the Best in Kerouac & the Beats, Adventure, Politics, Music, Movies, Poetry & other Lifejoys

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People Who Knew Jack Kerouac and Are Still Alive

March 13th, 2018 · Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters


Just as when Gifford & Lee created Jack’s Book in the ’70s, and Allen Ginsberg did the Jack Summit in 1982 and all those documentaries were made — it was all because there were people alive who knew Jack well.

Now there are very few.

Here’s a list of Living People who either met Jack Kerouac or knew him well . . .

(to be added to and modified as we go)

David Amram – composer & jazz bandleader

Cliff Anderson – author and Jack’s friend in St. Petersburg

Ken Babbs – original Bus-riding Merry Prankster – Intrepid Traveler – author

Ron Bevirt – original Bus-riding Prankster photographer

Paul Blake Jr. – nephew of Kerouac

Bonnie Bremser – author and wife of Ray Bremser

Roger Brunelle – tour leader in Lowell

Caleb Carr – son of Lucien Carr

Ethan Carr – son of Lucien Carr

Francesca “Cessa” Von Hartz Carr – wife of Lucien Carr

Simon Carr – son of Lucien Carr

Cathy Cassady – daughter of Neal & Carolyn Cassady

Jami Cassady – daughter of Neal & Carolyn Cassady

John Allen Cassady – son of Neal & Carolyn Cassady

Ann Charters – biographer

John Cohen – photographer & musician

Anthony County – Northport neighbor, band manager, event producer

Diane DiPrima – poet & teacher

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – songwriter / performer / storyteller / raconteur

Al Ellis (still alive?) – friend of Jack McClintock’s who visited Jack in St. Pete

Elliott Erwitt – photographer

Lawrence Ferlinghetti – poet & publisher

Gretchen Fetchin – original Bus-riding Prankster

Brian Foye – author and Jack’s paperboy

Mary Frank – artist & Robert’s wife (1950-1969)

Robert Frank – photographer & filmmaker

Eric Gibson – son of Gerd Stern & Jacky Gibson

Herb Gold – author

Mike Hagen – original Bus-riding Prankster

Richard Hill (still alive?) – friend of Jack McClintock’s who visited Jack in St. Pete

Al Hinkle – Big Ed Dunkle in On The Road

Richard Howard – poet, mentioned in Desolation Angels

Joyce Johnson – author

Hettie Jones – author

Terry Kerouac Dewer – Jack’s cousin

Chuck Kesey – creamery founder & Ken’s brother

Dale Kesey – Ken’s cousin

Billy Koumantzelis – Jack’s “bodyguard” in Lowell

Koumantzelis’s kids?

Alfred Leslie – artist and Pull My Daisy filmmaker

Maria Livornese – a girlfriend of Jack’s in the ’40s

Sterling Lord – Jack’s agent – “The Lord is my agent.”  🙂

Judy Machado – Mary Carney’s (Maggie Cassady’s) daughter

Jack McClintockSt. Petersburg Times reporter who interviewed Jack in Oct. 1969

Michael McClure – poet & playwright

Locke McCorkle – Marin raconteur

Sita McCorkle – Locke’s daughter (mentioned in Dharma Bums & Desolation Angels)

Duncan McNaughton (still alive? He was as of Feb. 2017) – was at Jack’s Paris Review interview

Dale Nichols – Flamingo Bar owner in St. Pete, Florida

Lafcadio Orlovsky – Peter’s younger brother

Charley Plymell – poet

Pam Plymell – publisher & designer

Betty Sampas – Jack’s sister-in-law

Jim Sampas – Jack’s nephew

Tony Sampas – Jack’s nephew

Ed Sanders – author and bandleader of  The Fugs

Aram Saroyan – author

Chloe Scott – dancer and original Perry Lane Prankster and host of the New York ’64 Beat-Prankster party

Jenny Scott – Chloe’s daughter

Gary Snyder – poet

Lois Sorrells – a girlfriend of Jack’s in late ’50s / early ’60s

Gerd Stern – poet and multi-media artist

Veryl Switzer – pro football player, gave Jack a ride in Kansas in 1952

Victorino Tejera – author, mentioned in the OTR scroll and Windblown World

Jamie Thompson – Detroit & New York friend

Mark Vonnegut – Kurt’s son

George Walker – original Bus-riding Prankster & author

Wavy Gravy – Beat poet and Prankster clown supreme

Helen Weaver – author

ruth weiss – poet



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For a fun book on a bunch of the living Beats & Pranksters (circa 1982) check out — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

For some Adventure Tales connecting the Beats & Pranksters check out — How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.


Or here’s another interesting list folks seem to like — Famous People Who Didn’t Have Kids.

Or this is another cool one — “Great Americans” Not Born In America.


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by Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —

→ 3 CommentsTags: ········ Turns 10 Years Old

February 18th, 2018 · Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters, Real-life Adventure Tales, The Hockey Hippie, Weird Things About Me


Ten years ago this month was launched.

I’ve published at least one new story every month since it was birthed — except once! when I unexpectedly fell in love & went on tour in the same month (June of last year).  🙂 

One thing about writing — you never know what’s gonna connect with people.  Jerry Seinfeld recounted this very subject from his last conversation with George Carlin — how neither of them ever really knew what was going to work until they put it in front of an audience.

Over the decade, a bit to my surprise, the five most popular stories on the site have been, in order —

1.  Some Famous People Who Don’t Have Kids

2.  The Carolyn Cassady Tribute

3.  The Detroit Red Wings Lineup — Stanley Cup Final 2008

4.  Henri Cru — The Legend Turns 70

5.  Woodstock With The Pranksters

The most popular piece just started as a list of a few names created after someone I knew said to childless me something like, “People who don’t have children have no value.”  . . .

Oh yeah?

I’ve periodically returned to it over the years — like when a famous person’s obit mentions they had no kids — and it’s gradually grown to nearly 350 people you mighta heard of from philosophers to rock stars.

It’s now linked all over the internet, and I think it’s the top result if you Google the subject.  There hasn’t been a day glo by in years that a bunch of people haven’t read it.

Funny thing is — it started out as a response to one person’s one comment — and now tens of thousands have read it!  🙂 


The Carolyn Cassady Tribute caused me to be contacted by the New York Times, the L.A. Times and all sorts of people.  It was the first announcement on the interwebs that she had passed.

Her son John was living with her, thank goodness, when she fell ill on a Sunday night, and by Friday she was gone.  John was sending out daily emails to about a half-dozen family members, of which I was gratefully considered one after spending so much time with both Carolyn and John.  I guesstimated that her kids would be too caught up in what was happening to also be writing a tribute to her.  And I loved that woman — despite us having our differences like any two people who love each other do.  So, during that week, as the news was not improving, I started a tribute to her just in case, and thus was able to post it within an hour or two of receiving John’s final fateful email that Friday.

Levi Asher published it on his LitKicks website, and told me it’s also one of the top five most-read stories on his site.


The Detroit Red Wings 2008 playoff lineup page — I have no idea what’s behind this post’s popularity.  I mean, they were a GREAT team and all, and it’s a really well done detailed roster by position and everything, but jeez, I dunno why people keep coming to it.  But they do.  I think this story about sneaking on the Penguins’ bus is a much more fun hockey piece.  🙂 


The Henri Cru story’s popularity also blows my mind.  I mean — how many people know who Henri Cru is?  Well, apparently a lot.  🙂

Henri was a good friend of Jack Kerouac’s, and then became a good friend of mine — another of Jack’s old pals, like Carolyn and Frankie Edie Kerouac Parker, who I came to really love.  As I say in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac describing Jack’s other friends I met at the historic Boulder ’82 On The Road summit — “There was this constant commonality among most of the people in ol’ JK’s life.  Odd ducks.  As a novelist, Jack magnetized to these people as fodder for his fiction.”

I first met Henri through Edie, who had been Henri’s girlfriend until he made the mistake of introducing her to Jack. 🙂

You know that TV show Hoarders?  Well, way before we got to look inside those people’s homes and learn about the disease, there was Henri Cru.  This was probably 1983 or ’84, and Edie and I had become friends, and she told me about Henri and how he was cleaning out his apartment at 116 MacDougal Street up above the Kettle of Fish and the old Gaslight Café.  When I got there to help the first time, I met a guy out front who told me, “When we get upstairs, just remember, we’ve been hauling stuff out of there for three weekends now.”

When we got up to the fourth floor of the walk-up and opened the door, that was about all you could do.  It was literally floor-to-ceiling stuff.  One person (me) would climb up on top of it into a little maybe 18-inch high crawl space along the ceiling (!) and would pass stuff out to a waiting person back in the doorway as we hacked our way down through the glacier.  It was like an archeological dig — including cuz we were looking for treasures, which he did have in there (like an unpublished manuscript by he and Kerouac, and a case of unopened Jack Daniels bottles from about 1963).  I remember digging and digging, until we would uncover the top of a door frame.  “Hey!  I just found another room!”

Henri had recently lost half a leg to diabetes and had to move to a building with an elevator, which, when he first moved in, was as pristine and empty as any new apartment would be.  By the time he died a few years later, it had come to look like MacDougal Street, but with a maze of poles crisscrossing the room like a spider web that he could hang stuff from.

At some point in the journey, Henri was turning 70, and wanted to do sumpthin special, and asked me to write a story about the night for him as a birthday present.  I did this, and somehow it survived all the years since, and there must have been a digi copy that didn’t get lost in all the various crashes and program updates and obsolescence that plagued the early computer years, and back in 2010 I republished it (after it ran in a couple different Kerouac/Beat magazines).

“Feature my surprise” (as Henri would say) — of the 200+ stories on the site, that his birthday night would be the 4th most-read of all-time!


Woodstock With The Pranksters’ popularity I can more understand with both “Woodstock” and “Pranksters” in the title.  🙂

Plus, I like that it both captures an historic moment with Kesey’s Bus returning to Yasgur’s Farm for the first time since 1969, but also that it set in motion a series of events and friendships whose storylines are still being written.

There’s so many other pieces I woulda thought would have been more popular — the Walter Salles meet story, or the Sky–Bri meet story, or the John Lennon farewell story — but a writer never knows.

Ten years.  Phew!

I realize that visually it’s an old format, but ya’know?  I hate it when websites change.  You learn how one works . . . and then they change it.  Well, my site’s been functioning the same way for 10 years now 🙂 just with a few more categories and a shit-ton more material.  What the heck.

For all those who’ve been here before — I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride!

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Here’s where you can get the current book


Here’s original Merry Prankster George Walker talking about the creation of the book and our shows together . . .


Or here’s where you can get the prior book


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by Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —


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Visiting Vincent poem

January 31st, 2018 · Poetry

Visiting . Vincent



I got this invitation

To take a crazy trip down south

From a blazing young artist

Dripping colors from his mouth.


So I got myself a ticket

On the Starry Night Express

Heading out of Holland

To the province of Excess.


I’d never met the man

Who turned the Seine to yellow,

But he seemed like such a happy cat,

I had to meet this fellow.


So I bought some wine in Arles,

And went looking for his house,

Knowing like I know artists,

He was probably a souse.


I wandered past the bridges,

And the boats upon the shore,

Then to his yellow house did I

Come rapping on his door.


“Oh Vincent, my good fellow,”

I called out, halfway nervous,

“I’ve come from Holland, I’ve got some wine,

My friend, I’m at your service.”


Creaking up his tiny stairs,

The walls were streaked with paint,

All was quiet, holy, skill,

Like the cloister of a saint.


With my heart a’clippin’ faster

Than the tracks of that Starry train,

I pushed his door and stepped beyond

The threshold of the sane.


Upon his walls were sunflowers

Twisted and blazing yellow,

Not one I tell you, but rows of them,

In a most glorious welcoming “Hello.”


I suddenly knew him so much more,

His art was so alive,

I thought he was in the room with me,

And it took minutes to derive,


It was but his bed, his smock, his hat,

That made me feel his presence,

That, and the tingling joyous buzz

Of his dripping oil presents.


Following a hunch,

I went to the Night Cafe,

Even though it was technically,

The middle of the day.


I ordered up some absinthe,

And took a look around,

But no where in this swirling bar

Was my Vincent to be found.


Then from a table against a wall

The woman of the house looked up,

“Madame Ginoux,” she said,

As she offered me a cup.


In broken French I asked her

If she knew my painter friend,

She smiled a twinkle, said “Let me tell you,”

Then I thought it’d never end . . .


The tales she spun of nights he’d spent

Arguing in a rage,

Ranting loudly, pounding tables,

But with the wisdom of a sage.


“Roulin, come join us,” she suddenly called

To a portly passing postman,

Approaching came a bearded gent,

Much kindlier than most men.


“Bonjour!” he boomed,

Sticking out his hand,

As Madame Ginoux described my plight,

I was blessed in Vincentland.


He smiled as I explained

Why I’d come this far,

And what it was about Vincent’s art,

In the way he caught a star.


Assured that I was true of heart

Roulin released the news,

He’d seen him on the road today,

Armed with easels and his muse.


Wandering to’rd the wheatfields,

Roulin had seen him go,

“It’s his latest love, those glowing fields

That God Himself did sow.”


Honored with this sacred tip,

I followed the Golden Path,

It felt like I’d been baptized

In a champion’s Champaign bath.


Past cypress trees and orchards,

I wandered sun-drenched lanes,

Yielding power with each new step,

The Gods’ hands upon the reigns.


The wheatfields blew like ocean waves,

Then I spotted something bobbing,

An easel’s peak, like a sail,

Of a tiny ship a’lobbing.


My heart was pounding, I took a step

Into Vincent’s sacred earth,

It came alive, my God I swear,

Just broaching his flaming hearth.


There was Vincent! Brush in hand!

Raging against the night,

There was Vincent fighting off

The dying of the light.


Palette weaving, body soaring,

I felt myself in air,

Vincent swirling, never knowing,

That I was even there.


But the sun was growing ever larger

Engulfing the fading sky,

Into a giant wash of color

I felt my body fly.


I lost my mind, lost regret,

Like Icarus I soared,

Wings be-damned, with Vincent’s heart,

Through the sky I roared,


Into a world he knew so well,

His beaming light a’glow,

All the artists lived up here,

Hey, there’s Michelangelo!



Through purples and yellows and orange and green,

Heaven’s alive in you know what I mean.


It’s there on the wall, it’s in the “seeing,”

It’s in the eyes of every being.


And then I fell into a field — and Vincent now was gone,

But I never did come back from that trip that I was on.


Through purples and yellows and orange and green,

Through Vincent’s eyes I’ve seen what he’s seen.


Through exploding yellow and cascading light,

In Vincent’s world I’ve lived my life.




Here’s a piece about the excellent Loving Vincent movie.

Here’s a real-life Adventure Poem about the Dalai Lama in Central Park.



by Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —

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Al Franken “Giant of The Senate” book review

December 27th, 2017 · Politics


Al Franken is a great writer of our times.  That’s just one more reason that that misguided pompous sanctimony the Dumbocrat Party pulled forcing him to resign was so wholly and completely out-of-line.  Wait’ll you read even just the first chapter of this May 2017 book — “Why I’m A Democrat” — and it’ll make you wanna throw every one of those weaselly quasi-republicans off a cliff — not under a bus, like they did him.

I really enjoyed his Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, and his equally precise Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, as well as Oh, The Things I Know!: A Guide to Success, or, Failing That, Happiness — and to my knowledge this is the first time he’s written anything resembling an autobiography.

Al was one of a small group first hired to launch a new experimental show called Saturday Night Live back in 1975, along with his comedy duo partner Tom Davis.  And he was hired as a writer — which he expanded into multiple books and screenplays after he left.

Maybe there’s somebody else who was a writer by profession when he was elected a United States Senator, but I can’t think of one.

Reading this made me realize Al Franken may be my favorite living writer.  He is SO smart . . . and funny . . . still — in his mid-60s.

I’ve read several books on the creation and operation of SNL (including his partner Tom Davis’s great 39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss), and now finally after all these books and years, we get Al’s take on it through three of the first chapters.  It you haven’t read about what happened at 30 Rock, you’ll certainly learn a lot here.  If you are well familiar with how that show works, you’ll love this take by one of their primary political writers, who for 15 years laid the foundation for the satire we’ve all been enjoying during the national nightmare of the last couple seasons.

But what no one has read is a clever professional writer’s account of a 57-year-old running for political office for the first time — and getting elected to the U.S. Senate by 312 votes (out of 3 million!)

After my 40 years of political activism, the bitterness of the Democratic primary followed by the ugliness of the general campaign and its result, has caused this old boxer to hang up his gloves to let others take it from here.  But this book is a new inspiration.

If you thought you were a fighter — wait’ll you read the tale of a real warrior.  Not only has this guy been on the front lines of every battle of our lifetime, he was still doing it up until the day the meanly-mouthed democrats stabbed him in the back over a rub on the backside.

Thank God he wrote this while he was still kicking ass and naming names in the Judiciary, Health, and Energy Committees, oftentimes being the most articulate and effective opposition on any given panel.

This book is SO well written … and I’m pretty particular about that kind of thing.  You don’t hear me saying that very often.  At times he sounds like Dave Barry with running jokes and faux officiality, and other times like Obama’s self-depreciating confessional honesty in Dreams From My Father.  And if you liked Dylan’s Chronicles, it’s got shades of that, too.

All of it is crisp and “punched up” as he would say.  It’s just damn good, careful, playful, elaborate, intricate, comedic word sculpting.

The book is funny, evolved, thoughtful, goofy, fast-paced, quirky, twisted — and it’s gonna make you love footnotes!

It’s the first book I’ve picked up that I couldn’t put down in ages.

It’s such a beautiful work of art, at times I was brought to tears — so grateful to be reading something so exquisitely done — at such a timely moment.

And it also probably works as an excellent primer for anyone not in politics to run for office.  There’s a funny and smart (like everything in this book) description of his quandary about using humor or not in the course of his job.  I mean, this guy is the Merry Prankster of politics, for sure.  And he’s a Deadhead to boot!  😀  He even makes Congressional hearings and writing legislation funny!

The book also includes a beautiful touching you-won’t-forget-it tribute to the late great Paul Wellstone, the Minnesota Senator whose seat Al fought for and now holds, who died tragically in a small plane crash in 2002.

And there’s even a fast-paced and entertaining recap of our political times from Bill Clinton to Obama . . . and ultimately into the current nightmare we’re living.

For this reader, there may have been a smidge too much detail on the initial Coleman campaign in ’08 that first got him elected, but even that was funny, insightful, dramatic, sometimes nail-biting (re: the recount) and sometimes touching (re: his wife since college, Franni).

What we need in this life — especially now — is inspiration.  These are dark times.  And there aren’t a whole lotta people shining a whole lotta light.  Despite what the Pathetic Weasels Party did to one of their own, his voice and vision is alive in print, and I assume he’s about to begin a whole 3rd Act in American public life.

He was a pinpoint precise observer and satirist of the political process before he ever became a functioning part of it.  And this book proves (as do all of his, really) where his ethics and ethos lie.

He’s been playing the game and working the machine the last eight years — and now he’s unencumbered from holding his tongue — which he was never much good at anyway.

As much as we may like Colbert and Stewart and Kimmel and Meyers and SNL‘s comedic takes on the horrors of drumpf, there’s now a new force entering the public arena who may be able to inspire even more people to rise up — and how to go about it — than he was ever able to do as a sitting senator.


My first attempt at a selfie — during the Repugnant Convention in Cleveland. 🙂


Here’s a story of the first time I met Al — during a fracas at a Howard Dean rally in New Hampshire in ’04 that he actually references a couple times in the book!


Here’s his brilliant final speech on the Senate floor —


Here’s my most recent book — How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

And here’s the prior one — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.




by Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —

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Loving Vincent movie review

November 19th, 2017 · Movies


I love Loving Vincent.

I’ve loved Van Gogh since the big Metropolitan Museum of Art show “Van Gogh in Arles” in 1985 and the “Saint-Remy and Auvers” show in 1986, and reading his Dear Theo book of letters to his brother around the same time.  Those shows and that book changed my life by showing me first the dedication a serious artist has to his work, and what a body of work could look like, and secondly how it could change a room and a person’s life.  Which was also connected to another artist I identified with, Jack Kerouac, who similarly created one vast body of work, that when taken in totality, is knee-buckling in its vastness and awe-inspiring in its beauty.

If you haven’t heard, this movie is largely hand-painted with oils in Van Gogh’s style.

It’s like the “Red Roses, Green Gold” musical I saw last month in New York with my same two Art Adventure-mates Sky and George Walker in that it takes existing works (songs in that case, paintings in this) and builds a story around them.

In Loving Vincent, they’ve tapped into a 2011 Van Gogh biography that explores whether he in fact committed suicide or perhaps it was something else.  Whether that book and its conspiracy-theory propheteering nonsense contains a shred of fact is beside the point here — because it makes for a fun dramatic mystery that the narrative of the movie is based around.

I also likened this movie to On The Road — the 2012 adaptation of the Kerouac classic.  When first seeing that movie, it was fun in that as each new scene would open, you’d realize, “Oh, it’s THAT scene,” and then settle in and enjoy the visual dramatization of some moment you’d only read on a page.  Similarly, here we go from one Van Gogh masterpiece to another without any idea of what’s coming next.

If you’ve spent any time at all appreciating Van Gogh’s works — particularly his last years in Arles, Saint-Remy and Auvers — you’ll recognize every scene and work — which suddenly come to life.  Crows leaping out of corn fields, trains chugging by in the distance, candle lights flickering their illumination, smoke wafting up in the face of colorful storytellers, and faces that were once static coming to life with voices and mannerisms we could only imagine while standing in a museum or flipping pages of an expensive art book.

The movie also uses flashbacks to convey the backstory, which are shot in live-action with actors, then run through a filter that makes them look like black-&-white/ sepia Van Goghs from his early “Potato Eaters” phase.  [EDIT: see first comment below.]  This has the effect of not only telling the story and giving faces to young Vincent and his brother Theo etc. but also gives the viewer a respite from the blazing colors of the moving canvases, not unlike the white walls of a museum give your eyes a rest before you move to the next eye-popping landscape or portrait.

The movie is sadly missing Madame Ginoux (one of whose portraits is on permanent display at the Met) but Dr. Gachet coming to life in brilliant blazing blue with facial expressions in oils to rival the most subtle actor is a cinematic explosion to rival Star Wars — except in Van Gogh’s explosive oils.

The fading transitions back & forth from the sepia to the full-color action makes you feel like the acid is just kicking in every time.  Suddenly a black & white world is swirling in dizzying colors and people become moving paintings and colors appear where there were no colors before.

Artists like to control their work.  They have visions and work hard to execute them exactly as they see them.  That’s where discipline and practice and trial-&-error come into any effective artist’s work.  And painters have the blessing of not having rote copyeditors or album “producers” or ego-maniacal studio heads messing with their work.

But once their bodies have stopped ticking and their hands stopped creating … the life’s work is done.

I think in 2017, a century after old Vinnie bit it in a wheat field with crows, he would be happy to see the “Loving” repurposing of his work in this way, just as I believe Jerry Garcia would get a kick out of his songs being reenvisioned as a musical, or Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady would appreciate how George Walker & I are bringing their words to life on a stage.

There are those rare artists in history who transcend their medium and their era to become something that is the world’s, that is bigger and even more transcendent than the works they first created.  If you can create a painting that can become a movie, or songs that can tell a grand unified story, or create characters on a page that can become alive on a stage, you have left the world a rich fluid palette more valuable than any single “masterpiece.”  Few artists create such lasting multi-medium works, but we are lucky to be living through a time when innovation and reflection allow us to experience some of the greatest works of the past in entirely new ways while still truly reflecting the original vision.

I like to think of Vincent, Jerry and Jack sitting back and rejoicing in a corner booth at a cafe/bar in heaven, looking from on high as us mortals still dab their wet palettes, still expand the songs they left behind, still bring their characters to life.

I think that’s what any artist wants to bestow to this world.  Not just what they got finished before they checked out, but to know that all their hard work with accompanying depressions and addictions and rejections actually produced the inspiration for others to build upon their constructions.

Creating great somethings out of vast nothings is hard enough to generate appreciation in others.  But when your work can become new work, you have become a Great Creator, a God, a deity of art, turned water into wine, paint into people, air into emotions, and hard work into eternity.




Here’s the official trailer . . .

Here’s some background on how they did it —

And some more . . . 


And here’s a bunch of other movie reviews.

And here’s a fun storytelling Vincent poem.

And here’s my new book on art forms crossing generations — How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.


by Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —

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Red Roses, Green Gold theater review

October 17th, 2017 · Grateful Dead, Movies, New York City

New Hunter-Garcia Musical comes up Roses



Hear ye!  Hear ye!  Behold — a re-imagining of the Hunter-Garcia songbook.  New life.  New arrangements.  New band.  New set.  New stage.  New story.

If you’d like a fresh way to approach Grateful Dead music — go to this show.

If you like the Dead and theater — go to this show.

If you like the Dead and musicals — go to this show.

If you’re not sure — go to this show.

Just as the Grateful Dead broke pretty much every rule there was in showbiz — their music and this production turns a New York theater show into a dancing concert.  However long you’ve been going to the theater, you’ll be breaking the rules you’ve learned to live by.  This isn’t hushed-in-your-seat passive theater going.  This is a collaboration between band & audience, just like Grateful Dead shows were since their birth at the Acid Tests.  You’re encouraged from the opening to sing along and get up and dance.  Which, once one person breaks the ice, a Dead show breaks out.  🙂 

By my count there were at least 17 classic Dead songs used to tell the tale of a kooky crazy saloon set sometime in the nebulous Old West.  There’s a narrator — Jack Jones, the Doodah Man — who’s kinda like the Stage Manager in Our Town helping guide the audience through the Twelfth Night-like comedy of interconnected couples and conflicted love and bad intentions and double crossings — but really it’s all just a vehicle to reinvent Robert Hunter’s rich storytelling lyrics in a playful, funny, high-energy dramatization.

Original Merry Prankster George Walker and myself (and others) caught the third-ever staging of this (outside of rehearsals) and were lucky enough to talk to pretty much everyone involved from techies to the producer, from Jeff Chimenti the musical director to the on-stage stars, and there’s very much a feeling of the Grateful Dead themselves in their earliest days.  The clay is still wet, the canvas not fully painted, and the arrangements still in organic growing glowing flux.

This is eight relatively unknown musician/actors who are sculpting something new out of something established and familiar.  All of them are good, but Scott Wakefield is the father-figure both in the show, and probably off, and has a mid-career Rip Torn vibe with under-the-surface dangerous energy goin’ on.  Debbie Christine Tjong as Bertha is a firecracker with a little of Shaky Willie’s Shrew and Kathy Griffin’s petite explosions.  The mother–daughter characters played by Natalie Storrs and Maggie Hollinbeck do a touching show-stopping duet on Brokedown Palace.  And Brian Russell Carey as the clueless comedic foil Dudley has the audience laughing out loud just about every time he opens his mouth.  But the breakout to these eyes was Michael Viruet in the central character of Mick Jones — not unlike Berger in Hair, the bad guy / good guy, the Neal Cassady of this sidways adventure.

The choreography is positively playfully Twyla Tharp.  And the set and prop design is someplace between M.C. Escher and Dr. Seuss, with a cameo by Bart Simpson on skateboard.

And the seconding of musicians is second to none.  I don’t think one of them played less than five instruments all night.  Besides the eight voices, a partial list I noticed included — a violin, acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, accordion, ukulele, upright bass, drums, upright saloon piano, electric guitar, electric bass, conga, cajon box, tambourine, chimes, cowbell, shakers, and a cello!

Besides all the full songs, there were a bunch of Deadly instrumental mood-setters sprinkled throughout, and no two were ever played by the same lineup.  And if that ain’t turn-on-a-dime unexpected Grateful Dead, I don’t know what is.

The old-timey instrumentation reminded me of Phil Lesh’s recent collaboration with the String Cheese Incident — the original jugband / bluegrass music that Garcia & Hunter were born out of.  Authentic.  Timeless.  Americana.

The costumes (especially the skeleton suit and Garcia’s American flag top hat detail) and broad staging is top-notch New York theater, but performed in a little one-block alleyway playhouse down in the Village, infused with that neighborhood’s spirit and grassroots organic non-uptown mindset.  When I lived around the corner in the ’80s, I second-acted Balm In Gilead there about 15 times just to experience Laurie Metcalf’s 14 minute monologue.  It’s as cool an Off-Broadway experience as you’re gonna have, on an ancient New York lane and street (both called Minetta) you might not even know exists, which also includes Serpico’s apartment from the movie.

Gratefully, this is not Cats or The Lion King — but more a Prankster Production — except with money and rehearsals and pros behind it.

What it is, is Fun.

Occasionally there’s a smidge too much exposition of a too convoluted plot that’s ultimately unimportant — cuz it’s the exuberant freshly-delivered songs and their productions and the joyous Spirit of the whole thing that you’re gonna take away from it.

Do it with friends.  Make a night of it in the Village.  And get the special dancing seats if you’re so inclined, wink wink.

Other than extreme purists who can’t listen to this music without Jerry, I can’t imagine a Deadhead walking out of this theater without a beaming Cheshire grin on their face.  Cuz that’s all I saw all night.


Bumping into some of the cast on the streets of Village
after they finished at the Minetta and
we finished our Jack & Neal show at The Bitter End.


“Red Roses, Green Gold” — at The Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, New York City.

Previews — Oct. 11th – 28th.

Official Opening — Oct. 29th and running through Dec. 17th at this point, but it will probably get extended once the word gets out.


Here’s some info on the George & Brian “Jack & Neal Ride Again tour and shows.

Or here’s my latest book — “How The Beats Begat The Pranksters

Or here’s my prior book on all things Jack, Beat, Pranksters & Dead — “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Or here’s a bunch of other Grateful Dead related stories.


by Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —


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How The Beats Begat The Pranksters

September 17th, 2017 · Grateful Dead, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters

How The Beats Begat The Pranksters


Beat Carolyn & Prankster Babbs, Boulder ’82


It all started on September 5th, 1957 when a certain book got published . . .

Or no . . . it all started in April 1951 when a guy sat down at a typewriter with a long scroll of paper so he didn’t have to stop writing every 11 inches . . .

Or no it all started when Neal Cassady came to New York, Christmastime 1946 . . .

Which really flips back to Denver’s Hal Chase coming to Columbia University and telling all his new soon-to-be-Beat writer friends about this catalytic conman he knew from Colorado . . .

Which waves back to Twain’s playful Huck or Shakespeare’s pranksterish Puck or eternity’s Irish luck . . .

But what I can tell you for sure is this — pretty much all the Merry Pranksters — from their Perry Lane / Stanford writers’ birthplace to the Bus-painting bohos of Ken Kesey’s house in La Honda — had read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road . . . before collectively taking their own Road trip with the real life Dean Moriarty hero of the book, Neal Cassady.

As Kesey used to say when asked how someone becomes a Prankster — “We just recognize each other.”  And one of the traits — one of those recognizable admission requirements — was that you’d read On The Road.

As Kerouac & Grateful Dead scholar Dennis McNally opens the Cassady/Acid Test chapter in his definitive book on the Dead et al, A Long Strange Trip, “Neal Leon Cassady was ‘Dean Moriarty’ in On The Road, a fundamental document of the cultural odyssey that all the members of the Grateful Dead would travel.”

They had also all heard of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl because of the internationally reported on obscenity trial in 1957 that was extra prominent in the local West Coast newspapers, although not many of them had actually read the book, and none of them cited it as a breakthrough work for them.  But it sure made everybody aware there was some chit goin on.

Nowadays there are over 50 Kerouac-written books in print, and gawd-knows how many biographies … and Allen books … and books by members of the Beat Generation who were never known of in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  But back then there was really only one book.

It’s hard for us in the present to imagine a world with only one Beatles record — but effectively that’s what it was for pretty much all the original gelling Pranksters and Dead.  It wasn’t “Beat” like we know it now — not a group show at the Whitney or de Young, or the latest hardcover collection, or multiple major motion pictures.  It was one book.  Even though by the early ’60s, The Dharma BumsThe SubterraneansBig Sur and more were in print, not one of the living Pranksters has ever mentioned to me any one of them being read in their pre-Bus-trip years.  It was an On The Road mindset that changed everything.  It was a way people were beginning to think.  “It wasn’t a club, it was a way of seeing,” as Prankster bandleader Jerry Garcia phrased what “Beat” meant to him.

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At this point this story goes very in-depth with quotes by Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Robert Hunter, Paul Krassner, Ken Babbs, Dennis McNally, Robert Stone, Sterling Lord and Paul Foster,

plus new interviews with Wavy Gravy, Mountain Girl, George Walker, Anonymous, Roy Sebern, Mary Microgram & Kesey biographer Robert Faggen —

Which appear in the new book How The Beats Begat The Pranksters & Other Adventure Tales — available starting Sept. 27th 2017 right here or wherever books are sold. 😀 

But here’s how the story ends —

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One other connection that I have no proof of — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true — is that the central character in the central book of Kesey’s canon is the same central character in the central book of Kerouac’s canon.  The Chief tells us Randle’s story, and Sal tells us Dean’s.

Knowing of Kesey’s association with Cassady, I assumed for years that Randle Patrick McMurphy in Cuckoo’s Nest was based on Cassady — until I found out it was written and published long before Neal ever showed up in Ken’s driveway on Perry Lane in 1963 — the reason for his unexpected arrival never disclosed to Kesey or anyone else, although Dennis McNally says of Cassady and that moment in A Long Strange Trip, “He’d read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and felt a spiritual kinship with Randle Patrick McMurphy, and indeed there was a bond.”

McMurphy was a charismatic good-looking fast-talking Irish jailbird conman and master manipulator who had a way with women.  He instigated road trips, and stole a boat for a joyride in place of a car.  He had the gift of gab and unflinching confidence.  He loved to play and goof and get away with whatever he could between the cracks.  He sure seemed like Dean Moriarty in On The Road to me.  “McMurphy” & “Moriarty” even sound alike.  And not fer nuthin but Jack Nicholson coulda played both with manic aplomb. 🙂

Kesey told Faggen in the Paris Review interview, “The Irish names — Kesey, Cassady, McMurphy — were all together in my mind as well as a sense of Irish blarney.  That’s part of the romantic naiveté of McMurphy.  But McMurphy was born a long time before I met Neal Cassady.  The character of McMurphy comes from Sunday matinees, from American Westerns.  He’s Shane that rides into town, shoots the bad guys, and gets killed in the course of the movie.”

And indeed, both Cuckoo’s Nest and Road end on sad notes for their heroes.  Or antiheroes.  Yet their lives as recounted lifted them to legend.

And legend and myth are a big part of it.  “It happened even if it isn’t true,” Kesey would say with his leprechaun twinkle.  Or there’s his oft-quoted, “To hell with facts!  We need stories!”  Kerouac called his collected work “The Duluoz Legend” — unabashedly mythologizing and fictionalizing his real life.  Playing with reality is both an author’s and a Prankster’s mission.  As is having fun and Adventure — and capturing it.  As is “tootling the multitudes” and practicing “first thought best thought.”

Kerouac wrote on an endless scroll. Kesey filmed an endless movie.  Both were shaking up the conventions of America, which by 1964 was still not much different than 1954.  The Beats were the blooming and the Pranksters the fruition.  The Beats were the sprouts from the garden earth and the Pranksters the flowers that turned black & white to color and became something you could wear in your hair and turn round from square.

Kerouac captured the discovery of America by post-WWII modes and means . . . and the Pranksters turned it into a Bus with beans.  Kerouac made literature fun … and the Pranksters made living funny.  Kerouac opened up possibilities and the Pranksters closed the deal.

On The Road was the cardkey pocketbook you needed to pull out of your back pocket to get through the door of The Bus.  Neal Cassady was the guy who drove Kerouac on the most important Road trip of his life, then did exactly the same for Kesey — in case anyone missed the obvious.  Kerouac lived through and captured the birth of BeBop, and Kesey created the Acid Tests that birthed The Grateful Dead and the psychedelic revolution.  Kerouac and Kesey are next to each other in most alphabetical lists of great 20th century authors — but they were also 1, 2 in a much bigger chronology.  And so much of the world is still On The Road and On The Bus.



Here’s the first time the book appeared before a microphone . . . unexpectedly at a small club show in Toronto just before the Fall On The Road 2017 tour began . . .

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To find out about how this is all playing out in live shows and where you can see them — go here.

For The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — go here or here.

For reaction to The Hitchhiker’s Guide … check out here, here and here.

For a Hitchhiker’s excerpt about first meeting Ken Kesey — go here.

For how this all got rekindled check out Woodstock with The Pranksters.

For the story of the last great Beat summit — The Beat Museum’s Shindig in San Francisco — go here.

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by Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —

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August 6th, 2017 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

George Walker & Brian Hassett


Jack Kerouac & Neal Cassady



Click here to skip to Show Set Lists with Clip Links

Click here to go to Bios

Click here for the Fall 2017 Tour Dates


George Walker & Brian Hassett first met in Boulder Colorado in July 1982 at the historic Jack Kerouac On The Road 25th Anniversary Conference — where Hassett ran the projector for their multimedia “Cassady” show — and then hung again the following month at Ken Kesey’s home in Pleasant Hill, Oregon.

Flash-forward to 2015 and Walker is given a copy of Hassett’s new The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac (about that very summit in Boulder!) by Jami Cassady (Neal & Carolyn’s daughter) and “read it cover-to-cover as soon as I got it – and loved every minute of it!”

This led Walker to read numerous other Beat and Prankster stories on Hassett’s website, prompting him to write, “I often wonder why I go on this damn thing [the internet] and then every once-in-a-while I find something like this!”

The following summer of 2016 they met up for the first time in 34 years on the tour for the “Going Furthur” film they both appear in.


Walker was holding court with a half-dozen people behind the theater when Hassett first walked up after all these years, prompting him to blurt out to his crowd, “Now here’s somebody I look up to!”

An hour after they first saw each other again — already jammin deep


Followed by a side “trip” to the Church of Sacred Mirrors (COSM)


They next came together at the Merry Prankster / Twanger Plunker Family Reunion in May 2017 where Hassett opened the weekend festivities with a spoken word / theater performance, after which Walker said in bug-eyed amazement — “I’d never seen you on a stage before!  That was unbelievable, man!”

That afternoon, hanging in their mutual friend Spirit’s motorhome,

Walker mentioned he could bring Neal to life real well, prompting Hassett to say, “Well, we should do something together.  You read Neal and I’ll read Jack.  We could do that ‘IT’ part from On The Road where they’re sitting in the backseat talking like crazy,” and Walker’s face was bouncing up and down, “Yes Yes Yes!”

The next day, 15 minutes before the show, Walker read that part of On The Road for the first time in 30 years . . . and was Neal from the opening line of a cold read-through.

He’d first spontaneously channeled his good friend Cassady back in 1973, reading him aloud at fellow Kesey/Cassady pal Ed McClanahan’s house, whereupon everyone stopped what they were doing and listened to their old friend appear in the room.  Walker says he’s been trying to find a way to bring Cassady to life on a stage ever since.

Hassett has been performing Kerouac since at least 1994 when he started producing, hosting and performing in a series of Kerouac-inspired shows in Manhattan, L.A., Amsterdam, London, Toronto and elsewhere.  Although duetting with countless others over decades of shows, he’s never had a stage partner until now.

The duo flourished because it was loving magic from the first moment they got near microphones.


And since things had gone so well the first time, they did it again on the outdoor stage the next night.


And since that had gone so well, and Hassett was already booked to do his “Beat Café” show at the world-famous Beat Museum in North Beach San Francisco on Friday June 2nd to kick off the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, that became the first Hassett–Walker full show.



Which brought more people into The Beat Museum than any event they’ve ever put on in their history (other than a memorial for a fallen giant).  And for the first time, the duo improvised on stage in character as Jack & Neal.

The show killed.

Here’s most of it, on video, in 3 parts . . . 😉


Walker, Hassett & Mountain Girl (Carolyn Garcia) in the Haight, June 2017

Hassett was also booked at the landmark Tsunami Books in hometown Prankster headquarters Eugene Oregon, which then became the second Hassett–Walker show.

Mountain Girl introduced the pair  . . .

with her daughter Sunshine Kesey and Ken Babbs in the audience laughing and clapping, the show prompting Tsunami owner Scott Landfield to blurt out, “You just had that audience entranced for two hours.  That doesn’t happen.  You can’t do that with just spoken word.”

The show killed.  Video to follow.

Which prompted the duo to book a Portland show, and with a week’s notice, packed the classic Kerouacian American roadhouse, The Rosebud Cafe, which turned out to be the real birth of the duo.  For the first time, in a venue far far away, they both found their voice and rhythm on a whole ‘nuthur level.

The show killed.  Video to follow.

Which segued into the climax of the West Coast Summer of Love Tour in the home of the very first Acid Test — Santa Cruz.

Hassett, Roy Sebern, Walker, John & Jami Cassady, Angela Chesnut

And they were joined by Neal & Carolyn’s only son John Allen Cassady . . .

and their daughter Jami . . .

In fact the Huffington Post even wrote about this one!

The show killed.  Video to follow.


If you’re on Facebook — here’s a photo album of the West Coast Tour.

Then they went and filmed the “IT” scene in the back of the ’49 Hudson (that was used in the movie On The Road) at The Beat Museum . . .

Video to follow.

Then over to the Cassady’s old house at 29 Russell St. where the classic Jack & Neal shot was taken by Carolyn Cassady in 1952 . . .

Which you can now get on a handmade custom-dyed t-shirt by Sky.  😉


And then out to touch base with The Bus that started it all . . .

The original 1939 International Harvester … with the original driver/mechanic.

The most famous bus in America — according to Time Magazine.

And while all this was happening they got booked at a few choice festivals & clubs & such in the Northeast . . .

This fall being the 60th anniversary of On The Road and all . . .

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Fall 2017 Tour

On The Road  –  Fall 2017 Tour:


Gate 403 — Sun. Oct. 1st  7PM — Brian solo sneak-peak show with Trevor Cape & The Field (403 Roncesvalles) — Toronto, Ont., Canada

Lowell Celebrates KerouacSat. Oct. 7th — 2 shows — 12:30 George & Brian / Jack & Neal duet at Jack’s old Pollard Library (401 Merrimack St.) — and 4PM Brian Hassett’s Road Show at The Old Worthen (141 Worthen St.) — Lowell, Mass. — admission: Free

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac — Sun. Oct. 8th — 1:30 — the Amram Jam — upstairs at The Old Worthen (141 Worthen St.) — Lowell, Mass. — admission: Free

The Bitter EndSun. Oct. 15th — Doors 4:00 – Show 4:20–7:30PM — 147 Bleecker St., Greenwich Village, New York City — including special guests Gerd Stern, Levi Asher, Aaron Howard, Toronto’s Trevor Cape, and Tico Chango the 3D UV visual artist — admission: Free

The Woodstock Mothership — Sun. Oct 22nd — 7PM — (6 Hillcrest Ave.) — Woodstock, the great Beat poet Andy Clausen – admission:  Free

The Colony — Mon. Oct. 23rd — 8PM — (22 Rock City Road) — Woodstock, N.Y.

Harmony Music Wok & Roll — Tues. Oct 24th — 8PM — (52 Mill Hill Rd.) —  Woodstock, N.Y. — admission: Free

Keystone Harvest TestSat. Oct. 28th (4:20PM) and Sun. Oct 29th (3PM) — (The Homestead — 1230 Beaver Run Dr.) — Lehighton, PA — admission: $45 — tickets available here

Junction City Music Hall — Fri. Nov 3rd — 8PM — (2907 Dundas St. West) —  Toronto, Ont., Canada — with Trevor Cape & The Field — admission: $10

The Creation Zone, Iroquois Ridge, Oakville Public LibraryThurs. Nov. 9th — 7–8PM — (1051 Glenashton Dr.)  Oakville, Ont., Canada — admission: Free


If you’re on Facebook — here’s a great photo album of the East Coast Tour — culled down from nearly 2,000 photographs by 20 photographers.



New handmade signed & numbered every-one-different tour shirts just came out of the studio and you can get them on Sky’s website.

Dig those colors and the flow.  😉

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Set Lists

Shows  &  Set  Lists  So  Far . . .

Twanger Plunkers / Merry Pranksters Family Reunion, Bloomington, Indiana

1.  Brian Hassett’s Beat Cafe — Sat. May 6th, 2017
George introes Brian
On The Road — “IT” passage in big tent  (debut)

2.  Sun. May 7th, 2017
On The Road — “IT” on main outdoor stage

= = = = =  WEST COAST – SUMMER OF LOVE TOUR – 2017  = = = = =

3.  Brian Hassett’s Beat Cafe — The Beat Museum, San Francisco, CA — Fri. June 2nd, 2017
Jerry Cimino intro
Brian:  Shindig Sutra excerpt
Brian:  Rolling Stone Book of The BeatsThe Power of The Collective poem
Brian:  “The Prankster Address”  (for M.G.)
Brian:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — start of San Francisco chapter (27)
Duo:  On The Road — “IT” passage
Brian:  Kerouac’s Pic — Bus / Road chapter
George:  Story of the final Jack-Neal meeting in New York in 1964 —>
Duo:  improv on Jack & Neal being at The Beat Museum —> “Nebraska” road trip passage from On The Road   (debut)
Brian:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac climax of San Francisco chapter

4.  Kerouac & Cassady Ride Again — Tsunami Books, Eugene, Oregon — Sat. June 17th, 2017
Mountain Girl intro
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
George:  Trouble Ahead Trouble Behind — ending   (debut)
Brian:  Hitchhiker’s Guide — ending – arriving at Kesey’s (ch. 28-29)
Duo:  On The Road – “Hinkle’s Party”   (debut)
George:  storytelling
Brian:  Hitchhiker’s Guide — Babbs’s house  —> Kesey’s Bus (ch. 30)
Duo:  improv —> “Nebraska” from On The Road
George:  Spit In The Ocean Kesey tribute — buying the first Bus story
Brian:  Hitchhiker’s Guide climax & ending poem (ch. 31-32)
Duo:  improv —> Kerouac’s “Hearing Shearing” —> On The Road driving south from New York   (debut)

5.  The Walker Estate, Scappoose, Oregon — Wed. June 28th, 2017
Duo:  On The Road  “IT” — with Lee Taylor on tenor sax
Brian solo:  Be The Invincible Spirit You Are (debut)

6.  Rosebud Cafe, outside Portland, Oregon — Thurs. June 29th, 2017
Albert Kaufman intro
Duo:  On The Road “IT” — with Lee Taylor on tenor sax
Brian:  Hitchhiker’s Guide — how it began (ch. 1)
George:  Trouble Ahead Trouble Behind
Brian:  Al Hinkle–Neal trapeze circus story —>
Duo:  On The Road — “Hinkle’s Party”
Brian:  Hitchhiker’s Guide — in Oregon & On The Road (ch. 2)
George:  “Poem For Neal”   (debut)
Duo:  improv —> OTR “Nebraska”

7.  Radius Gallery, The Tannery Arts Center, Santa Cruz — Mon., July 3rd, 2017
John Leopold intro
Duo:  On The Road – “IT”
Brian:  Hitchhiker’s Guide excerpt, Carolyn/Jan/Edie (ch. 21)
George:  Trouble Ahead — opening
Duo:  On The Road — “Hinkle’s Party”
Jami Cassady:  Off The Road excerpt
George:  Trouble Ahead — ending
Duo:  improv —> On The Road — “Nebraska”
John Cassady:  two pieces from his Visions of Neal chapbook
Brian:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac Neal Cassady tribute by Dead members (ch. 13)
Duo:  improv —> OTR – leaving New York


= = = = =   NORTHEAST  –  FALL  2017  TOUR   = = = = =

Unannounced Pre-Tour Pop-Up Show — Grateful Sunday with Trevor Cape & The Field — Gate 403 Club — Toronto, Canada — Sun. Oct. 1st, 2017
Trevor Cape intro
Brian with Trevor Cape & The Field:  How The Beats Begat the Pranksters — opening & closing (debut)
Brian with Trevor Cape & The Field:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — On The Kesey Bus

8.  Lowell Celebrates Kerouac — Walker & Hassett Present Kerouac & Cassady — Pollard Library, Lowell — Sat. Oct. 7th, 2017
Steve Edington intro
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
Duo:  On The Road — “Let’s Go To Italy”   (debut)
Duo:  The ’64 Party in New York — Jack & Neal’s last time together  (debut)
Duo:  On The Road — “Hinkle’s Party”
Duo:  On The Road — “Mexico”  (debut)
Duo:  On The Road — “Chicago Jazz”  (debut)
Duo:  On The Road — improv —> “Nebraska”
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving South”

9.  Lowell Celebrates Kerouac — Brian Hassett’s Road Show — The Old Worthen, Lowell, Mass — Sat. Oct. 7th, 2017
George Walker intro
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — “Lowell Celebrates Kerouac”  (debut)
Brian:  Kerouac on Record — “The Grateful Dead: Jack Manifested As Music”  (debut)
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — opening and ending
Duo:  On The Road — “New Orleans”  (debut)
George:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — Meeting Neal  (ch. 12)  (debut)
Brian:  Storytelling — a brief history of Kerouac summits    (debut)
Brian:  On The Road — “The San Francisco Epiphany”

10.  Lowell Celebrates Kerouac — The Amram Jam — The Old Worthen, Lowell Mass — Sun. Oct. 8th, 2017
Brian — with David Amram Quartet (Kevin Twigg, Rene Hart, Adam Amram):
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — “Song Of The Road I Sing”   (ch. 32)
How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — “Be The Invincible Spirit You Are”   (ch. 14)
George — with Amram Quartet:  “Poem For Neal”
—> Kazoo – Jazz – Jam

11.  Kerouac & Cassady Ride Again — The Bitter End, NYC — Sun. Oct. 15h, 2017 
Brian:  Beats Begat Pranksters — opening & closing
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
Brian:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — Abbie Hoffman–Gregory Corso Showdown
Duo:  On The Road — “Road North”   (debut)
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving NYC to North Carolina and back”   (debut)
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — “Be The Invincible Spirit You Are”
Aaron Howard, with Ghost Lee Pat:  “Safari”
Duo:  On The Road — “New Orleans”
Levi Asher / Marc Stein: “Fisherman’s Wharf”
Duo:  On The Road — improv —> “Nebraska”
Gerd Stern & George Walker:  The Joan Anderson Letter, Neal Cassady, The Beats & The Pranksters
Duo:  On The Road — improv —> “Chicago Jazz”
Duo:  On The Road — “Hinkle’s Party”
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving South”
Trevor Cape & The Field — musical climax — The Other One (with George Walker on Axe-o-phone) —> Road Trip —> Uncle John’s Band —> The Golden Road To Unlimited Devotion —> Not Fade Away

12.  The Mothership, Woodstock, NY — Sun. Oct. 22nd, 2017
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
Duo:  On The Road — “Nebraska”
Duo:  On The Road — “Chicago Jazz”
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — opening & closing
Duo:  On The Road — “Road North”
Andy Clausen:  “My Name’s Neal Cassady, What’s Yours?”
George:  Beats Begat Pranksters — meeting Neal
George:  “Poem For Neal”
Duo:  On The Road — “New Orleans”
Duo:  On The Road — “Hinkle’s Party”

13.  The Colony, Woodstock NY — Mon. Oct. 23rd, 2107
Duo:  On The Road — “New Orleans”

14.  Harmony Wok & Roll, Woodstock, NY — Tues. Oct. 24th, 2107
Mike Platsky intro
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving South”
Duo:  On The Road — “Road North”
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving NYC to North Carolina and back”
Brian:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — First Arriving at Kesey’s Bus (ch. 30)
George:   Truncated Trouble — (from Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind) — debut of new performance version

15.  The Keystone Harvest Test, Lehighton, PA — Sat. Oct. 28th, 2017
Uncle Joe intro
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
Duo:  On The Road — “New Orleans”
Duo:  The ’64 Party in New York — Jack & Neal’s last time together
Brian:  Beats Begat Pranksters — opening & closing
George:  Truncated Trouble — (from Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind)
Duo:  On The Road — “Nebraska”
Duo:  On The Road — “Hinkle’s Party”

16.  The Keystone Harvest Test, Lehighton, PA — Sun. Oct. 29th, 2017
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
Duo:  On The Road — “Road North”
Brian:  Kerouac on Record — “The Grateful Dead: Jack Manifested As Music”
George:  Neal Cassady August ’48 letter on spirituality
George:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — First Meeting Neal
Duo:  On The Road — “Chicago Jazz”
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving South”
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — Be The Invincible Spirit You Are

17.  Kerouac & Cassady Ride Again — Junction City Music Hall, Toronto Canada — Fri. Nov. 3rd, 2017
Trevor Cape intro
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving NYC to North Carolina and back”
George:  Truncated Trouble — (from “Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind”)
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — opening & closing
Duo:  On The Road — “Nebraska”
Duo:  On The Road — “Chicago Jazz”
Brian:  Kerouac on Record — “The Grateful Dead: Jack Manifested As Music”
George:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — First Meeting Neal
Duo:  On The Road — “New Orleans”
Duo:  On The Road — “Hinkle’s Party”
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — Be The Invincible Spirit You Are
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving South” — with Trevor Cape & The Field   (debut of duo with a rock band)

The Oakville Beaver wrote a full page here (with color photo by Sky) about the upcoming library “Creation Zone” show.

18.  Kerouac & Cassady Ride Again — Iroquois Ridge Public Library, Oakville, Ontario — Thurs. Nov. 9th, 2017 
Justine Gerrior intro
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
Duo:  On The Road — “Road North”
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — opening & closing
George:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — First Meeting Neal
Q & A —  “Do you see the Prankster / Beat scene alive today?”
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving NYC to North Carolina and back”
Q & A —  “Did Neal talk about Jack?”
Duo:  On The Road — “Chicago Jazz”  (debut of amalgamated version)

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George Walker

George Walker

a natural storyteller and author of Trouble Ahead Trouble Behind about a fantasy road trip with Jerry Garcia and the ghost of Neal Cassady, and a contributor to the all-star All About Kesey tribute, Walker was there the day Ken bought the original Bus, and became its chief mechanic, as well as one of its drivers along with Neal Cassady on the legendary 1964 trip across America chronicled in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.  An active participant in all the early Tests — the puddle The Grateful Dead were born out of —  he became one of Cassady’s closest friends through the last years of his life, including taking several road trips to Mexico and elsewhere together.  Although his ironic Prankster name was Hardly Visible, he was just the opposite, remaining intricately involved in every Prankster production and Bus trip over the decades, including the Cassady show; playing the Tin Man in Twister; at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1997; on the Where’s Merlin? tour through the U.K. in 1999; as well as staring in and helping create both the original Prankster movies, The Merry Band of Pranksters Look For A Kool Place and North To Madhattan, and being the live touring Prankster face of the 2016 Going Furthur documentary.

George on teaming up with Brian


Here’s a cool interview on Facebook from December 2017 where between roughly the 33 and 44 minute marks George talks about our on stage partnership and new book . . .


For a great movie featuring lots of George Walker, check out Alex Gibney’s masterpiece “Magic Trip” about the legendary 1964 Bus trip across America . . .


Here’s where Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir talk about George on the Tom Snyder show when he took a Grateful Dead flag and scampered up the Great Pyramid to plant it at its peak during the band’s trip there in ’78 (starting at about the 2 minute mark of the clip) —


And here’s George as the flag model 🙂 . . .  then the actual pyramid-climbing flag-planting escapade captured on a handheld 8mm by the Dead’s dentist pal —

George Walker:  “I saw the flag pole up there.  We’d actually climbed up it two or three times already.  We were young and athletic then.  I asked Jerry [Garcia] if he had a Dead flag we could hoist up there.  And he opened up his guitar case and had this flag in there with his guitar.  He handed it to me, and I never let it out of my hands until we climbed up and flew it.  The top pole was really slippery and I had to get help getting up the last part.”

And here he is joyously riffing the story of how The Bus came to be . . . at the Kesey memorial at the San Francisco Library . . .




Brian Hassett

author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac about the historic 1982 Kerouac summit, and contributor to The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats and the upcoming Kerouac On Record, Hassett first began producing multi-band multimedia Acid Tests in 1977.  He continued in show production, touring with Yes in 1979, and working in the office with Bill Graham putting together The Rolling Stones tour in 1981.  He produced the concerts at NYU in Greenwich Village for many years, including a massive Acid Test with Country Joe, Rick Danko, Paul Butterfield & the Joshua Light Show in 1982, which actually won him the Programmer of The Year at the university.  He became close friends with Edie Kerouac (Jack’s first wife), Henri Cru (Remi Boncoeur in On The Road), and Carolyn Cassady (the love of both Jack & Neal’s life).  He inducted Kerouac into The Counterculture Hall of Fame in Amsterdam, and co-inducted Neal Cassady along with Carolyn and John Cassady.  He produced and hosted the 50th anniversary of Kerouac writing On The Road shows in April 2001 in both New York and L.A. (along with S.A. Griffin), as well as numerous Kerouac-themed shows in New York & elsewhere in the 1990s and early 2000s.  He’s been a fixture at the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival the last several years, and regularly opens the Prankster Family Reunion each summer.



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Brian Hassett  —

George Walker —


With Phil Lesh at his July 4th party at Terrapin Crossroads


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Falling In Love in The Summer Of Love

July 30th, 2017 · Grateful Dead, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters, Weird Things About Me

Falling in Love in the Summer of Love


Yeah — it can still happen.  To anyone anywhere anytime.  Me mid-50s, she just over 40.

We’d met a year earlier at a Prankster Family Reunion.  I thought she was stunning.  But she had this boyfriend.  It was one of those couples that didn’t seem to make sense.  You’ve known some.  They seem more like opposites than a pair.  But you never know, cuz you’re not there.

She bought my book and read it non-stop in one day at a music festival.

People around her were protecting her.  “Don’t bug Sky, she’s reading.”

I didn’t really know much about her.  Just that she was cool and pretty, with long wavy hair, and really liked my book.

By the next family reunion (this year) there she was again, and so was the boyfriend, except they sure didn’t seem to be very together.  Don’t think I ever saw them within touching distance of each other the whole weekend.  But still — I’m not a guy on the make.  Not chasin chicks.  I’m married to my work, and happily so.  In fact so much so, I can sometimes be blind to overtures.

Next thing you know, it’s the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.  San Francisco.  Gotta be there.  In fact, I get booked for a show at the world famous Beat Museum in North Beach — on the first Friday in June leading into the historic summer — and the night preceding two Dead shows at nearby Shoreline Amphitheatre, which I’ve always wanted to go to since first hearing it was being built with Bill Graham as a major consultant.

At that same Prankster Family Reunion this May, I’d fallen in with a new stage partner.  Never had one before in my life.  A duo!  George Walker.  Original Merry Prankster.  A guy who was not only “on the bus” but on The Bus on their historic ’64 cross-country trip with Neal Cassady at the wheel.  George & Neal ended up becoming fast friends and did many road trips just the two of them, including down to Mexico multiple times, where they’d spend months living together carousing and Adventuring.

He was a big fan of my writing, but had never seen me on a stage before.  I’ve opened the last couple of these Prankster Reunions — delivering the keynote address, the mood-setter, the vibe overture, all with a healthy Beat flavor.  After this year’s opening show, we were hanging, and he was raving about my performance, so I said, knowing his closeness with Neal, “We should do something together — like, you read Neal and I’ll read Jack.  We could do that part from On The Road where they’re sitting in the back of the car talking about the ‘IT’.”  And his face lit, eyes bright, head nodding, “Yes yes yes!”

“We’d just need two copies of the book . . . “

That night I grabbed the one I had and started reading the “IT” passage, making performance notes in the margins — when it hit — “You’ve gotta go photocopy these pages and blow them up so you can write all over them and give George his own copy.”  And that’s what I did the next morning.  And when he & I sat down to go over it 15 minutes before showtime — he hadn’t read this part of On The Road in 20 or 30 years — he absolutely was Neal from the first freakin line on a cold read-through!

Needless to say, we killed.


And since it’d gone so well, he said he’d join me on stage at The Beat Museum.  “We’ll bring Jack & Neal home.”

So a whole bunch of Pranksters came to S.F. that first June weekend, including Mountain Girl and Anonymous sitting in the front row — and more people packed in there for any event the Beat Museum ever put on [other than a memorial].

And a bunch of the Prankster girls were so excited about their Night At The Museum that they got themselves all dressed up extra pretty.

And boy did they look great!  Especially Sky!

Pre-show / pre-couple photo captured by our brother Gubba.

The show killed of course . . .

then we all went over to the secret hideaway alleyway bar, Spec’s, right around the corner from the museum . . .

and had a spectacular after-party until closing time.

Sky had also brought for me some tie-dyed pants and shirt she’d custom colored for me.

See . . . sometimes I’m clueless.

Anywho, the next day, the Shoreline Dead show, I wore them, and her and her Prankster sisters spotted me from about a football field away as soon as we got out of the car, and came running across the tarmac like Charlie’s Angels playing out the comic classic TV/movie running scene.

There was this huge party in the parking lot for hours before the show, a bunch of us ending up at Kesey’s Bus for all sorts of hugging reunions and crazy shenanigans non-stop all afternoon . . .

And we sat together at the show . . . her, me & George already becoming a somewhat inseparable trio.

It was a Grate show, of course . . . a Friend of The Devil … China Cat … Eyes … Wheel . . .

Then we all retired back to the Red Vic, this artists’ hostel right on Haight St. near Golden Gate Park, where a bunch of the Pranksters including Sky were staying.

It was your regular post-show dosey-doe mayhem — including a twisted game of Twister — but I had to get home cuz tomorrow at the crack of noon we were all meeting at the corner of Haight & Ashbury for a parade to Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park to celebrate the Summer of Love.

I went out on the street, but there wasn’t a car to be seen let alone a cab in the 3AM darkness.  (Plus, my Canadian cell phone to call one didn’t work in America – long story.)  Sky saw me through the windows pacing back and forth along the sidewalk, and thought, “Oh no, he’s looking to leave.”  If a cab had appeared, or my phone worked, none of the rest of this story would have happened.

It was starting to seem like I was stuck there, and I had to be a couple blocks down the street in 9 hours, so, I knew Sky was staying in a group room with four people, but I asked her anyway if I could crash over beside her.  And she said, “Yeah, I think I can squeeze you in.”

We eventually hit the room, and her space was up on this large raised loft bed, with everyone else below.  I followed her up the ladder, and the second we were beside each other we started kissing — slow and soft and delicate at first but quickly the latent feelings we each had for the other became obvious.  This wasn’t some random convenient hook-up.  I was kissing her neck and jawline and she was shuddering to the touch — two people who’d been longing to be in each other’s arms for a long time.  There was definitely something.  “The Unspoken Thing” . . . no explanation needed.

We did what couples do . . . even with at least four people in some level of sleep (or trying to) just below us.

The next day, we went to the noon Summer of Love parade / march — this huge group of assembled hippies and pranksters walking out into the middle of Haight Street and stopping the traffic, creating an impromptu protest parade right down the middle of the street leading all the way to the park just like they did in this neighborhood 50 years ago.

On the way we bumped into sister Jami Cassady and her hubby Randy and the Kerouac biographer Gerry Nicosia, so they all fell in with us, and suddenly we had one of my favorite things — a bunch of Beats and Pranksters in the same place!

Then, the funny thing was — and this is an important part of this story — I’m an idiot.  We get to the afternoon hang spot at the base of Hippie Hill, and Sky and I are holding hands and generally entwining our bodies as we lay in the grass while people read poetry or sang or riffed in a very organic authentic Beat/hippie scene.  And Jami notices us, so when we got a moment alone, asked in her big sister way, “Soooo . . . what’s this?!” with a big smiling teasing Prankster twinkle.

We didn’t get too much one-on-one time cuz it was a multitudinous crazy scene of all-star San Franciscans running amuck in the Summer of Luck, so when her & Randy were leaving, I walked them part-way out of the park, and along the way told them my dilemma that Sky was going to the second Dead show tonight, which I didn’t have a ticket for and didn’t really wanna go to [see “idiot” above] and I asked what they thought I should do.  Jami encouraged me, but Randy got positively bug-eyed surprised that I’d be asking the question.  “With that girl?!  I’d go!!” he said, nodding in an are-you-crazy? way.

I dunno — sometimes in life you have to hear somebody tell you something even if you already know it.

Like the no cab on Haight — I wonder how life would be different if I didn’t get this bit of coaching right when I needed it?  

Before we left the park I’d bought a ticket.

It was another Grate show, of course, with a Help —> Slip —> Frank —> Scarlet —> Fire —> Drums —> Other One — but as the magic continued to unfold — in the first set they dropped a They Love Each Other!

I mean — we already knew we liked each other, but just like hearing the coach’s voice articulating my reality a few hours earlier, here was the band unmistakably singing our theme-song to us, putting into words our sentiments before we had.

And we’re dancing side-by-side in perfect swaying synch, with particular knowing eye contact on “Lord, you can see that it’s true.”  And everyone could.  Just behind us were a few of her Prankster sisters cheering her on every time she’d turn and look at them while I was still looking ahead.  Apparently there was a bit of a cheerleading squad behind us.

Another key moment came when we were sitting down as Drums started, and she leapt up, gushing, “This is my favorite part!” — causing me to blurt out for the first time — “I love you!!”  Fortunately she didn’t hear me as her head was already up in the music and we got to save that magic moment for a little while longer.

That night, back at the ol’ Red Vic, we rather quickly retired to the room, in part to make sure we commandeered the biggest bed in the space, and jumped right on it and started makin out like crazy!  All our clothes still on you understand — but just goin for it!  We could hear all sortsa people comin and goin and talkin and I-don’t-know-whating beyond us, but we were so far away in each other’s eyes and lips it barely registered.

Then all of a sudden I felt this tapping on my shoulder, and it turned out about half-a-dozen glowing blazing Pranksters were standing around our bed!  “Hey you two!  Get up!” somebody said.  “We got a room for you.”

What?!  Just to tell you what kind of friends we have — one of these Pranksters had actually rented an extra room called “The Summer of Love Room” — the most romantic couple’s retreat in the building — just to give it away to someone if something like Sky & I happened (!)

So we get up from the bed, all tustle-haired and wuzzle-clothed, as the Pranksters backed out into the hallway and formed this impromptu line from our door to that one — the second cheerleading squad of the night!  In the daze of the moment, all I saw were these beaming happy faces lining the whole hallway, as one of them handed me the key and said, “Have fun!”


The next day, our Prankster brother Dr. Turley was driving his massive RV from the Haight up to his place in Chico, with a stop in Mill Valley at Sweetwater to meet up with the Kesey Bus.  Not unlike the gifted room, our RV mates all agreed Bri & Sky needed to “take a nap” in the back bedroom.

And thus began the Adventure . . .

which, in this particular moment, led to us having the most amazing long-form sex with all the drapes and windows wide open on all three sides surrounding us in the back room through The Streets of San Francisco until soon the Pacific Ocean breeze was blowing over us as we passed alongside the flickering pulsating bright orange cables of the Golden Gate Bridge.


“The greatest moment of my life,” I heard not long after.

“You better write about this.” 

And we’ve done nothing but keep going Furthur ever since.



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Here’s a story about meeting up with the Pranksters and Kesey Bus at Yasgur’s Farm.

Here’s one about the first Prankster Family Reunion.

And here’s the 2nd one with lots of pictures.

Here’s about the prior trip to San Francisco for The Beat Museum’s big Shindig.

Or here’s The Grateful Dead Played My 30th Birthday.

Or here’s a whole book full of real-life passionate stories like this — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.


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by Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —


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Long Strange Trip – Grateful Dead doc review

May 2nd, 2017 · Grateful Dead, Movies


Let There Be Songs To Fill The Screen




I remember when I first saw the long-in-the-works Beat Generation documentary “The Source” at its premiere in Manhattan with McClure, Amram and all these other luminaries and we all went to the afterparty at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and everybody was freaking out that finally a serious long-form Beat documentary got made!

Well, that night just repeated itself 15 years later in Toronto — at the International Premiere of the definitive Grateful Dead doc “Long Strange Trip.”



The director Amir Bar-Lev (above) and his extended crew have been working on this for the last 14 years  (!)

Martin Scorsese executive produced.  Trixie Garcia and filmmaker Justin Kreutzmann were very involved, as were all the living band members.  And it includes basically all the “lost” / home-movie footage that’s ever been found.

This was only the sixth theater where it was shown on a big screen — and will be again in a nationwide one-off on May 25th which I highly recommend any Deadhead make the point of seeing if it’s in your town.

It’ll be streaming on Amazon Prime starting June 2nd — the same happy day I’m headlining at The Beat Museum in San Francisco.  Amazon Prime is a Netflix kinda thing, that they told me is $80 a year, and has all this original programming plus expedited shipping on everything you buy from Amazon.  If you don’t see it in a theater on May 25th, or in screenings in NYC & LA that weekend, your only way to see it is with this online subscription.  There’s no DVD release planned at this point.

And just to get back to the Beat thing — this epic opus opens and closes with Jack Kerouac  (!)

“Say what?!”

Not to give anything away — as the director joked, “don’t tell anyone, but the hero dies in the end” — but the last quote in the movie, Garcia’s sign-off moment, he says something like, “Kerouac broke open the doors for me — and I hope the Grateful Dead have been able to do that for other people.”

This is what I’m on about.

Here’s these filmmakers spending 14 years making this tremendous love-filled soulful take on the Dead — recognizing and making prevalent Jerry’s deep connection to Jack Kerouac.  And they even found an early photo of Robert Hunter in a plaid shirt that you would swear was Jack himself!

As I write in my book, the very last question Jerry was ever asked on camera, in an interview for the Silicon Valley Historical Society, was about Neal Cassady.  And he riffs rhapsodic — “I got to be good friends with him.  He was one of those guys that truly was a very special person.  In my life, psychedelics and Neal Cassady are almost equal in terms of influence on me.  

“Neal was his own art.  He wasn’t a musician, he was a ‘Neal Cassady.’  He was a set of one.  And he was it.  He was the whole thing — top, bottom, beginning, end, everything.  And people knew it.  And people would be drawn to it.  He was an unbelievable human being— the energy that he had, and the vocabulary he had of gestures and expressions — oh boy he was funny.  Phew!  I really loved him,” were the last words Jerry Garcia ever said on camera.

And now here — his very last line in the definitive Grateful Dead documentary — is him citing Kerouac as “breaking open the doors.”


Besides that — which is really the whole puckin key as far as I’m concerned . . .  😀 

Deadheads Unite!

This is gonna blow your mind!

The first two hours cover basically up until the ’75 hiatus … and then there’s a nice “set break” before another two hours of basically ’76 till ’95.


This was made in complete collaboration with David Lemieux (above, post screening) the Canadian Deadhead who took over from Dick Latvala as the Dead’s official audio/visual archivist.  Besides all the extended family members’ cooperation and inside insights, it was also made with a non-Deadhead editor & other key krewe who helped keep the perspective from being too insider.

One of the first comments in the Q&A with the director afterwards was a Toronto Hot Docs Film Festival regular saying he was not into the Dead at all but was blown away by the doc.  Several of the advance reviews in places like Variety and Vanity Fair were written by non-Deadheads who stated the same, and were similarly blown away.

Also in the post-screening talk, Amir said how part of the film’s motivation was as sort-of “marriage therapy” — that this was for people who “got it” who needed to explain it to their loved one who didn’t.  🙂

And they achieved their objective.

I sure wish my Mom was alive to see this.

Oh, and another thing — it focuses on the music!  It makes me wanna puke whenever I hear “music people” dismiss the music this band made.

It was formed by — and was a practicing amalgam of — a bluegrass player (Jerry), a blues singer (Pigpen), a jazz & classical composer/player (Phil), an R&B drummer (Bill), and an alt-folkie (Bob).

Then add in that they were born out of Ken Kesey’s acid tests, and had Neal Cassady as their driving headlight, and you’ve got an engine that’s a Bus that’s a circus that’s a movement that’s done nothing but grow till this day.  And it’ll be bigger tomorrow.  (Especially once more people see this! 🙂 ) 

There’s a lot of time devoted to the whole musical progression from their flukey formation and manic morphing —> the studio world, then the learned dedicated focus that produced the Workingman’s Dead / American Beauty masterpieces, and how it all played out from there.

I (and others in the theater) were brought to tears more than once — including the Morning Dew story from the climax of the Europe ’72 tour, and the writing and playing of The Days Between that Dennis McNally rightly calls “the last Garcia-Hunter masterpiece.”  Heavy stuff.

Then there were tons of seat-shaking rounds of laughter, including Hunter explaining the lyrics to Dark Star; the very British Sam Cutler’s various takes on things (one of them, roughly, “In America, people actually go ‘in search of America.’ No one in England goes ‘in search of England.'”); Warner Brothers’ Joe Smith explaining how he never “got it;” Al “Althea” Franken explaining how he did; and Deadheads goofing on clueless local reporters who showed up trying to ‘get the story.’

Something else that’s extraordinary and I appreciated was the storytelling.  The filmmaker spoke of it in the Q&A when asked about why some person or moment in their history wasn’t dealt with, then he and I talked about it afterwards.  It’s all about the storytelling, man — what you leave out, what you put in, how you arc, how you work themes and build suspense and pace mood.  A hundred different directors would make a hundred different movies.  And boy, I’m sure glad this guy made this one.

Something specific I loved was his ease with breaking strict chronology.  He would follow a trail on, say, sound systems, and then loop back to an earlier period to start another thread.  It’s to his credit that he knew he could play with time.  After all, as Kreutzmann says in the film, “It’s not about keeping the time, it’s about keeping the feeling.”

There’s also a nice tribute to Bear, and a lot of footage and stories about The Wall of Sound.


When asked about how much more unseen home-movie type footage there was, the director said pretty much everything that was any good that they uncovered or was in the archives made it into the movie.  (see, also: Hours, 4) 

Plus, there’s a fabulous use of still photographs in all different manner of creative collages to tell the story.  Even for hardcore lifelong Deadheads like myself and the whole row of people I went with, there’s oodles of stuff you’ve never seen or heard before.

I was lucky enough to experience this on what the director said was the best screen and sound system it’s ever been shown on — the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto.  It was my first night out of the house since the election 5½ months ago (!) and the hardcore Deadheads in this town, led by Trevor Cape, set up a whole Dead scene with hanging tapestries and a six-piece band playing in the second floor lounge leading into the theater for an hour before the screening.  Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart.

Also, a guy I know, Steve Silberman, does some excellent storytelling himself about how an average kid from New Jersey discovered the band — sort of standing in for all who found their way to the sound & the furious party.  He also does a brilliant rap on how a Dead show’s crowd was like a Tibetan mandala with all these different pieces that make up the whole.  There’s the ones who every night go to The Phil Zone where they can hear and see him best.  Then there’s the Jerry people.  Then there’s the spinners out in the hallway.  Then there’s the Wharf Rats who are supporting each other through their sobriety.  Then there’s the tapers . . . and on and on with all these different groups that come together to make up the whole.

And I’m even in the damn thing!  Front & center at Radio City Music Hall in full Steal Your Face make-up dancing to Not Fade Away!

Somebody made a cool comment in the movie about the irony of — “The most ephemeral band in history became the most recorded.”  These guys were living in the moment for 30 years, only concerned with the next note played, and not with their official photos or albums or anything else built to last, and yet they created something that has an ever-present ever-growing worldwide life of its own.

Classic Albums made a Grate doc in 1997, “Anthem to Beauty,” about those transitional studio years — but there’s no doubt this is the show we’ve all been waiting for.  Deadheads will be throwing house parties around screenings of this for the rest of time, but even more importantly, it achieves the collective filmmakers’ objective of telling the story non-Deadheads will get.


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For more on The Grateful Dead and Jack Kerouac & The Beats — check out The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac or at Amazon here.  It’s got the most detailed exploration of the connection between the Dead and the Beats ever in print.

Or there’s lots more about it here on my site.

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by Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —

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