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The Beatles, The Beats & The Beard

August 31st, 2021 · Kerouac and The Beats, Music

The Rule of Three —

Comedians live by it.  Hockey players call it a hat trick.  Children learn about three blind mice, Goldilocks and the three bears, and how genies always grant three wishes.  The Constitution gave us the trio of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Christians talk of the Holy Trinity.  Confucius laid it down in “Analects” in 500 BC.  And it’s even found in early Latin texts — omne trium perfectum —  everything that comes in threes is perfect.

In preparation for fully enjoying Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated The Beatles: Get Back three night long documentary about  The Beatles’ final recording sessions set to air on Disney+ over three Thanksgiving nights — November 25, 26 & 27, 2021 — I decided to finally read the transcripts of the conversations between the band members from a rehearsal on the third day of January 1969, as printed in the The Beatles Get Back book published by Apple in 1969 and released in the original box set of the Let It Be album in the U.K. and Canada, but not in the U.S. (thanks to Rod Griffith for the backstory deets) — and imagine my jaw-dropped surprise seeing George quoting to Paul, Michael McClure’s play The Beard!


When I first saw the words “The Beard” I immediately thought of McClure’s (pretty obscure) play, but thought, “No way he’s talking about that.”  Then he goes on to describe the plot, the staging, and actually quotes from it!

In the 52 years this Beatles Get Back book has been in existence, I’ve never seen anybody pick up on this Beat–Beatles connection in all the hundreds of Beatle and Beat books I’ve read.

The Beard is McClure’s 90-minute one-act two-person fantasy play featuring Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow courting “in the blue velvet of eternity,” as the playwright describes it, and has some fairly graphic sexual content that prolly wouldn’t raise much of an eyebrow today, but the same hypocritical puritans who were going after Allen Ginsberg for Howl and Lenny Bruce for comedy routines figured plays like this had to be stamped out.  And their persecution of all three also led to each’s elevation, both contemporaneously and historically.

But what was perplexing was how and where George Harrison could possibly have seen the play.

There’s a detailed accounting of many of the mid-’60s productions on an Andy Warhol site here.  The Warhol people chronicle it because Andy made a film of a performance in New York that he put on in order to shoot it — but did so without the playwright’s permission.  When Andy flew to California to give some private screenings of it, McClure hated it, and hated it so much he had prominent counterculture lawyer Melvin Belli send Warhol an injunction preventing him from ever selling it or even screening it publicly.  According to IMDb, Warhol then gave the only print of the film to McClure.

But what remained a mystery was how the heck George Harrison ever saw a production?  Using a whole number of archival databases I was able to put together The Beard’s entire run up through the start of 1969 when George & Paul talk about it; then I began trying to match George’s whereabouts to the cities and dates, including using the long-established & credible Beatles Bible site.

The Beard   by Michael McClure
complete early production history

San Francisco / Bay Area:
— It was first brought to life as a staged reading at the Actor’s Workshop in San Francisco on Saturday, December 18, 1965, with Richard Bright as Billy the Kid and Billie Dixon as Jean Harlow.  The Actor’s Workshop were also the company to first stage Death of a Salesman and The Crucible on the West Coast, as well as the West Coast premieres of works by Beckett, Brecht, Jean Genet & Harold Pinter, and were basically the Western flagship for modern American theater.

— May 1966 Andy Warhol shot the film version in someone’s apartment in New York (having never seen a staging of it), starring Factory stalwarts Gerard Malanga and Mary Woronov.

— It was first staged for an audience of about 700 at the Fillmore Auditorium (where else?!) for one performance on Sunday, July 24, 1966.  They planned to do it again the next night but the police told event promoter Bill Graham if he did it again they would take away his recently acquired and much prized Dance Hall operator’s license.

As seen at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Grateful Dead exhibit in 2012

— It was next staged at The Committee Theater in North Beach (see rehearsal clip below) for three performances August 6–8, 1966.  The SFPD raided the place and arrested both Billie Dixon and Richard Bright.  They were initially charged with “obscenity,” then “conspiracy to commit a felony” and ultimately with “lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place.”  All charges were later thrown out — thanks to the ACLU.

— There was one performance at the Florence Schwimley Little Theatre in Berkeley on Saturday, August 20th, 1966.  That audience included more than a hundred ACLU-invited expert witnesses, including political activists, academics, writers and even members of the clergy.  Seven members of the Berkeley Police Department and the District Attorney’s office were also present.  The city of Berkeley brought their own charges of “lewd or dissolute conduct” against the play.  It became a theatrical cause célèbre and long legal struggle, until finally a judge ruled that while the play did contain material of a troublesome nature, it was not appropriate to prosecute it.  All the charges were dropped, and the subsequent appeal lost.

— Five nights at the California Hall in S.F., February 22-26, 1967, including a benefit for the ACLU on opening night.

— Three nights at the Wharf Theater in S.F., March 31 – April 2nd, 1967.

— Stanford University in Palo Alto put it on for one performance, Wednesday, April 19, 1967.

— UC Davis near Sacramento also staged one show, Thursday, May 4th, 1967.

Poster for both Stanford & UC Davis featuring Bright & Dixon

August 1st to 6th, 1967, George Harrison made his visit to Los Angeles to meet with Ravi Shankar, then made his more famous trip to San Francisco and Haight-Ashbury on August 7th, then flew back to England on the 9th.

There were one or more shows at the Encore Theater on Mason St. in S.F. on or around Sept. 1st, 1967, the day on which Billie Dixon was interviewed backstage for Pacifica Radio, which you can hear here.

— California State University, Fullerton, in Orange County L.A. staged three (unauthorized) graduate drama director productions on by on Wed. Nov. 15th, 1967 — only open to students, not the public or press — but got tons of bad press anyway, being in the most conservative part of L.A.

Yorba Linda Star, Nov. 17, 1967


Then the play got its big break

Barney Rosset, founder and owner of Grove Press, staged its most important production to date at a small Off-Broadway theater he’d bought at 53 East 11th St. near University Place and named it  The Evergreen Theatre (after his Evergreen Review which published Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso & scores of others).  The wild edge-dancing actor Rip Torn made his directorial debut, and it featured the two actors who had played in all of the authorized productions in California — Dixon & Bright.

Original publicity photo with Billie Dixon & Richard Bright

One other cool Beat connection:  Gerd Stern, the poet, author, painter and most importantly in reGerds to The Beard — a multimedia projection and light show creator — was enlisted to create a complete visual environment in the theater.  Gerd had been part of the avant-garde art scene around the Bay Area since 1948 and knew all the Beats including McClure, and he and his USCO group really went to town, projecting on the side walls as well as the stage, and using sound effects to enhance everything.  The only problem was, when Clive Barnes reviewed the show for the New York Times, he didn’t really get the play — “I am not at all sure how to write about it” he admits right out of the gate — and ends up saying “I enjoyed the media-mix by USCO better than the play,” which really didn’t go over so well with Michael and Rip.  🙂 

The play ran from October 24th 1967 through January 14th 1968 — a time when The Beatles were busy filming and recording Magical Mystery Tour in England in Oct. & Nov. ’67, and I couldn’t find any account of George ever flying to New York (or America) in Dec. or Jan.

Rip Torn went on to win the Obie (the Tony Award for Off-Broadway productions) for Distinguished Direction (as they call it), and Billie Dixon won the Obie for Best Actress — so she must’ve been pretty great.  Richard Bright went on to have a successful working-man’s acting career, usually playing minor roles, with 96 credits to his name including in all three Godfather movies, The Panic in Needle Park, The Getaway, Marathon Man, Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (though he didn’t play Billy) with nearly 100 filmed acting credits to his name.

In the Live Every Day Like It Could Be Your Last Cuz You Could Get Hit By A Bus Tomorrow Dept.:
Bright was actually hit and tragically killed by a tourist tour bus on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 2006 when he was 68.  R.I.P.

The success of the New York production led to the first L.A. run, opening on January 24th, 1968 and playing for two weeks — while George was in India and recording his debut solo album Wonderwall Music.

The L.A. run was disrupted (and made famous) by the arrest of both actors after the curtain came down at fourteen consecutive performances.  As McClure tells it — “The police would come in at the end of the play, walk backstage, arrest Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid after they’d had a standing ovation from the audience, lead them back out on stage again to the police car, and the audience gave them a second standing ovation before they went off overnight to the jail.”

Poster for the L.A. show designed by Wallace Berman

The L.A. production featured Dennis Hopper as Billy the Kid for the start of the run — until he became too belligerent with the producer and had to be replaced in a pinch by Richard Bright.  The role of Jean Harlow was played by Alexandra Hay.  Part of one of the L.A. performances (with Bright as The Kid, and Jim Morrison in the audience) can be seen in the Agnès Varda film Lions Love (… and Lies) released in 1969.

The January 1968 production in L.A., from Lions Love (… and Lies)

Although McClure & Jim Morrison first met by arrangement of McClure’s literary agent at a bar in Greenwich Village while McClure was in town for The Beard, it was during this L.A. run that they really first bonded.  Jim & Pamela came to the show, and an idea was hatched to make a film version of the play with Morrison as the Kid, but sadly that never came to fruition.

But I still hadn’t figured out how the heck George ever saw it.

He wasn’t in America when all these various productions were staged.  Warhol had given McClure the only print of the film, thus he couldn’t be privately screening it on one of his visits to England.  So how the hell is George Harrison quoting the words and describing the staging?!

After another round of digging and putting out some feelers I eventually tracked down a production of The Beard staged in London, that opened on November 4th, 1968!  And I even found the poster for it!


In July 1968, the 18th-century theater censorship laws in England were revoked  (transformational news!)  and the Royal Court Theater became one of the early pioneers of experimental and formerly-banned plays, staging The Beard just three months after the law changed.  Again with Rip Torn directing, and Bright & Dixon in the two roles, it ran for at least a couple of months.

Even with the censorship laws changed, the play was so sexually explicit (cunnilingus on stage in the climactic scene), performances didn’t start until 10:30 at night to make clear this wasn’t a family-hour production for tourists — and no one under 18 was admitted.  Records show Sir John Gielgud and Vanessa Redgrave attended the opening, as did the famous theater critic and National Theater Company Dramaturg Kenneth Tynan, who had led the charge to end the censorship of British theatre.  The evocative Mark Boyle’s Sensual Laboratory provided the music.

The Royal Court archives indicate another play started on Dec 11th, but their file for The Beard is dated through January 1969, so they may have run in repertory.  There was a large ad for The Beard in the December 13–31, 1968 issue of the International Times (the Village Voice of London).

That George is quoting the lines, and it’s so top-of-mind, indicates he must have just seen it.  Plus, he asks his London-based bandmate Paul, “Did you see that?”  There must have been a “that” for him to have seen.

Paul & Linda were known to have gone out to some events in disguise.  George and his wife, the much-photographed model Pattie Boyd, were surely one of the most recognizable couples in England in 1968.  I wonder how they pulled off things like going to the theater?

An ad for the play in the International Times
Apparently Newsweek saw the production in New York

The Beard ran in the newly opened 63-seat “black box” Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court, and not its main 465-seat proscenium arch theater.  A listing in the International Times newspaper from November 1968 has both McClure’s play and John Osborne’s landmark British play Look Back in Anger (which spawned the coining of the Angry Young Men genre) playing at the Royal Court.

A friend, Jim Pennington, actually caught The Beard at the Royal Court in ’68, and described it — “Upstairs at the Royal Court really did mean an almost claustrophobic under-the-eaves, up-in-the-gods theatre space, especially when coloured up and in with the light show.”

This upstairs theater is also where in 1973 The Rocky Horror Picture Show first appeared on a stage.

A paragraph about the play in an article titled
“Theatre of Change?” in the International Times, late Nov. 1968

A Beatle sharing a Beat with another Beatle

The printed exchange between George & Paul that has been misunderstood and misrepresented by some for 50 years is now set straight.  If it wasn’t obvious before, it perfectly clear now that George was quoting from a play and was in no way saying anything insulting to Paul.  They were just two brother artists jamming on contemporary cutting-edge art.

That’s not to say all the longtime bandmates were in perfect harmony during every minute this historic period — as seen by the world in that unfortunate momentary “Whatever it is that’ll please you, I’ll do it” exchange in the original Let It Be movie —  but in the main, as both Paul (“We were having fun and we respected each other“) and Ringo (“There was a lot of joy“) have shared in recent years, they still loved and enjoyed each other’s company during these final rehearsal and recording sessions.

George was so taken with McClure’s voice & vision, Michael became one of the poets slated to be recorded for Apple’s planned spoken-word offshoot label Zapple (headed up by Barry Miles) before it got scrapped by that ratfink of eternity Allen Klein.

THEN — I discovered a recent Beatles podcast where you can actually hear the recording of the expanded, full and unedited studio conversation between George & Paul about The Beard  (!)  —  on the excellent Winter of Discontent podcast, episode 17  (there’s that number again!) that aired August 26th, 2021.  A highly recommended listen.  😉   If you want to skip to it, you can just slide the playhead along the timeline to — 33:50.  It also includes a snippet of audio from The Beard.

Beat that!  🙂

When George says, “Trevelyan’s gone,” he’s referring to John Trevelyan, Britain’s Chief Censor during the 1960s, who was very unpopular with all artists and a wide swath of the public.  When the theatre censorship laws were lifted in July of ’68, George is name-checking that people like Trevelyan couldn’t censor plays anymore (although he could and still did movies).

And THEN — here’s an actual one-minute clip of Billie Dixon & Richard Bright rehearsing the play in February 1967 in San Francisco just before the California Hall shows, with playwright McClure on the stage with them!


So there ya have it! 

Another cool connection between the greatest band and the greatest band of writers!


For tons more connections between the Beatles and the Beats — including how the name of one led to the name of the other — check out my book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Or here’s where you can read How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

And if you like the music of Bob Dylan, The Band, The Allman Brothers, The Neville Brothers, Traffic, Peter Gabriel, Joe Cocker, Sheryl Crow and like that — all with a heavy John Lennon subplot — check out Holy Cats!  Dream-catching at Woodstock about the spectacular 25th anniversary in 1994.

All those books are updated 2021 editions — and all are in both paperback and eBook form.

For a time-coded and annotated breakdown of Peter Jackson’s epic The Beatles: Get Back and one of the most-read stories here in Brianland go here.

For a bunch of other cool Beatles facts and findings check out this piece written after months of deep diving into the lads.

For the full story behind John Lennon flying to Toronto for the Rock ‘n’ Revival concert and the D.A. Pennebaker movie check out this piece on the Revival ’69 documentary.

For another investigation into a single clue leading to a whole huge story — check out this piece about the recently uncovered (and only) photograph of Jack Kerouac writing at a typewriter.

Or here’s a rich & colorful investigation into one of the central locations in Beat history — Bill Cannastra’s loft in Chelsea.


R.I.P.  —  Michael McClure  —  1932 – 2020

George Harrison  —  1943 – 2001

Michael McClure at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, 2015


by Brian Hassett   —

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

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An Autodidact Meets A Collaborative Form

July 31st, 2021 · Movies


One thing I learned during my lockdown Film Studies deepdive is just how subjective movies are.  I know all art is subjective, but maybe film is the most because of how it’s every art form blended together and being experienced at once.

Something I picked up from a Tarantino interview — that a book has words, and an album has music, and a painting has landscapes, and photographs have faces, and ballet has movement, and interior design has style, but only film brings all those art forms together at once.

And, boy — there’s sumpthin to that.

Another truism I discovered doing this autodidactical pursuit from July 2020 to July 2021 was how often movies I’ve heard praised for decades but never had a chance to see ended up leaving me cold;  and movies I’d catch that I’d never even heard the title of before blew me away (or at least I really enjoyed).  I don’t wanna mention titles here of supposedly great movies that I didn’t love cuz I don’t want people to stop reading because I didn’t like their favorite movie, but that’s sort of the subjective point I’m making.

I keep a list of everything watched, and over the last year of 330 films, documentaries and quality cinematic TV series — not counting the thousands of hours of news or guilty-pleasure sitcoms or multiple viewings of the same movie — it’s sort of become this running joke that movies I’ve heard of all my life and finally caught so often bored me . . . but things I’ve never even heard of before, like Knives Out, A Walk in The Woods or Sunday in New York have me perked right up and loving.

Something else I learned watching a ton of documentaries about making movies, plus reading some books & a ton of articles about same, and also mucking around making a few things myself, is just how hard it is to get it right.  The lighting, the sound, the appearance (costume & makeup) . . . and the performance — not to mention the sets and flow and permanence of single takes.  Even a bad movie is incredibly hard to make.

And learning about all these factors has really enhanced my enjoyment of the art form.  Even though I’m a writer, I often find myself not really caring particularly about the plot (Hitchcock’s “McGuffin”) — because I’m so immersed in the beauty of the framing, the camera movements, the meter and poetry of the dialog, the actor’s performance choices, the editing creating the pacing, the choice of locations (and knowing how difficult it is to get everything right in those places), and how the art direction really sets the tone of the film in a subliminal way.

A line I came up with over the last year, that Google didn’t show me anybody else having said, is a play on that famous truism in my mother’s field of real estate — once there’s a great script — the three most important things in filmmaking are – casting, casting, casting.

Serial Neil Simon director Gene Saks said, “Casting is the most important thing of all.”  Robert Zemeckis said, “Good directing is good writing and good casting.”  Manchurian Candidate director John Frankenheimer put it, “Casting is 65% of directing.”  The great John Huston put it at 50:  “Half of directing is casting the right actors.”  Robert Altman told Charlie Rose, “By the time I’ve finished casting a project about 90% of my creative work is finished.”  A filmmaker could have a $100 million budget and beautiful cinematography and pinpoint editing and eye-candy costumes and jaw-dropping sets . . . but if the casting is off, none of that matters.  Equally, if a film is low budget and everything about it is cheap, if there’s perfectly cast performances at the center of it, the viewer will look past everything else and into the souls of the believable characters.

And another thing — location shooting.  That’s something else that can make up for a flawed script or other weaknesses in a film — authentic locations — from landscapes to streetscapes to interiors.  Prominent location practitioner Woody Allen once said something to the effect of, “All the work I put into my movies — and all people are going to value a hundred years from now is what’s going on in the background of my shots.”

Besides Woody, some other great exponents of location shooting I’ve noticed include John Huston, Altman, Kazan, Bogdanovich, Richard Brooks, Milos Foreman, Paul Mazursky, Gene Saks & Walter SallesAnthony Minghella shot The Talented Mr. Ripley entirely on locations in Italy.  And so did John Huston for his BizarroWorld noir send-up Beat The DevilThe Naked City movie was famously shot entirely on locations in New York City (in 1948), much of it without permits or the “extras” knowing they were being filmed.  Route 66 was a TV series famous for filming in different locations around the country in every episode (from 1960–64).  Hitchcock was convincing doing some shooting on location, then switching to a set once the audience had bought in, like the Mount Rushmore climax in North by Northwest.

Another real-world inclusion in films I’ve come to love is diegetic music — music that is heard by the characters as well as the viewing audience — could be the radio, a jukebox, a record player, a musician or band playing in the room or such.  Some films, like The Defiant Ones, The Last Picture Show and Two-Lane Blacktop, have nothing but diegetic music.  Many films use it once or twice, but most have a score and/or inserted existing songs to help power a scene or propel the narrative.  Once you get hip to diegetic music, it’s cool to dig how the characters are rockin the same music you are.

I could go on, but people don’t like to read long pieces anymore. 🙂

Hopefully this added a little spice to the food for thought as you watch movies going forward:

Films blend all the arts together like no other.  It’s all about the casting.  Location shooting is way better than the best built sets.  And diegetic music is the coolest. 😉

Happy viewing!



Check out this Master Film list that’s now over 700 movies, all linked to IMDb and sorted by Comedies, Dramas, Documentaries, TV, Music Movies, Auteurs etc., and many with an informative synopsis.

Or here’s the Movie section of my website with 25 different film-related stories.

Or here’s a page devoted specifically to Beat Generation dramatizations.



by Brian Hassett   —

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


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Holly George-Warren Jack Kerouac biography

June 9th, 2021 · Interviews, Kerouac and The Beats

In some of the best news in Beatlandia in many a year — it’s just been announced that (A) the Kerouac estate has signed the inimitable Holly George-Warren to be the official biographer of Jack — a role originally filled by Doug Brinkley back in the ’90s until he got lured away by some other beatniks of history.  And (B) the book — working title Jack Kerouac: A Writer’s Life — has just been signed to Viking Press — the original publisher of On The Road, and which has become home to most all of Kerouac’s 50 different books in print.

And speaking of books in print, Holly has a ton of them herbadself — Janis: Her Life and Music (2019);  A Man Called Destruction: The Life & Music of Alex Chilton (2014);  Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues (2011);  The Cowgirl Way: Hats Off to America’s Women of The West (2010);  The Road to Woodstock (with Michael Lang, 2009);  Grateful Dead 365 (2008);  Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life & Times of Gene Autry (2007);  Punk 365 (2007);  Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music (2006);  The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (2005);  The Appalachians: America’s First and Last Frontier (2004);  Cowboy, How Hollywood Invented The Wild West (2002);  How The West Was Worn (2001);  The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats (1999) . . . 


Holly rockin her ’57 Fender Jazzmaster with Das Furlines, 1987


In the Full Disclosure Department — Holly and I met in the East Village in the mid-’90s when we were both Howling there, and we connected over a love of the still-vibrant downtown music & arts scene, with an undercurrent of us both being able to talk Beats and beats by the hour.

When The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats first hatched over at Rolling Stone with Holly at the helm, we had about a thousand conversations about it as it grew from an idea into one of the most inclusive & complete portraits of the Beats ever created.

And now 20-sumpthin years later — a similar movie has just been green-lit!  And this one no less than Jack’s official biopic!  And thank gawd the screenplay didn’t go to some agenda pimp or academic wanker, but to an experienced cinematographer biographer with a passion for Jack and a fresh (and female!) perspective.

So I took this exploding-like-spiders-across-the-stars moment to catch up with Holly and get summa the deets — 

Why the heck does the world need another Kerouac biography?  What’s gonna be different about this one?

I hope to find buried treasures during a very long, in-depth search in the archives that shed new light on Kerouac’s writing process and life and thought process.  I’ll be looking at his life & work through a 21st century lens — and I’ll be bringing a fresh perspective to his oeuvre and the story of his life.

What does an “estate-sanctioned” biography mean, exactly?

The Kerouac estate and their literary agent reached out to me last fall after reading Janis.  They said they hoped I would apply the same research, storytelling and contemporary viewpoint to Jack that I brought to Janis.  They offered me complete access to the estate-controlled archives, and permission to quote from any of the personal papers etc., but with no controls or editorial approvals over my manuscript.  I got my literary agent involved and we have a contractual agreement to that effect.

This is also the agreement I had with the Joplin and Autry estates.  I would not embark on a biography like this without that autonomy being guaranteed in writing.  I included this in the very lengthy book proposal that I worked on for months, and my agent conducted an auction with numerous publishers bidding, and I decided on Paul Slovak at Viking.  It was so heartening to get so much interest from some amazing editors at a number of publishing houses!

Cool!  That’s a great story unto itself!  What did you take from doing The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats that made you wanna dig into Jack more?

That was my favorite of the 40+ books I put together while I was the Director/Editor of Rolling Stone Press from 1993-2001.  It was the project that I was passionate enough about that it lured me back to work after my son Jack was born in 1998.  In 1999, he got to accompany me and my husband on my book tour and at events with the book’s contributors.  That was his third or fourth road trip, at age 1.  The book was such a joy to put together — to commission writing from and getting to meet Joyce Johnson, Ann Charters, Carolyn Cassady, Ann Douglas, Hettie Jones, and other great writers like you, Brian! 

When I was in college at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, my professor Gordon Ball brought Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and William Burroughs to campus.  I went to their readings and we got to meet them afterwards.  I’d also just seen Bob Dylan and Patti Smith for the first time – and knew I had to move to NYC!

Wow!  You had Gordon Ball as a professor!  Amazing.  Perfect.  To play on John Leland’s book title — why does Kerouac matter?

No other 20th century writer shaped the American imagination more than Jack Kerouac.  His musical ear and literary innovations inspired four generations of readers, writers and musicians.

Being a woman, will you have a different approach than your many male counterparts to include all the many women who knew Jack well and left behind their own illuminating memoirs?

In his novels, many of the female characters appear to need rescuing.  But in real life, Jack seemed to be attracted to strong, independent, brilliant women.  I’m really looking forward to exploring those relationships.

What are some of your favorite Jack books?

I’ve read On The Road four or five times, beginning when I was 16 — so it has a very special meaning for me.  I also love The Subterraneans, Big Sur and The Dharma Bums.  I’m really looking forward to revisiting all his other work and doing a deep dive.

Ouuu — Subterraneans!  Beautiful!  If he didn’t have that Charlie Parker soloing stretch in his repertoire, I don’t know if I’d be as blown away by his skills as I am.  Well, that and Old Angel Midnight.  But I digress.  🙂  How did he affect your life personally?

He completely opened my mind to a whole other life that existed outside of my small hometown in North Carolina.  When I saw in one of his notebooks on view at an exhibit that he possibly drove by my house on one of his road trips — I grew up on a highway that he would have taken to get to his next stop — that blew my mind!  I fantasized that I was climbing the maple tree in my front yard in the early ’60s when the car he was in drove by.

His work made me want to be a writer, to travel, to learn about Buddhism, about people unlike myself — and I started hitchhiking, too.  The longest distance was from North Carolina to Florida.  But I mostly just hitched around North Carolina.

Besides the themes in his writing and the adventures in On The Road, his work inspired me to pursue a life of experience outside “my safety zone” — so I did lots of traveling in North America, South America and Europe — but also did lots of “mind traveling,” too.  In my early music writing, I mimicked his style to an extent until I found my own voice.

Wow!  Great!  I love the maple tree in the front yard.  You and Canada waving at Jack!  🙂  When will people be able to climb into the branches of this book?

It’s targeted for 2025.

Man — that sounds like some science fiction date in the future.  I can’t even grasp that I’ll be alive in 2025.  But I’m so glad we both are now.  And, boy, there’s nobody I’d rather have at the helm of this book than you. 

Thanks so much, Brian.  You and I will both be kickin’ up our heels in 2025!  There’s an amazing adventure ahead between now and then.

And awaaay we go!!  🙂 



at The Mothership in Woodstock in 2016

A couple of authors at The Mothership in Woodstock, 2016



Here’s my Rolling Stone Book of the Beats piece on “Abstract Expressionism: From Bird to Brando — the halftime show of the century!  1945 to 1955.”

And here’s the other one on “Floating Universities: The Power of the Collective in Art.”

Here’s where you can get my book — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s the tale of Jack’s 100th birthday celebrations in Lowell in 2022, including lots of Holly George-Warren.

Here’s a piece on what it’s like at the annual Woodstock of Jack — the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival.

Here’s the time John Cassady & I teamed up there doing our Jack & Neal show.

Here’s a great piece on the first photographs ever to emerge of legendary Beat Bill Cannastra’s mythological loft — where Kerouac found his scroll writing paper … and his wife.

And speaking of amazing uncovered photographs — here’s the only unstaged photograph known to exist of Jack Kerouac actually writing at a typewriter, which came to light in late 2019.

And here’s some interviews and such I’ve done on Jack over the years.

Here’s a video of some On The Road — scored with David Amram’s accompaniment — at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac . . .


Or here’s bringing the cool bus chapter from Kerouac’s Pic to life at LCK . . .



by Brian Hassett   —

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Stopping and Staying Stopped Smoking

May 31st, 2021 · Real-life Adventure Tales

Stay Stopped Smoking


For all my friends who struggle . . .

These are the handwritten notes I’d read any time I was feeling an urge: 

Whatever’s bothering you will NOT be made better by drawing smoke into your tender  living lungs.

Drawing smoke into your lungs doesn’t make anything better.

Don’t die for something you don’t even want to do.

I LOVE gaining the money I save each day.  Don’t blow that.

I don’t want my house and car and clothes stinking of cigarette smoke like some completely lacking in discipline loser.

I don’t want to be a slave to something I don’t want to do.

Do not voluntarily draw the smoke from burning leafs and chemicals into your tender lungs and body.

You are not a smoker.

Don’t put your mouth on the end of an exhaust pipe.

Picture Alex Grey’s paintings of our blessed tender life-giving organs. Do NOT voluntarily destroy those beautiful organs with vicious chemical smoke.

I don’t want to wake up wheezing and hacking horkers into a sink.

Smoking is literally killing me.

I want more time in my days.  And I get so much more somehow when I’m not smoking.

I want to go visit people as a non-smoker.

I don’t want to be a weak-willed LOSER.

Save $30 a day (including on beer) to spend on needed items.

Give yourself something to be proud of.

Everyone else finds them disgusting.  Don’t be a loser doing something disgusting that you hate.

I could have bought a new furnace for free with what I spent on something that’s killing me.

I want to see how more of this movie (life) turns out — all the stories playing out in the world.  Live to see what happens, man.

Don’t jones to go out at night cuz you ran out of cigarettes.

Don’t give The Addition Rat inside you water and sustenance.

You think you want a cigarette, but you really don’t.

Shortness of breath . . . trouble breathing . . . chest pains . . . heart palpitations.

You’d rather not smoke than smoke; you’d rather be a non-smoker than a smoker.

You won’t feel better buying a pack of cigarettes — you’ll feel worse.

Smoking does NOT make me feel BETTER.

NOT smoking DOES make me feel better.

I definitely get more work done per day when NOT smoking.

I’d rather get one new book or DVD of my choice every single day than buy packs of dead leafs to burn and draw into my body.

I like myself more — and how I fill my days — when I’m not smoking.

Don’t blow your quit streak for one moment of misguided desire.

I like myself better when I’m not smoking.

I like the way my brain works better when I’m not smoking.

Having a cigarette does not solve ANYthing.

Those things are disgusting.  No wonder that’s what so many nonsmokers say.  Phucking repulsive.

I don’t want to be a smoker.


Another trick:

Write a list of both friends and famous people you admire who don’t smoke.  😉

And write a list of people you know who died of lung cancer.

You can add George Harrison, Johnny Carson, Yul Brynner, Lucille Ball, Walt Disney, Nat King Cole, Joe DiMaggio, Michael Landon, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Betty Grable, Babe Ruth, Suzanne Pleshette, Peter Jennings, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, David Bowie . . .

Here’s a full list of 227 famous people:



And speaking of lists — here’s the most complete list on the internet of Famous People Who Never Had Kids.

Or here’s a cool one of Famous Americans Who Were Not Born in America.

Or here’s another power of the mindset piece — The Spilled Coffee Test.

Or here’s a nice general inspiration piece — Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.


by Brian Hassett   —

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The Play’s The Thing

April 30th, 2021 · New York City, Real-life Adventure Tales

The Play’s The Thing

113 different Playbills that survived.

An approximate history of my life in theater audiences . . .

Some of the highlights . . . which you can see the Playbills of in chronological order starting at the top . . .

Mousetrap — London — 1972 — the longest running play in the history of the planet, opened in 1952, never closed until the pandemic of 2020 — 68 years.

Sleuth — London — 1972 — sat in the Queen’s private box (with its own bathroom) because our seats had been sold twice and the other people arrived first.

Hair — London — 1972, in the Shaftesbury Theater where it first premiered with Tim Curry in 1972

Harvey with James Stewart — London, 1975 — the first time I experienced a standing ovation.

The Elephant Man with David Bowie in the title role — Broadway, Dec. 3rd, 1980 – five nights before John Lennon was shot dead. (!)

Napoleon — Radio City Music Hall, Jan. 1981 – the restored 3-screen 1927 movie with a full orchestra playing a score composed by Carmine Coppola, Francis’s father.

Amadeus — Broadway, Feb. 1981 — long before there was a movie of it, with Tim Curry in the title role, plus Ian McKellen & Jane Seymour.

Private Lives — Broadway, June 1983 — Noel Coward’s comedy about a divorced couple, featuring divorced couple Liz Taylor & Richard Burton.

Glengarry Glen Ross — Broadway, March 1984 — David Mamet’s masterpiece, with Joe Mantegna & J.T. Walsh.

Death of a Salesman — Broadway, June 1984 — Arthur Miller’s masterpiece, with Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich & Kate Reid.

Balm In Gilead — Off-Broadway, 1984 — Steppenwolf production of Lanford Wilson’s play about the Greenwich Village underworld, John Malkovich directing, Laurie Metcalf’s mesmerizing 20-minute monologue in second act. It played at the Minetta Lane Theatre, five minutes from where I lived on Washington Square North and I second-acted it probably a half-dozen times just to see her monologue. Also saw it at Circle In The Square at Sheridan Square with Malkovich filling in for one of the roles.

Hurlyburly — Broadway, 1984 — saw it’s first production directed by Mike Nichols, with William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Harvey Keitel, Ron Silver, Jerry Stiller, Judith Ivy, and Cynthia Nixon, who was also in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing two blocks away, also directed by Nichols. Her character in Hurlyburly appears at the beginning and end of the play, and she only had one scene in middle of The Real Thing, and she’d literally run between the two theaters and was appearing in two Broadway plays at the same time!

Back Bog Beast Bait, Suicide in B Flat, and Angel City all by Sam Shepard — Off-Off-Broadway in repertory at La Mama in the East Village, Dec. 1984, with Max Roach playing the music.

Strange Interlude by Eugene O’Neill — Broadway, 1985 — with Glenda Jackson.

Fool For Love — Off-Broadway, 1985 — written & directed by Sam Shepard.

Orphans — Off-Broadway, 1985 — Steppenwolf production, Gary Sinise directing, starring Gary Cole (!), music by Pat Metheny.

Arms & The Man — Broadway, 1985 — George Bernard Shaw’s play, directed by and starring John Malkovich, with Raul Julia & Glenne Headly.

Curse of The Starving Class — Off-Broadway, 1985 — by Sam Shepard, starring Bradley Whitford.

The Caretaker — Broadway, 1985 — Steppenwolf production of Harold Pinter’s play, directed by John Malkovich, starring Gary Sinise and Jeff Perry.

Drinking In America — Off-Broadway, 1986 — Eric Bogosian’s one-man play.

A Lie of The Mind — Off-Broadway, 1986 — Sam Shepard’s play, with Harvey Keitel, Aiden Quinn, Amanda Plummer, Will Patton & James Gammon.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night — Broadway, 1986 — Eugene O’Neill’s play, staring Jack Lemmon, with Kevin Spacey & Peter Gallagher as the sons.

Cuba & His Teddy Bear — Broadway, 1986 — Robert De Niro, Ralph Macchio & Burt Young; had long talk with Joseph Papp while waiting to buy tickets.

I’m Not Rappaport — Broadway, 1986 — Hal Linden, Ossie Davis, Mercedes Ruehl.

The House of Blue Leaves — Broadway, 1986 — John Guare’s play, with Danny Aiello, Christine Baranski, Swoosie Kurtz & Patricia Clarkson.

My Gene — Off-Broadway, Public Theatre, 1987 – Colleen Dewhurst’s powerful one-woman show as Eugene O’Neill’s last wife who is going mad.

Mort Sahl On Broadway — 1987 — great one-man standup show with newspaper under his arm.

Burn This — Broadway, 1987 — Lanford Wilson’s play with John Malkovich & Joan Allen.

Waiting For Godot — Off-Broadway, 1988 — Beckett’s classic with Robin Williams & Steve Martin, and Bill Irwin as Lucky. Directed by Mike Nichols.  Saw it twice in the tiny 300-seat Mitzi Newhouse theater at Lincoln Center.

Twelfth Night — Shakespeare in the Park, 1989 — with Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Goldblum, Gregory Hines, John Amos, Fisher Stevens, Stephen Collins, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Saw twice.

States of Shock — Broadway, 1991 — by Sam Shepard, starring John Malkovich.

Man of La Mancha — Broadway, 1992 — Raul Julia & Sheena Easton.

A Streetcar Named Desire — Broadway, 1992 — Alec Baldwin (who was GREAT and funny (!) as Stanley), Jessica Lange, Amy Madigan, James Gandolfini, Aida Turturro.

Death and The Maiden — Broadway, 1992 — Glenn Close, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman — great drama.

Abe Lincoln in Illinois — Broadway, Lincoln Center, 1993 — Sam Waterston.

Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead — Off-Broadway, Minetta Lane Theater, 1994 — Eric Bogosian one-man show, absolutely hilarious.

SubUrbia — Off-Broadway, 300-seat Mitzi Newhouse at Lincoln Center, 1994 — original production with Steve Zahn, Martha Plimpton, Josh Hamilton.

The Tempest — Shakespeare in the Park, 1995 — Patrick Stewart, Bill Irwin.

Mrs. Klein — Off-Broadway, 1996 — Uta Hagen & Amy Wright (who both lived in my building at 27 Washington Square North).

Demonology — Off-Broadway, 1996 — play about temping when my book came out about temping, with Marisa Tomei.

Capeman — Broadway, 1998 — Paul Simon’s musical, with Ruben Blades & Marc Anthony.

Cabaret — Broadway, in the former Studio 54, 1999 — Alan Cumming in his Tony-winning role as the emcee, plus Mary McCormick & Blair Brown, and Jenna Elfman pulled out of the audience into some on-stage improv with Cumming.

James Joyce’s The Dead — Broadway, 2000 — Christopher Walken.

True West — Broadway, Circle In The Square, 2000 — Philip Seymour Hoffman & John C. Reilly alternating roles each night. I saw it twice, once each way. Both mind-blowing.

Eddie Izzard’s Circle — Broadway, Town Hall, 2000 — one-man standup, saw twice, very different and equally insanely funny.

Rocky Horror Picture Show — Broadway, Circle In the Square, 2000 — Joan Jett & Dick Cavett.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest — Broadway, 2001 — Ken Kesey’s novel staged as a play.  Gary Sinise as Randal Patrick McMurphy.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ — Broadway, 2006 — Twyla Tharp interprets the songs of Bob Dylan, went with Walter R.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night — London West End, summer of 2012 — David Suchet & Laurie Metcalf – power black-out mid-play, couldn’t get restored, given refund, then I went back and second-acted it for free. 🙂

The Taming of The Shrew — Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London, summer 2012 — unbelievably great, took tour of theatre in afternoon, then drank with the whole cast on an outdoor terrace after the show.

The Secret Space of Dreams — Stable Studios, Spencer, Indiana — a Prankster production, written by Spirit and Marz, I played “Jack”.

The Secret Space of Is — Wonderland, Indiana, 2017 — I did the “Historian” introduction.

Red Roses, Green Gold — Off-Broadway, Minetta Lane Theatre, 2017 — once with Sky, George & Levi Asher, then again with Sky & Prankster Tricia; hung with music supervisor Jeff Chimenti and librettist Michael Mann both times. Plus danced in the aisles and became friendly with the cast.


For an even cooler list, check out this list of top 300 films — all sorted by categories, including by Auteur, and all linked to their imdb page.

Or here’s a tribute to the woman who first turned me onto theater and I attended more with than any other human.

Here’s a great Adventure Tale — including tons of photos — of going to Shakespeare’s Globe in London for a spectacular Taming of the Shrew.

Or here’s a vivid account of that very theatrical Prankster production when the clowns all put on a circus.

Or here’s an Adventure Review of the Grateful Dead-based musical Red Roses, Green Gold.


by Brian Hassett   —

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Beat Versus Beatnik

March 3rd, 2021 · Kerouac and The Beats

21st Century Beatniks
Hieroglyphic Caricatures


There’s long been a debate about the word “beatnik” — originally coined by a sensationalist San Francisco gossip columnist in 1958, playing on the Yiddish suffix “nik” and the first Russian satellite launched in September ’57, colloquially known as “Sputnik.”  Jack and Allen & company hated the word back in the day as it was a pejorative noun for the cliché of unemployed do-nothing scatterbrain dropouts that the older generation thought anyone who read On the Road or Howl must be.

But over the decades, the caricature has faded away.  The goofy poster-child beatnik, Maynard G. Krebs, played by Bob Denver on TV’s Dobie Gillis show, went off the air in 1963, nearly 60 years ago.  In more recent decades the word has evolved into simply becoming shorthand for “the Beat Generation writers” … which is 27 letters and eight syllables … versus “beatnik” which is seven and two.  That’s really why the evolution happened. 🙂  It’s just shorter and simpler.

Personally, I prefer, and use, “Beat.”  And over the decades, I’ve explained the difference between “Beat” and “beatnik” to innumerable people — but for the last many years I get a blank stare back.  People don’t know what I’m talking about.  And they don’t care.  It’s getting to be — What’s the point?  Just about nobody anymore even knows there ever was a negative connotation to the word.  It might be a good idea to stop keeping alive some interpretation that ceased to exist way back in the early sixties.


Some old-school Beat Gen peeps still hate it — but these days when most writers and reviewers and journalists and scholars and historians use “beatnik” they’re referring to Kerouac, Ginsberg & company in as favorable a light as any of the old hardcores see them.  People have forgotten the goatee goofball cliché — but remember the god-sent groundbreaking geniuses.

It’s only people who hold onto this ancient hieroglyphic caricature of “beatnik” who are offended.  Nobody else even knows it existed.  Except when one of these old-timers brings it up!  🙂

The cliché is a dinosaur — bones in an empty museum nobody visits.  I’ve been going to beatnik events pretty regularly all over North America and Europe for 40 years and don’t remember ever meeting one of these clichés even once.  They don’t exist.

The word is not going to be banished from our lexicon — so we’ve just got to embrace it, own it, and make sure the modern usage embodies the best of what being Beat is: openness in written language, honesty, sympathy, optimism, environmental respect, the value of the individual, advocating for and practicing a life of creativity and self-expression, embracing adventure, saying “Yes!” more than “no,” working together with like-minded explorers, and creating art out of one’s own life experiences.

Another thing that Beat or beatnik means is — hard work.

The idea of beatniks being lazy is 180 degrees off the mark.  Kerouac has over 50 different books in print — and he died at age 47.  Gawd knows how many poems Allen Ginsberg wrote in his 70 years but there are dozens of volumes full of them — not to mention his nonstop public appearances.  William Burroughs wrote 15 novels, 25 novellas, and there’s 15 books of his letters, journals and interviews.  Lawrence Ferlinghetti opened a bookstore and publishing house, nurtured both for decades, and both are still thriving 70 years later.  Across the street, the Beat Museum has become an institution in San Francisco since 2006 because of the hard work put in by the founders and employees every day since.  And besides everything else Allen did, he also founded a university in Boulder in 1974 along with Anne Waldman that has employed hundreds of teachers and taught thousands of students.

These are not do-nothing bohemians.

Beatnik is cool.  Beatnik is a good thing.

Jerry Garcia & Janis Joplin, who were both living in the city where the word was coined, called themselves “beatniks” until the day they died.  In fact, one of the very last letters Janis ever wrote was to her confrère Myra Friedman at Albert Grossman’s office in New York saying, “I finally remembered that I was a beatnik.”

I just got off the phone with S.A. Griffin, a lifelong Beat poet & practitioner, who casually referred to our collective as “beatniks.”  He didn’t mean it as a pejorative any more than Barack Obama did when he referred to the Beats in his 2020 A Promised Land memoir as “beatniks.”

The Beat Museum called the last big Beat summit ever staged “The Beatnik Shindig” and the museum sure as hell doesn’t look down on the Beat writers or practitioners.

The fact that anyone uses that word should not be misconstrued as an insult.

Diane Di Prima, the great writer, teacher & spirit-force who was part of the scene since the late ’50s and stayed part of it until her passing in 2020, called her autobiography Memoirs of a Beatnik.

When Helen Weaver, the esteemed translator and Kerouac’s girlfriend in 1956, wrote her earnest autobiography, The Awakener, published by City Lights Books in 2009, she referred to herself and all the old gang getting back together for the NYU conference in 1994 by writing, “we beatniks are senior citizens.”  She dates back to before the term was coined, and lived through all the decades afterwards, and when she was summing up her life with Allen & Gregory & company, she herself described their collective as “beatniks.”

Ed Sanders, who, sitting next to Jack on stage on the William Buckley show called him “A great poet,” titled his book Tales of Beatnik Glory not Tales of Beat Glory.

In Robert Shelton’s career-altering 1961 review of Bob Dylan in The New York Times, he raves about the “bright new face in folk music” who’s “one of the most distinctive stylists to play in a Manhattan cabaret in months.”  The very next sentence begins, “Resembling a cross between a choir boy and a beatnik ….”  Shelton is praising Dylan in every word of this review.  He’s obviously not comparing him to a beatnik as a put-down.

In photographer, scholar, professor & Beat confidant Gordon Ball’s excellent memoir East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg, he describes his journey’s motivation as a search of  “the streets of San Francisco for beatniks.”

When John Phillips, the leader of the Mamas & Papas, was talking about putting together the legendary 1967 Monterey Pop Festival for the Criterion Collection interviews, he said of his own backstory — “I consider myself an old beatnik.  I really grew up in North Beach with Kerouac and Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, and people like that were my main influences.”

Jonah Raskin, who many know for his books on Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman & others, and for being the book reviewer at the San Francisco Chronicle for years, just referred to himself as a “beatnik” in his tribute to Ferlinghetti.

On Donovan’s joyous 2004 tribute album Beat Cafe, he climaxes the title song by singing “beatnik café” over and over — not “beat café.”

The esteemed film scholar and New York Times reviewer Elvis Mitchell astutely connected the main characters in Tarantino’s recent masterpiece Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to the beatniks in a way I didn’t even think of — prompting both Brad Pitt and Quentin to riff on it – Brad in depth – there’s “no hassle in the castle, man” – then Quentin, impromptu, revealing his knowledge of Jack & “the holy goof.”


In Kerouac’s centennial year, one of the most prominent film critics in Canada, Richard Crouse, penned a praising tribute to Jack in the nation’s largest-circulation newspaper, The Toronto Star, including the lines, “The lure of the open road wasn’t just its new-found accessibility.  Kerouac wove beatnik romanticism into every phrase, creating a new kind of travel writing, loose and fresh, that sparked the reader’s imagination.”  Again, this is a writer with a passion for the Beats writing a well-sourced article in a major publication where he correctly uses the modern meaning of “beatnik.”

Since roughly 2019 there’s been a big Kerouac & Kesey fan in the writers’ room at the gold standard of gameshows, Jeopardy, with an inordinate number of clues where the answer was “Who is Jack Kerouac?”  And that erudite hardcore Beat insider reaching 10 million viewers an episode knows that “beatnik” is not a pejorative.

Jeopardy, July 8th, 2021

So, just off the top, that’s — The Beat Museum, Jeopardy and Barack Obama.  Original Beat Gen participants Diane DiPrima, Helen Weaver, Ed Sanders & Gordon Ball.  Self-identified beatnik musicians Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Donovan & John Phillips.  And two of the leading film critic / scholars on either side of the border, Elvis Mitchell & Richard Crouse.

There’s been a billion negative portrayals of “hippies” over the last 50 years.  In fact, that word started out, like “beatnik,” as a putdown – as in – these people are not “hip” – they’re baby hip wannabes – teenyboppers – hippies … babiesBut that doesn’t make hippies or the word or idea uncool in my book.  I’m a hippie.  “Hippies” have been most of my best friends for the last 50 years.

Just because the straight world tries to co-opt and brand us with a pejorative doesn’t mean they win the definition.

1950s puritans tried to ban Howl — and that only ended up making it world famous.  The government developed LSD for possible mind-control of enemies … until a few Pranksters got a hold of it and turned on the world.  The establishment tried to pimp propaganda like Reefer Madness — and reefer is now legal or decriminalized in 44 states and the entire country of Canada.  When the straight-streets attempt to redefine our world and mores in their warped vision, it doesn’t work out so well for them.  The truth, and what is right and good, wins out in the end.  The old world establishment wanted to keep Blacks at different lunch counters, women in the kitchen, and gays out of wedding chapels.  And similarly, the world has moved on from their attempted putdown of “beatniks” to where the term now refers to the influential writers who are still affecting the world decades after their passing — and no one even remembers who the putdown bigmouths were.

English is a very malleable and constantly evolving language.  Think of the gazillion words that mean such different things today than they did back in the 1950s when ‘beatnik’ was commonplace  —  gay … hipster … trip … dose … crack … cookies … eggs … shade … gaslight … ghost … goat … woke … cancel … Karen … 

And the point was proven this past week in the global flurry of heartfelt tributes after Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s passing.  When journalists, poets, scholars and fans worldwide used “beatnik” while gushing their praise on the publisher of the Beats and host of their clubhouse in North Beach, City Lights Books, they were not implying a long-forgotten cliché, but referencing the most respected & recognizable group of his peers.

If you polled a thousand North Americans about the meaning of the word “beatnik” I bet the vast majority who ever heard the word would say it meant a group of writers from 1950s.

To this day, I meet people who are Beat and have never read a word of any of them.  I’ve never met a cliché “beatnik” except as a character on Halloween or something.

It’s a mindset.

When Ken Kesey was asked, “How does somebody become a Prankster?” he answered, “We just recognize each other.”

Merry Prankster Anonymous with On The Road‘s Big Ed Dunkel

Rather than poo-poo the term — one that is already accepted — we need to embrace it.  Wear it.  There shouldn’t be a negative knee-jerk reaction every time a person uses that word as though they are intending to denigrate the writers of the Beat Generation — because they aren’t.

We’re now decades into the 21st century, and the word is simply a commonly accepted term for the collective.

If somebody wants to call me a “beatnik” – fine.  We’re good people.

I’m a 21st century beatnik . . . and havin a helluva high time.  

Instead of a pocket notebook we’ve got pocket phones.  Instead of hitchhiking Route 66, we’re surfing the information superhighway.  What was once black & white has become full swirling psychedelic color.  Poetry readings at cafés can now reach the whole world with live-streaming video.  Instead of throwing up on peyote, we can micro-dose on locally-grown magic mushrooms.  And marijuana comes in a thousand flavors!

Those old beatniks would be ecstatic to see all the evolutions and modernizations — including of language — of the worlds they first celebrated.  We’re still going Furthur . . . and . . . 

Blessed are the Beatniks.



In furthur reading — here’s a great piece about the only photograph ever found of Kerouac actually writing at the typewriter — in Provincetown, 1950.

Or here’s another photo discovery story from the same year — this one of the infamous Bill Cannastra loft in Chelsea where Jack met his wife and found the scroll paper he’d use to write On The Road.

Or here’s a little sumpthin on how the Grateful Dead became Jack manifested as music.

Or here’s where you can read a whole book about following your dreams to the living rooms of your heroes in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Or here’s where you can check out how those pesky beatniks ended up influencing those merry pranksters.

Or here’s where you can read a whole bunch of adventure tales about that Cassady clan from New York to Hollywood to England.

Or here’s where you can read a bunch of Beats and Pranksters raving about the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac book about the history-changing 1982 super-summit in Boulder.
Or there’s more here.  Or even more here!


by Brian Hassett   —

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti is Dead, Long Live Lawrence Ferlinghetti!

February 28th, 2021 · Kerouac and The Beats, Poetry

(collage and poem by S.A. Griffin)


Lawrence Ferlinghetti is Dead, Long Live Lawrence Ferlinghetti!


Howling Allen Ginsberg
got shot out of history’s atomic canon
and never stopped flying
Ferlinghetti prints the poem as news hysterical naked
and gets busted for publishing obscene odes

the law fought the poem and the poem won

without this greeting at such great beginning
there would be no Beat Generation heard ‘round the world
and I would have descended a very different staircase
and would not know my wife
nor most all my friends

Ferlinghetti climbs down from the gaunt tree of war
and with his poet’s eye sees fists of Hiroshima and Nagasaki blossoms
shadowboxing in the dark and declares god
a fraternity of one hung up on eternity
a frightened lonely child
pissing himself

the poet’s dog lifting his leg knows
that democracy is deconstructionist porn
for masturbating objectivists
and as of this writing
the poet himself has shed his bony skin
and is no longer making this carnival scene

and from those of us here
still snapping in ripe time
most gratefully and lovingly we bid you
good night sweet paperback prince
may choirs of scat seraphim
sing thee to thy authentic angel headed rest
everything ends lost and found
as rebirth and revolutionary wonder

         Oh, man!

S.A. Griffin

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En-Cora-gement: Give The Kids The Vote – by Dale Topham

January 31st, 2021 · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Politics

Here’s a beautiful inspiring story about proactively engaging young people in democracy.  And I mean young people under 18!

It’s a story about generosity and generations, empowerment and inclusion, doing the right thing, and putting your good where it will do the most (as Ken Kesey used to advise).

It’s told by a fellow Canadian Prankster Brother who’s technically named Dale Topham, but is known in preferred circles as “Gubba” — which this New Yorker expanded to “Gubba Gubba Hey!” to refrain a certain hometown punk band.

As Brutha Gubba tells it . . .

In the most recent Canadian election [2019], I let my 11-year-old granddaughter, Cora, choose how I would cast my ballot.

It started because I was in an unusual muddle about whom to vote for.  I generally vote Liberal in Canadian elections.  In 1963, my first time voting, I supported Lester B. Pearson, then became a full-fledged member of Trudeau-mania (for Justin’s father Pierre).  Since then I don’t believe I ever cast a federal vote for anyone but a Liberal, right up to supporting Justin Trudeau his first time out in 2015.

But Justin disappointed me in spades.  Once he was elected he changed 180 degrees from opposing to supporting the Trans Mountain Pipeline [bringing dirty tar sands oil across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean].  And then he used political pressure to intercede in a case against a Quebec-based construction company.

It was clear to me that for the first time in my life, I would not be voting Liberal.

To muddy the waters further, our Liberal candidate, Terry Beech, was far and away the best choice of those running in my riding!  He’s a hard working young man who’s on the right side of all the issues I care about, but all he could do was promise to apply whatever pressure he could when those issues were discussed.

When the election was called, the Conservative candidate was Heather Leung. About a week into the campaign, some film surfaced of her making extreme anti-gay remarks from a Christian religious right point of view. They were so bad that she was kicked out of the party immediately.

To make this tricky choice even harder, the NDP Candidate, Svend Robinson, was once our long-standing Member of Parliament. He was also the first Canadian MP to declare himself openly gay, but had left politics about ten years ago when he was convicted of stealing an expensive ring from an auction house. Now he was back looking for my support. From a philosophical point of view, I would tend to support the NDP over the Conservatives, but a jewelry thief?  I think not!

Among all these flawed choices, there was a young woman representing the Green Party.  She looked like the best candidate to me, but the Greens got less than 2,000 votes in our very populous riding last election. To me, this looked like throwing away my vote.

So there I was.

In other news — once a week I would pick up my granddaughter Cora after school and take her to her climbing class, about a 20 minute drive. All the street-side political signs turned our conversation to the election. I told her about my dilemma with Trudeau, and she told me they were having a mock election at her school, and that they were going to be learning about the issues and about what the parties were representing. I told her that if she could figure out who to vote for she should tell me! And we both laughed.

Over the next few weeks we talked about what she was learning. She told me if the election were held today, she would vote Green, and said it was mainly because of their position on environmental issues and climate change. I said her reasoning was very sound and that I thought young people would probably make better choices than their parents.

And that’s when the lightbulb came on!

I told her then and there that I would give her my vote in the real election, and that if she ever changed her mind from Green (she never did) just to let me know and I would vote for whomever she said.

I told my wife Rene what I had promised Cora and that I would be voting Green. Every time we discussed it, Rene would say something like, “You know Terry Beech (the Liberal) is the best candidate in our riding,” which I would counter with, “… but I just can’t support Trudeau!” Obviously she was still going to vote Liberal, as we always do.

On election day, as we left the polling station, she asked me, “Did you vote Green?”  I said “Yeah.”  And she said … “So did I.”  Boy, was Gubba happy!  And I couldn’t wait to tell Cora!

For the record, our Liberal candidate won, the jewelry thief came second, and the ousted religious zealot came third. Our Green candidate came fourth with over 4,000 votes — but more than double what she got last time.

My granddaughter is so proud & pleased that she was involved. She’s always been very adult and we treat her that way. And now she’s voting before her time and feeling the power of having her voice heard and counted. Of everything we’ve happily given her over the years, we all three agree this was maybe the best present ever.

~ = ~ = ~ = ~ = ~ * ~ = ~ = ~ = ~ = ~

Giving the gift of the vote.

We’re always reminded that “people died” so we could have the right to vote.  Well, now you can give it to somebody who doesn’t have the right — and nobody has to die!

It’s such a mind-flippingly beautiful twisteroo Prankster concept — giving the power to the purity of smart young people who see the world with unpolluted eyes to suss the good guys from the bad, the good ideas from the baloney.  Adults listening to pundits or their pub pals sure haven’t been installing the most evolved visionaries … or even functionaries.  So how ’bout if we go ahead and let some fresh voices in the choir.

Vote swapping is already something gaining popularity in both the U.S. and Canada the last couple elections — how about giving the gift of political engagement to someone younger who will get in the habit of using it including long after the gift-giver is gone.



You can read this story and a whole bunch more in my latest book — Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy:  Adventures in Politics 1980 – 2020.


by Brian Hassett   —

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Brian Meets Biden

December 31st, 2020 · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales

From Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy: Adventures in Politics 1980 – 2020

From the chapter — “Fun & Loving on the Campaign Trail 2020 — A Prankster’s Primary”.



The next day — Tuesday, February 4th, the day following the night of the Iowa caucus vote-counting debacle — I pulled off three rallies: Biden, Tulsi & Amy.  The order I caught the candidates all week was in direct correlation to the order they appeared in Nashua.

The New Hampshire primary is the New Orleans Jazz Festival for politicos.  All the best performers are playing all day long, every day, for a week!  The only challenge is figuring out which stage you wanna be at. 🙂

For this 12 noon Joe Biden rally I got there at 11.  This is key. Always arrive an hour early, wink-wink, jot a note.

. . . . .

One bizarrely cool thing this 77-year-old grandpa does is frequently sprinkle “man” into his dialogue like you’re listening to Dizzy Gillespie or something.  He so often seems like a patently unhip old geezer, but man, sometimes this cat sure can swing!

. . . . . 

After the rally was over, all the candidates (except Bernie) held meet-n-greets after their show (speech) — but Joe just sorta wandered over to the ropeline and started talking to someone, then just kinda began drifting along the front of the crowd, very impromptu.

A bald Secret Service type guy immediately came out to Joe’s side.  I’d seen him standing at the back earlier and he looked so much like the strategist and Lincoln Project cofounder Steve Schmidt, I thought it was him.

Then for some reason, Joe picked me out with his eyes in the second row — I wasn’t right on the ropeline.

I’m sure my visage reflected positivity.  And he looked over two people’s shoulders and stared me right in the eye and said, “What’s your name?” reaching out his hand.  I was kinda caught off guard, but … “Brian. . . . I was at your first inauguration.”

“Yeah, so were a lot of people,” he said, but not dismissively, rather, celebratory with his beaming smile.

“I hope to be at your next one,” I Irishly twinkled back.

And the other people in the thick crowd kinda moved aside as though he and I knew each other or something and gave us space.  “You’re the one guy in this race who’s gonna know what to do from day one,” I told him.

“And you’re the one guy who knows that.  Tell your friends,” he said with a laugh.  And just then a staffer showed up, so I handed him my camera, and Boom!


Go Joe!  Get us back to where we once belonged!


You can email me, or you can order Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy here.

Here’s the book’s prologue — “Let The Games Begin”

Here’s its Introduction — by The Beat Museum’s Jerry Cimino.

Here’s a full list of all the Adventures in Print spanning six books.


by Brian Hassett   —

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Post 2020 Election Coverage Reviews

November 6th, 2020 · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Politics


George Walker:
“Your election comments were brilliant and as good as anything by anyone I read anywhere.  You should be getting paid for this.  You nailed it all the way through.  Sometimes I would disagree with something you said, and then a couple weeks later I’d realize, ‘Oh yeah, Brian was right about that.’  And you wouldn’t just say things, you’d explain the thinking and facts behind it.  Anybody can just say stuff — but you would always back it up.  I looked forward to reading your new posts and comments every day.  Something would happen in the news and right away I’d wonder what Brian would have to say about it.  Professor Walker gives you an ‘A’ on your coverage.”

Cynthia Johnson:
Brian has been my virtual Xanax over the past few weeks.  Any calm I’ve felt is because I trusted his data and his take on things, even as I distrusted most conventional wisdom.  Thanks again, Brian.”
Thank you for all your hard work and brilliant cheerleading to keep us all sane and hopeful during this process.  Thank you for your devotion to Democracy and to America.  You are truly what we used to call in the HHH campaign way back in ’68 – A Great American (with dual citizenship!)  Much love to you my campaign trail road buddy.  We made it!”
To which Monica Bein replied, “Well said & totally agree about our Merry Politico buddy.”

Laurie Jones:
I am celebrating now.  Now.  Thank you Brian.  You helped me stay solid in the hard weeks and months so these last three days were not stressful.”

Cyndie Henderson:
Your posts are informative and down to earth.  Enjoyed the whole experience.”

Helen North: 
It’s great that you have kept this photo and you can now share with us all …. you did an amazing job Brian at keeping us informed …. and sharing your enthusiasm for politics with us …. you even educated me quite a lot in the last few weeks in regards to American Politics ….. great photo of you and the President of the United States !!!!”

Johnny Walker:
“Thank you for an astonishing effort at helping to make this remarkable day become a reality.  Thank you Thank you Thank you.”

Carrie McCarthy:
Thanks again Brian, for the continued honest and accurate reporting that was especially helpful to the sensitive souls that found watching traditional media too stressful.”

Eric Douglas Augustsen Mani:
I thought I should congratulate you in a campaign well fought for.  So many got out there and let their voices be heard and largely because of the efforts of people like you.  It is with that in this late Swedish morn I raise my cup of coffee to you and wish you CHEERS!!!  Peace & Love Our planet thanks you the children, the animals, the fish at sea, Mother Nature thank you!!!”
also — “YES!!! YES!!! Healthcare!!!  You did it Brian my beacon of light through he thick Orange haze of uncertainty!!!  A new day!!!”

Deanna Waters:
You have such a positive outlook on life and a sense of adventure.  Bravo!”

Brian Stevenson: 
Man, you and I got to meet someday Brian!  Let me say that your optimism and hope in your writings including your great new volume, and your current writings around this recent election, were and still are lighthouses for me.  Thank you.”



You can email me for a signed copy, or you can get the political Adventure book Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy here.

You can see a live show with readings from Blissfully Ravaged here —

You can read The Beat Museum founder Jerry Cimino’s killer Introduction to the book here.

You can read an excerpt from the book about New York’s reaction to Obama’s first election night here.


by Brian Hassett   —

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