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

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Andrea Riseborough in “To Leslie” — the Oscar Underdog to Root For

March 2nd, 2023 · Movies

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The Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role is *the* story of the 2023 Oscars.


I’ve seen all the nominated performances, and thought un-nominated Margot Robbie sure as hell should have been in the mix for Babylon.

Her co-star Eric Roberts, he of the 621 on-screen acting credits, compared her performance to Liz Taylor’s (Oscar-winning) Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe — and he’s right.

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Cate’s great in Tár . . .

but she’s already won two well deserved Oscars (for Blue Jasmine and as Kate Hepburn in Scorsese’s Aviator).  I’d rather see the recognition spread to those who’ve won zero.

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Ana De Armas is appropriately cast in Blonde because, like Marilyn, you can’t take your eyes off her in any scene she’s in . . .

but she’s young and is gonna be around for a long time so she doesn’t really need it now.

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When I saw Michelle Williams with the Best Leading Actress nomination I thought it was some ridiculous insider industry prop-up.  What the hell is that Dawson’s Creek kid doing at the Oscars?  But she gives a glorious riveting performance as Steven Spielberg’s complicated mother in The Fabelmans.

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And it would be great (and at this point is expected) for much-beloved and largely unheralded Michelle Yeoh to win for her multiple characters in Everything, Everywhere All At Once.

But she and this movie have already won shelves full of awards — and there’s gonna be more coming on Oscar night — and I’m into spreading the wealth … as well as the attention and the spotlight and the future jobs.
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I gotta tell ya . . . you have to see Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie before you make a call in this category.  It’s kinda no question the single most gut-wrenching jaw-dropping performance of the year.


And here’s where it gets really interesting — on IMDb, this movie currently has a worldwide gross total of . . . $31,543.  (!)  😮

If you don’t know about it, there’s a wild story behind how the performance got nominated … overcoming millions-of-dollars in campaigns for others.  You can watch this to get the backstory —

but what this is is independent filmmaking making either its last hurrah in a world that now makes them all but cost-prohibitive . . . or . . . a low-budget indie film could possibly win the Best Lead Actress Oscar.  (!)

If it did, it would change how films are made (ie; financed) in America — much like the success of Pulp Fiction did in 1994.  This is a helluva story.  No other actor winning would cause more films to get green-lit than this one. 

And it symbolizes and brings into focus the fact that brilliant films are still being made that, basically, nobody sees.  I’d have never even heard of it let alone seen this if it wasn’t nominated for Best Lead Actress.

I think this is an important storyline to be aware of.  Even being *nominated* is HUGE (and almost unheard of) for small indie films . . . but if this were to win . . . and all the other nominees did indeed deliver fantabulous performances . . . but honestly . . . this weird indie no-budget movie has a more gut-wrenching performance than any of the A-listers laid down.  And speaking of A-listers, you get to see her working scenes with two of them — Alison Janney, and Stephen Root, who is, as he so often is, nearly unrecognizable.  The comedian / podcaster /actor Marc Maron is the male lead and proves he has a whole other level of talent nobody knew about before.

I hope Babylon deservedly sweeps its three nominations — for Best Original Score, Production Design and Costume Design — but other than that unheralded masterpiece getting recognition . . . for all my friends who *are* underdogs … or who *root* for underdogs … you’ve got one in this hunt.  😉

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Here’s my Master Movie List with over 800 movies broken down into Comedies,  DramasDocumentariesMovies About Making MoviesMovies About PoliticsMusic MoviesBeat Generation Docs & DramasTrippy MoviesDisturbing Movies,  the Made-for-TV Exceptions,  and broken down by Auteur.

Here’s the most complete breakdown of Beat Generation dramatizations you’ll find anywhere online or in books.

Here’s a time-coded and annotated breakdown of The Beatles: Get Back — Peter Jackson’s revealing masterpiece of creation that people have been reading on my site every single day since it was first posted.

And here’s my book How The Beats Begat The Pranksters & Other Adventure Tales that has three different wild stories of going to On The Road premieres — in London, Toronto and New York.

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Writing “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac”

February 20th, 2023 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Weird Things About Me

The cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac by Brian Hassett

You wake up one day and your whole life changes just by the chance seeing of a picture.

Much the way it might with a chance spotting of a poster on a bookstore wall.

As Jack says, “My books are my children.”  And as Mama always preached — pregnancy can happen in an instant.

Unlike most books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac had a precise Birth Day.

I had no plans to become a parent when I got up on Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, but it was then that I saw a photograph posted to an online Beat group that featured a bunch of the Founding Fathers of the Beat Generation hanging out on a porch at a gathering I went to in 1982.

Peter Orlovsky, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, John Clellon Holmes, Allen Ginsberg, Carl Solomon, with Robert Frank seated, on the front porch of Allen’s house in Boulder, July 1982.
Photo courtesy Jerry Aronson from “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg” 8 hour DVD set.

It was just like that inexplicable flash vision of seeing the conference poster in the sixth bookstore in Vancouver that prompted the entire adventure.  You never expect your future to show up in front of you, but BAM! there it is!

Everyone in the online group was agog at this large gathering of giants, and how everybody looked so young, and that they were all together, and what an amazing collection of spirits this was.

To me it was just an old picture of my summer vacation.  As it turned out, not a single one of these myriad scholars or fans in the online group had attended this legendary Woodstock of the Beats.

A flow of online comments ensued, and since I’d been to it, people started saying, “I bet you’ve got some great stories, Brian!”  And “I hope you brought a camera!”

Well, now that you mention it . . . “ I hadn’t looked at those pictures or thought about this thing in years.  But being a conscientious contributor I thought I’d chime in with some memories.

This’ll just take a few minutes to write,” I thought.

I started fresh the next morning — February 20th, 2013.  “I’ll just whip this off then go run some errands” — even though I didn’t even have an “E” key on my new but broken MacBook!  Had to push the little knobby thing down below!

Somehow I didn’t get it finished that first day.  “Well, for sure I’ll finish it up tomorrow.  Gawd, I can’t believe this is taking so long!”  I started in that second day, but as it kept rolling down the road more and more memories kept coming into focus — and I was transported back to that time, as happens when you write — you begin to live in that world and not the physical one you’re sitting in.

The next day I thought, “For sure this’ll be done by tonight, damn it.”  But more photo albums and cassette tapes and notebooks and such kept tumbling off the mountain onto the path, more doors to open, more surprises, more memory boxes, more road going, until . . . “Well, for sure I’ll have this done in a week.”  Then . . . “Well, make sure you’re finished in 10 days.  It can’t take more than that!!”  And this daily delusion of finishing it “tomorrow” went on for eleven daze, every single one of them thinking it would be done the next for sure.  But it took eleven for the arc to be told from inception to curtain.

Of course, all sorts of other memory triggers and picture painting and fact checking and fine tuning and stuff continued for weeks, … and then months, until it was finally published two years later.

But I had no concept of telling this Adventure Tale when I woke up this February morning ten years ago, and after eleven time-traveling days in labor this baby was bouncing.  And boy, they grow up fast!

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You can order a colorfully signed copy from me (except mailing from Canada is a costly).  You can also order it from Amazon or any place you get books. 

When the book first came out, raving reaction came flowing in from all over the world.  You can read the first batch here.

Then I had to start a second page because the first one grew too large.

Then I had to start a third!

And then I started to perform it all over — from New York to L.A., from San Francisco to Lowell.  Here’s a playlist from several different shows with the clips in the order they appear in the book . . . 

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Update — Here’s a March 2023 interview done by renown British Beat & music scholar Simon Warner about writing the book, and the publishing world in general, the birth of the internet, the eternal nature of art, and shining the light, carrying the baton and passing the torch.

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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The Beats, The Beatles & The Brotherhood

January 31st, 2023 · Weird Things About Me

The Beats, The Beatles & The Brotherhood

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This month I met a fellow Toronto-area author, John Arnone, who’s just written a book about The Beatles and Canada — Us and Them: Canada, Canadians and The Beatles

In fact, in keeping with our Canadian heritage, we met after a ball hockey game and then went to Tim Hortons.  😄 

Turns out we were both born the same year as The Beatles, both dig into research with the same tenacity, and both love weaving great artists of the past into the present.

I’m not much one for distinctions over national boundaries, but what a hoot it was to read all the different connections between the Canadian colony and her royal master’s voice.

Did you know the first pair of Beatle boots came from Ontario?  😲  George’s mother bought them for George while visiting her brother in Ontario in 1960.  The rest of the band were so impressed they went and found some in London.  Or the first time the band topped the charts in North America was Sept. ’63 in Canada with She Loves You.  Or that the first time a Beatle — or any rock star — met with a sitting head of state.

There’s 300 pages of other cool details, but one thing I loved learning about was how Capitol Records in Canada got behind the band from the get-go — and how mind-blowingly dysfunctional and out-of-it their U.S. counterparts were.  Did you know, that time they famously had the top 5 songs on the Billboard chart in April ’64, that they were on four different labels?  😲  It was because Capitol U.S. didn’t think the band would amount to anything and sold the songs to small labels for next to nothing.  😱  

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Another joy of the book is that it’s written by a precision-sharp journalist who’s spent decades in the high end of the corporate world where one has to be letter-perfect and detail-oriented.  He’s not writing in generalities, but paints with Realism’s precision.  He’s also a lifelong musician so he’s bringing that to the narrative — comfortably conversational with song structure and their ever-changing insgtrumentation.  And I don’t know if he’s a songwriter but he’s certainly got a poetic flair for phrasing — “somewhere left of Greenland” … “far from simply lazy rivering in the sack” … or following a lead down a rabbit hole that was “a delightfully difficult task.”

And something else this reader appreciates is his sense of what to put in and what to leave out.  That sounds kinda basic, but so many nonfiction authors are painfully bad at this.  I’m sure any avid reader has had the experience of skipping paragraphs or pages until a book gets interesting again.  But that doesn’t happen here.  He’s got a professional precision with a glued-to-your-seat storyteller’s sense of the juicy.

Did you know that Maple Leaf Gardens was the only venue in North America that the band played on all three tours from ’64 to ’66?  Or that at one point in 1964 The Beatles Fan Club in Canada had more members than either the U.S. or U.K.?!  Or that the last time John Lennon was ever paid to play a live performance was in Toronto in 1969?  Or that there are a ton of connections between The Beatles and The Beats?

Here’s some deets from my book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac  —

It was when The Beetles backed up British Beat poet Royston Ellis in 1960 that they were prompted to change the spelling of the band’s name to reflect their mutual interest.  As Royston remembers, “Since they liked the ‘Beat’ way of life, were ‘beat’ musicians, and would be backing me as a ‘Beat’ poet, I suggested to him why not spell the name with an ‘A’?”

And it was Beat confidant and journalist Al Aronowitz who brought Bob Dylan to The Beatles’ Delmonico Hotel suite in New York in the summer of ’64 specifically to get them high on marijuana for the first time.  And you might say that had some effect on their music.  I’m tellin’ ya — these Beats are nuthin’ but trouble!

As everyone knows, marijuana is a gateway drug … and before you know it you’re reading poetry!  So the band decided to start a spoken-word record label as part of Apple, called Zapple, and although it was short lived and didn’t release much, some of the first people they signed up were Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Richard Brautigan and Ken Kesey.

McCartney would later famously and wonderfully perform and record with Allen on his 1995 poem “The Ballad Of The Skeletons.”  “I wrote Skeletons because of all that inflated bull about family values,” Ginzy told the L.A. Times.  “The ‘contract with America,’ Newt Gingrich and all the loudmouth stuff on talk radio.  It seemed obnoxious and stupid and kind of sub-contradictory, so I figured I’d write a poem to knock it out of the ring.”  The Beat and The Beatle would get together in England later that year when Allen was there to do a Royal Albert Hall show.  Macca liked the poem so much, he showed up to accompany Allen on it at the reading (also attended by Carolyn Cassady), then contributed guitar, drums, organ and maracas to the recorded version the following year.

And that same sacred majestic Royal Albert Hall was also packed to its very high rafters for one of history’s pivotal (and largest) poetry “happenings” —

The International Poetry Incarnation, in June 1965 — staged with good old Allen organizing and headlining the night, and including a restrained Gregory, a playfully political Ferlinghetti, and Burroughs on tape, joining all sorts of British Beat Bohemians like Michael Horowitz and Beatle bud Adrian Mitchell in a moment of group enlightenment for Londoners that the Human Be-In would be for San Franciscans 18 months later in the way it brought out of the basements and into the light thousands of underground artists of varying disciplines (including a young Jimmy Page) who suddenly realized they weren’t alone in their pursuit of the unknown.  As The Clash’s Joe Strummer laid it down — “… you can mark the beginning of the British underground scene of the 1960s to that particular night.”

And then there’s William Burroughs on the cover of Sgt. Pepper.  He was probably on their mind since at the time they were letting him use the rehearsal studio they’d built into Ringo’s unused London apartment on Montague Street in the spring of ’66 — when there was music in the cafés at night and revolution in the air.  Bill was there experimenting with backward tapes, recording things at different speeds, and dropping in random radio broadcasts or reading newspaper reports into the recordings.  And yes, all of that should sound familiar to Beatles fans.  Over the next year the band would run all those same studio experiments as they recorded Revolver, Yellow Submarine, Strawberry Fields Forever, and Sgt. Pepper, then The White Album the year after that.

William did some cut-ups and we did some crazy tape recordings in the basement,” McCartney remembers.  “We used to sit around talking about all these amazing inventions that people were making, like the Dream Machine that Ian [Sommerville] and Brion Gysin had made.  It was all very new and very exciting.”

And ol’ John, he carried that Beat spirit with him across the pond when he famously emigrated to New York in 1971, making sure to meet up with Allen Ginsberg when he landed, including inviting Allen to John’s 31st birthday party at a hotel in Syracuse, New York, where they were for a Yoko art exhibit opening, and a camera was rolling and there’s actually footage of them all partying together.  John also asked Allen to be a part of the only full concert the former Beatle ever staged after he left his band, the One To One benefit at Madison Square Garden where Ginzy joined John on stage for the climactic “Give Peace A Chance,” just as John had him join in on the original live recording of the song in Montreal in 1969.

The cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac by Brian Hassett

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I dunno how we’re gonna end up collaborating, but we’re gonna do sumpthin. 😍  We’ve already got a show hatched at a local music venue where we’ll both jam and be followed by Paul Dante’s Beatles band.

Here’s to lots more Beats and Beatles bringing joy to this crazy ol’ world!   💕   

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To plug into John Arnone’s Beatle world check out his website Us and Them: Canada, Canadians and The Beatles

For more Beatles check out this time-coded and annotated breakdown of Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back that people around the world have been reading every single day since it was posted during the initial airing of the masterpiece in 2021.

For an even more recent Beatles-related film check out this piece on Revival ’69 and Lennon’s first solo concert in Toronto filmed by D.A. Pennebaker.

For another connection between The Beatles and the Beats — check out when George Harrison told Paul McCartney about Michael McClure’s play The Beard.

Or here’s a fun piece on Seinfeld, The Beatles and the Beats.  😁

 

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Revival69 — Documentary Review about John Lennon’s Toronto Concert in 1969

December 31st, 2022 · Movies, Music

Revival Revived

 

Klaus Voormann’s drawing of the 1969 plane trip

 

The most important musical event that ever occurred in Canada — and one of the most important concerts in history — took place at a university football stadium in downtown Toronto in 1969.  It’s true!

London had The Beatles’ farewell on the rooftop, Woodstock had “breakfast in bed for 400,000,” Newport had a little issue with electricity in 1965, and Toronto saw the birth of a solo Beatle lifting off from a one-time-ever launchpad full of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll.

Never before or since did Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and Gene Vincent all share the same stage — and following in their footsteps in more ways than one, John Lennon took the next leap on his culture-changing path.

Lennon, McCartney & Harrison had been playing in the same band since 1958, but after years of being “more popular than Jesus,” and each evolving, by ’68 / ’69 they were starting to drift away from being a Fab Four together to four strong winds blowing in different directions.

As fate would have it — and this new Revival ’69 documentary captures — by September 1969, with their final masterpiece Abbey Road laid down in the namesake’s room, the future was wide open.

Cue:  synchronicity, fate, karma, luck and happenstance meeting youthful confidence and good timing clicking in a country that had already been friendly to John & Yoko’s crusade for peace.

In June ’69, two young promoters, John Brower (22) and Ken Walker (23), booked the Toronto Pop Festival.  With the geyser of popularity of pop music in the mid-’60s, a natural outgrowth of the phenomenon was to put a bunch of artists together at a ‘festival’ to attract fans of individual bands and expose them to other acts.

DJ Alan Freed was the first to start packaging multiple rock ‘n’ roll artists on the same stage as early as 1955.  By ’58 he put together traveling shows with a dozen or more bands that were effectively traveling rock festivals — wonderfully portrayed in Tom Hanks’ fictional version That Thing You Do

The first location-specific rock festival was the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival held on Mount Tamalpais just north of San Francisco on June 10th & 11th, 1967, featuring 20+ bands including the Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Byrds, Country Joe and many others.

The festival that put the concept on the international map was of course Monterey Pop, held the following weekend in ’67, filmed by D.A. Pennebaker, and propelling artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who into the popular mainstream.

By 1968, the festival seed had spread and started to sprout all around America, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and perhaps most importantly the Miami Pop Festival, which was co-produced by Michael Lang who would go on to put on Woodstock the next summer.

Over the winter of ’68 into ’69, promoters (and agents) all over the continent began planning ways to do multi-act multi-day festivals in their town, and many actually did it.  Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, New Orleans, Atlantic City, Harlem and lots of other cities and towns (like Woodstock) pulled them off around America;  Essen (Germany), Bath (England) and the Isle of Wight happened in Europe;  and both Vancouver and Toronto staged them in Canada.

Besides the stellar lineup of the June 21st/22nd Toronto Pop Festival which included The Band, Sly & The Family Stone, Blood Sweat & Tears, The Velvet Underground, Dr. John, Johnny Winter, Procol Harum etc. etc., one weird twist was Brower/Walker’s inclusion of Chuck Berry.  Most of these late ’60s rock festivals shied away from booking stars from the ’50s — except for Toronto.

And not only that, but by many accounts, Chuck’s set galvanized the crowd and changed the event from a sequence of individual concerts into a collective festival.  And … the promoters caught Chuck’s set!  If you’ve ever worked on a festival, or even attended a festival, you know you’re not able to be fully present for every act over multiple days.  But luckily for history, Brower caught the old-timer’s set on Sunday afternoon, and said in a Welcome to the Music podcast —

“Chuck was so good in June at the Pop Festival, he had 25,000 people trying to do the duck walk and falling all over each other and laughing and just loving him, and despite the fact that we had Sly & The Family Stone and The Band and Steppenwolf who all put on incredible shows, Chuck Berry stole the zeitgeist of the moment.  And that was the inspiration to think, ‘If Chuck could do that, what would it be like to have all of them on the same show?’  And that was the inspiration for it.  And how about this cosmic giggle — that all of those guys were available on the same Saturday!  That was a confirmation that we were on the right track.”

 

Problem was, concert-goers flocked to the two-day current-superstar-rich Pop Festival in June, but a ’50s show in September after schools were back in full swing was a whole different thing.  Tickets were $6 — for the mathematically challenged, that’s about 50 cents a band! — but only 2,000 had sold in a stadium that held 20,000.  

In a late attempt to be more current, the promoters added The Doors, and brought in two colorful scenesters form L.A. (where Brower had spent some time in ’67), Kim Fowley and ‘The Mayor of Sunset Strip’ Rodney Bingenheimer.  But even that didn’t work.  However, it did spark something that would.

With the show on the verge of being cancelled, it was the prankster hypester Kim Fowley who badgered Brower (or, “preached” to him, as the promoter recalls it) into calling Apple in London to invite John Lennon, knowing the walrus loved Chuck Berry and Little Richard, who The Beatles opened for in England and Hamberg and where he taught them the high screaming “ooouuuu” vocals they’d become known for.  On Thursday, two days before the Saturday show, Brower & Walker phoned Apple, and miraculously got John & Yoko on the phone . . . who even more miraculously agreed to come over — as long as they could play!

In a matter of hours Lennon put together a Plastic Ono Band lineup with two future Hall of Famers (Eric Clapton & Alan White) and one founding Beatle brother, Klaus Voormann.  The next day they were rehearsing on an airplane crossing the Atlantic, and the stadium sold out in a matter of hours when the local rock radio station started announcing (every 15 minutes) that they were coming after finally getting confirmation of John boarding the plane at Heathrow.

 

This whole wild story is told in a new fast-paced visually-rich documentary using contemporary interviews, archival footage and enhanced audio, all augmented by additive animation — called Revival69.

This is history on the stage becoming history on the screen.

As great as the original Woodstock festival was, it was the lucky last-minute afterthought fluke of Michael Wadleigh filming it that transported the world to that Catskills dairy farm forevermore.  In this similar Rock-Gods-Supervised event, it was no less than the guy who invented the music documentary, D.A. Pennebaker, aka Penny, who came on board just nine days before the show — honoring the rock ‘n’ roll rule of Everything Last Minute.

“Everybody wanted to go everywhere with Penny.”  Molly Davis

Many know I’ve been a promoter/producer of concerts & events since I was a teenager — so I’m gonna love a story with a dream-driven gets-things-done promoter at its core.  And anyone who’s ever been in any place I lived has seen John Lennon pictures everywhere.  But what most don’t know is I consider D.A. Pennebaker one of the greatest artists who ever lived.

Penny was to film what Chuck Berry was to music.

Not only did he invent and set the high-bar standard for rock documentaries, he hand-built the cameras that connected to a recording source, and thus was one of the handful of people who invented cinéma vérité — from French, meaning “cinema truth” — also known as “direct cinema.”  Part of my affinity and connection is — the books I write are cinéma vérité on the page — capturing what happens, then editing the sequences into a story.  And Penny is a master of that on the screen.

Pennebaker with his homemade camera
and the coil cable to the Nagra tape recorder at his waist

He got a degree at Yale in mechanical engineering and began his adulthood as an inventor/developer.  By the early ’50s he’d become friends with the multi-disciplinary artist Frances Thompson in New York where he began building lenses, distortion devices and cameras for him, including collaborating on his groundbreaking masterpiece N.Y., N.Y., which was finally finished after 10 years of work in 1957.  Thompson never told anybody how he did it, but D.A. Pennebaker was in the thick of it.

Not only did Aldous Huxley write about this film in Heaven and Hell, but when he saw an early screening in Thompson’s apartment, it was shown on Penny’s screen and with him as the DJ on the turntable providing the soundtrack.  Can you imagine Pennebaker, Aldous Huxley and Francis Thompson all hanging in an apartment in Manhattan?!  Penny cites his time spent with Thompson as when he changed his focus from being a mechanical engineer to a life an artist — just one more of the endless examples of that city in that time changing everything about every form of art.   (see, also:  “Abstract Expression: From Beat to Brando” about 1945 to ’55 in New York City, from The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats)

If you’ve never seen the 15 minute N.Y., N.Y. day-in-the-life masterpiece, stop reading this and watch it on the biggest screen you can right now!  😉

 

 

One other incredibly cool tidbit — Penny was coming of creative age in Manhattan at the same time as Jack Kerouac, and they actually met through The New School, and Jack tried to enlist him to make a movie of On The Road.  (!)  Penny had to explain to Jack that the only way he could do it was if he’d been next to him on the highway as it happened.  But how extraordinary that these two artists who both revolutionized their mediums — and both created art out of capturing real life — overlapped as their revolutionary lives exploded like spiders across the stars over America.

Two huge supporting characters who are not mentioned in the new Revival ’69 doc are D.A.’s right-hand rock ‘n’ roll man Bobby Neuwirth;  and the pioneer of remote recording, Wally Heider.  Neuwirth and Penny first connected during the Don’t Look Back Dylan tour of England in ’65.  When accepting his Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2012, Penny said, “One person that was very instrumental in my education as a filmmaker was Bobby Neuwirth.  He knew how to function in a group of people without disturbing them and yet watching what they really did, not what they pretended to do.”  Bobby was Penny’s go-to guide at Monterey Pop, telling him which songs he needed to capture by each artist.  And when the Toronto Revival came up two years later, the director wanted his rock n roll soulmate with him, so he brought him along as a cameraman, but I’m sure he was a lot more than that.  In fact, I’d love to watch a 2-hour documentary on just what Bobby Neuwirth was up to that weekend!  😀

Neuwirth & Pennebaker at Monterey Pop, 1967

Wally Heider is not a household name, but he recorded a bunch of the albums in your collection — from the Grateful Dead to Van Morrison to Aretha Franklin.  Just as Necessity Is The Mother of Invention that led Penny to invent a handheld camera with portable audio recording, Wally invented high-end remote music recording because nobody else was doing it.  He started with Big Bands in the ’50s, and by ’64 was recording The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl and Ray Charles at the Shrine.  Thus, when Monterey Pop came along in ’67, he was the go-guy who recorded every pristine note you ever heard from there.  As festival producer Lou Adler reflected later, “Wally Heider had the only remote in town — two complete sets of eight-tracks.”  “And good mics,” D.A. chimed in.  Once Penny was in for a pound on Toronto, he hired Wally to truck his gear across the country to secure solid live audio.

 

The Monterey Pop film came out in December ’68, and suddenly the rock concert film was ‘a thing’ — prompting every prospective festival promoter to want to have theirs filmed, and a lot of the calls went to Pennebaker’s office — but he felt he’d already made his rock festival film and wasn’t interested in repeating himself.

Then this call came in from some promoter in Toronto with the prospect of capturing the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll on a multi-camera shoot on a good stage with natural lighting — now, this was something that piqued Penny’s interest.  As with nearly everything with this show, it happened last minute — just over a week before the gig — when John Lennon wasn’t even a glimmer in anybody’s eye.

Another cool karmic twist — silent 8mm film cameras had been around since the 1930s, but in 1965 Kodak came out with the Super-8 — with sound!  For this show, with Penny’s new-found stature as a hit filmmaker, he charmed (Christgau’s word) Kodak into lending him a bunch of the new cameras, with one of the ideas being to give them to the musicians to shoot their own footage, thus furthering the idea of direct cinema — making the subject also one of the filmmakers in real time.  Two hours of unprocessed Super-8 footage was found in Penny’s storage boxes.  Besides all the backstage footage, there’s a great scene in Revival69 where Alice Cooper’s on stage with a Super-8 filming Pennebaker filming him with a 16mm!  🙂

 

Jump-cut 50 years, and the spiritual grandson of Papa Penny, Ron Chapman, is paying respect with this film to his forefather just as John Lennon was there paying his respects.  Chapman has been longtime friends with the Revival promoter, John Brower, who’d regaled him with the stories of the ’69 festival many times over the years.  Brower had long been mulling ways to get this movie made, but as he shared on Bill King’s podcast, everything changed one night —

“It was at a New Year’s Eve party seven years ago at my place in Toronto.  Everybody was shit-faced out of their mind, and Ron shows up a little after midnight and starts yelling at me — ‘You need to let me make this movie!  You’re never going to get this movie made.  You’ve been trying for three years — you’ll never do it.’  And I’m going, ‘Ron!  Ron!  Quiet, please!!  Just be quiet!  If you stop yelling, you can make the movie!’  And that was it.  I gave him my story rights — ‘Just stop yelling, please!'”   😀 

And that’s how Chapman, the director of a half-dozen prior music documentaries, finally took the reins and began to craft this visual story of musical history.  As he told Welcome To The Music

“I’m interested in doing Canadian stories of international significance.  And I wanted to do this particular story because it’s just incredible.  Rolling Stone called this ‘the second most important event in rock history.’  So you have to ask yourself — if this is the second most important event in rock history, and it happened in Toronto, and if it wasn’t for a Canadian, John Brower, this would never have happened.  It’s the biggest rock story in Canada’s history — and nobody knows about it!

Varsity Stadium, Toronto, Sept. 13th, 1969

And that’s one of the beautiful things about this film — the story.  We’ve all seen a million rock doc concert films, from Wadleigh’s Woodstock to Scorsese’s Shine A Light, and in the main, they’re multi-hour live-performance music videos.  What’s so refreshingly different here — perhaps inspired by the natural narrative spirit of D.A. Pennebaker — is that it’s the storytelling of the event that really sets this movie apart.

Director Chapman could have just grabbed a few talking heads to stick in between all the hall-of-fame performances, but instead enlisted his frequent collaborator and a filmmaker in her own right, Phyllis Ellis, to tell the complex story with more improbable twists than an Agatha Christie Knives Out thriller.  Who’s going to believe that a 22-year-old kid in Toronto phoned Apple in London and got John Lennon to form a new band in 24 hours and fly across the Atlantic to perform at his festival?  The local radio stations sure as hell didn’t believe him!

Besides the actual events of history, and the priceless live-action footage from the original King of Capture, what glues you to your seat is the storytelling.

I asked Ellis how the heck she did it.

“It’s an incredibly fertile story with so many detours.  The real challenge at the beginning was the digging to lock down the Lennon story.  Once we knew that was solid, we could rock ‘n’ roll.  Once I can see the story — once the material starts talking back to me — I know I’m on a roll.  Then it’s like a fast moving train — wrapping narrative around narrative, seeing them all in motion, and then finding the visual language to match the stories the characters tell.”

The storytelling has such a clear and cohesive arc, and it moves so smoothly, even with all these complex characters and almost unbelievable twists and chance events all happening ratta-tat-tat — so I asked her how she saw the straight road of the story amongst all the fireworks going off simultaneously in all directions.

“Massive discipline frankly;  heavy, heavy lifting from transcripts, knowing what we wanted to achieve and committing fully.  Not that there weren’t false starts and some pretty hilarious missteps, but that’s the process of writing anything.  The more fulsome and fat you create a story, it’s so much easier to cut it down then breaking your brain to fill in something that isn’t there.  I must say also, Ron’s concepts and visual approach with Mathew den Boer doing the animation really filled in the gaps narratively and we were thankful to have that other element.”

And, boy, animator den Boer created beautifully conceived, period-driven visuals that amplified key events and surfed the viewer back to 1969.  As director Chapman pointed out, it was no less than The Beatles who pioneered animation to tell a rock ‘n’ roll story with Yellow Submarine.

I asked den Boer what drove him on this project —

“The main thing with the animated scenes was to make them feel continuous with the story.  We needed a way to visualize moments that were not captured in footage while striking the right balance between reverence and playfulness.  It was kind of heavy to be drawing these legendary figures, but it’s also a rock ‘n’ roll story and a bit of a caper.  Ron created an atmosphere for some pretty wild exploration when we started out, and that eventually led to the hybrid of the illustration, photography and psychedelic graphic elements you see in the film.”

Another key reason this works so well is the film editing, in this case by Eugene Weis.  Editors are rarely mentioned by name in film reviews, but so much of the audience’s experience stems from the choices they make.  To play on Kenny Rogers, you have to know when to hold ’em, and know when to cut ’em.  And what’s wonderful here is how editor Eugene has been careful with that axe, not only included the exposition, but a bunch of the comic asides and blooper moments a lot of other editors would have left on the floor.  This is rock ‘n’ roll, not Wikipedia.  This documentary manifests the playfulness, joy, chaos and kiss-ass confidence of everything rock has been from Chuck to John to Alice.

And before I get off the production riff — the score by Richard Pell and Pierre-Adrien Theo is sublime — used only when needed, but perfect when applied.  Every note of this symphonic collaboration is perfectly in harmony.

And then there was the concert.

Besides the mastery of the filmmaking, this was one of those live shows that all concert-goers hope to be at.  We’ve all attended hundreds or thousands of them, but there’s those rare few when everything comes together and all the performers are in the zone on the same night.

One of the afternoon lead-off bands was no less than Chicago Transit Authority, as they were known then before they shortened it to Chicago.  Everybody’s familiar with their sound now, but with only one barely-charting single out by Sept. ’69, almost no one knew who they were, and here was this 7-piece jazz–soul–R&B–rock band with one of the great powerhouse tenors of all time, Peter Cetera, and a 3-piece horn section blasting out brass across the grass.  If your body moved to music, this was the spark that ignited the day.

Robert Christgau, who was embedded with the Pennebaker crew writing a profile on him for Show magazine, described in detail how they had no signed rights release from the first main act, Bo Diddley — nor did they even have the cables plugged in or electric outlets available to film him.  But mid-set, one of Penny’s business guys appeared with a last-minute signed release, so they jumped into action — running on barely-charged batteries with nobody in position.  Miraculously, even though festival acts are never supposed to do encores, just as Janis did a second set at Monterey when Penny wasn’t allowed to film the first one, Bo came out for an unplanned encore, and by then Pennebaker’s team were in place and caught a classic, joyous, call-&-response Hey Bo Diddley for eternity.  Penny gets so into it, his camera almost becomes an extension of the guitar.  And Bo is positively testifying by the end — a male Aretha — taking the blaringly white Toronto audience to church.

 

And then  —  Killer phuckin kills!

One of the great things about the booking of this show (and John Lennon causing the stadium to be full) was that all these legends who invented the medium missed out playing to crowds this size.  For the most part, by the mid-’60s they were in lounges and ballrooms … while the newspapers were full of pictures of young rock bands with audiences going back as far as the eye could see.  What’s wonderful here is that every one of these nearly-forgotten giants seized the moment and laid down career-defining shows.  And extraordinary point #2 — D.A. Pennebaker was there to capture it all!

 

Jerry Lee Lewis comes out wearing a plain brown turtleneck and slacks like these kids’ parents mighta bought after seeing in an Eaton’s catalog — and he blows up the idea that you couldn’t trust (or rock to) anyone over 30.  ‘Dad’ is confident, in control, and like Bo Diddley, positively schools these kids in rock ‘n’ roll — all while rockin’ an instrument they’d only seen Liberace play on Ed Sullivan!

One of the most rewarding aspects of this and Pennebaker’s multiple Revival films is experiencing these guys performing to a real audience — not on a TV or film set — which is the only way most of us have ever seen them perform.  But here they are, in color for one thing, and interacting with an exuberant and engaged audience.  And to be completely confessional, it was watching Penny’s film of Jerry Lee’s set that I finally ‘got’ what his buzz was all about.

And then, The founding father of rock ‘n’ roll, Chuck Berry, kicks it up another notch.

Chuck aficionados say this is one of the best shows he ever played.  All these old ’50s brothers were in the same place at the same time, and they were all damn-sure gonna be the one people walked away talking about!  It’s so great they all got to have their moment in the (literal) sun of a beautiful September day — and with a great filmmaker capturing it.

Had these guys ever played full sets to full football stadiums?  They were playing theaters at their peak.  Then after those Moptops appeared on Sullivan and sold out Shea Stadium, and the baby-boomers came of age en masse, and the Summer of Love happened, and record stores started opening in every neighborhood in the land, well, these founding rockers missed all that and were left in the fifties with Bing Crosby and Doris Day.  . . .  But not on this day.

Chuck was swingin for the fences.  And, being one of the greatest natural showmen in all rock history, he knew a moment to grab when he saw it.  And boy, does he grab it.

Including grabbing some local cats hanging backstage to be his band!

It just so happens, a young jazz-fusion Toronto combo called Nucleus were one of the early opening acts and were hanging around backstage, when, without a moment’s notice, the bassist & drummer were enlisted to hold down the tracks that Chuck frickin Berry was gonna be rolling on!  An historic day of music that bassist Hughie Leggat and 18-year-old drummer Danny Taylor were never gonna forget anyway — suddenly got kicked into the surreal!

Here’s D.A. capturing the kid on drums . . .

And here he is in 2022 after he retold me the whole story at the premiere afterparty a half-mile from the original venue . . .

And here’s D.A.’s film of Chuck’s set — click on the photo below and it’ll open and play . . . 

 

And THEN — as if this backup band story wasn’t wild enough! — young unknown Alice Cooper band backed up Gene Vincent!  It’s true!

 

I’ve been an Alice Cooper fan since Billion Dollar Babies was the first rock album I ever bought, Christmas 1973 . . . 

Yours unruly  —  Halloween ’75

Of course I knew he played at this Revival, but never knew until this movie that he & the band backed up Gene Vincent!

A few years after this concert, when John Lennon recorded his tribute album to the early rock ‘n’ roll songs that inspired & ignited his life (Rock n Roll, 1975) three of the songs he covered were played by the originals at this show — Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen, Little Richard’s Rip It Up, and the song he chose to open the album — Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-a-Lula.  As John tells the story, the first time he sang this song in public was the day he met Paul, and it was so beloved by the band it remained in The Beatles’ live repertoire all through the early years.  Fortunately, Pennebaker was on hand to capture its ‘revival,’ including when a bunch of the Vagabonds Motorcycle Club decided the stage was the best place for dancing and some wonderful rock ‘n’ roll chaos ensued — all with the appropriately unhinged Alice Cooper band playing through the mayhem.

And sorta surprisingly, Toronto’s Vagabonds ended up playing a big role in both the original event and the film.  They leant the promoters the 25 grand to book The Doors, but more visually wonderful was how they organized 80 bikes to be the motorcade for John Lennon from the airport to the venue on the day of the show!  Penny immediately saw the cinematic possibilities, and sent young Molly Davis & others out to accompany them, armed with the new super-cool Super-8 cameras!  Not only do they get tons of wild footage both on bikes and off, but somehow Penny managed to place cameras along the route so we see this comical motorcade of leather-clad bikers escorting white-suited peacenik John Lennon & company riding in cartoonish old-timey black stretch limos that look like the prototype for the Batmobile!

And then “the ninth wonder of the world” Alice Cooper hit the stage — in the early spectacle daze when they were still signed to Frank Zappa’s appropriately named Bizarre Records and who couldn’t find a hit song if they stumbled over it.  In fact, it would be a 19-year-old aspiring record producer in Toronto named Bob Ezrin who, a year later, would take on the Coop and whip them into a cohesive recording band that then produced a nonstop string of hit singles and albums through the ’70s.  Alice called Ezrin “our George Martin,” and just as the producer of this concert changed the course of Beatle history, a different young Toronto producer changed the course of theatrical shock rock.

This was also the show where Alice famously threw a live chicken into the audience.  “It seemed, in the mayhem,” he remembers, ” … it had wings, it should fly.  …  But chickens don’t so much fly as they plummet.”  —  which led to headlines all over the world about Alice Cooper biting the head off a live chicken.  Zappa wisely advised them to not refute any of the accusations, and the band got the most press in their career to that point!  Their legendary manager Shep Gordon confesses here on camera for the first time that it was he who put the chicken on stage, and added, from a 21st century distance, “That moment lit the path for the next 25 years of his career.”

And boy, between Alice and Yoko’s performances, the audience that day sure got exposed to some pretty wild avant-garde music!

Here’s 13 minutes of Coop’s set via D.A. Pennebaker’s cameras —

 

Although the show’s operating motivation was for everybody to try and top everybody else, Little Richard practiced that with every gig he ever played!  He had the stage lights turned off so there was just one spotlight on him in his mirrored vest — which he showed off dancing on top of the piano for much of his set.  During this period, he had another guy playing Little Richard-style grand piano, while the original went out front and did a Tina Turner routine.

30 years after this Toronto show, I saw him perform up close in a small room in New York during the MTV daze, and he still had this same energy, chops and showmanship at age 70.

Here’s D.A. Pennebaker’s joy-jumpin’ Little Richard: Keep On Rockin’  28-minute film of the Toronto set.  As Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger recalls in Revival69 — “I was standing with Jim, and he goes, ‘Man!  We gotta follow that?!‘”   😀

 

The John Lennon set is of course historic and the reason there’s a movie about this concert.  And it never would have happened . . .

If the promoters hadn’t booked Chuck Berry at the Pop Festival in June.
If Chuck hadn’t positively slayed on stage that day.
If John Brower hadn’t caught his set.
If he & Ken Walker hadn’t hatched the idea to do a ’50s show.
If all the ’50s performers had not all been available on the same day.
If the Revival had advance sales of 20,000 … instead of 2,000.
If their rock journalist pal Ritchie Yorke hadn’t talked them into bringing in Kim Fowley from L.A.
If Fowley hadn’t insisted on Brower calling John Lennon.
If Lennon had been recording or out of town.
If Ritchie Yorke hadn’t have been hanging around Apple at the time to vouch for Brower.
And nobody in Toronto would have believed John was coming if he hadn’t have done a quick press gaggle at Heathrow on the way out of town.

Young future Yes (and Lennon solo) drummer Alan White (20 years old at the time) didn’t believe it was John calling to recruit him, and Lennon had to ring back a second time to convince him.

The number of crazy improbable events that all had to happen in the 48 hours prior to this show may be the single greatest streak of jackpot wins in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

Those of us of a certain age all had that blue-sky-covered Live Peace in Toronto in our record collections — it being the only live album of a solo Beatle playing rock ‘n’ roll on a stage — but the backstory was never well documented until now.

The band was put together in an afternoon — worked up a set list on the plane on the way over — and had one quasi rehearsal through a single amp in a cinder-block football players’ dressing room.

Mal Evans, The Beatles’ invaluable ever-present all-purpose roadie, made the trip to make the staging happen, and noted how they set up like the Fab Four always had with the bass on audience left, the lead guitar in the center, and John where he always was on the right.

A 16-year-old Geddy Lee was there blazing on some “Owsley Purple Haze,” as he told us at the premiere Q&A.

Canadian music historian Alan Cross moderates a post-screening talk with Rush’s Geddy Lee and director Ron Chapman, with The Doors’ Robbie Krieger and promoter John Brower Zooming in.

Geddy described the moment: “The light shining from John Lennon left you with your jaw dropped.  He was a Beatle, and that had an aura about it, and imbued everyone with a kind of awe — the fact that we were in the same vicinity as him and he was playing for us!”

For Lennon’s first-ever post-Beatles live show, they got themselves grounded on stage and kept the theme of the festival going by playing three rock ‘n’ roll classics the band all knew — Carl Perkins’ Blue Suede Shoes . . . about which Mal Evans shared — “I remember turning around on stage during the band’s performance and finding Gene Vincent next to me with tears rolling down his cheeks, saying, ‘It’s marvelous.  It’s fantastic, man.'”

And then the Motown hit Money that The Beatles rocked live regularly circa 1962–63 . . .

 

and the Dizzy Miss Lizzy cover that the Fabs played since their earliest days, recorded for the Help! sessions, and was part of their live repertoire through ’65.  These last two were always Lennon lead vocals which he clearly felt comfortable with and show why he’s one of rock’s great male vocalists.

 

 

Then things really got interesting — the only Beatles song they’d play all night — Yer Blues — the heart-wrenching John song (“I’m lonely, want to die”) from the White Album.  This was also Lennon’s go-to when he appeared in another one-off band he put together a year earlier, The Dirty Mac, for The Rolling Stones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus, in December ’68.  Although John technically played that show without The Beatles (with Clapton, Keith Richards on bass and Jimi’s Mitch Mitchell on drums) it was on a soundstage for a TV show with only a few invited friends as an audience — not a paying crowd of 20,000.

 

And then homie drops the first version anybody ever heard of Cold Turkey!  It was so new that Yoko had to hold up the lyrics on a sheet of paper in front of him!

This song was recorded 5 times.  It debuted in Toronto on Sept. 13th;  then was recorded in Abbey Road two weeks after this show with Eric, Klaus & Ringo;  and he played it once in both the afternoon and evening One To One concerts at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 30th, 1972;  but the hair-raising bone-chilling shiver-inducing definitive version was live at the Lyceum Ballroom in London for a UNISEF benefit on Dec 15, 1969, and was included on the live disc with Some Time In New York City.  The last three minutes of the withdrawal are insane.  It’s the original Toronto Plastic Ono Band reunited, plus George Harrison (who arrived with Eric, Delaney & Bonnie), and would be the last time John would share a stage with a Beatle;  Keith Moon joins in banging on Alan White’s toms;  Billy Preston’s on the keys;  Bobby Keys is on the preston … I mean the sax;  with Delaney & Bonnie on guitar and tambourine.  The song was written about quitting heroin — but I wonder if some of the subtext angst was also about quitting The Beatles?

 

 

And then of course John climaxes with Give Peace A Chance.  “This is what we came for, really,” he says, before doing a live version of the hit song he recorded in a Montreal hotel room three months earlier.

John & Yoko had first flown to Toronto back in May to do their second bed-in for peace (following Amsterdam in March), and it’s where 14-year-old Jerry Levitan met and interviewed them, which became the I Met The Walrus book and DVD.

 

Their week-long bed-in for peace in Montreal (following their short stay in Toronto) was when they hung with Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Dick Gregory, Tommy Smothers and a bunch of other voices for cultural change and recorded Give Peace A Chance in their pajamas.

Shortly after the Revival concert, in December ’69, John & Yoko flew back to Toronto to launch their “War Is Over! If you want it.” campaign that included billboards being put in a dozen major cities around the world.  This is also when they went and stayed at Ronnie Hawkins’ ranch, which would make a whole other great documentary!

Canada played a pretty big role in John Lennon’s life, and you can read about all the Beatle–Canada connections in John Arnone’s excellently written, deeply researched and highly recommended book Us and Them: Canada, Canadians and The Beatles.

Here’s The Plastic Ono Band’s entire set via D.A. Pennebaker —

 

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival ended with The Doors, who, like some artists back then, were suspicious of people filming them, and never signed a release, so Penny & his crew packed up early.  But good ol’ Wally Heider got the audio, and one of the last things you hear in Revival69 is Jim Morrison saying from the stage —

“I can remember when rock ‘n’ roll first came on the scene, and for me it was a very liberating experience, because it opened whole new strange catacombs of wisdom that I didn’t know about and I couldn’t see any equivalent for in my surroundings.  And that’s why for me this evening it’s been a really great honor to perform on the same stage with so many illustrious musical geniuses.”

 

You can see the beautifully assembled 97-minute Revival69 film of this whole improbable story starting in February 2023 on Crave in Canada, and coming soon to the rest of the world.

 

With director Ron Chapman at the premiere afterparty —
a half-mile along Bloor Street from where the concert happened

 

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Here’s the 2-minute trailer for Revival69 . . .

 

This new doc is the natural sequel to Peter Jackson’s 2021 Emmy-sweeping masterpiece The Beatles: Get Back — picking up the story seven months later.  Both were made from 1969 film footage preserved in storage but untapped for 50 years.  Both were digitally upscaled to 4K and the audio completely remastered.  Both feature new songs the audience hears shortly after they were written, and classic rock ‘n’ roll covers that the band was born out of.  Both show John & Yoko as inseparable and in love, and both feature live outdoor performances.  If you haven’t seen the Revival69 prequel, you need to.  Streaming on DisneyPlus.

 

And if you love great documentaries about historic music festivals that were overlooked at the time but were in fact captured by multi-camera professional crews, you gotta see Summer of Soul, about the Harlem Cultural Festival.  Both festivals took place in 1969 in the largest city in their country (Toronto and New York), featuring the founding giants of their musical idioms, and both had the original footage sitting untapped in storage boxes for decades.  It won the Best Documentary Oscar and tons of other awards, and features live performances by Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, the Staple Singers, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Sly & The Family Stone, Max Roach, Hugh Masekela, The Chambers Brothers and many others.  Also streaming on DisneyPlus.

 

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Some other pages you might enjoy

The promoters were bringing giants of the past into the present, including those who changed the world forever starting in the 1950s, and that’s something I’ve also been doing with my work — bringing Jack Kerouac and the Beats into the present day.  I’ve written several books on the matter, but The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac is particularly to the point.

The cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac by Brian Hassett

Here’s a fun, informative, rollicking Welcome To The Music podcast featuring promoter Brower and director Chapman — 

 

Here’s a great Toronto Star feature on the film.

Here’s director Ron Chapman’s concise statement on what drove him while making the film.

Here’s Mal Evans’ 1969 account of the Revival trip and show.

Here’s D.A. Pennebaker’s full Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival documentary Sweet Toronto — 

 

And here’s Penny’s brilliant & beautiful first real film Daybreak Express made between 1953 and 1957 — an impressionistic take on life in New York City at that time, with a Duke Ellington soundtrack . . .

 

And here’s where Best Documentary Oscar winner Michael Moore presents Penny with an honorary Lifetime Achievement Oscar.  “Pennebaker did two very simple things.  First, he took the camera off the tripod!  That’s it.  In that one moment when Penny unscrewed the camera from its stationary position, the world of filmmaking changed — nonfiction and fiction.  Second, Pennebaker and his friends invented the first portable synched sound mechanism where the 16mm camera could move, and sound would be in synch with it.  He invented this apparatus back in the ’50s and it changed everything for filmmakers, regardless of what kind of films they wanted to make — cuz sound could now match the picture.”

 

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And in the spirit of this festival of riches, you might also enjoy . . .

The Beatles: Get Back  —  annotated and time-coded — something I put together last year and people are still reading every single day.

Here’s a great piece that connects the Beatles and the Beats via Michael McClure’s The Beard.

I was in Manhattan the night John was killed.  It took decades before I could revisit it, but I finally did.

I also saw Festival Express at its premiere in Toronto — the other great Canadian rock festival documentary, produced by Ken Walker the co-promoter of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival — and I ended up writing the feature story on it for Relix.

In fact, there’s a whole Movie category on my website that’s got dozens of film stories.

Including the unknown gem My Dinner with Jimi — which is set in 1967 and premiered at this same Hot Docs theater, and I got to spend some time afterwards with the funny raconteur creator Howard Kaylan.

And in fact The Wrecking Crew movie premiere was also at the same place!

And speaking of premieres — here’s On The Road outdoors in London.

And here’s the amazing tale of its premiere at TIFF in Toronto where I began my friendship with director Walter Salles.

And here’s the wild New York premiere story.

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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David Amram & Brian Hassett On-Stage Collaborations

November 30th, 2022 · Brian on YouTube etc., Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales

Lowell Celeb rates Kerouac at Ye Olde Worthen House

David Amram and I have been performing together since we first started hanging in 1994 after an introduction by Teri McLuhan, Marshall’s daughter.  It was the big NYU Beat conference — I write about it in Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy — I first saw him unloading his congas from his Farm Aid jeep on opening night, and by the closing dinner gala I was enlisted to help him write his memoir.  We did loads of shows together over the years, mostly in Manhattan, but when we reconnected in Lowell in 2015 it had been about eight years since the last one.

Some of the gigs we did back in the ’90s are on video tapes in a drawer — hopefully I’ll get to those some day — but I thought it would be cool to upload the six times we performed together at the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.

LCK was born after the dedication of the Kerouac Commemorative Park in 1988.  I never made the trip in the early years because I was living in Manhattan and all-star Jack events were happening with some regularity all over town all the time.

When my book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac came out in 2015, I figured it was time I made the pilgrimage to “the mad ones” mecca.  Also, both Michael McClure and Andy Clausen were featured performers, and if I was going to go to this thing I might as well go the year two of my favorite living poets were gonna be rocking it.

People in New York knew what I did on a stage, but I didn’t know any of the folks who put on LCK, so I knew that first year I better hit the two open mics and knock it outta the park.  🙂 

I found out that one of the built-in staples of the five days of LCK was the Sunday afternoon “Amram Jam” where good ol’ Dave would accompany spoken word performers.  Nobody in Lowell knew me, but I had a secret weapon in that I’d performed hundreds of times with their star maestro.

That first year I decided to pull out an On The Road passage Dave & I had done many times — something I call “The San Francisco Epiphany” — where Jack starts hallucinating due to hunger, and it’s probably the trippiest, most surreal writing in the whole book.  So, that’s what he & I did upon our first reconnection.

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On the strength of that, in 2016, they booked me to do my own solo show on Saturday, and now that I knew about the Sunday “Amram Jam” — and knowing how I know Dave and his adroitness at live accompaniment — I came up with the idea of doing the part of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack where I describe meeting each of the Beat founding fathers for the first time in 1982 as a 21-year-old, and that David could do something different musically for each of the different portrayals.

It went magnificently.  🙂

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2017 was the year George Walker & I teamed up doing our “Jack & Neal Ride Again” show, and girlfriend Sky handmade killer tie-dye t-shirts to celebrate it.  For the Amram Jam, I made the interesting choice to do the climactic chapters of both The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack (“Song of The Road I Sing”) and the then just-released How The Beats Begat The Pranksters (“Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.”)

 

In 2018, I coaxed another old performing partner, John Cassady, out of hiding and he made the trip across the continent for us to share a stage together again.  For the Amram Jam I thought the dynamics of the On The Road scroll auction piece would make for good musical accompaniment.  And boy, did it!  It had just been published in my latest book, On The Road with Cassadys, so I’m sure glad we fired up that hotrod for the Trio take a ride in. 

Also, LCK was screening the film Loving Vincent on Sunday night, and since back in the day David had often requested my Van Gogh poem Visiting Vincent as something we should do on stage, I pulled that out of hiding and let it dance in Jacklandia.

This was one performance where Dave asked afterwards if I had a recording of it because he wanted a copy.  (!)  Glad I could finally make that happen.  🙂 

 

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2019 was the year Cathy Cassady came and graced us with her beautiful show bringing both her artist parents to life.  It was also the gathering that followed the passing of the great Al Hinkle — Big Ed Dunkel in On The Road and “The Last Man Standing” as his book was called — and those of us who spent time with him did a series of tributes to him Friday night.

It’d written a tribute poem to Al, and had one about Neal, and Carolyn, and Van Gogh, but I never had a nice short tribute to Jack for performances such as this.  So I wrote one — and debuted “Ode To Jack” here with the Amram Trio.

Also, 2019 was the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, and I had a book come out that year about the magical 25th anniversary festival, which, vibe-wise, had a lot in common with LCK — so I performed the rockin climax of that book with Dave & Company.

The clip opens with a tribute to a great LCK spirit and cornerstone who passed away, Graham Robinson, from England.

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After a couple of years off due to Covid, everybody reassembled in 2022 for the first full-on LCK in a while.  During the lockdown, one of my projects was to sort all my performance pieces from over the decades, and I came across a real-life driving Adventure called “The Car Chase.”  It has real dynamics to it and a driving (ha-ha) energy that seemed like it would work with some crackerjack musicians accompanying — so I pulled that rabbit out of the hat of obscurity. 

Plus this has a surprise encore of my great “Jack on Film” show partner Julian Ortman following me to the microphone.  😉

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So far at LCK, Dave & I have done nine different pieces over six years — in performance clips ranging from 7 minutes to 15.

We performed something from:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack — first meeting the Beats — in 2016
. . . . . and the climactic Song of The Road I Sing poem — 2017
How The Beats Begat Pranksters — Be The Invincible — 2017
On The Road with Cassadys — the On The Road scroll auction — 2018
Holy Cats!  Dream-Catching at Woodstock — the book’s climax — 2019

 

And as a bonus collaborative video — here’s a Covid lockdown live-stream David & I did for Rachel Anne’s “Verse & Vibe” show where I read reflections on Neal Cassady from Carolyn Cassady, John Allen Cassady, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Clellon Holmes, David Amram, Al Hinkle, Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Ken Babbs, George Walker, Ed McClanahan, Paul Foster, Wavy Gravy, Mountain Girl, Anonymous, Mary Microgram, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow — all with David Amram responding to each musically.

To watch the show, click on this screen-grab  . . .

Neal Cassady tribute with Brian Hassett & David Amram

 

And as a double bonus related clip — he’s a video tribute to Al Hinkle I made for his memorial —

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And here’s the memorial tribute to Al at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in 2019, with three people who knew him — the Reverend Steve Edington, Cathy Cassady, and myself delivering the “Al Hinkle: Hero of The Humble” poem.

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For a complete rundown of LCKs from 2015 through 2022 check out this photo- and story-rich page.

For tons more performance and interview videos from all over the continent check out the Online Video Collection.

For a wild riffing photo-filled account of my first LCK in 2015, you can read that here.

Here’s the classic Lowell Celebrates Kerouac tribute piece that is included in How The Beats Begat The Pranksters and has been performed live at every LCK since.

Here’s a full accounting (with photos and video) of John Cassady coming to Lowell and the Jack & Neal show we did there.

Here’s a funny wild local story — when I talked my way into the very private Pawtucketville Social Club.  “It’s alright, he’s Kerouac.”   🙂 

For more info on David Amramcheck out his website here.

For this site’s stash full of other stories on Kerouac and the Beats check here.

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) – Videos, Stories & Photos – 2015–2022

October 30th, 2022 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales

 

Stories, videos and photos from the annual Kerouac hometown festival over the last several years I’ve been going.

Edie Parker-Kerouac called and told me about the the initial commemorative dedication in July 1988 — which birthed LCK — saying that she, Henri Cru and “Big Tim” Moran were driving up for it, and that their car was gonna be filled with the three of them plus Henri’s wheelchair, but that I should somehow get myself up there.

I’d just gotten married, and we’d just moved into a new apartment in Manhattan, and my disposable income at the time largely went to two tickets to every Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan show in the area, so the idea of renting a car to drive to some place that was not the center of the universe really didn’t rise too high on the to-do list.

Tim Moran wrote a pretty great account of that 1988 commemorative trip to climax the posthumous Edie memoir You’ll Be Okay if anybody wants a detailed account.

Over the next few years — before the internet — I’d hear about the Lowell festival, but St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery was regularly hosting all-star Beat events, and Allen was always inviting his old pals to his Brooklyn College classes we could crash, so there really wasn’t this driving force to drive to Lowell.

Then by ’94 and ’95 NYU was hosting those huge conferences where everybody came in from all over.  And on top of that, LCK’s October fest was in the heart of the arts season in New York.  Labor Day to Thanksgiving is a mad sprint of new plays and movies opening, concerts, poetry readings, art exhibits — you can barely catch your breath.  So, the idea of leaving the red-hot action to drive out to a Town for sumpthin we were already doing in The City never really blipped too bright on the radar.

But by 2015 when The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac came out it finally seemed like a must-do Road Trip.

The cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac by Brian Hassett

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2015The Michael McClure / Andy Clausen year

2015 was featuring both Michael McClure and Andy Clausen, and although I knew very little about LCK, I knew enough that this was the year for these two headliners, and I’d be kicking myself if I put it off another year and just missed them.  So ol’ Ken Morris and I made the initial exploratory expedition to suss out just what this thing was.

We immediately fell in love with the vibe and the people and I knew this was sumpthin I was gonna wanna come back to.  Although I’d been performing in New York for years, nobody up Lowell way had any idea what I did, so I knew I had to Wow ’em.  The only two options were the open mic on Saturday and to join Dave for the Amram Jam on Sunday.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack was not written with performances in mind, but I had to find something Jack-centric in it to do live — and I hit on “The Professor in the Park” section where the two of us talk Jack, then a couple come along and we all jam it out.  Being that I was theatrically-centric after all the stages I’d been on and in front of in New York, I came up with the idea to have other people read the three character parts and do it as a scene reading from a play at the open mic.  That knocked everyone for a loop.  I’ve still never seen anyone do a scene from a play in all the open mics since.  So that was impact #1.  😉 

Then the next day was the annual “Amram Jam,” and since Dave & I had performed together about a hundred times in ol’ New York, I knew this was another chance to slay.

Back in ’97, St. Mark’s Church & Viking Press put on a 40th anniversary of On The Road marathon reading.  Doug Brinkley, David Stanford & David Amram all stressed to the organizer, Ed Friedman, that I was a great Jack reader, and so he slotted me in for the hardest part of the book — what I call “the San Francisco epiphany” — (part two, ch. 10) where Jack starts hallucinating from hunger and the prose becomes the most surreal in the whole book.  Since it’s a real highlight passage, and Dave & I had done it a few times, I pulled out that old hit single, and we nailed it.  From then on, LCK knew who this Brian guy was.  😃

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Here’s a full wild account of that year’s 10-day inaugural LCK Adventure.

Here’s the wild story of how I got into the Pawtucketville Social Club without being a member.  (!)

Here’s a public Facebook photo album with over a hundred pictures:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10156103969390261&type=3

 

2016 — The Birth of The Pranksters

The next year they invited me to do my own show.

It’s emerged that one of my late-life missions is to turn the current crop of Merry Pranksters onto their antecedents and to turn the current Beats onto their offspring.  Thanks to one Indy brother helping another, Philip Thomas sponsored the Wizard of Wonder to make the trip, and thus birthed the Pranksters coming to Lowell!

Chris Foster / The Wizard of Wonder at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac

A couple years later, the LCK staple Alan Crane (RIP) pulled me aside and told me how important a development this was in the energy of the festival.  And Amram’s master jazz drummer Kevin Twigg said the same thing unprompted in 2022.  Color was infusing the red brick of the ol’ town.

Here’s video of the whole first solo show — which was great! — in four parts, including (in order) — the Wizard of Wonder’s Pranksterish introduction;  Jack goin to Lowell from Vanity of Duluoz;  a wild Hitchhiker’s Guide hitchhiking part;  a funny 420 Jack moment;  [part 2] the First Avenue “car chase” scene done live for the first time, with musical accompaniment by Jason E and George K (and reprised with the Amram Trio in 2022);  [part 3] The Hitchhiker’s Guide arrival in San Francisco including the Steve Jobs guy;  [part 4] and it climaxes with the Pic premiere performance — first time anyone ever did that book into a microphone in public.

We also did a reprise of “The Professor in the Park” 4-person theater piece from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac with Mary Emmerick, Ken Morris and Philip Thomas, but the camera never captured it.

And here’s the classic Ode to LCK I wrote that year and has been performed at every LCK since

Guylaine Knupp told me in 2022 that this ^ piece “changed my life.”

In 2017 she was wondering about going to this Kerouac thing in Lowell — and when she Googled it, she found my riff, and she said it told her that this was gonna be FUN and not a bunch of academics behind tables reading papers.  And, boy, not only has she been a refreshing part of every open mic since, but she took to the whole Beatster scene and has been chumming around with one of us for the five years since.

Oh yeah!  Then the next day was insane!  There’s a part in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack where I do a descriptive riff on a bunch of the core Beats.  Knowing Dave Amram’s ability to adjust & adapt instantly to the oratory he was accenting, I told him in advance the idea of doing a different musical interpretation of each of the Beat figures I’d riff about.  He LOVED the idea, and went for it full bore.

If this isn’t the best ever Amram & Brian on stage on film, it’s damn close.  😉

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And besides everything else — there was this whole Jack gravesite Adventure!

Or here’s a public Facebook photo album with 50 pics.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10157638478870261&type=3

 

2017 — The George & Sky year

The kool-aid really got spiked in 2017 when original Merry Prankster George Walker came to town to join me for the “Kerouac & Cassady Ride Again” show.  My Prankster girlfriend Sky came and beautified the scene from Tulsa;  Gubba & Uncle Mike flew in from Vancouver, and Hootie from New Mexico;  joining Wonderland regular Phil Thomas from Indianapolis, Guylaine Knupp making her first appearance from Quebec, actor & Edie Parker friend Thomas Galasso from Detroit, Nancy & Vilous Fox from Texas, Brandon Loberg from The Beat Museum in San Francisco, Brett Sigurdson from Minnesota, Jason Pacheco from PA, all blending into a soaring psychedelic soup of celebrants.

 

We also picked up copies of my second book in The Beat Trilogy — How The Beats Begat the Pranksters — which was published on Sept. 26th, just 13 days after it was first conceived of as a book!

Here’s George Walker describing how the book came to exist in two weeks (!) and what it’s been like working together.

 

NEED THE VIDEO OF THE GEORGE & BRIAN POLLARD SHOW

Here’s George Walker introducing my Road Show and the opening ode to LCK —

And here’s the first-ever public performance of “The Grateful Dead: Jack Manifested as Music” —

NEED VIDEO OF THE REST OF THIS SHOW.

Here’s the Sunday Amram Jam where I perform the climactic chapters of both The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac and How The Beats Begat The Pranksters with the Amram Quartet.

Here’s a public Facebook photo album with over 200 pictures of LCK and the George & Brian East Coast tour.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10159453924440261&type=3

 

2018 — The John Cassady year

This was the year On The Road with Cassadys came out.

John Cassady and I decided to team up together on a stage again, and LCK agreed to cover some of his expenses, and lo and behold we brought his dad and Uncle Jack back to life on stage.

Here’s the story about John and I rejoining forces at LCK.

NEED THE VIDEO OF THE FRIDAY NIGHT ROAD SHOW AT ZORBA’S.

Here’s the “Brian and John Present Jack & Neal” show, as filmed by the Lowell TeleMedia Center —

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Here’s the Sunday afternoon Amram Jam where I joined the Amram Trio to do the On The Road scroll auction, and a piece Dave and I did often back in the ’90s in New York — Visiting Vincent — in honor of the Loving Vincent movie screening later that night.

 

This was also the year of the birth of “Sunday Night at the Movies” at LCK with the screening of Loving Vincent where we explored the connection between the two artists of eternity who celebrated and immortalized the least among us.

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Here’s a cool radio interview turned into a photo-filled video that I did with local hero Wireless Mike on WUML just before the festival.  There’s a time-coded breakdown in the video “Show more” description where you can click on the blue numbers and jump to any of the subjects — the writing process, going to LCK, the connections between the Beats and the Grateful Dead, proof of greater forces, the “On The Road with Cassadys” book, embracing the magic “IT” and all sortsa other cool riffs.

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Another funny twist was the local Lowell Sun putting me on the front page above the fold!

And yet another cool 2018 subplot was Sebastaan Laading’s “I Am Jack” art installation where you could type on an old Kerouac-era manual typewriter — and have the words projected onto a hi-def video screen.

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And here’s a public Facebook photo album with over 70 pictures.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10160965941400261

 

2019 — The Cathy Cassady / Al Hinkle year

This was the year Cathy Cassady came for the first time and put on her show telling her family’s life story with colorful photographs and even more colorful anecdotes.

Don Gagnon photo

It was also the year after Jack’s close friend Al Hinkle had passed away and a bunch of us laid down some nice tributes to him. 

Here’s Cathy and her husband George who created this cool poster as a tribute.

 

 

Here’s the memorial to Al at Zorba’s Music Hall on Friday Oct. 11th, 2019 . . .

 

Here’s the core volunteer crew who make LCK happen — at the wrap party in Reality Alley.

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Here’s the Sunday Amram Jam show — where I do a tribute to the late-great Graham Robinson — the new “Ode to Jack” performance poem — and the climax to “Holy Cats!  Dream-Catching at Woodstock” . . .

NEED SATURDAY ROAD SHOW VIDEO

Here’s a public Facebook photo album with over 30 pictures.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10162504420360261

 

2020 — the Covid–cancelled year

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2021 — the all-events-outdoors year

It was still too Covidy out there in the world, and with no indoor events, which is most of the fun of this epic gathering, this Jackster stayed next to his writing machine until the coasting was clearer.

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March 12th, 2022 — Jack’s birthday centennial

Here’s the wild Road Trip Adventure to Jack’s centennial birthday celebrations sculpted in pictures, prose & poetry.

Editor David Stanford and publicist Dennis McNally at Kerouac 100 in Lowell

 

2022 — the “Jack on Film” year

Here’s the Soundcloud audio of a rockin Sept. 17th interview with Wireless Mike Flynn on WUML where we riff on “Jack on Film” and the collaborative realities of movies, and Oliver Trager’s Lord Buckley show, and Jerry Cimino and The Beatmobile coming, and the glories of global connecting, and the importance of cool planning in festivals, and all sortsa other cool stuff —

Here’s the Saturday night “Jack at 100 Road Show” — which turned out to be one of the best ever — including:

The Ode to LCK
The climax of the 100th birthday weekend
Tributes to Tom Galasso and Edie Kerouac
The spirit of Jack at the New Hampshire primary
The On The Road scroll auction
“The Power of the Collective” from The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats
The Ode To Jack —

And here was the raw live-stream feed —

Here’s the 2-minute “Ode to Jack” video:

https://www.facebook.com/uel.gardner.7/videos/487039859809908

Here’s the Car Chase scene with the Amram Trio during the Amram Jam on Sunday afternoon, October 9th . . . 

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With show co-producer & video wiz Julian Ortman

Here’s the bulk of Sunday’s “Jack on Film” YouTube live stream – from The Subterraneans through Beat Angel and the Vincent Balestri Zoom-in climax —

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Here’s Mitch Corber’s 49-min video of some “Jack on Film” highlights spanning Pull My Daisy thru Naked Lunch — 

 

Here’s “The Making of ‘Jack on Film‘” story about how this whole show came to be.

Here’s a sample of the notes for one of the 17 films or TV shows for “Jack on Film.”

Here’s a public Facebook photo album for the centennial summit with over 100 pictures —

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=Brian.Hassett.Canada&set=a.10166810994945261

 

Here’s Prankster Ashlee Spirit’s great cell phone footage from the middle of the audience of Jack actor Vincent Balestri’s live Zoom call which hit it so far out of the park they haven’t found the ball yet  —

 

Here’s her audience footage of the Magic Trip movie set-up and the clip —

 

Here’s her audience footage of the Neal Cassady movie set-up and clip —

 

And here’s a cool profile piece that came out in the local Oakville News after LCK and just before this page got built.

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And here’s a story that came out just after this was published by Beat Museum founder Jerry Cimino about the “Jack on Film” show and the great Vincent Balestri.

Jerry Cimino praises "Beat Angel's" Vincent Balestri

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And here’s a March 2023 interview by renown British Beat & music writer Simon Warner about writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac and all sorts of other subjects from the publishing world to the internet, from writing prose like music to carrying the baton and passing the torch.

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For tons more performance and interview videos from all over the continent check out the Online Video Collection.

For this site’s cookie jar full of other stories on Kerouac and the Beats check here.

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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“Jack on Film” sample

September 29th, 2022 · Kerouac and The Beats, Movies

Here’s a little taste . . .

My “script” notes for the first dramatic portrayal of Jack . . .

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Pull My Daisy (released Nov. 1959) One of the Big Five to focus on

MY THESIS HOW THIS IS THE GREATEST BEAT GEN CREATION.

Filmed in their prime . . . . Kerouac’s best 28 mins on tape . . . . . Amram’s score to enhance it . . . . . lensed by Robert Frank . . . . . shot in an artist’s loft in Greenwich Village . . . . . a collaboration, not one man’s work.

The Grove Press [Barney Rosset] Pull My Daisy book says it was filmed intermittently from January 2nd through April 1959.

Premiered at the Museum of Modern Art — May 12th, 1959

Jonas Mekas reviewed it for The Village Voice — saying it was “a signpost of purity, innocence, humor, truth and simplicity.”

Esquire even reviewed it — saying Kerouac’s narration “kept things rolling along on a tide of laughter and poetry, showing an unexpected virtuosity at the Great American Art of kidding.”

Peter Bogdanovich called it “brilliant.” according to Dennis McNally.

IMDb and The Illustrated Beats Chronology by Robert Niemi both say it was “released” on Nov 11th, 1959. But what does this mean? No distribution.

San Francisco Film Festival Nov 17th — according to both Charters & McNally Jack attended the screening but was so drunk he fell off the stage.

Gregory Corso in the Jack role

Allen as Allen

Peter as Peter

Larry Rivers as Milo — in the Neal role

French actress Delphine Say-rig as Milo’s wife — Carolyn Cassady

her film debut — she went on to have 60 film & TV credits over the next 30 years, primarily in France — including The Day of The Jackal — was directed by Truffaut & Bunuel — became a prominent outspoken feminist.

David Amram as Mezz McGillicuddy

Bishop — Richard Bellamy — billed as “Mooney Pebbles”

Bishop’s mother — Alice Neel from Richard Modiano — a major American portrait artist, had solo exhibitions at the Met and Whitney in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the de Young in S.F., and shows in London, Sweden, Germany.

Bishop’s sister — Sally Gross — also from Richard M — an important modern dance choreographer from 1960 – 2015, subject of a dozen documentaries.

Robert Frank’s son Pablo is the child — sort of the role of one of the Cassady kids

Anita Ellis sang the opening song.

Act 3 from Jack’s play The Beat Generation — which Jack had read into a tape recorder doing all the voices.

Robert Frank heard it and said, “THAT’s what we should film.”

Shot with Robert’s single 16mm camera that had no sound — as those hand-helds didn’t have until D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles brothers figured out ways to connect portable recording units a few years later — which completely revolutionized documentary filmmaking and cinema verite.

And speaking of Pennebaker & the Maysles — think how Pull My Daisy presaged Don’t Look Back or anything by the Maysles.

There was ostensibly a “script” — but everybody was just winging it and goofing and being themselves in their friend’s loft.

Based on real events at the Cassady house, Los Gatos, summer of 1955 Carolyn writes about it in Off The Road (pp 264–266).

Bishop Romano — Swiss — ordained at the Liberal Catholic Church

he did indeed bring his mother and aunt with him;

and they did indeed sit side-by-side on the couch, and never spoke;

and Allen did go squeeze in between them — all as portrayed in the movie.

Allen & Peter were there.

as was a guy named “Pat” — converted in the play/movie to “Pat ‘Mezz’ McGillicuddy” played by Amram.

According to Carolyn he was a guy Neal had sent round in hopes she’d have an affair with him, and she’d at least be distracted so he could spend more time with Natalie Jackson.

Gregory was not there in Los Gatos — so he’s in the role of Jack here.

Jack sat on floor next to the Bishop — as Gregory’s shown in the movie.

As I said yesterday and is in The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats

“It was co-produced by a PAINTER Alfred Leslie — and shot in his canvas-filled loft — featuring PAINTER Larry Rivers in the role of Neal — with ART DEALER Richard Bellamy as the Bishop — and it was financed by libertine PAINTER Walter Gutman — so it’s a film made by painters — about poets — narrated by a novelist.”

Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress in 1996.

Clip “Here’s a minute of Gregory playing Jack — which corresponds to Carolyn’s memory of the evening.”

If Dave Amram is there — invite him up after the clip.

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Here’s the event page for the show on Facebook.

Here’s a story about “The Making of ‘Jack on Film’

Here’s The Beat Movie Guide that covers all the Beat dramatizations ever made.

Here’s a tale of the opening of the Kerouac centennial year back in Lowell in March for his birthday.

 

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

 

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The Making of “Jack on Film”

August 28th, 2022 · Kerouac and The Beats, Movies

The Making of “Jack on Film”

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Believe it or not this whole thing started when I got a call on January 12th, 2021 — six days after the Capitol insurrection (!) and still deep in the pandemic lockdown daze.  A musician friend I’ve known since 1976, Will Hodgson, was home with his kids during the day and had “The View” on in the background, and he heard, to his jaw-dropped surprise, John McCain’s daughter Meghan quoting Kerouac!

“Trump also said he takes no responsibility for what happened at the Capitol, and that he doesn’t believe any of his language or anything he said incited anything.  And honestly, the first thing I thought of was a Jack Kerouac quote (!)  —  ‘There’s no end to this madness and American sadness, American madness and sadness.’  It’s absolute lunacy.”

And the extra double doozy is — it’s a pretty obscure line — from The Scroll version of On The Road no less (p. 206) — Somebody had tipped the American continent like a pinball machine and all the goofballs had come rolling to LA in the southwest corner.  I cried for all of us.  There was no end to the American sadness and the American madness.”

The whole thing was so bizarre I knew I had to notify some West Coast Beats who could still catch it with the 3-hour time change.  I emailed Jerry Cimino at The Beat Museum, and John Cassady, then thought I’d give ol’ S.A. Griffin a call in L.A. since he’s also one who loves when the Beats show up in weird places in American culture where you’d least expect it.

We got to jammin all sortsa things, as always, including a deep dive into movies, which I’d been studying the hell out of for the last year, and we wove around to discussing the different portrayals of Jack on the big screen.

After we hung up, the conversation kept echoing in my head, and it hit me we could do a great show on this!  —  sort of a Siskel & Ebert in the balcony, where we’d play a clip of the movie, and the two cinephiles would jam back and forth on it.

On The Road 50th anniversary Los Angeles S.A. Griffin Brian Hassett

I called him back and bounced the show off him and he thought it would be fun.  We’ve shared stages on and off over the years starting with the 50th anniversary of Jack writing On The Road in 2001 (above), through doing a Kesey–Cassady–Kerouac show at Beyond Baroque in Venice Beach in 2019.

Brian Hassett George Walker S.A. Griffin Beyond Baroque Venice Beach

The idea started to take off, so I wrote up a proposal for it, and pitched it to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) — the obvious place to do it.  And I even knew the timeslot — 7:00 on Sunday night.  They’d screened the Loving Vincent movie there on a Sunday and it really seemed to be the perfect programming.  After four days of nonstop high-paced madness, kickin’ back and watchin a movie on Sunday night was the exact thing people wanted to do.

In pretty quick order the show got accepted for that October, and I began sketching out the basic framework, including a list of all the movies we’d discuss, and notes about angles and themes.

I also started asking around to people who’ve spent 40 years or more immersed in all-things-Jack-&-Beat and nobody had ever heard of a show like this ever being done anywhere.

But by the late summer for 2021, Covid was still raging, and airplane travel was cited as a source of transmission, and with S.A. being in his 60s, the idea of flying from L.A., and all the people he’d have to be in close contact with in so many different places, he was having a hard time coming to a full commitment.  Then the Delta variant starting surging, and that was that.

So we cancelled out of doing it in 2021 — but the seed had been planted and the timeslot seemed ideal.  LCK eventually decided to hold a scaled back festival that year with all the events taking place outdoors — which wouldn’t have worked for our show anyway.

After the 2021 fest played out, I bounced the idea off LCK and they loved the idea and thought it was perfect for Sunday night, and assuming 2021 was a transition year back to normal, we should be rockin it for Jack’s centennial in 2022.

I knew I needed video tech help to create the clips to play during the show.  I remembered this young guy who’d come to LCK a couple years earlier and made his own Jack on Film documentary about it.  Through the wonders of Facebook, I was able to make a pretty good educated guess as to who that kid was — Julian Ortman — and I sent him a message:  “Hey man!  You’re the film guy, aren’t you?  You made a doc at LCK one year, right?”

And he wrote right back, “That’s me!  Absolutely.  How can I be of service?

And the kindness of that answer changed my life.

If we all answered more often, “How can I be of service?” what a wonderful world it would be.  😉

Suddenly I had a collaborator who could do the techie video editing stuff that I couldn’t.  He does this for a living, and I know he loves Jack cuz he travelled to Lowell to celebrate him and make a movie about him, and when we did our first video-chat two minutes later, behind his beaming smiling “gets-it” face was a Grateful Dead poster hanging on the wall!  And I’m thinkin, “Weir gonna get along juuust fine.”  🙂

So, now I had a tech guy who knew how grab a clip out of a movie and put things together on the video front.  I already had the basic list of films — Pull My Daisy, The Subterraneans, and knew I wanted to touch on Route 66, and then there’s Heart Beat and Naked Lunch and Beat Angel and The Last Time I Committed Suicide and that other Neal Cassady movie, and then there’s The Big Three from 2013 — On The Road, Kill Your Darlings and Big Sur — and thus began the process of watching all those movies again and isolating the scenes that best showcased the portrayal of Jack.

As this was really starting to take shape, I knew I had to have all the production exactly right.

The historic 1834 Worthen House in Lowell is actually on the National Register of Historic Places!  It’s the oldest bar in town, so of course ol’ Jack himself had tipped back a few there, and it has this cool pulley-driven fan system hanging from the ceiling — one of only four still in existence in America, and the only one in its original location.  The ol’ Worthan’s been Camp Kerouac’s Clubhouse since Jacksters began gathering in the ’80s, filling its huge main floor, plus there’s a big second floor performance room, and a well-used Reality Alley outdoor space.  It was key that I had everything running smoothly in this nearly 200-year-old building doing a high-tech show that’s never been done before.

The Merry Pranksters meet Jack Kerouac at Ye Old Worthen House in Lowell, Mass.

As everything began to take shape in early 2022, I got back in touch with ol’ S.A. in L.A., and got an unexpected call from him one day saying, “Y’know, Brian, you’ve got a vision for this thing, and you should just run with it.”  He wanted to do more of a broad Beats-in-culture type show.  But this was not only a Jack festival — it was the old boy’s 100th birthday year.  This was the time and place to celebrate “Jack on Film.”  Maybe next year we could do a “Beats in Culture” show — but on Ti Jean’s centennial … in Lowell … we really oughta do the homeboy right.

So, ol’ S.A. bowed out.  Maybe we’ll do something down The Road, but I was bummed cuz he knows more about film than just about anybody I know, and our two-person two-hour phone jams would make most engaging theater.  But we didn’t share the same vision — and neither of us wanted to spend the next six months arguing over what this would be.  I told him, if this goes well, I can be the Siskel to his Ebert if he wants to do a “Beats in Culture” show in the future.  He has nearly a hundred screen credits, taught at the American Film Institute, and we both crack each other up, so we’d make a great stage duo, but you gotta play a song you can both harmonize on.

I was scared my tech master Julian, who’d already put in a hundred hours on this thing, might cool his interest, but in keeping with his initial, “How can I be of service?” he wrote me, “It is your vision!  Whatever I can do to help get it from your head to on-screen, I’m here for it and along for the ride.”  (!)  Whadda guy!  That’s the kind of creative partner you wanna have in life!

LCK was still cool with it cuz they’d seen me pack the rooms and knock it outta the park for five years, and as brother Cliff said, “We’ve been talking about making Sunday night ‘Movie Night’ for a while — and you’re taking it to the next level!”

Without a stage partner to banter with, I came up with the idea to make the audience my co-host — that I can lead the conversation, but I know there’s gonna be a ton of smart Jack & film people in the room — so, how fun would it be to let other people jam in?!

Then I had another idea.  I have an actor friend, Frank Tabbita, who has a line to one of the actors who best portrayed Jack in one of the films.  What if we could Zoom him into the room?!  One email later, I was on the phone with Vincent Balestri!  —  and we hit it off like peas and carrots!  Boom!  Done!

Then another great stalwart at LCK, Mike Flynn, put on a summer show upstairs at the Worthen where he used a giant projection screen, and the lightbulb went on in ol’ Cliff’s head.  Ah-ha!  Mike Flynn needs to be Brian’s in-house tech guy to make this happen.  And Jack’s-your-uncle, suddenly Mike and I were locked in on the video staging front.

Then once again The Good ol’ Grateful Dead rode in to add another dimension to the surreality!  The great Phil Lesh, my favorite living musician, who only ever does shows at the Capitol Theater outside New York or somewhere close to his homebase of San Francisco, was suddenly doing a half-dozen one-off non-coastal shows this 2022 summer for the first time in ten years.  And one of them was going to be at an apple orchard?!?!  . . .  in the Finger Lakes no less, not too far from me!  And to go even Furthur — my good friends the Magic Genie and her camera-eyed partner Rick live right near there and offered to have me over and throw a party and put on some shows at their Wonderland estate on the side of a lake!  Besides being a whole mess-o-fun — it also gave me a chance to do a test run of something we needed to have right for “Jack on Film” — a live-stream on YouTube.

And one thing that show taught me was — you can’t rely on wifi for uploading longform live video.  You’ve got to be hard-wired in.  So when Mike, Cliff and I did a FaceTime video walk-through of the venue, we confirmed they have an ethernet connection in the room, so I bought a splitter switch box that we can turn into two hard-wires — one for the live-stream and one for the Zoom call.

The tech side of things were really starting to come together.

Julian, meanwhile, had been editing the various clips from the notes I’d been sending him, like — “At 1:15:37 — gradual fade in so the first clear visual is Jack saying, “Well, what do you suggest? . . . then fade out just after Burroughs says, “First time I ever heard of it.”

I was targeting up to four of the best Jack scenes in each film, with the idea that if we had the best three or four clips, once we started to run through the show, we could go with whichever one, two or three would best represent the performance.

So, all the clips were coming together, and then as I continued my deep dive into these cinematic treasures, I uncovered some film & TV gems that 99% of Jack fans probably don’t even know exist, and even if they’ve heard of them, they’ve almost certainly never seen them.  I’m not going to mention ’em here cuz they’re gonna make for some great mid-show surprises.  😉

Then the next cool thing was — there was a 2007 movie called Neal Cassady with Tate Donovan as Neal and a guy named Glenn Fitzgerald playing Jack.  The thing about this movie is — it’s never been released in any form on home video.  So, you can’t buy a copy, and consequently nobody’s ever bootlegged it to one of the many underground movie sites.  I’m pretty savvy about finding rare films in secret places — and so’s my 26-year-old wiz-kid partner Julian — and neither of us could find this anywhere.

"Neal Cassady" Tate Donovan movie poster

As karmic luck would have it, many years ago when I still had the Sundance Channel, they aired it one day, and wisely I popped in a VHS tape and recorded it!  So I bought a VHS-to-digi converter and was able to grab the best scene to include in the show — the Prankster party in New York in ’64 where Jack & Neal saw each other for the last time — the only time it was ever dramatized on film.

And then when I FB posted about this development, a film-biz brother I met at George Walker’s 80th birthday weekend in Sebastopol California, Aslan Davis, chimed in that he could A.I. 4K upscale some of this, including Beat Angel, which has never seen the light of hi-def!  😉 

And THEN as I was writing these words you just read, it hit me — we need to have a poster for this thing!  And within hours the brilliant visual artist and lifelong Jackster and Deadhead, Sunny Days, was on the case!

Today is six weeks till showtime — and things are comin together!  💖

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Postscript Edit Update —

Here’s a bunch of the show from the YouTube live-stream —

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And here’s an edit of a bunch of the first half via videographer Mitch Corber —

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Here’s a Facebook event page for the “Jack on Film” show on October 9th.

Here’s a definitive story of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac that’s been performed live all over the continent.

Here’s the tale of my first LCK in 2015 with Michael McClure, Tony Sampas & the Kansas Kid.

Here’s the story of Jack’s 100th birthday party in Lowell, March, 2022.

And if you like movies and the Beats — here’s The Beat Movie Guide.

Or here’s a helluva great Jack Adventure Tale about the time “more of us were together than had ever been in one place at one time before,” according to John Clellon Holmes.

The cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac by Brian Hassett

Or here’s a book where you can read more about Jack, Lowell, the Merry Pranksters and Phil Lesh.

Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, George Walker – The Beats and the Merry Pranksters

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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First Live Shows After the Pandemic Lockdown

July 31st, 2022 · Brian on YouTube etc., Kerouac and The Beats, Poetry

The Magic Genie’s Happy Place   Saturday July 9th, 2022

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The matinee show (4PM) stemmed from a massive reorganization of all my performance pieces — many dating back to New York in the 1980s and ’90s.  A bunch of them still held up — and since nobody’s heard me do them in 20 or more years, I thought it would be fun to bring them back to life.

I noticed a theme in some written in my 20s or early 30s that dealt with growing old — which seemed so odd that I was writing about that so often when so young.

Here’s the opening of the show and the first four poems —

Very Soon Today
Under These Same Elms
Riding on Page 599
Gotta Get a New One

The next three were about — how we can be too hard on ourselves;  deciding whether to get into a new relationship or not;  and a comedic poem about praying.

The Marksman
Window Shopping
Answered Prayers

Then I did the rallying cry piece I used to perform often after Giuliani was elected in New York;  plus a couple short Kerouac pieces as a teaser for the evening show.

New York Wins Another Round
Kerouac’s “List of Essentials”
“Hearing Shearing” from On The Road

I ended the show with a classic I first wrote in 1985 and continued to customize for different shows for the next 15 or more years.

Another Pious Frenzy

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Or here’s all four clips in a playlist so you can watch the whole show in one click.  🙂

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The 7:30PM evening show  —

The Prankster Address
Ode to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac
Jerry Garcia on hearing Jack Kerouac
Appreciation of Edie Kerouac-Parker

Part 2 — the climax of the New Hampshire Democratic primary in 2020 — after the final Bernie Sanders rally in an arena — for the first time all primary I felt Kerouac’s presence in the New England winter night.  A bunch of the college students went out on an outdoor skating rink and a special moment happened.

Part 3 — With Tricia Eileen Murphy on guitar, I took the audience to the On The Road scroll auction at Christie’s in New York in 2001.

Part 4 — the climax of the show — “Floating Universities: The Power of the Collective” from The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats.

Plus the Ode to Jack.

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Or here’s all four clips in a playlist so you can watch the whole show in one click.  🙂

 

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Here’s a cool book with lots of Beat and Prankster content, including some poetry and lots of poetic prose  —  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac  . . .

The cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac by Brian Hassett

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And here’s another one with lots of Beats and Pranksters and Adventure Tales  —  How The Beats Begat the Pranksters  . . .

Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, George Walker – The Beats and the Merry Pranksters

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Vote Blue No Matter Who

June 30th, 2022 · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Politics

With the recent stacking of the Supreme Court and overturning of Roe vs. Wade and gun protections in New York, I was reminded that these events all happened because just enough people of the left spent the 2016 general election campaign trashing Hillary Clinton and either not voting or voting third party that an amoral monster was able to actually become the president of the United States.

Here are some paragraphs from the “2020” chapter of my book Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy that the world would be a better place if more people had internalized in 2016.

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Vote  Blue  No  Matter  Who

What beautiful poetry to start the year.  Some put it — “Any blue will do,” . . . or “Vote blue, do not renew” — but however you wanna rhyme it, it’s music to our years.

For me, picking a candidate during the primary is like choosing something on a menu at a great restaurant.  You’re gonna like whatever you order.  And there’s no sense in getting upset about a tablemate making a different choice.

Of the 26 candidates who ran for the Democratic nomination, I initially went for Elizabeth Warren.  Forgetting about playing pundit and trying to game out who could slay the Trumpenstein monster — when I just closed my eyes and pictured who I’d most like to see behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office cleaning up this mess, it was Gets Thing Done Warren.  She’s articulate and energetic and smart and I’ve loved her in every interview I’d ever seen her do over many years, going back long before she ran for the Senate.  She took on the predatory lending of the big banks, which I think is the worst mass crime committed in America in my lifetime — these soulless unregulated profiteer banks conning poor people into mortgages they knew they couldn’t maintain just so they could take their homes for their own profit and ruin millions of families lives and dreams forever.   I wanted all those bastards in jail for life — and so did this feisty kick-ass woman.

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It’s so much easier to learn so much more about every candidate and every issue in 2020 than it ever has been in history — and you don’t even have to crack a book.  But I’m glad you did this one.  🙂  No candidate is perfect just like no human is perfect.  The history books paint beautiful portraits of JFK and Lincoln and Jefferson . . . but that was before every news article and opinion piece ever printed about them was instantly accessible on a screen in your hand.

People talk about how Facebook and Twitter are such big factors in the election, but I find myself using YouTube more.  You can type in any candidate’s name, and with its Filter / Upload Date option, see what they’ve been up to in the “Last hour” or “Today” or “This week” or whatever.  You can see them actually talking a few minutes ago, not just some meme or 280 character postcard or some basement blogger’s rant.

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If we on the left continue to factionalize and fight within our family rather than uniting and accepting that there can be Catholics and atheists within the same collective, Bernie supporters and Biden supporters, Michael Bloombergs and Tulsi Gabbards, DNC loyalists and independents — if we don’t see ourselves as all part of the same expansive open inclusive assemblage of left-leaning Americans, we are doomed to a future, both immediate and long-term, of an extremist right-wing minority dominating the laws imposed upon us all.

If you think trump’s good for the country, and the 2016 election results were just fine, and the senate impeachment trial was handled responsibly, and Brett Kavanaugh is the kind of person you want to see on the Supreme Court, then by all means keep tearing down anyone on the left that you disagree with.  But if you’d like to change the sinking Titanic direction of this great country, it might be an idea to remember where the problem lies and who your teammates are, no matter the specific shade of blue of the jersey they’re wearing.

We need as many people rowing towards the future as we can get.

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You can order a copy of Blissfully Ravaged In Democracy here.

You can check reviews and performances from the book here.

Or here’s The Beat Museum’s Jerry Cimino’s introduction in the book.

Or here’s a complete list of political and other Adventures that appear in my various books.

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —

https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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