electric fireplace to warm his crow’s-nest.  It looks smaller than Gilbert, and did indeed have “the six-foot fence I’d built around my yard for privacy,” as he describes in Big Sur — a high old stockade style that you couldn’t see thru or get over.  In fact Jack climaxes Big Sur right here on Earl with, “— The corner of the yard where Tyke is buried will be a new fragrant shrine making my home even more homelike somehow — On soft Spring nights I’ll stand in the yard under the stars — Something good will come out of all things yet —” And sitting on the front step of the house watching us watch the house was this big warm friendly calico cat, who never laid down or ran scaredy-cat away, but rather held there, saying, “Hello. Yes. I’m here.”

We never did find 7 Judyann Court, but wheel be back cuz we were all fully stoked about this fairy tale of a town with its salty harbor and sultry air.  I mean gorgeous — quaint old-world Main Street with windy tree-covered sideroads, surrounded by hills ‘n’ sails, and nooks ‘n’ grannies. “Why didn’t Jack write more about this place?” Carolyn kept asking. The beauty of the town was really the surprise hit of the weekend for all of us. We were fully bummed we didn’t catch more of the readers, but it was such a gorgeous day and there were seven or eight Adventure Cards on deck. Had t’play ‘em.

After the tour, we all went out for this enormous steak dinner following a tip from a local actor Cassady’d dubbed John Goodman — and we took over the place.  It was your jumbo grill here’s-the-beef kinda joint where we could only get a big table in the non-smoking section, so we’d keep leaving our spread completely empty like a Dine ‘n’ Dash and huddle in the smoking corner while our sad plates sat there silently steaming.

We finally headed to Amram’s show late as hell, got lost, and when we finally found the park in the dark there’s this flood of people leaving with lawn chairs and blankets, and we’re like, “Whoops!”  Carolyn and John were supposed to read some Jack with Dave’s band. So we wag up with our tails between our legs — but thank gawd he’s just takin a break and there’s a whole second set!

I spotted Jason Eisenberg, the crazy Lord Buckley channel who read chapter 18 and was probably great but we missed him when we went for that surreal recovery brunch, so he & I snuck away for a comical confab in the holy gazebo in the back of the park and riffed on the Universe as Dave wailed away on Ellington and Monk down the dark treed hill below us.

Then Carolyn came out and read the part of OTR where Jack’s “on the rooftop of America,” at The Great Divide, yelling across the plains to an old man with white hair walking toward him with “the Word”.  And then John came out and knocked it out of the Harry Chapin Park — probably his best reading ever.  Like a blues player he sang, “I’ll be seeing old Denver at last.”  By this time I’d wound down with Levi and his parents & sister on a blanket right at the foot of the stage, and he leaned in and whispered, “He’s channeling Neal.”

Then John Ventimiglia did the ‘Hearing Shearing’ riff from On The Road with Dave’s sextet stepping into the role of Shearing’s band. Killer jazz-jam rendition. And local hero George Wallace closed the show with the classic last paragraph of OTR, just praised by the New York Times’ Editorial Page earlier this year. He read with this quiet sadness that almost made me cry, and it sounded like he was going to break down himself and could barely choke out the words, “I think of Dean Moriarty.”

So, there it is.  I believe there may have been some drinking involved. Some folks are real straight and some folks are nine-bottles-later. It was pretty funny. But everyone was golden and glistening. It was really … small town niceness. The locals are livin’ near enough to New York City that there’s still a healthy voltage surging thru them, and they’re passionate about words & self-expression and being yourself — all the while living in a Norman Rockwell painting — just really good people … with a penchant for partying in police stations. 


{An early version of this story first appeared in Beat Scene magazine.}


For an excerpt from my book about the ’82 Kerouac Conference in Boulder — check out Meeting Your Heroes.

For more from the Boulder Beat Book — check out Who All Was There.

For Henri Cru’s 70th birthday party — check out The Legend Turns 70!

For a vivid account of being at the historic “On The Road” scroll auction — check out The Scroll Auction.

For a story about the London “On The Road” premiere at Somerset House — check out this sex & drugs & jazz.

For a great story of the world premiere of the new shorter final version of “On The Road” — check out this Meeting Walter Salles Adventure!

For a complete overview of all the Kerouac / Beat film dramatizations including clips and reviews — check out the Beat Movie Guide.

For a beautiful poem to Carolyn Cassady on her birthday — check out the Carolyn Cassady Birthday Poem.

For an account of the historic Beat show at the Whitney Museum in New York — check out Wailin’ at the Whitney.

For an inspiring and colorful description of being at a Beat jazz-&-poetry reading in Greenwich Village — check out Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.


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by Brian Hassett      —


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for Helen Thomas — 1920 – 2013

July 20th, 2013 · Politics



Speak truth to Power.
Or at least ask it questions.

Since I came of mindful age after JFK & RFK and during the Nixon administration, it was near impossible to have anything resembling a hero in the world of American politics. But one of the first people who made me both interested in and unafraid of politics was this small but powerful woman in the front row of every White House press conference who used to fire an arrow from point-blank range right into the heart of bullshit.

I understood her questions and jumped out of my seat at her directness. “You can do that?!?!” I blurted out, wondering why others didn’t.

She was the Susan B. Anthony of the press core, the Hillary Clinton of unapologetic bluntness, the matriarch of Woodward & Bernstein.

She went face-to-face challenging every President from JFK to Obama — and no other reporter has ever or will ever ask questions of 10 Presidents.

They don’t even need to put up a sculpture of her because she’s already forever carved into the American landscape.

R.I.P. Helen Thomas  1920 – 2013



For a tribute to another great political reporter — check out my Tim Russert tribute.

For a full listing of great reporters and news sources — check out my Political Sources Primer.

For how well these sources work — check out my 2012 election predictions.

… or here’s the 2008 projections — in both elections, I’m over 98% correct.  ;-)

For an account of the most jubilant night in the history of New York — check the Election Night 2008 Adventure

For a night in New York that started out just as joyous — check out the Election Night 2004 Adventure.

For one of the most historic events in American history — check out my Obama Inauguration Adventures.

For how Woodstock promoter Michael Lang used my reports in his book — check out how Obama’s Inauguration was like Woodstock.

For the kind of creations that got us across the historic finish line — check out my poem and video for Wayward Jekylls Hyde.

For an on-the-campaign-trail adventure — check out the physical altercation I was in the middle of with Al Franken at a Howard Dean rally.


Brian Hassett  —  —

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The Dr. John in Toronto Adventure

June 24th, 2013 · Music, Real-life Adventure Tales



So … oh man … I took a nap that afternoon and lived a dream where I stayed home and didn’t go to this show and regretted it later … then woke up to find it was only 3:30 in the afternoon!  Insane.  Follow your dreams, baby. God works in mysterious ways.

It’s Toronto Jazz Fest. After doin’ N’awlins Fess to the elevens last year, but then spending the entire summer with one elder Cassady, there’ve been no more Fests for me since.

And Damo — last seen on the sneak-back-and-meet-Walter-Salles Adventure — has been assuring me for years that this headliner scene at Nathan Phillips Square is an easy-breezy prankster special. But me caregivin’ mom and doin’ gawd knows what, the tumblers never lined up — including in the subconscious dream just moments before. But THEN God brings it home … I’d just hit 50 gazillion targets in a row for the last 4 months on the Kerouac Adventure book and fer one frickin’ moment I technically wasn’t on a short-term deadline and damn-it I needed to remember why I do this and am alive so I treated myself to a night of music. I mean … it was Dr. John … a Spirit Force of the universe … one’a my bloods. Jerry’s gone, Johnny Ace is gone, as are so many of the sacred giants either by nature’s toll or man-made interventions — there just ain’t much left when it comes to the magic-conjurers of eternity.

But here was the good Doctor in town on a night I could rationalize a trip to the mystic gardens.

So I go, and it’s this whole scene … in the courtyard of city hall here in T.O. — which is a hugely cultural city with as many musically options as my beloved New York — but there’s this bizarre problem here with … audiences … the people … you won’t believe me, but music attendees in this city, no matter what the frickin’ show, just stand (or sit) there like they’re waiting for a bus. It’s the most unresponsive music town I’ve ever been in. For my American brothers (and can I just use that meaning sisters, too?) you wouldn’t believe it — just like there’s no way to explain to Americans what hockey means to Canadians — but music audiences in the two countries are a starker contrast than comparing beers!

After seeing Dr. John play with both Springsteen and The Meters as well as his own Lower 911 krewe in New Orleans exactly a year ago, I heard he had a whole new band, so I knew this was going to be interesting — and all the stars and the June SuperMoon were lined up.

Mavis Staples was opening — making it sort of a double bill in a downtown piazza in this giant rectangle white tent that holds about a thousand people. The stage is set up in the middle with the tent sides rolled up so they can sell out the seats at $50-60 a pop, but have this open plaza beyond where low-budget music lovers can listen and see in and dig the show. It’s beautifully egalitarian — and another difference between the two countries. If they were sellin’ chit in America they’re damn sure not to let anyone get it for free. But us Canadian socialists devised a system where you can pay to sit in front of the stage — or dance in the distance for free. And as I was saying’ to some brothers dancin’ back there —  the distance between us and the performers would still put us in the front 5% of the crowd at the main stages at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

So, Mavis happens — and among many things she does this killer The Weight.  She takes the first and last verse, and has these passionate vocalists doing the others, including an old man for Pops’ verse. It was totally cool, and when it was over she went into a whole rap about Levon, quite overtly crediting him with writing the beautiful lyrics and not the guy who stole all the songwriting credits in that Band.

And I’m good with hanging out here on this plaza with dancing room — where, in Toronto, I may have seen as many as 3 people also shakin’ it — but there was lotsa space and totally clear views into the tent — and they’re selling local Canadian micro-brewery beer and Niagara region wines and all is good in the universe.

But after she ends with a gospel dancin’ I’ll Take You There it’s … are we gonna sneak in for Dr. John or what?

Damo, Master of All Things, and a perfect road partner, we …. Now see the problem is here, if I tell ya what we do then anybody and everybody including the event producers will know. But think Huck and Tom. Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll tell ya. But the next thing you know, we’re in the tent. And every seat is full, but there’s this VIP section up front … and knowing show production … I do some stealth reconnaissance … and, well, the long and the short of it is, within a about 5 minutes of us sneaking into the tent we’re sitting second row center, just along the row from that wise old music writer Rob Bowman.


And there he is, The Good Doctor. Seen the guy a hundred times, including right up close before, but never where his keys were on the lip of the stage and there was no separation between my tapping feet and his.  If I fell over I woulda hit him.

And so … the madness ensues … he opens with Iko Iko!  Of course.  And he’s in fine form. 72 years old — just inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame — just won a Grammy in February for his latest disc “Locked Down” — and this guy is the opposite of an artist in decline.


I recently heard Bob Weir speaking from the stage from the Grateful Dead’s induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, sharing the lesson:

“A few years ago a few of us in the band had the pleasure of catching Count Basie and his Orchestra. The core of the band was a quartet that had been together for 45 or 50 years — and they swung like angels. It was such a treat to watch those hoary heads rocking up and down. Then a couple weeks later we learned that the Count had gone home and put his feet up and quietly checked out. And to a man we all thought to ourselves, ‘Yes. That’s what I want to do.’”

And this is what music, and the pursuit of the arts — the striving for creation in whatever form that takes for each of us — teaches us about life. Keep doing what you love, whatever it is, and keep getting better at it till your last gig. There ain’t nuthin else.

And there’s the Doctor … resplendent in his mystic madness, spinning his web a hundred inches from my eyes and ears. I’m audience left so I can look up into his hands on the grand, and right in front of him when he switches to the guitar, close enough to see which finger was hit by a bullet back in the day.


And this whole new band is insane, to a man and a woman — and it’s this young white chick who’s the frickin’ band leader — and you’re like, what? I remember her from his Lower 911 band — Sarah Morrow, she’s great, but … the trombonist? This is Dr. John … and the other players are these heavy funky black cats, and it makes no sense … but she’s runnin’ the show … and has this band in her hand … and it’s super joyful … and you can tell it’s young and fresh … which is probably just what The Doctor ordered. Change it up. And for the first time he’s got somebody else playing a Hammond B3. Maybe some musicologist will correct me, but rarely if ever has The Doctor of Sound needed or wanted somebody else playing the church organ.

If you don’t know, in recent years he’d taken to having both the grand and the B3 at the front of the stage, and he’d just spin around on his special cushioned bench and play one or the other. And THEN the maestro would play BOTH — right hand on the organ chords and left hand on the high clear notes of the grand — which reminded me of seeing Miles Davis do this in a small club in New York — chording a keyboard with his left hand while soloing on the trumpet with his right.

But now Doc has this whole other cat wailin’ the B3 full-time … with this bass player to die for, but the whole deal was the drummer! This guy was beaming from the pocket from the first Beat.

A lot of drummers are really skilled but don’t exude their joy to the audience — it’s more about them.  Ziggy Modeliste and this Reggie Jackson are the opposite.  Like Keith Moon — another Master who transmitted the energy from himself thru his drums to the entire audience. It’s about the conveyance of joy — transmissions, man. And that’s what he was doing.

And I noticed that he, being the beating engine, had the piano keyboard directly in front of him so from his kit he could look straight down that line of 88s and follow the boss. It was amazing to watch. This kid on the kit was just joyous and plugged right in … as the bass player thrummed the Beat and the church organ wailed and there was a master electric guitarist for all those peak parts — it’s an orchestra and it’s jazz and it’s rock and it’s gospel and it’s soul and it’s gumbo and yer just exploding in your second row seat.


And he plays everything you want him to … Professor Longhair, Right Place, Wrong Time, St. James Infirmary, Revolution from the new album, and this guy behind me keeps yelling for Such A Night, and after about the fiftieth time I turn around and tell him to chill — he’ll play it as the encore, which of course he does.

And by the climax the place had gotten pretty loosey-goosey — formerly largely full of those Torontonians waiting for a bus, but by the time the show was running into the midnight hour they’d faded away and the real energy folks started coming down front, and I did this old trick I don’t mind sharing, which is you take the chairs and stack them up like you’re putting them away for the night. Every one you stack creates more dance space — and this is what I did — and for the last few songs we had a whole boogie bayou scene boppin’ up front.

So it’s this whole dancing orgy close enough to the bandleader you could touch him, and there’s Deadheads there with Jerry shirts, and NOLA Jazz Festers, and some old friends, and a sacred artist singing the sacred artform.

And as is always the case — the concert ends … and you have to make the music yourself.

So Damo and I started right up.


And after the drummer comes out and I shake my new best friend’s hand and thank him for beaming the Beat, brother Damo, Master Of All Things, leads me to nextdoor Osgood Hall, this famous law building from the 1830s in downtown T.O. with this 12 foot wrought iron fence surrounding a gorgeous old-growth park, and of course he knows the one gate that’s open, and suddenly we’re in this private oasis like Gramercy in New York, except way more trees and foliage-dense, and suddenly we’ve got a heaven to debrief — the most essential thing go do after a magic moment — let the overtones ring and the resonance sing and the reflections bring it all back to life.

The moments following a profound experience must be carefully managed to retain absorpsion of your gift and control of your space, inner and outer. After great concerts — here’s another tip I can share without breaking any secret sacred covenants — don’t leave your seat. See, this is what everybody does and you’re crunched into this cattle mash of nattering nonsense. What you do is stay right the puck where the goal was scored and soak it in. Eventually somebody will shoo you on, but by then the whole world is cleared out and you’ve grounded yourself forever in what just happened.

And Damo and I did just that . . .


but THEN we also had near an hour in this heaven of a park to drink cold beers still in our packs and pace about and talk a mile a minute and share everything about everything that just happened — like how during Right Place, Wrong Time you could hear about a dozen people spread all throughout the audience who got the mid-song “woo” moment which is so funny and joyous a part of it, and how in New York or New Orleans the whole audience “woos” in unison but here it was so distinctive because only about twelve people caught the cue. And about Mavis’s voice versus Mac’s — and whether people will be going to hear Selena Gomez or Justin Beiber when they’re 70 — and the whole Dr. John / Grateful Dead crossover, how he played Iko Iko and Wang Dang Doodle just like The Boys might on any given night, and how the spiritual improvisational essence of what he was creating was exactly the same good-energy voodoo Dr. Jerry was practicing.  And how people in the front of the house, the pit, must respect their role as conductors to the audience and cue the masses behind with above-the-head clapping, standing ovations and overt dancing when it’s called for.

And of course weir both getting text messages of different hotspots to hit for the late set — and I’ve got this lead to some jazzy Winnipeg brothers in an outfit called Rockalypso at a club called Mezzrow’s that I want to go to even if just to find out if they named it after The Mighty Mezz — but Damo’s got this message pleading with us to come to the nearby Rex where the band is SMOKIN’ — and since that’s about a block away on the Extremely Happening Queen Street we break from our reverie in the green tree silent night heaven park and rejoin the post-show world of celebratory Saturday night Toronto.

When we got to the historic music venue, I looked in the streetside windows and there’s Dr. John’s whole band groovin’ at a table! Boom! In we go, and as defined, the band was this jazz-funk-rock-fusion super-group of progressive cats called New York Rudder with players from Steely Dan, Sting, the SNL band, Rod Stewart etc. making up a killer quartet, and not only is Dr. John’s band catchin’ them, but Roseanne Cash’s as well!  It’s the late set musicians’ special with ear-popping audio coffee till 2AM. And the whole time I’m stealin’ glances at my new heroes, the Doctor’s new band, who are goin’ weirdly by the old name the Nite Trippers, but there’s my blood, the Zigaboo drummer diggin’ the late-night Toronto music scene, and I’m thinkin’, YEAH!

So, the show ends, and I’m like, “I gotta talk to those guys.” But right away all these people start movin’ in, comin’ outta nowhere, glad-handing the table, and my guys are jibber-jabbering away with ‘em, and I’m thinkin’ all is lost.

But as some patrons begin to leave, there’s these two lugs just sluggin’ a jug in the space right beside drummer brother. So, with empty options around, I ask large lug #1 if he’d move over a spot and I pulled up right next to the happiest Beat-man in the world!

And Boom — we were just Off.  Man!  His name’s Reggie and he’s from Columbus Ohio — where I was just adventuring with “On The Road” director Walter Salles and that sonofa beat John Cassady — and I’m wearing the very “On The Road” button Walter gave me, which by some divine intervention I put on just before leaving the house — and man we’re jammin’ on that rich man/poor man crazytown Columbus — and he mentions something about “blessings” and right away I ask him about his religion and he’s a Christian and seems SO devote I ask him if it bothers him I’m drinking a beer but he’s waycool. In fact, he’s divine. He gets it. The cosmic giggle. The same grand prank that Kesey twinkled and Aretha harmonized and Martin preached is surgin’ through him, with an unstoppable prankster ear-to-ear grin goin’ all the time, just beaming joy, and so we’re right out in the open and it’s all clear sailing, anything goes, and we talk about church, and how he fell into the gospels at a young age, but also dug Mozart and Stevie Wonder, and how he’s heard of Kerouac but never read him, and I tell him about my drum invention — the improvised kit built around my computer to play between the beats of writing — and he’s like, “You need to film that!!”

And I ask him about his keyboard sight-line and he confirmed that’s the intentional way they set the stage. And I show him my New Orleans Musicians For Obama cap and he’s beamin’ at the sight-line of that, too! But mostly we keep talkin’ about The Spirit — and how that’s what moves ol’ Mac, the doctor — how that’s what it’s all about. And I’m thinking of every great black singer from Aretha to Whitney and how they came up in the churches, and the bands they had, and that’s how cats like those in this new band survived. The musical breeding ground.

And then Bobby the B3 player fell in and we started riffing about words and music and how they blend together and words can be music and music can be words — how prose contains rhythm and music contains poetry — and how he’s 59 and I’m 52 and we’re both having the best years of our lives — and we’re all locked down in the groove.


And then, ya know, as always happens, the gig ends. And we’re all hugs n magic and beaming and beauty and we say goodbye in the holy night of it, as Jack might say. And in that empty-bar silence after all the rappin’ riffs I suddenly remembered this amazing thing — Reggie’s drum solo! — how he brought it down to the tiniest quietest Beat that most people thought was the end, but he was just seeing how quiet he could take it while still playing the beat — and this drummer in the second row was keepin’ right with it even as premature applause broke out all around, but it was this inside fake-out that was just so cool — and remembering it, I had to tell him cuz he’s never gonna get the feedback — so I ran out and managed to catch him still in musician time on the sidewalk out front, and gave him the blessing in front of his whole band, and they were all just beaming like shit — Somebody noticed!  It was this great beautiful moment of giving a gift back to him after all he’d given me. Lots of final group hugs with giddy grins and I bid them a safe tour and went back in to Damo and our crew which was just breaking up, and after what seemed like a long time before they went one way and I the other, I went back out of the club, and damned if the band had only made it about 50 feet down the street and were all taking pictures of The Condom Shack store!

“What are ya, a buncha tourists?!”

And so Boom we’re all back together again, headin’ the same way in more ways than one, and finally I can talk to the bandleader, this 20 or maybe 30-something young chick, and I’d been wondering all along what the vibe could possibly be between her and the older black cats, and boy, they were A Band. In the early Beatles sense. There wasn’t a resentment but a love, a playfulness, a protectiveness. It’s that whole yin that we yangers need, that other voice and mind and gender, that counterpoint, that comedic partner. It wasn’t that it caused imbalance, but rather she balanced the ballast.

So we shambled off like dingleberries dancing down the street and I wove into the jam like I’ve been doing all my life with people who interest me — musicians and players and pranksters and poets and parents and people of all professions who practice perpetual playfulness.

It’s the game of life. And it’s all about how you play the game.


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For more Adventures in music — check out the New Orleans Jazz Fest ride.

Or how The Grateful Dead came to play my 30th birthday.

Or Paul Simon doing Graceland in Hyde Park in London.

Or the night Dylan showed up at Springsteen’s show at Shea Stadium in New York.

Or when Neil Young returned to Massey Hall in Toronto.

Or Furthur came back and reprised the Dead at Madison Square Garden.

Or when the Dead, Janis, The Band and others took the Festival Express train trip across Canada.

Or here’s the day I finally “got” Bob Dylan

Or the night we all lost John Lennon

Or the (Route) 66 Best live performances ever captured on film.

Or for all the music stories in general go here.


by Brian Hassett

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Who-all was there — Boulder ’82

June 18th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales

(an excerpt from my forthcoming book on the Kerouac SuperSummit)




I guess I haven’t mentioned who all was here yet . . . 

This was the biggest gathering of Beats and their various spiritual progeny ever assembled in one place — before or since:

Allen Ginsberg (and his brother Eugene), Jane Faigao, the tai chi instructor at Naropa who was the main make-it-happen organizing producer following Allen’s lead, William Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes, Gregory Corso (and his daughter Miranda), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Carolyn Cassady, Jan Kerouac, Edie Kerouac, Herbert Huncke, Robert Creeley, Robert Frank, Robert LaVigne, Diane di Prima, David Amram, Peter Orlovsky, Carl Solomon, Ray Bremser, Joanna McClure, Joanne Kyger, Joyce Johnson, Anne Waldman, Ted Berrigan, Al Aronowitz, Jack Micheline, Andy Clausen (and his son Jesse), Larry Fagin, Michael Brownstein, John Steinbeck Jr., early Kerouac biographer Charles Jarvis’s son Paul, who was I think the only person from Lowell to make it, Maria Livornese, Jeff Nightbyrd, David Cope, Randy Roark, Jay McHale, Kush, the funny-cool Naropan Judy Lief who some people said the conference was her idea, Bill McKeever, Todd Colby, Patricia Donegan, Eliot Katz, Dan Shot, Joan Dobbie up at the Chautauqua lodge, as well as the leaders of the generation that followed, Kens Kesey & Babbs, Abbie Hoffman and his “running mate” Johanna Lawrenson, Timothy Leary, Paul Krassner, Pranksters George Walker and Jane Burton, and then loads of scholars like Ann & Sam Charters, Dennis McNally, John Tytell & Mellon, Lawrence Lee, Joy Walsh, Gerry Nicosia, Tom Clark, Tim Hunt, Clark Coolidge, Jay & Fran Landesman the ex-pats who flew back from England, Nanda Pivano from Italy, Arthur & Kit Knight as you know by now, organizer Jane Fiagao’s husband Bataan, Henry Allen, Regina Weinreich, Ronna Johnson, Albert Huerta, Warren Tallman who’s the only other person I know of to come from Canada, Jaap Van Der Bent from Holland, James Grauerholz, Jose Arguelles, Dan Barth, Sam Kashner, Henry MacWilliams, environmental activist Peter Warshall, radio alchemist Len Barron, and a bunch of the Denver crew, probably the #3 city in Beat history after New York & S.F., including Justin Brierly (the catalytic source of the Denver – Columbia connection, and who sounded exactly like Walter Cronkite when he talked), journalist Ivan Goldman, Ed “Sketching” White and Jim “Poolshark” Holmes, plus the actors Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club, Trading Places) who hung with Kerouac in Florida in the early ’60s and decided to become an actor only after seeing Splendor In The Grass with Jack in a theater, and longtime Beat Max Gail (Barney Miller‘s Wojo, and Chief Bromden in various productions of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest), invisible but ever-present photographer Chris Felver, and lots of filmmakers besides Robert Frank, like Janet Forman, John Antonelli, Richard Lerner & Lewis MacAdams, and Doug & Judi Sharples running around capturing it all.

Oh and a little rock group you may have heard of, The Grateful Dead, were playing just down the road at Red Rocks for three nights, and roving ambassadors like John Perry Barlow and Mountain Girl were scouting Camp Kerouac and asking questions of the masters just like all the other students.

It was every major Beat figure alive at the time, except Gary Snyder who was officially off building a zendo (a Buddhist meditation hall) in California, but history tells us he’s long avoided these attention-getting Beatnik gatherings, and interviews reveal he never saw Jack again after their Dharma adventure ended in May of ’56. But with his regrets he sent a nice letter to Allen saying, “Jack Kerouac was the wandering scholar troubador storyteller youngest son of the Jack tales in us all. … The voice of the water going over the edge of the waterfall itself.”

And the other thing to remember is — they were all so fuckin’ young then. But look who’s talkin’! Other than 30 year old Jan, the youngest of them was still more than twice my age!! Babbs & Tytell were 43, Abbie & Ann Charters 45, Kesey & Joyce Johnson 47, McClure 49, Gregory 52, Allen 56 … not that many of this crowd would ever live long enough to be doddering old folks, but they were what we now know of as in their mid-life prime.  And while they weren’t necessarily producing their early ground-breaking poetry and prose, they had adopted the Cassady and then Kesey concept that your life is your art. They were, to a man and a woman, better people than they were in their explosive youth. Better performers, better teachers, better organizers, better tempered, better conveyors of their inner vision. And at this event, thanks to the Bill Graham of the Beats, Allen Ginsberg, they were collectively staging the biggest Woodstock of Jack since he first played the Cavern in ’57.


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For more on the Boulder Beat Book — check out Meeting your Heroes 101

Or here’s another part from the book describing Jack’s first wife Edie and one of his oldest friends Henri Cru.

For a vivid account of being at the historic “On The Road” scroll auction — check out The Scroll Auction.

For a story about the London “On The Road” premiere at Somerset House — check out this sex & drugs & jazz.

For a great story of the world premiere of the new shorter final version of “On The Road” — check out this Meeting Walter Salles Adventure!

For a complete overview of all the Kerouac / Beat film dramatizations including clips and reviews — check out the Beat Movie Guide.

For an inspiring and colorful description of being at a Beat jazz-&-poetry reading in Greenwich Village — check out Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.

For a story about Henri Cru’s birthday — check out The Legend Turns 70.

For a beautiful poem to Carolyn Cassady on her birthday — check out the Carolyn Cassady Birthday Poem.

For an account of the historic Beat show at the Whitney Museum in New York — check out Wailin’ at the Whitney.

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by Brian Hassett


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The Long Island Mansions Adventure

May 11th, 2013 · Music, Real-life Adventure Tales



Soooo, this happened . . .

We were out there at Sands Point, Long Island, shooting a Steve Winwood video in one of those Great Gatsby mansions, hanging at this round banquet table with just Steve and the prop guy and a couple others, and he was talking in his gentle British accent which seemed so perfect for this estate we were on since it was originally built as a replica of an English castle — and somebody at the table was complaining about the new Bob Dylan album, and Steve, who’s a very reserved guy, like an elder royal himself, and after this slagging of Bob goes on for a while, finally Sir Winwood speaks up in his soft tone and says, “For me, he can do no wrong,” and that pretty much put an end to the Slag Bob conversation. “In fact, when he was in England on that first electric tour in ’66 we met up and went exploring places like this out in the English countryside. Very curious was Bob.”

As usual on these shoots there’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait downtime, and besides listening to the sound of the Traffic, I started exploring this huge castle, and these things are so stupidly big you can get lost in them — hallways that go on forever, and rooms beget rooms beget rooms. This particular mansion has been a set for loads of movies and TV shows and such and so all different sections of it were decorated like different sets — there were futuristic rooms, psychedelic rooms, 1800s rooms, royal rooms, billiard rooms, dining rooms, and half of them have giant fireplaces imported from Europe that you could park a truck in — so I’m just prankstering about hell-bent on exploring every inch of it, and after I get a fair handle on its architecture, I go check back in with the shoot, and they’re mucking around with these Ferraris out front and I start talkin’ to the prop guy again who’s out there and actually lives on the Island, and he’s saying, “Yeah-man, these Japanese guys are precision-guided maestros,” nodding to the collective of cinematographers. They’re all speaking Japanese and nobody else knows what the hell’s going on, but it’s a glorious day and no one cares. And I look at the mansion from the outside, which I hadn’t really done seen since we arrived when it was still dark, and notice for the first time there’s a giant turret at one end that I somehow missed. And I’m like, “Who-boy, this is some kinda house, eh?!”

And there’s a long pause as he sizes me up anew. “Yeah, sure is, … Canadian. … You never been here before?” he asks as I though I should have been, and maybe he’s right.

And I’m, “What’s with that turret? Can you get up in that thing?”
And he’s, “Yeah, of course.” Then another long pause. … “You wanna smoke a joint?”
And I’m, “Hmm, lemme think about it for a minu… — yeah.”

And he flashes the eyebrow high-beams, a slight nod towards the front door, and, “Let’s do some location scouting.”

And off we go. He’s got the walkie-talkie-thingie and we can hear people squawkin’ away, and he’s, “We’re done with the interiors, I’m basically off for the day.” And since I’m the producer’s assistant who seems to have forgotten I’m here, off we go, up the grand staircase with carved heads on the corners of the banister, and down the dark hall past supplies left behind from various shoots and stray furniture that made it look like you were at some mansion in the middle of moving day. And at the very end of the hall he goes, “This was the master bedroom,” as we walk into this massive room with stained glass windows on three sides and another ornate fireplace the size of a garage and enough floor space to drive around in circles.

And Rick, that’s his name, walks straight into the corner of this paneled wall like he’s going to disappear into it but pulls a little hidden handle right outta the wall and this big wooden panel opens up and there’s a dark spiral staircase! In we prank, and up we go, creakin’ ancient wood that was clearly not part of any restoration plan, until we open a door and Boom! There’s the Atlantic Ocean! Actually, Rick corrects me, “It’s Long Island Sound,” but it’s still the ocean saltwater, and you still can’t see land on the other side, so I’m stickin’ with “ocean.”

And we’re on the top of this big round turret with battlement teeth for the archers to hide behind, and although it was perfectly calm down on the grounds, there was a healthy summer’s breeze up there, so we spark the fattie behind a rampart, and he starts telling me how he grew up on the Island. “Yeah-man, I’ve seen these things change so much over the years. Half of these old mansions are falling down, and the other half … found me stumblin’ around drunk on Burgundy wine,” he starts singing from “Wharf Rat!”

“You’re a Deadhead?!” I blurt in surprise.

And he smiles mid-puff and somehow knew that I was already.

And after he holds in the smoke a couple of beats and blows it out, “Yeah-man, since Englishtown ’77. You?”

“Seattle 1980. … But Radio City were my 2nd through 7th shows.”

“There ya go. … That was the best New York run ever.”

“I snuck into my second show there,” and I tell him that helluva story, and weir riffin’ and the walkie-talkie’s squawkin’ at the seagulls, and the blue sky is lookin’ bluer, and the day just keeps getting better.

“Yeah, we used to sneak into a these old mansions when we were kids.”

“No WAY! We did that in Winnipeg! … But of course the mansion was the size of the gatehouse at this place, but still!”

And he’s, “Yeah-man, they’d have them fenced off, but … we were kids, right?” and he winks and I know and we laugh. And out of the blue sky he says, “If this thing wraps early, and it looks like it might, there’s a benefit dinner just down the road that my buddy’s doin’ sound for. We should stop in. You wanna see a real castle?” and he does that prankster nod, like, “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, kid.”

So, we go back to the front grounds and the mid-afternoon Ferrari exteriors were the last scene of the day, and my producer pal was beaming with how everything had gone especially since Winwood was being so agreeable, happily sittin’ or standin’ or walkin’ or doin’ whatever they asked him to. He’d said at the table, “I have no idea what they’re doing. I just make the music. They can take whatever pictures they want.” And finally you hear those magic words on every shoot, “Okay, that’s a wrap for today, folks. Tomorrow morning 5AM, Wall Street” — and it’s like “Action” was just called for the hundred or so fairly stationary crew people who all snap to and start breaking down gear.

I go over to the producer. “How YOU doin’?!” and she smiles a huge, “Oh yeah!”
“Okay, I’m gonna help the prop guy pack up,”
“Good,” she says, already lost in her next-step production thoughts.
“And I think I’m gonna catch a ride back to the city with him. You cool for the rest of the day?”
A long pause, “Yeah. I’ll see you at 5 tomorrow at Wall & Hanover. Get some sleep,” she says.

Woo-hoo! I’m off!

And I spot Rick already driving his van around the car-wide walkway to the parking-lot-sized terrace overlooking the Sound, and we load up candelabras and ornate music stands and a cello and giant framed paintings and all this weird stuff that appeared in the shoot somewhere, and he looks at the time. “The benefit starts at six, we should be good.”

On the drive there he starts telling the whole backstory of the Gold Coast scene to this wayward Canuck. “Yeah-man, these things were all built around the turn of the century before there was income tax — the megarich industrialists and bankers and shit —Vanderbilts, Morgans, Guggenheims, Woolworths … all those guys who made more money than they could spend — so they built these castles to show off and entertain their friends — Great Gatsby land, ya know? — except they actually shot that in Rhode Island, the bastards. Course, that was before my time anyway.”

And suddenly we hit the town of “Manhasset”!! — “NO WAY! That’s my name!!”

“Yer kiddin’, really? Funny. Maybe your ancestors were here. Maybe one of these mansions is yours. Never know.” And I’m half-way believing him and spend the rest of the trip craning my neck for “Hassett House.”

And after a while weir drivin’ along a road past a tall vine-covered fence and he points with his thumb, “This is it.”

“What, Hassett House?”

“No,” he laughs, “Where the benefit is.” But we still keep driving what seems like about an hour before we get to the gate, and of course there’s rent-a-cops and guys with clipboards and headsets, and Rick pulls right up to the giant gatehouse, “We’re Magnum Sound.” And the guy starts flippin’ through pages, and he says, “Okay,” but then, “Wait — there’s only one vehicle,” meaning only one truck cleared to get in, and it’s already there. And Rick goes, “Yeah, that’s Marco. He just called and the patch cords are fried,” and he points behind in the van like we’ve got the new ones. And the doorman nods, then motions to the gatekeeper, who swings open the black gate and suddenly weir driving past the guards into this private park of a front yard with a canopy of trees like The Mall in Central Park except the road weaves and winds until we come out at this castle about three times the size of the last one!

There’s a bunch of production trucks and another guy with a clipboard and a headset. Rick: “We’re sound.”
“You have to load in?”
“No, already did. We’re tech.”
“Okay, follow this around to the right and there’s parking in back.”

And Rick doesn’t say a word, just nods like he’s done this a million times, and I bet he has.

Then Boom we’re walking into this giant shiny modern kitchen in this old Versailles of a palace, with men and women completely dressed in white cooking up a storm and it’s loud and everyone’s moving fast and Rick and I just swim through the rapids and whoosh out the far door into some other anteroom leading into a giant high-ceilinged banquet room with about 50 chairs along each side of a single long table with all these men and women dressed completely in black putting the last touches on the table and placing covered trays of food around on side tables, and Rick & I just saunter through like we live there, then through another anti-room and into a giant ornate ballroom! with a two story high ceiling and huge oak beams and arched corners with a twinkling galaxy of stars painted on the ceiling between the beams. And there’s a black temporary stage and P.A. at one end, and sound mixer at the other. And Rick calls across the empty echoing room, “Marco!” And without missing a Beat, the figure behind the board starts speaking through the PA.

“Call in the clowns. I need all clowns stage left. . . .  Jokers, you’re up next.”

“Hey, brother!” and they hug a quick one. “We just got off the Winwood shoot. This is Brian — Deadhead from Canada.”

“Canada!” Marco bellows. “Copps Coliseum! 1990. Best Hey Jude / Fantasy I ever heard,” he says without looking up from his board that he’s adjusting even though there’s no sound.

“The Boys doin’ Steve Winwood,” I add.

“Good one,” they both smile.

“So, what’s on tonight?” Rick asks.

“Sheryl Crow.”

“WHAT?!” I scream in my head but don’t say a thing to keep my cool, and look out across the ballroom floor to the stage and realize this is gonna be a private home performance by one of my favorite performers ever!

And the guys start talkin’ shop but I’m flashing back on all the times I’ve seen her — opening for Dylan at Roseland, the Irving Plaza show, Woodstock ’94 — and I’m also flashin’ on that 5AM call on Wall Street, and realize it’s gonna be one of those sleep-when-I’m-Dead routines.

And Marco looks at the clock on his board and goes, “Okay, they’re gonna be arriving in a couple minutes, have you seen this place yet?” and he takes us on a private tour of this private castle.

One crazy thing is … every room had another room in between. Like, you never just walked from one room into another, there was always some little sitting room or storage room or bathroom room or something in between every other room. And suddenly weir in this big library with floor-to-ceiling books behind leaded glass doors with big reading chairs you could picture Sherlock Holmes sitting in and of course another one of those giant marble fireplaces and it’s all dark except for bridge lamps leaning over each of the plushy chairs.

Then we wandered through this sunken indoor garden with a fountain in the middle and skylights for a ceiling, and everywhere there’s walls of windows that look like a church, and I’d lost count of how many fireplaces we’d walked past.

And we get out to the grand foyer that’s about the size of a cathedral with tall arching columns and these little chapel-like rooms that extend off the sides and the whole space has been turned into a giant bar for the night. Or multiple bars, such as it was, with more gorgeous women and men all in black, and apparently patrons had already started to arrive, and the room was alive, and everything echoes in these places so it sounds like a really loud party already. And there’s a guy in a red-&-white striped costume at an upright piano by the front door playing ragtime, and ol’ Marco goes, “You want a beer, Canadian?” The guy delivered everything totally deadpan. Never cracked a smile but was always sayin’ sumpthin twisted.

And we get to the bar and it’s nothing but bucketfuls of micro-breweries from Europe that I’ve never heard of. I get some Belgium white, and we make the rounds, but it’s obvious we’re not dressed for the occasion, so Marco’s like, “Let’s go check out the cliffs,” and Rick nods, and I’m like, “Cliffs?!”

And weir out the back door, and where the last mansion had a back yard, this place had a statue-filled fountain garden. And as weir walkin’ through it Marco starts explaining, “It’s some world hunger benefit. It’s ten grand a plate in there,” as we walk past reflecting pools with spouting putti and marble basins. And sure enough at the far end are these rockin’ hundred-foot cliffs with the sea crashing below, and Rick pulls out another stick o’ dynamite, and mid-conversation runs it through his mouth to dampen the paper so it’ll burn as slow as the fresh weed, and three old warriors get right with the muta to the crashing waves in the eternity of it.

And I’m flashing on Gatsby and his friends along these same cliffs at these same parties, and how even then I would not have been the guy in a suit, but the guy in the band or some other prankster in the play not wearing a uniform, as we riff on history with these Long Islanders from long before there was a hockey team or a Billy Joel, telling stories about Halloween parties on acid and seeing Springsteen in ’73 at My Father’s Place, the Island’s legendary music joint.

And after losing all sense of time with our feet dangling over the cliff, we all moan to get up, and mosey back to the palace, and enter through that same kitchen but this time it’s even crazier and louder and smells ever better, and we cut back to the grand foyer party which is now full, and the lights seem dimmer and it’s much crazier and rich people are letting loose, and I realize it’s sort of a rock n roll / film crowd — not Wall Street rich, this was crazy rich, and with the lights low and the crowd thick and the dress funky, suddenly weir sorta blending in, and I go back to the front door where there seems to be excitement, and people are comin’ in and having their picture taken, and they all look like movie stars, but I’m so not on that beat I don’t know if they are or not, except then somebody comes in and suddenly I see Tom Cruise come climbing over the top of the ragtime piano like a monkey, calling out to the people arriving while laughing his head off, and I’m thinkin, “Geez, this guy really is a climber!” as he comes down over the front end stepping on the keys and jumping into the arms of his friends.

And then there’s another fluster at the giant door and these two old ladies come in very slowly, and right behind them is Steven Spielberg! I think one of them was his mother, and flashbulbs are goin’ off, and there might have been applause or something, and I’m realizing this is gonna be some night!  And also, who the heck else is here?!

So, I head back and score an unpronounceable German beer, and meanwhile Marco and Rick have disappeared, and I suddenly notice these people all know each other, and a solo prankster in workaday shorts ain’t gonna be making time with these cover girls, and I also realize it’s definitely true that rich gentlemen prefer blonds, and skinny ones, and young ones, and so before I get busted for staring I’m thinkin’ its time for a smoke on the sacred grounds and go out and join the welcoming crew on the white gravel driveway in front, and there’s a line-up of limos and cool vintage cars stretching back along that long and winding road we drove in on, and I fall in with the valets who didn’t have much to do that night, but here were the modern-day Neal Cassadys, paid to park cars. And like Neal, a lot of them were on the make for connections or chicks or whatever, but one of them was standing there just digging on the simple glory of the night, and he and I riffed back and forth about cars and luxury and celebrities, and just then a black Rolls door opens and Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins get out! And I get a flash of that art imitating life last scene in “The Player” when the executive arrives home at his mansion driveway and kisses his blond wife.

And pretty soon all the beautiful people go into the beautiful banquet hall for their beautiful meal, and I scootch in while they’re packing up the bar and snag a fresh Dutch frosty to go with the fresh Dutch tobacco, and schlep around back to find Marco and Rick lounging at a table on the terrace. “Hey! We were wonderin’ where you were!” And after a few minutes of ketchup and jam, without any of us saying a thing, a couple girls from the kitchen must have seen us out the window and brought out three plates, and we had fresh salmon and veggies in the green garden with the sea air and the silver silverware. “So, … this is about 30 grand we’re eating right here?”

And I mine ‘ol Ricky for details on Englishtown, and he mines me for details on Wayne Gretzky, and Marco didn’t mind any of it.

And then Boom! I suddenly remember Sheryl Crow’s gonna be playing!!  What?!?

And after a fine after-dinner Dutch cigar we head in and now everybody’s drunk and gettin’ drunker. And weir back in the ballroom but it’s full of people and the lights are low except for a subtle illumination of the stars above, and Sheryl and her band come out to a roomfulla friends and play it as such and have a grand ballroom time.

So of course I go right up front and it’s just a little three foot stage that I coulda just jumped up on and hugged her, which I certainly wanted to do, but instead just danced at her feet.

She opened with the perfect “It’s Hard To Make A Stand” for everyone who was there doing that with their presence. Into “Redemption Day” and I was getting the feeling this whole set was gonna be thematically linked, and boy did that turn out to be right, and I bet she does a lot of these benefit gigs that nobody ever hears about. “I’ve wept for those who suffer long, But how I weep for those who’ve gone,” and I gotta admit I totally lost it — for those I’ve lost and we’ve lost and the beauty of fate and life that put me in this place at this time. Then if that wasn’t enough she goes into the beautiful tear-inducing ballad “Angels” and this has become some kinda gospel show — “When you’re pulled from the wreckage, You’re in the arms of an angel, May you find some comfort here.” And it’s weird because you gotta sorta hold it together when you’re in a room full of people, but I wasn’t doing a very good job.

And then thank gawd she left the tear-jerkers behind and went into a rockin “Love Is A Good Thing,” with the lyrics about “buying a gun at Wal-Mart stores” that got her album banned at all their shit stores in the world. Then she went into the challenging “Strong Enough” from her first album — every song about empowerment in one way or another. And then into a thrashing “A Change Will Do You Good” and I looked over and there was Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon dancing like teenagers, and Tim was like me with my girlfriends in that he’d dance away and film some partygoers or Sheryl with this little hand-held he had and then go dancing back to Susan, and everybody’s havin’ a grand time, just fans of the Dance. Then I couldn’t believe it — she did Dylan’s “Mississippi” — a song of his she recorded before he did. And again I’m half-way losin’ it standing five feet from Sheryl singing Bob in this private ballroom with no thought a few hours ago that anything like this was gonna happen. And there may have been a few other songs in there but she ended with my bar-none favorite live song she does, the Keith Richards-channeled  “There Goes The Neighborhood” and just rips the roof of the place. “Hey! Let’s party! Let’s get down!” And I remember this song winning the Grammy for best female vocal performance and MAN you can hear why!

And when it’s over I’m just a ball of sweat and a beaming sun, almost frickin’ shaking, and on wobbly knees make it back to the soundboard and there’s Ricky smiling. “Enjoy yourself?”

And the wonderful thing is, it was over by about 10:00 or sumpthin and Rick’s, “We gotta go.” Old pro that he is, it’s a 5AM call. And Boom! Long story short, we pull off the drop off, and I next see him but a few hours later, reunited in this same evening’s darkness for the next scene on a silent empty Wall Street in downtown New York City.


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

For more Adventure Tales, you might enjoy . . .

The Jumping Out Of A Car While Being Robbed, Kidnapped or Killed Story.

or … Setting A Driving Record on First Avenue in New York.

or … the wild physical confrontation both Al Franken and I got caught up in at a Howard Dean rally in New Hampshire.

or … the time I jumped on the Pittsburgh Penguins team bus during the playoffs.

or … scammed my way into the “On The Road” premiere in London in the courtyard of a palace.

or … snuck backstage at the world premiere of the new “On The Road” in Toronto and met up with Walter Salles.

or … our whole Adventure together at the New York premiere.

or … there was the greatest single night in New York’s history — when Obama first got elected.

or … the worst single night — when John Lennon was murdered.

or … there was the time The Grateful Dead came to town and played my 30th birthday party.

or … the night I went out in the Village with Jack Kerouac’s old friend Henri Cru on his 70th birthday,

or … went running with the Olympic torch when Canada was hosting in 2010.

or … the time I snuck in to Dr. John and ended up hangin with his whole band.

or … the time I found that cat while out waterfalling on the Niagara Escarpment.

or … the time my mom and I got trapped in the worst hospital in Italy and barely escaped with our lives.

or … of course one of the great multi-day Adventures of all time — Obama’s first inauguration.


by Brian Hassett


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Meeting Your Heroes 101

April 27th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales

chapter 4 — Meeting Your Heroes 101

(excerpt from my forthcoming Boulder ’82 Beat summit book)


One of the first and forever impressions I had was — being on the inside hanging with Allen and his loopy longtime lover Peter and Beat badboy Gregory Corso and cigarette-chaining novelist John Clellon Holmes in their little homes, just watching these guys, these old friends who’d been brothers of the night and the light since they were the age I was as I was meeting them, and now here they were much older, full-grown adult MEN, who were still pranksterish, still plotting cool adventures, still finishing each other’s sentences, still knowing what the other meant by just a gesture or a silence, and making each other laugh, constantly, but all within the context of business, productivity, doing things, writing things, working things out. They weren’t sitting around talking about sports or half-baked pontifications about politics or trying to prove they were up on the latest band like so many people my age. No. They’d been playing this poetry productivity game forever and probably never even noodled in those foolish things but were talking about philosophy and spirituality and writing and writers and quoting themselves and quoting others and talking over each other and as excited in the moment as little kids.

Allen was definitely the professorial boss, the accepted (but not to say unchallenged) ringleader. He was always carrying around this cloth sorta Guatemalan over-the-shoulder bag full of papers and folders and books and god knows what, and usually wore some stray suit jacket a couple sizes too big for him with some tie a couple sizes too small. He was gentle, but vibrant; soulful, but lascivious; clipboard following but constantly poetically improvising. He was sort of the one and only father figure keeping an eye on everything, yet was always fun to be around. He had no problem correcting or admonishing someone, but did so with love and a tender demeanor.




He was like a referee in a pick-up game — making sure we played by the rules, but knowing the whole game wasn’t too serious.

Gregory seemed to always have on this black leather vest looking like a slightly older Dylan from “Street Legal,” like a hot happening sexy dude, with a full head of bushy black hair. He would definitely have been the (and probably only) lady’s-man of the group. He didn’t give a damn about the outcome of the game, he just wanted to score. He was definitely the Puck, the imp, the joker, and the one most likely to be called to the principal’s office. And thank god he was in with the principal or he woulda been expelled fer sure!

And a neat thing I loved — the long-form novel writer John Clellon Holmes had a slower cadence than the rest, and a softer voice, and when he’d solo on his Horn, the rest of the band laid low. There was an unspoken respect — perhaps still stemming from him being the first of any of these soon-to-be-famous young men to have a Beat book published — his gone novel “Go,” in 1952.

He wouldn’t speak too often — whereas Allen and Gregory were like Dizz and Bird, constantly playing off and over top of each other — but John would come in like the organ and lay down these thick slow chords that would then totally alter the next round of soloing. He was Zeppo, the thoughtful straight Marx Brother who didn’t really fit in with the others, yet was one of them, and there was nothing he could do about it.

What was extraordinary was that they were exactly like I dreamed and imagined they would be — and as they conveyed themselves from the ’50s. Close friends just hanging out, but always up to sumpthin.

And I thought back to seeing that poster that made me embark on this trip, and the fate of that, and how it was the phrase “Partially funded by The Grateful Dead” that tipped the scales from “I should” to “I’m going” — but whatever the hell it was, I’d somehow made my way here and was now studying Hangoutology with my heroes. And unlike hanging with rock stars, writing was my art form of choice and practice. Instead of being in private circles of master musicians, I was now sitting among the masters whose music I played.

And another guy who blew me away early and often was Herbert Huncke. I’m not much one for these junkie guys, but Huncke was a trip. He was SO nice, so friendly — the most personable people-loving people-person you could ever meet. But it was the guy’s cadence, how he spoke — it’s no wonder Jack & Allen & Company totally dug this guy. Whereas I tried to talk to mumbly Burroughs a few times, but that guy was as freakin’ weird and misanthropic as he comes across. The adding machine magnate’s grandson in the grey flannel suit may have been a Queer and a Junkie, but other than that he sure didn’t seem to have much in common with the other Beats I knew and loved — not the same celebration of life, joy, optimism and gushing compassion in his heart.

Although Huncke may have shared some of Bill’s proclivities, he was personable and gentle and open in his own peculiar way. Just a few degrees shy of being locked in a federal pen, he was a total character — and that was this constant commonality to most of the people in ol’ J.K.’s life. Odd ducks. As a novelist, Jack magnetized to these people as fodder for his fiction. Whereas Allen was sort of a businessman, a promoter, a former market research man, and Gregory was a bit of an aggressive hustler and loose cannon, Huncke was absolutely “one of us,” not intimidating in stature or demeanor, no agenda, just a guy you could sit with for hours and he’d never disagree with you and would engagingly listen to whatever your story was.  If anybody in this whole batch of aspiring Buddhists was living in the calm sea of nirvana … it was Herbert Huncke.



For more from the Boulder Beat Book — check out Who All Was There.

Or this other part about Jack’s wife Edie and best pal Henri.

For a vivid account of being at the historic “On The Road” scroll auction — check out The Scroll Auction.

For a story about the London “On The Road” premiere at Somerset House — check out this sex & drugs & jazz.

For a great story of the world premiere of the new shorter final version of “On The Road” — check out this Meeting Walter Salles Adventure.

For a complete overview of all the Kerouac / Beat film dramatizations including clips and reviews — check out the Beat Movie Guide.

For an inspiring and colorful description of being at a Beat jazz-&-poetry reading in Greenwich Village — check out Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.

For a story about Henri Cru’s birthday — check out The Legend Turns 70.

For a poem to Carolyn Cassady on her birthday — check out the Carolyn Cassady Birthday Poem.

For an account of the historic Beat show at the Whitney Museum in New York — check out Wailin’ at the Whitney.


by Brian Hassett


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The Day I Heard The Tambourine Man

March 28th, 2013 · Music, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

The Day I Heard The Tambourine Man



       I, like others, was whisked away by the Gallatin genie just as I was about to drown in the requirements of my previous school.  If NYU hadn’t had a school-without-walls, I wouldn’t have graduated, if you want a soundbite about it.  The trade-off they offered was that I had to read a whole bunch of great books — which seemed like the point of life anyway — in exchange for taking whatever classes I wanted.  It was rough, but what the heck.

        As a recently transplanted Canadian “Beat,” I was striving to understand everything that drove that particular subculture of America.  Although I missed the fifties (and the sixties now that I think of it) it seemed to me that the most exciting period in 20th century America was that explosive window just after the Second World War, when the winds of change shattered a pane and in blew Jack Kerouac, Charlie Parker, Jackson Pollock, James Dean, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and … well, you get the idea.

        So there I was, completely beaten, trounced by the system and ready to get drunk at The Kettle of Fish, when in through my window flew Walter Raubicheck, the Gallatin advisor assigned to guide my light.  I still had to take a few classes, of course, but what changed my tune were the Independent Studies he and I developed.

        Each week we would meet at Bobst Library for our private sessions.  Living on Washington Square North, I had to walk through the park every day in order to get to school (which probably did more to hamper my grade-point-average than any other excuse I’ve come up with).  In that park I could see what made America great in the first place.  People were going for it, and didn’t care what the neighbors thought. There were frisbee dancers and guitar players.  There was book reading, soap box philosophizing, and a capella singing.  There were clowns, saxophones, wandering salesmen, and young girls sitting on benches reading books.  There were back-slapping brothers, and homeless poets who would recite a dream for silver.  But more than anything, there were the songs that filled the air.

        I heard many Dylan tunes for the first time in the very park where he wrote them.  I heard the verses of freedom from Woody Guthrie to Tracy Chapman, and tossed back beer between the harmonies.  There was something about that park in the youth of my America that I hope is still there for today’s huddled masses. It was the collective celebration of a sunny day, a guttural desire to not let this one slip away.  America!  Pow!  The stomping down of the foot and hollering I’m going to do what I want, right here, right now.  “I AM WHAT I AM!”

        This was another planet, you understand, to this frostbitten Canuck.

        It was one of those sunny summer Saturdays after passing through this festival that the curtain of my enlightenment rose.  My advisor and I would try to get one of those little study closets on the seventh floor of Bobst to conduct our skull sessions in, but as it happened on this day, some fellow crammer with excellent hearing objected to our discourse and Walter suggested we adjourn to the outer hallway that encircled the atrium.  I followed him out to the balcony where he promptly dropped to the carpet cross-legged and began reciting poetry.

        My frostbite was tingling again.

        That week we were focusing on Kerouac’s legacy, and Walter cited Bob Dylan as one of his leading apostles.  I’d always had trouble with Dylan’s seemingly intentional obliqueness, so, having recently read a book dedicated “to Bob Dylan for Mister Tambourine Man,” I thought I’d challenge the professor to plug this into The Beat Picture.

        He began reciting the verses from memory as a brilliant afternoon sun overtook the wall of windows behind him, backing him like the light beyond Saint Peter.  Sitting on that suspended walkway with seven flights of space below and as many above, there was the oddest sensation of floating.

        Right from the opening verse, as he quoted, the “… evening’s empire has returned into sand, … left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping,” my personal nightly explorations of the ancient empty streets of New York were suddenly coming to life.  My own actions and emotions, which I’d previously been told were wrong and bad, were suddenly being recited in a library by a professor.

        In joining Gallatin, I’d been searching for someone to “take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship” of language and art. That afternoon, its advisor issued me the passage that had somehow eluded 14 years of classrooms and English lessons.

        I discovered that the gangsters and pranksters who peopled my park were the same “ragged clowns” who were “laughing, spinning, swinging madly across the sun.”  Soon afterward he showed me how they were also singing songs of themselves, and songs of innocence and experience.

        As I sat transfixed, Walter peeled off one line after another, my body tingling with each new image.  The wall of blinding sunlight began to obliterate the narrator, and pretty soon all I could see was the light.

        As he recounted, “And but for the sky there are no fences facing,” somehow he, or Dylan, had finally voiced the boundless optimism I’d been struggling to pinpoint ever since my arrival in the land of the free.

        When he prefaced the last stanza with, “I think this is one of the great romantic verses of all time,” I felt a wave of enchanted images crest and then break over me.  That an English teacher would steer someone toward rock ‘n’ roll, and not away from it, transformed my perception of what education could be.  It was no longer us against them, but a teamwork of understanding.  An authority figure wasn’t dishing out dated discipline, but rather enhancing the world I lived in.  William Blake was suddenly in the park.  I could hear Walt Whitman on the radio.  Thoreau made the evening news.  What was once alien was now internal.  Maybe I had to go all the way up to 1965 in order to understand Blake’s 1785, but it took this advisor to articulate the connection.

        So take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind, Mr. Tambourine Professor, down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves, the haunted frightened trees, out to the windy beach of free expression.  As he held my future in his recitation, he taught me in no uncertain terms, “To dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.”  And I’ve been dancing ever since.


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For more Adventures in Music — you may want to check out the New Orleans Jazz Fest ride.

Or how The Grateful Dead came to play my 30th birthday.

Or Paul Simon doing Graceland in Hyde Park in London.

Or the night Dylan showed up at Springsteen’s show at Shea Stadium in New York.

Or when Neil Young returned to Massey Hall in Toronto.

Or Furthur came back and reprised the Dead at Madison Square Garden.

Or when the Dead, Janis, The Band and others took the Festival Express train trip across Canada.

Or the night I was hanging with Dr. John’s band in Toronto.

Or the night we all lost John Lennon

Or the (Route) 66 Best live performances ever captured on film.



by Brian Hassett

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The Boys Who Grew From Northern Lands

February 5th, 2013 · Poetry, Weird Things About Me




The Boys Who Grew From Northern Lands

for my dad — Vern Victor Hassett

From playing hockey with homegrown pucks,
To riding in the back of pick-up trucks,
Under cloudless, beating prairie skies,
Chasing the girls with the prettiest eyes,
Riding the roads from farm to boomtown,
Working the land from Rose to Sundown.

From schoolhouses built for all one grade,
To backyard hockey rinks — family made,
Through cold wars and winters, holding true,
Moving from the land and life you knew,
Until during the summer of sixty-one,
Fate and mom bore you a son.

Innocence playing out in the snow,
Helping me build, helping me grow,
Crossing the mountains by railroad track,
Driving to practice with skates in back,
Shovelling walks from street to lane,
Then two days later it would snow again.

From Dominion City where our food is grown,
To foreign New York to pursue the unknown,
I’ve carried our branch, and tended it well,
In the fertile garden of the Liberty Bell.

A lot has gone down,
Since I let my hometown,
And at many a time, whatever I do,
I see you in me, and see how I grew.
It’s in my face and down in my hands,
The boys who grew from Northern Lands.

There’s so many ways you’ve made me glad,
I just have to stop and thank you Dad,
For bright eyes, hope, and the big city chance,
For the red race car, and the keys to the dance.
So I’m just slowing down to nod a thanks to you,
For starting this project, then seeing it through.



For more on my Dad, Vern Victor Hassett — see this tribute.


Some other poems . . .

A Song of Enid I Sing

The Carolyn Cassady Birthday Poem

Love Is

Be The Invincible Spirit You Are

Smokin’ Charlie’s Saxophone

The Royal Woods of Cassady County

A Shakespearian Cassady

Where Wayward Jekylls Hyde — The Mighty Bama-Rama Rap

The Ballad of The Profiteers

Sittin’ On My Roof In New Orleans

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by Brian Hassett


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Wailin’ at The Whitney

January 26th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats

Wailin’ at The Whitney

 (a feature story from 1995 on the historic Whitney Museum show)


Communities of creative minds exchanging ideas has been a dream of artists from the moment they first walked away from the other apes and got back to the land to set their soul free.  The Lost Generation café klatch in Paris was cool, and San Francisco’s garden of flower pot parties in the ‘60s sounded like a hoot — but the most influential confluence since the Danube met the waltz took place in New York City in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s.

“Beat Culture,” the current show at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City, is currently celebrating this zenith of fun through February 4th.

“Let me take you down, cuz I’m going too, through many fields, who knows what’s real, but I’ll try to point the highlights out.”


With Allen Ginsberg’s audio tour in your ear, the museum’s giant freight elevator doors open, and right in front of you is Jack Kerouac’s original scroll of On The Road, the Declaration of Independence of post-war America that Kerouac wrote in one 20-day chi-channeling frenzy in April 1951.

Kerouac wrote to Neal Cassady, his best buddy and the book’s main character, when he finished it: “I’ve telled all the road now.  Went fast because road is fast — wrote whole thing on strip of 120 foot long tracing paper — just rolled it through typewriter and in fact no paragraphs — rolled it out on the floor and it looks like a road.”

This mythical dead sea scroll of rock ‘n’ roll has never been seen in public before, having been locked in Kerouac’s agent’s safe since it was first published.  No one ever knew for sure if it really existed, but now we can see that not only does it, but Kerouac’s claim of spontaneous prose is upheld, as this opening of the crumbling unfurled scroll matches virtually word-for-word the final published text.

One endless roll allowed Kerouac to go on one — entering a subconscious trance where the artist was creating so quickly there was no time for regimented thought to alter pure expression.  This notion of losing one’s self in the creative act, of flowing in a “stream of consciousness,” was the distinguishing difference between these artists and their contemporaries.  While iambic pentameter, photo-realism, and Broadway musicals were lulling Beaver Cleaver’s parents into a saccharin stupor, the Beats were taking a chance on the inside without a script, and it turned out to be the cymbal crash of liberty in the jam of the century.

There on the wall is On The Road, and there on the road is a million new bands jamming their way into the future. Beyond the novel’s influence on writers, Ray Manzarek of The Doors put it bluntly:  “If Jack Kerouac had never written On The Road, The Doors would never have existed.” After years of being Jim Morrison’s bandleader, Manzarek is now accompanying Morrison’s progenitor, Beat naturalist poet Michael McClure, in one of the most exciting live readings on the current poetry circuit. Besides them performing together as part of the exhibit, many paintings by McClure, Kerouac (his Buddha below), Corso, Ferlinghetti and others show how these writers worked in many media to express the exuberance they felt for life that just wasn’t coming through the Norman Rockwell covers on every newsstand of the decade.

Neal Cassady rapping with the Grateful Dead at the acid tests is also part of the exhibit as a video installation that’s continuously playing in the center of the show, loudly proclaiming the continuum of the Beats into The Beatles into all of rock ‘n’ roll.  As Jerry Garcia put it,  “It wasn’t a club — it was a way of seeing.  It became so much a part of me that it’s hard to measure;  I can’t separate who I am now from what I got from Kerouac.  I don’t know if I would ever have had the courage or the vision to do something outside with my life ─ or even suspected the possibilities existed ─ if it weren’t for Kerouac opening those doors.”

Although Kerouac was the one who coined the term “Beat Generation,” wrote its Bible and defined its ethos, he secretly wanted “to be considered a jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam session on Sunday.”  His soaring sentences were taken directly from the Bird songs he was listening to on a nightly basis in Manhattan.

Playing throughout the multiple floors of the exhibit is the music created in the small clubs on 52nd Street or Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, a nickel subway ride from the Beats’ Greenwich Village and Morningside Heights haunts.  Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and later a young Miles Davis and John Coltrane were blowing apart traditional jazz and improvising solos at double the tempo of the rhythm section.  It demanded the perfectly pure channeling of a disciplined voice combined with the courage to throw everything you knew out the window for that one shot at sunburst glory where the golden soul breaks through the clouds and the god-like voice inside all of us comes flowing out in clear honest truth.

Back down on 8th Street, and then later at his retreat on Long Island, Jackson Pollock was busy inventing nonobjective abstract expressionism by going “into” his paintings ─ dancing hypnotically, weaving chaotically, creating quixotically harmonious flows on his giant canvases in a spontaneous trance of focused freedom.

“It was great drama,” a friend of his said of watching him work. “The flame of explosion when the paint hit the canvas; the dancelike movement; the eyes tormented before knowing where to strike next; the tension; then the explosion again.”  As Kurt Vonnegut saw it, the reason Pollock’s work lasted was because “it celebrates what a part of the brain can do rather than what pictures should look like.”  Or is that Kerouac or Bird he’s talking about?  As Pollock himself put it, “When I’m in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing.”


Also on the walls are several photomontages by the godfather of punk, William Burroughs, as well as his paper cut-ups, and Naked Lunch manuscript.  And there’s the great New York poet, prankster and artist Gregory Corso, who contributed a hypnotic 3-D collage of every major city in Europe, as well as his notebooks and portraits of people he knew.  “Hey!” he yells out at the opening night party.  “That’s one of mine,” he says, squinting closer at his Portrait of Robert LaVigne.  “Aaaa, doesn’t even look like the guy,” he said, waving his hand.  “Come on girls,” as he walks away with his harem.

Over at a loft on 14th Street, Julian Beck and Judith Malina formed The Living Theater, whose photos, paintings, script outlines and filmed performances are part of the show, as they invited artists to mingle in performance and life, encouraging actors to improvise the essence of their characters instead of performing the same lines every night. And speaking of parties, theirs were legendary — there’s photos of Mailer and Ginsberg going at it again;  there’s O’Hara, Kline, and Kerouac all drunk again;  there’s Mingus jamming with Patchen, and Ferlinghetti reading Coney Island of The Mind;  there’s Beck’s collages now hanging on the wall at the Whitney Museum;  there’s hope.

And this new style of improv acting starting in New York soon took over Hollywood as Marlon Brando, James Dean & others began improvising many of the best scenes of the decade.  Dozens of these gems are playing all exhibit long in the museum’s theater, including Rebel Without A Cause (1955).  Dean’s co-star in that, Dennis Hopper, whose private art collection contributed greatly to the show, told the story of how Dean improvised that whole opening scene of Rebel — picking the wind-up monkey off the set and playing with it as a baby might, then wrapping it in a paper blanket.  That single bit of subconscious, spontaneous acting has been studied by film students the world over for everything from its personification of the boy/man/baby torn-between-worlds dilemma, to its children-as-wind-up-toys-of-their-parents theory which set the stage for the film’s drama, as well as the generational conflict that followed.

The single coolest document of the Beats is also on view —  the 28 min. independent film Pull My Daisy.  Shot in 1959 by Robert Frank at painter Alfred Leslie’s loft starring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and the painter/musician Larry Rivers.  The film was shot without sound then narrated by Kerouac who improvised all the dialogue and storyline in a beautiful poetic funny vocal solo like Robin Williams on a double-shot of Walt Whitman.

It’s hard to fully appreciate what these artists were doing back then because it’s so much a part of our life now.  Like soloing.  But this was the transition point where Bob Hope, Louie Armstrong and Robert Frost morphed into Marlon Brando, Charlie Parker and Allen Ginsberg.  What changed was their perception of the limitations of art.  Each of the pioneers in this exhibition took the framework of the novel, play, canvas, or song, and said, “No rules ─ just purely transmit the songbird voice within without restriction but flow forever clear, Sweet Chariot.”

By ignoring the limitations of the canvas’s frame, the paint and painter were free to fly all around it.  So too a song in Charlie Parker’s horn, an actor on The Living Theater’s stage, or a page in Kerouac’s typewriter.  Not only did Jack eliminate paragraphs and page endings, but traditional narrative as well by telling one elaborate legend that ultimately ran through all of his books, a single story weaving like a double helix through all of life, illuminating truths that were beyond contrived literary pretension.  It was joy in art.  It was jamming.  It was jewel mining in the fifth dimension.


There are historical precedents for each piece of this story — but they never came together in one place.  The Italian Renaissance is the obvious comparison for multi-disciplinary revolution, but there’s not many of those cats around anymore.  Van Gogh and the Impressionists were onto it, as were William Blake and Walt Whitman in their singing the songs of themselves.  Yeats’ trance writing opened the door, and Joyce’s wordplay made it worth walking through.  Emerson’s Self Reliance was the hard surface of the road, and Huck Finn walked along it whistling its tune.  But that’s jumping continents and centuries.  This renaissance took place on the same New York island over the same five years.

And as this historic Whitney show makes joyously clear, these guys were articulating in the late 40′s and early 50′s what we’re still experiencing today.  This is the risk-taking avant-garde community’s direct cultural lineage.  And this interconnecting story of writers, painters, musicians and actors will go on endlessly like an ever-expanding web site.

Gathered for the first time are the words, paintings, photographs, music and movies from one of art’s golden eras, when Pollock danced, Jack flew, Allen howled, and Bird blew.  Some mop-tops copped the name, and the rest of the revolution was televised.  But if you want to see how we got here from Ozzie and Eisenhower’s Conformity Generation, the cats are wailin’ at the Whitney through February 4th.


For an excerpt from my book about the ’82 Kerouac Conference in Boulder — check out Meeting Your Heroes.

For more from the Boulder Beat Book — check out Who All Was There.

For a vivid account of being at the historic “On The Road” scroll auction — check out The Scroll Auction.

For a story about the London “On The Road” premiere at Somerset House — check out this sex & drugs & jazz.

For a great story of the world premiere of the new shorter final version of “On The Road” — check out this Meeting Walter Salles Adventure!

For a complete overview of all the Kerouac / Beat film dramatizations including clips and reviews — check out the Beat Movie Guide.

For a story about Henri Cru’s birthday — check out The Legend Turns 70.

For a beautiful poem to Carolyn Cassady on her birthday — check out the Carolyn Cassady Birthday Poem.

For an inspiring description of being at a Beat jazz-&-poetry reading in Greenwich Village — check out Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.


by Brian Hassett  

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Beat Movie Guide

January 9th, 2013 · Kerouac and The Beats, Movies

Beat Movie Guide

(dramatizations, not documentaries)



With not one, not two, but three movies based on Jack Kerouac books coming out this year (2013) it makes sense to make sense of the world of cinematic dramatizations based on Beat works.

Since real people are given different fictional names in every movie, for clarity I’ve stuck with the original names of the people the characters are based on.


Pull My Daisy — 1959 — a filming of act 3 of Jack Kerouac’s “The Beat Generation” play/screenplay;  perhaps the single greatest Beat Generation creation ever made — Jack’s narration is the best audio he ever laid down, set to a jazzy world-beat score, and the Beat badboys filmed in their prime by a visionary cameraman, in a typical New York City apartment where the whole movement was born — dir. by Robert Frank & Alfred Leslie — starring Gregory Corso as Jack; Allen Ginsberg as himself;  Larry Rivers as Neal Cassady;  and Delphine Seyrig as Carolyn Cassady.
* This once uber-rare film is now on YouTube and elsewhere, and you can experience the entire masterpiece here or here.


The Beat Generation — 1959 — ridiculous Hollywood exploitation B-movie;  no connection to the Beats except the title and the goateed stereotypes — dir. by Charles Haas — but it actually has a Louis Armstrong performance! and Jackie Coogan (best known as The Kid in Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” and Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family” TV show); Vampira as the female Beat poet and whose image is used on the posters;  and Mamie Van Doren (the stage name of a B-movie Marilyn Monroe, who Jack actually described his first wife Edie as looking like in Vanity of Duluoz, and no relation to the esteemed poet/author/editor/Columbia professor Mark Van Doren or his quiz show scandalized son Charles).
Here’s a 4-minute clip, and another one minute.


The Subterraneans — 1960 — god-awful white-washed & neutered version of Jack’s novel with the black girlfriend turned into a French girlfriend (!?) — dir. by Ranald MacDougall — starring George Peppard as Jack; Leslie Caron (best known for “Gigi” and “An American In Paris”) as “Mardou”; Jim Hutton as Ginsberg;  Roddy McDowell as Corso!  Arte Johnson as Gore Vidal;  and a musical appearance by Carmen McRae backed by Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, Art Farmer and Andre Previn!
Here’s a scene with some of the jazz with Gerry Mulligan & company.


Beat Girl (aka Wild For Kicks) — 1960 — Britain’s entry in the cheap exploitation field;  no actual connection to the Beats except the title and base stereotyping — dir. by Edmond Greville — curious for its bit parts by a young Christopher Lee and Oliver Reed.
Here’s the entire movie on YouTube!


Beany & Cecil — Wildman of Wildsville — 1961 — Since no film festival would be complete without at least one cartoon short, take a break from the serious and enjoy this satire of all things Beat — with none other than the immortal Lord Buckley voicing the lead beatnik, Go Man Van Gogh.
Full six-minute cartoon here.


Route 66 (one-hour dramatic TV series) — 1960–64, airing Friday nights on CBS — obviously “inspired by” / ripped-off from Jack’s “On The Road” — two young men (an outgoing orphan and a bookish New England Ivy Leaguer who recently lost his father, hmmm), drive around the country having adventures while looking for the meaning of life (Hollywood is nothing if not original!) — shot almost entirely on location around North America — 3/4 of the episodes written by show creator Sterling Silliphant (who’d later win an Oscar for writing “In The Heat Of The Night”) — starring George Maharis and Martin Milner (who narrowly beat out Robert Redford for the role).
Here’s the opening of the very first episode — with George Kennedy and 2001′s Keir Dullea!  Here’s part 2, part 3, part 4, and the conclusion.
Here’s the entire 3rd episodeall filmed in New Orleans in 1960! Unreal footage!
There’s tons of other entire full episodes you can find on YouTube.


Heart Beat — 1980 — based on an early pre-publication excerpt from Carolyn Cassady’s “Off The Road,” who has never wavered in her utter disdain for the production and refers to it as “Heart Break”;  there’s loads of Beat history inaccuracies, and it’s definitely a liberty-taking fictionalization, but it’s also a capturing of the era, and the acting and casting are pretty good;  it’s commonly praised for its art direction, period details and Jack Nitzsche’s cool score, and criticized for its melodramatically silly script;  also notable for 3 weird cameos:  Jack’s daughter Jan is the smoking girl in a white dress sitting in the cafe/bar around 11 minutes into the movie in the scene that begins with Cassady/Nolte tipping out of his chair onto the floor; John Larroquette in his first ever film role playing an obnoxious TV talk show host interviewing Jack;  and director David Lynch appears briefly as a painter — dir. by John Byrum — starring Sissy Spacek as Carolyn;  Nick Nolte as Neal;  John Heard as Jack;  Ray Sharkey as Allen;  and Ann Dusenberry as LuAnne.
Here’s the opening of the movie followed by a collage of different scenes.
Here’s the first 15 minutes (1) that comes after the opening sequence.
and then the next 15 minutes (2) — Jack writing, hanging with LuAnne; then with Allen in NY and SF.
and then the next 15 minutes (3) — at the jazz club in SF, Neal & LuAnne, Neal proposes to Carolyn.
and the next 13 minutes (4) — moving to the suburbs, meeting the neighbors, Jack shipping out then returns to the Cassadys, brings black hooker home.
and the next 13 minutes (5) — Jack & Carolyn go for it, the 3 of them living together.
and the next 13 minutes (6) — Jack sells OTR and gets famous and drunk.
and the next 11 minutes (7) — Beatnik cafe cliche, Neal gets busted, then with the Pranksters.
and the final 6 minutes (8) — final scenes and credits.

Note:  Jack’s only child Jan appears in the “first 15 minutes (1)” clip in the white-walled café/bar scene that begins with the Nolte/Cassady character tipping over out of his chair starting at 8:15.  Jan is the girl in the white dress sitting along the wall on the right smoking.  In her book “Trainsong” she wrote in chapter 22, “In September I was offered the job as an extra in Heart Beat, a movie about my father’s menage-a-trois with the Cassadys. … The Acropolis Cafe was just the place for a beat generation coffeehouse scene: a Greek restaurant in downtown L.A., unchanged since the thirties.  …  My job was to sit at a table where two guys were playing chess:  to follow their moves like a cat, to look mildly bored, … and to puff like mad on Camels to produce a thick, smoke-filled atmosphere.”  If you watch it on a screen larger than a computer’s, you can see that the two men at the table with her are indeed playing chess — especially visible in the 3rd and final shot of them, starting 9:37.  Further, you can see a photograph of The Acropolis Café right here, confirming that this scene was shot at that location and therefore is the scene with Jan.


Naked Lunch — 1991 — successfully surreal adaptation of the Burroughs novel, and the first remotely popular “Beat” movie;  shot entirely in Toronto by Canadian director David Cronenberg, it swept the Canadian film awards taking home 7 Genies, including Best Picture, Director and Cinematography — starring Peter Weller as Burroughs;  Judy Davis as Joan Vollmer;  Nicholas Campbell as Jack;  Michael Zeiniker as Allen;  and Roy Scheider as Burroughs’ recurring Dr. Benway character.
You can see the trailer for the movie here.
Here’s the opening credits artwork.
Here’s a 3 minute clip where Bill Lee is having a conversation of telepathic conversation.


The Last Time I Committed Suicide — 1997 — a really well made film based on Neal Cassady’s famous and influential Joan Anderson/Cherry Mary letter to Jack (written Dec. 1949) about events around Christmas 1945 before Neal had met any of the other soon-to-be Beats — dir. by Stephen Kay — starring Thomas Jane as Neal.  Also starring Keanu Reeves, whose commitment got it funded, playing a sorta kinda Jack-like buddy;  and an early film appearance by Adrien Brody as a sorta kinda Allen character, even though Neal didn’t know either of them when the story took place;  as well as a young Gretchen Mol, Amy Smart, and Clair Forlani as Joan.
Of note — Carolyn Cassady said Thomas Jane was the closest to Neal she ever saw on screen.
Here the trailer.
Here’s Neal and his friend Harry (Keanu Reeves) drunk at a bar.
Here’s a great sequence where Neal gets out of jail and goes for a run — featuring the swingin’ soundtrack by Tyler Bates who went on to score a ton of other movies.


Beat — 2000 — a not-well-received-on-any-level composite dramatization of Bill Burroughs’ time in Mexico including the killing of Joan — dir. by Gary Walkow — starring Kiefer Sutherland as Burroughs; Courtney Love as Joan Vollmer;  Ron Livingston as Ginsberg;  Daniel Martinez as Kerouac;  and Norman Reedus as Lucien Carr.
Here’s the trailer.
Here’s an even cooler trailer.
Here’s a trailer narrated by the Allen character.
Here’s a brief scene with the Allen and Lucien characters.
Here’s a 5-minute collage of various Lucien & Joan scenes.


The Great Sex Letter — 2006 — a visual dramatization set to a reading of Neal Cassady’s letter of March 1947 to Jack Kerouac that Jack dubbed “the great sex letter.”  Despite the film’s inaccuracies — like the person receiving it appears to be Allen not Jack — this low-budget 7-minute indi effort is notable for being the earliest Beat writing ever interpreted on film.  The film begins in silence, then the only audio you hear is the reading of Neal’s words set to music by Charles Mingus.
You can experience the complete short film here.


Neal Cassady — 2007 — a well-intentioned low-buddget ($1 million) dramatization beginning in B&W with Jack & Neal in the 40s, then goes to color for the late 50s and psychedelic Kesey years;  it would be easy to call it bad, and many of people do, but there’s lots of interesting little accurate details  — dir. by Noah Buschel — starring Tate Donovan as Neal (who a lot of people including me think did a pretty good job);  Amy Ryan as Carolyn;  Glenn Fitzgerald as Kerouac;  and Chris Bauer as Kesey.
Here’s the trailer.


Howl — 2010 — about the publication and censorship trial of Ginsberg’s poem, with a transcendent performance of Allen by James Franco;  includes animation sequences interpreting the poem, a courtroom drama of the trial, and Franco’s uncanny Ginsberg reading and reflecting on the poem, the trial, and his life — dir. by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman — starring James Franco brilliantly as Allen;  Todd Rotondi as Jack;  Jon Prescott as Neal;  Andrew Rogers as Ferlinghetti.  Also featuring performances by Jeff Daniels, Jon Hamm, Treat Williams, Bob Balaban, David Strathaim and Mary-Louise Parker.
Here’s the trailer.
Here’s the great “Holy” riff — the Footnote to Howl.
Here’s the Allen character talking about how to write poetry.
Here’s the Allen character talking about how he writes.
Here’s the Allen character talking about commitment to writing.
Here’s the part where Allen meets Peter.
Here’s 4 different clips — Rockland, Allen talking, the trial.
Here’s a clip about Allen moving to SF and getting a straight job.
Here’s the clip about Allen talking about his first night with Neal.
Here’s the 1st Howl poem animation sequence.  Here’s the 2nd.  Here’s the 3rd. Here’s the 4th.  Here’s the 5th.  Here’s the 6th — Moloch.  Here’s the 7th— with you in Rockland.
And here’s a really cool thing — James Franco talking about how he got Allen’s voice down, and they made the movie and wrote the character.


On The Road — 2012 — film version of the iconic novel finally hit the screen 65 years after the adventure, 61 years after the Scroll was written, 55 years after publication, 33 years after Coppola bought the rights, and 8 years after the director Walter Salles was approached;  over 60,000 miles covered in the filming;  ironically it took an international consortium to get this Great American Novel filmed — a Brazilian director, French producers and cinematographer and editor, British actors, Argentineans doing the art direction and score composition, a Puerto Rican screenwriter, and it was mostly filmed in Canada — dir. by Walter Salles — starring Sam Riley as Jack;  Garrett Hedlund as Neal;  Kristen Stewart as LuAnne;  Kirsten Dunst as Carolyn;  Tom Sturridge as Allen;  Viggo Mortensen as Bill;  Amy Adams as Joan;  Danny Morgan as Al Hinkle, and Elisabeth Moss as Helen Hinkle.  Also includes surprise appearances by Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard, and Coati Mundi as Slim Gaillard.
Here’s the amazing Cannes press conference — absolute required viewing for anyone interested in this movie.
Here’s the cool trailer.
Here’s three minutes from early in the movie where Sal & Dean are talking about their missing fathers, into Dean parking cars.
Here’s the new year’s eve party dancing scene.
Here’s Marylou and Sal in the car.
Here’s Sal & Camille dancing together to Ella Fitzgerald in the roadhouse.
Here’s the jazz club scene with Terrence Howard (with overdubbed German dialog).
Here’s the benzedrine inhaler party scene (with overdubbed German dialog).
Here’s Sal first going on the road (with overdubbed German dialog).
Here’s Sal beginning to write On The Road (with overdubbed German dialog).
Here’s the six deleted scenes that are included on the French DVD as Extras.


Big Sur — 2013 — the second major Kerouac novel filmed in as many years, and bizarrely it’s the 180 degree counterpoint to Jack’s optimism of “On The Road”;  all shot on location in Big Sur and S.F. — dir. by Michael Polish — starring Jean-Marc Barr as Kerouac;  Anthony Edwards as Ferlinghetti;  Josh Lucas as Neal;  Radha Mitchell as Carolyn;  Balthazar Getty as McClure;  Patrick Fischler as Lew Welch;  Henry Thomas as Philip Whalen;  and Stana Katic as Lenore Kandel.
Here’s the trailer.


Kill Your Darlings — 2013 — Allen Ginsberg’s coming of age story from entering Columbia through the David Kammerer killing, which was the subject of the early Kerouac/Burroughs co-authored novel “And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks”;  the film’s title comes from the William Faulkner line, “In writing, you must kill your darlings,” meaning you sometimes have to delete your favorite passage for the betterment of the story — dir. by first-timer John Krokidas — starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg;  Dane DeHann as Lucien Carr;  Jack Huston as Kerouac;  Ben Foster as Burroughs;  Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer;  Kyra Sedgwick as Lucien’s mother;  Elizabeth Olson as Edie Parker;  and Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Cross as Ginsberg’s parents.

For a detailed review from its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival go here.



The Duluoz Legend sequence of films (so far) would be:

Kill Your Darlings — set 1944  (released 2013)
The Last Time I Committed Suicide — set 1945  (released 1997)
Heart Beat — set 1946-66  (released 1980)
On The Road — set 1947-49  (released 2013)
Beat — set 1951  (released 2000)
Pull My Daisy — set 1955  (released 1959)
Big Sur — set 1960   (released 2013)




For an excerpt from my book about the ’82 Kerouac Conference in Boulder — check out Meeting Your Heroes.

For more from the Boulder Beat Book — check out Who All Was There.

For a vivid account of being at the historic “On The Road” scroll auction — check out The Scroll Auction.

For a story about the London “On The Road” premiere at Somerset House — check out this sex, drugs & jazz.

For a wild story of the world premiere of the new shorter final version of “On The Road” — check out this Meeting Walter Salles Adventure

For my review of the premiere of the most recent movie — here’s the Kill Your Darlings” review.

For a story about Henri Cru’s birthday — check out The Legend Turns 70.

For a poem to Carolyn Cassady on her birthday — check out the Carolyn Cassady Birthday Poem.

For an account of the historic Beat show at the Whitney Museum in New York — check out Wailin’ at the Whitney.

For an inspiring description of being at a Beat jazz-&-poetry reading in Greenwich Village — check out Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.


by Brian Hassett  

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“On The Road” Comes Home — The New York Premiere

December 24th, 2012 · Kerouac and The Beats, Movies, Real-life Adventure Tales

“On The Road” Comes Home — The New York Premiere

The day of the “On The Road” premiere in New York I was up at the NYPL trying to get through the doors of the hermetically sealed vault of the Berg Collection, home to a gazillion literary papers from Emerson to Shelley — but most importantly the entire Jack Kerouac collection!  And when I say “entire” I mean from grocery lists to manuscripts.  The book that lists his stuff there is single-spaced and four inches thick!  And of course the place is harder to get into than the Oval Freakin Office, but I figured with the mojo of this 12/12/21/12 opening I oughta spin the tumblers and see what happens.

There’s forms ya gotta fill out, cards ya gotta get, background checks, Jeopardy questions, a swimsuit competition — its all way too much, but I jump through every hoop and roll with every punch, and they say they’ll get back to me . . .  in a week.

So, I go to the library’s free computers to check my email and find this from the film’s director . . .
Walter wanted to see if you would like to ride up with him to the premiere tonight.”
! ! ! !
And then at the same time I get an email from Teri McLuhan saying she can’t join us as planned — so suddenly I’ve got an empty seat beside me for the premiere night adventure!  But instantly, from the NYPL interwebs I’m able to track down The Mighty Debster, my intrepid partner from the MTV daze, the Emma Peel to my John Steed, a dynamic duo that got into every concert or mega-party we ever set our sights on.
“Does Walter want a pretty girl to join us in the car?” I email assistant Gerry.
Two minutes later:  “Yes, one pretty girl in the car, please.”
And BOOM weir on.

Back to the Jane Hotel to drop off the day and costume into night,

and before I can get out the door there’s an email telling me I’ve been approved to get into the Berg!  I dunno how I dun it — and in 3 hours — but I’m sure it wasn’t the swimsuit competition!  So, I float out the door, and make my pilgrimage past John Lennon’s house at 105 Bank Street, and although not a very religious type, I did a cross on my chest and said a little prayer of gratitude to John and The Spirits for lighting my Path.

Then cab it down to Walter’s funky SoHo shelter from the storm, and there’s the limo and there’s the driver and before long, There’s the birthday boy!  And we’re laughin and tellin stories, and I’m remembering my Spirit Guide role in this vital mission.  As Gerry says, “It’s your infectious enthusiasm.”  Everything positive, everything up, on our way to the New York premiere, the last in a loooong series for Che Walter on his North American crusade for truth, justice & the Road.

And of course Deb’s not there yet, and he’s like, “You don’t promise a pretty girl and then not deliver.  Just don’t saying anything.  But don’t promise and not deliver,” he’s ribbin me cuz we gotta get in the car and go, but just then, “There she is!  Just a  walkin’ down the street singin’ Do wah diddy, diddy-dum diddy-doo.”  And Boom weir off in the Starship, sittin back that comfy way you can in limos, almost on beach chairs with your legs stretched out catching rays from the New York lights flashing in the windows like an old projector.

And Walter’s holding these pages of a speech he’s written, but he’s not reading them, just looking down and saying, “I hope I don’t forget anybody.  Everybody’s gonna be there tonight … oh man …” And I ask, “What about Steve Buscemi?  Is he comin’?”  And Walter’s, “Oh my gawd, Buscemi!!  Gerry, did we invite him?”  And St. Gerry checks on his gizmo, and about a minute later reports he was invited but sent his regrets.  And we’re back to Phoosh!  as we whoosh through the Sixth Avenue traffic.  And I remind him the premiere is being held right around the corner from where Jack birthed the On The Road scroll, and Walter says, “There’s no such thing as coincidences,” and twinkles through the flashing night lights.

And as we turn onto the block we can see the mobs on the sidewalks and the whole scene, and the driver starts to slow down right in front of the red carpet and Walter calls out, “No, no, drive up ahead, don’t let me out here!!” not wanting to step into the flashbulb blitzkrieg.  We get our shit together in the darkness of the stretch-Hudson, and then it’s, “Go!” and we open the door and stride as quickly as we can into the theater, people calling, “Walter,” from all directions, and he grabs Deb on one side and me on the other and we were pretending like we were in the middle of some great conversation for the distance between the car and the glass doors.  Funny, fast, and efficient.

And there’s the girls with the clipboards and the seas part and we sail into the safe harbor of the lobby.  Outside were the unaccredited paparazzi.  Inside there’s a whole Special Forces unit of them — and this time there’s no getting around it.  But we slip behind the photographer’s backdrop for a deep breath and a twinkling jazzed regrouping before facing that first line of cameras both still and rolling, then a whole wall lined with reporters with notebooks and recorders and accreditation around their necks.  While hanging backstage I spot the crew’s cheat-sheets — pages with color photos of each of the expected celebs so the door crew know the faces when they appear.  Good look-out.

Turns out all the seats in the theater are assigned, so you don’t just get a ticket, you get a specific seat like at a concert.  Once Debs and I score our juicy pair, we go pre-scout the venue and sure enough we’re in primetime dead-center, and I see some cat nearabout our seats, and ask how he came to be here, thinkin this whole row will be friends n family, and he said, “I’m a friend of one of the actors.”  “Oh, nice.  Which one?”  And he says, “Garrett.”  And I’m like, “Oh great!” And he asks about me, and I start tellin’ him, and he’s like, “I’ve heard of you!  You wrote those great pieces.  Yeah, Garrett was telling me about you.” And I’m thinkin’, this is going well so far.

So, Deb & I prankster about for a bit, checkin the scene, eavesdropping on anticipatory conversations, looking into the faces of all the beautiful people who are about to go On The Road.  And there’s this guy who looks like Michael Stipe who sang at the Sandy benefit last night at Madison Square Garden, but I’m thinkin, “Na, that’s just somebody who looks like him.”  And I take a roll down the aisles proudly wearing my American flag shirt that later gets raved about at the afterparty for happily waving it in this second term engagement season, and I’m lookin for familiar Beat faces but this is the film bidniss and not exactly St.-Mark’s-On-The-Bowery.

Then finally we all take our seats and I’m makin friends in about four different directions, including with these crazy red-haired girls who keep droppin booze bottles on the clanking floor all night which was really funny and very On The Road but I bet some less-than-spirited patrons may have been offended at the lack of decorum at this serious occasion — but to me they were just quiet Jacks laughing in the immensity of it.

And soon some IFC honcho comes on stage and praises Walter up down and sideways as “a master filmmaker and one of the best cinematic storytellers in the world,” then Walter comes out and he’s all, “Geez, well now I’m really trembling a little after that introduction!”  Then goes, “And I’m also nervous to be here because ‘On The Road’ was birthed (he’s using my word!!) just three blocks from here,” And I’m, “No way! He’s doin’ my bit! He remembered!!  Cool!” And then he says, “It was written on 20th Street and 9th Avenue in April 1951, and I want to thank my good friend Brian Hassett, who is here tonight, for reminding me.”  And I’m, No way!!  Not only does he thank me, but I’m the first person he mentions in his New York premiere night speech!! What the?!?!

Then he goes on and talks about the movie and thanks the IFC people and John Sampas and Ann Charters and others but I barely heard it cuz I was still in such a tizzy over he thanked me!! . . .  First!! And then he does it again! Crazy! Pinch me!

But Walter does all these incredible off-the-cuff riffs covering any number of subjects.  Like, “I had a passion for the book that was triggered when I first read it in 1974 when I was entering university in Brazil which was living through the dark ages of a military dictatorship, and the book carried all the freedoms we were seeking but not able to experience, so it had a very resonant quality, but I knew that that wasn’t enough of a reason to begin an adaptation, so I proposed to American Zoetrope to do a documentary in search of a possible film based on ‘On The Road.’  And they went for this insane idea!  And for six years we crisscrossed America on the paths Kerouac had taken when he wrote On The Road, and we met with the characters of the book who are still alive and they were extremely generous to us.  We talked to the poets of that generation that changed the cultural landscape not only of this country but of Brazil as well.  Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Diane DiPrima, Amiri Baraka, Hettie Jones — it was a unique experience because I had never met younger 70 year olds than this group, because they had kept two things intact — their beliefs and their integrity.  And that’s very very hard to keep in the long run.”

And then he brings out the actors in this cool way — in the order in which they first committed to the film.  First it’s Kirsten Dunst who plays the person he met on the project who most impressed him — Carolyn Cassady.  “In meeting Carolyn in 2005, I was so impacted by the intelligence and the sensitivity of that unique woman, and I thought that only an actress with those qualities could play her.  Please welcome Kirsten Dunst.”

Then he goes into this whole story about a friend of his who saw an advance screening of “Into The Wild” and immediately called Walter about the perfect actress to play Marylou, and he wrote the unknown’s name down on a napkin: “Kristen Stewart”  “And when I first met her in 2007 she had such an in-depth understanding of what ‘On The Road’ was about and knew the book inside out, and she was 17.”

Then … “When Garrett Hedlund drove from Northern Minnesota for 3 days to the audition in Los Angeles, he brought such electricity and life to Dean that we knew we had found one of the most difficult characters to cast, and that electricity never dissipated — but what I didn’t know is that he would be such a great Road companion.”

And then he intros Sam Riley with, “One day I saw ‘Control,’ and for those of you who love cinema, you know how impactful that could be.  Seeing Sam Riley in that film was something I wasn’t going to forget.  There was such intelligence in the performance, such intensity, but also in the non-verbal there was the capacity to understand and decode the world.  And these are qualities writers have, and that we wanted to have to bring Sal to the world.”

Then he says, “I have to confess I belong to a specific religion that states — there is no independent film without Steve Buscemi.”  Gets a big laugh.  “Many thanks to him for helping, not only for being in the film but for recommending so many great actors that we ended up casting in it.  You’re wonderful.”

And then the movie happens — my fifth time seeing it on the big screen (!) — and I kinda lost it at the Orgone Accumulator scene.  Now that I know it’s coming, I see Viggo as Bill as so freakin funny in this scene, it’s just nuts in the Crazy Dept., and before he ever climbs into that outhouse I’m laughing my head off and infect the rows around me so by the time he finally sticks his head in the window our whole section is roaring.

Then the movie’s over to many whoops and whistles and raucous applause, and it’s one of my favorite times on earth — being in a movie theater right after “On The Road” ends and eavesdropping on conversations and talking to people and looking into their movie screen faces for the story they tell, and of course every face is aglow and the room’s a Marshall stack of fast talking New Yorkers all soloing at once, but you can pick out fragments “… the cinematography … ,” “… that guy who played Ginsberg … ,” “… those party scenes were great!” “… and when he starts to cry at the end …”

And after much beaming Debs and I finally weave out front and hang under the marquee and I ask this group of models what they thought (purely research, you understand) and the prettiest one goes, “AMAZING!” unabashedly beaming, almost giggling in joy.

And we schmooze our way around the circle until the afterglow begins to fade, and it’s like, “Okay, let’s hit the party.”  But of course there’s no cabs at the moment you need one, so we mosey on down to 9th Avenue yakkin our fool heads off … What about Kristen Stewart?!  and How about that soundtrack?!  And Debs is goin’ on about the costumes and how the people look and how they totally brought post-war America to life.

And we get to the avenue and of course there’s no cabs there either, and by now a whole krewe from the movie including the models have caught up with us, and we’d need about 3 cabs anyway, and Deb goes, “It’s really close, let’s just start walkin,” and of course — Bing Bing Bing —  “And if we don’t get one by 20th Street, wheel swing past Jack’s house on the way to the party!”

Then on the very first corner there’s this deli and I’m like, “My God!  I’m in New York!”  And dash in for a cold Heineken Road jar … because I can.  And now weir really rollin and I know no fleet of cabs are comin so I start tellin’ the gang the whole story of the 50th Anniversary of Jack writing “On The Road” show I produced — which started by going to this house on 20th and then walking to the corner to find the closest bar and talking them into giving me the place for the night Jack started writing the Scroll.  And one of the krewe actually LIVES on this block of 20th and didn’t know this was The Street!

And just as the tour bus is approaching the sacred site, I see someone go up the stairs and through the door!  I scootch up ahead and somehow get the guy’s attention, and he’s squintin through two sets of doors at this maniac at his gate, then I start waving him out and gosh darn if he doesn’t come!
“Hey man!  You know who used to live here?”
“I sure do,” the shy guys says.
“Well, we were just at the premiere of his movie!  Of the book that was written right here in this apartment!”
“You’re kidding?!  The premiere was tonight?!”
“Yeah, it’s great, you’re gonna love it.  Hey — what apartment are you in?”
He points up to the second floor, “Right here in number 2.”
And I fairly yell, “THAT WAS JACK’S APARTMENT!!!”
And he goes, “Yeah, I know,” and smiles a twinkle.
I figured he didn’t want to have our whole krewe up to his place without any warning, so we just blessed him, and thanked him, and buzzed him, and left him with a big glow as we continued our flow to the aftershow.

And Aretha’s flyin through my head — “This is the house that Jack built, y’all, remember this house …”

“I stopped at John’s place on the way to the premiere, and Jack’s house after the premiere!” I’m gushing like a geyser and dancing down the street like a dingledodie delirious with everything at the same time and spinning like a centerlight top, and everybody goes, “Awwww … that Brian guy’s nuts!”

Then we get to the corner of the party, and now Deb starts jumping up and down!  “Oh my God, it’s at The Top of The Standard?!?!” and starts screamin and laughin and yankin on my arm like a little kid about to go on her favorite ride!

Everything had already taken on that surreal tone of a night in magic places in endless New York … and we hadn’t even gotten to the playground in the sky yet!

And just as a last throw-ya-off and freak-ya-out before you step into Netherland, the elevators have those crazy mirrors, and trippy lights, and the girls are gorgeous, and the guys are crackin jokes, and we’re travelin straight up at the speed of light.

BOOM — into the Gilded Age, in a place that looks for all the world like Windows On The World at the top of the World Trade Center — a high-rise along the Hudson with no buildings out the windows — because it’s in the West Village you can just see forever out the vertical frames of floor-to-ceiling glass.  And there’s Walter being the gracious host, greeting everyone at the door as they arrive, and I tell him about the pilgrimage to Jack’s house and meeting the current resident, and he’s shaking his head, “Only you, amigo!”  And another big hug and cheek kiss and wild night with the mad ones was just beginning.

Then he leans in and says Patti Smith was at the movie, but he doesn’t know if she’s here or not.

And I’m like, “Got it.”  Boom: Mission Patti.  Find her in about 3 secs.  Back to Walter.  “She’s right there by the window,” I nod.  He smiles.  “Anybody else you want me to find?”  We laugh, and I’m off to the party.

And right away his saintly assistant Gerry goes, “Oh, there’s something Walter asked me to give you,” and pulls out these magic beans — tiny “On The Road” buttons based on the orange-covered first edition I ever owned!

And I wander a few more feet and there’s ol’ John Sampas … and we’re all super friendly.  I know bad shit’s gone down, but he was really helpful to Walter and the film, and I thanked him for that, and he was all wide smiles and really liked how the movie turned out.

And there’s Hal Willner the forever music supervisor of “Saturday Night Live” and movies like “Howl” and “Gonzo” and also produced a bunch of Allen and Burroughs’ albums, and posthumous Lenny Bruce and Edgar Allen Poe, and so he’s right in with the family of crazee Roadsters, and we jammed on the fragments of lost memories in the mindfield landscape.

And then there’s Ann Charters and Regina Weinreich at a nice corner table overlookin the city, and just like the movie — the women are most prevalent.

And after scouting the room, I realize the headliners’ section was that sunken booth area by the front door, and as I head down into it I overhear the undercover security protecting them saying, “He’s okay, I saw him with Walter,” and Boom — I’m in.  And there’s Garrett beaming, and we finally talk, and he knows who I am, but he’s still in official promo mode, all polite and by-the-books, but a while later I spin back and he’s got a pack of cigs in his hand.  “You goin’ up for a smoke?”  The eyebrow high-five, and weir off.

The Roof!  I’m Home!  They have a whole closed-in heated plastic room up there, but the real scene is the wide open spaces — most of the entire roof is a giant party space with views in every direction around this port city, and weir just blazing as the night starts kickin’ in, and Kirsten joins us, and some director doing Garrett’s next movie, and Debs is there refraining Amsterdam, and we’re finally havin’ a yak about all things Beat, and Garrett tells me the two scenes he had to audition for the role were the suicide rap and the 4-way sex letter.  I guess Walter felt if you could deliver those two solos you could be in the band.  And I flashed back to W saying how he loved G’s acting but didn’t know then what a great road buddy he’d turn out to be.

Then after a smoke or three we start headin’ back down the stairwell to the party, but up comes brother Ben and Katia, Garrett’s friend couple from our row at the premiere, and suddenly weir having this reunion on the landing of a stairwell with a glass wall behind us facing uptown New York City, and a party ensues, and then Boom, Sam Riley appears at the top of the stairs, and Garrett goes into an incredible Sam impersonation, and MAN has this guy got the gift for it!!  He does Riley better than Riley.  And suddenly Jack and Neal are together again hangin’ in the stairwell, riffin off each other 50 years later.  And THEN Kristen Stewart comes walkin down the stairs, and suddenly it’s the whole Road crew!  hanging on a stairwell balcony, only missing Big Al Hinkle, who we could see on the street below running out for more rolling papers, as weir looking over twinkling New York with Neal carrying on multiple conversations in multiple voices at once.

And then back to the party and Walter introduces me to Kristen Stewart, which is such a strange and unexpected thing that he has to be dealing with with this movie.  Like, nobody in it was supposed to be a movie star.  The leads were all cast because they were unidentifiable fresh faces — film goers were already coming in with such fixed images in their minds as to what the characters looked like, the filmmakers couldn’t also have actors with established characters affixed.  So they cast all relative unknowns in the main roles.  Then lo and behold, Kristen Stewart becomes the biggest grossing actress of 2012 before the movie even comes out.  So Walter, and her, and everyone, have to deal with this.

But I get to hang with the mega-star for a while, and man, she’s so petite you could put her in your pocket!  And she’s bookish, and reserved, and 180 degrees different than Marylou.  We talk about indie film, and she confirms my assumption that’s she’s gonna do them the rest of her life.  We didn’t say it, but this is a 22-year-old indie chick who fluked into the biggest movie franchise of the last few years and she never has to work another day in her life.  Yet she is going to be so many different interesting characters in the years to come.  I tell her the truth that she brought Marylou more to life than Jack ever did, but she would hear none of it.  To her, it was all Jack.  And I beamed.

Then back to the center bar with windows out three sides, and now it’s lookin’ like The Rainbow Room, and all New York is spinning, and there’s the krewe from the Jack’s house walk!   And we start riffin’, and I pull out my scroll book, and they start jammin and reading passages from it, and then 20th Street homie sez, “You got a favorite part?” and hands me back The Bible and I play some boppin’ Hearing Shearing in the bull’s-eye center of the room, Jack’s voice in the house, and the whole krewe whoopin’ and the Gold Club bartenders bug-eyed, and the neighbors nodding, as the bass player hunched over and thrummed the beat, faster and faster it seemed!  And oh, Mighty Jack — his songs still singin’ and swingin’ above old New York …

And suddenly there’s Walter!  And we hug and he says he has to go find somebody and I’m “Okay,” and we wander off on some mission.  I dunno what we were doin’ but we ended up on the roof and back again and I dunno if we ever accomplished anything but I told him, “Your kids are all gathered in the corner — you should go see them.”  And this was the most amazing thing — in this beautiful penthouse skyline scene where I would not and did not take any pictures except for the one I’ll share shortly, but in the corner of this mobbed premiere party, Garrett, Kristen, and Sam were able to sit side-by-side in this alcove by the window, the three of them together again for perhaps the first time since they were all crammed in a ’49 Hudson for months, and able to enjoy the reunion together.  And it’s so obvious how close they all are — it was like my high school reunion of a couple years ago — talkin, laughin and huggin all at the same time.

And like a high school reunion, things started to get crazy, people were making out, people were disappearing, people were reappearing, and all of sudden I’m talking to Michael Stipe, and he’s a leprechaun, and I ask him how it felt to be out on stage at MSG last night for the first time in years, and he kind of avoids the question, then I ask him again, and he says he hadn’t planned to do it, and then I asked him again how it felt to be out there on that stage, and he looked away.  Then he smiled a beam and looked back and twinkled, “It felt good.”

And then Patti Smith comes by and we chat for a bit about the old St. Mark’s Church scene, and she says it’s still happening, and then Walter shows up and we form a trio, and I’m like, “Wait a minute,” and I pull out the camera and capture these two artists gushing over the others’ work.

And they had a great long one-on-one, and she called the movie “authentic” and that’s the kind of thing you want to hear from someone who knows the meaning of that word.

And then there was the part about … I hated that I was comped and on-the-list for this whole thing.  There wasn’t a single sneaking in prank involved anywhere and I hadn’t really broken a serious rule all night as far as I could tell.

But then the party was suddenly over, and all these strange people were streaming into the club who weren’t at the event … and ol’ fast-thinking Deb, Master of All Things, gets us to boost a booth from the sunken celeb scene, then scores a bucket of fresh ice from one table, and a bottle of juice mixer from another, then I dump out a glass full of stir-sticks for a clean one, and she does the same from the next table, and before long we’ve got a booth and a stocked private bar overlookin Manhattan with a nearly full bottle of Grey Goose that Deb says would be $400 to be sitting here with.

And the staff comes and cleans up the other booths all around us to a pristine club-opening state, but our scene looked like New Year’s Eve at 3AM, with two happy semi-sober streamer-covered revelers still poundin them back.

And from this well-stocked cockpit the last Beats holding the fort saw out the night, overlooking the twinkling Christmas of lower Manhattan, curved booths at our back, an open bar at our knees, and more stories to tell than we could ever get through.


For a story about the London “On The Road” premiere at Somerset House — check out this sex & drugs & jazz.

For a great story of the world premiere of the new shorter final version of “On The Road” — check out this Meeting Walter Salles Adventure!

For an excerpt from my book about the ’82 Kerouac Conference in Boulder — check out Meeting Your Heroes.

For more from the Boulder Beat Book — check out Who All Was There.

For a vivid account of being at the historic “On The Road” scroll auction — check out The Scroll Auction.

For a story about Henri Cru’s birthday — check out The Legend Turns 70.

For a beautiful poem to Carolyn Cassady on her birthday — check out the Carolyn Cassady Birthday Poem.

For an account of the historic Beat show at the Whitney Museum in New York — check out Wailin’ at the Whitney.

For an inspiring description of being at a Beat jazz-&-poetry reading in Greenwich Village — check out Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.


by Brian Hassett  


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