Sunday, February 16, 2020

Happy Birthday to Jan Kerouac



Had Jack Kerouac's daughter, Jan, not died at a young age, she would have turned 68 today. Unlike the rest of his family and many of his friends, she never appeared in any of Kerouac's books.

An accomplished author in her own right, Jan published Baby Driver and Trainsong during her lifetime and left behind the as-yet-unpublished novel, Parrot Fever (an extract of the latter in chapbook format is available from Gerry Nicosia by clicking here).

Jan is worth getting to know through her novels, but you can also read about her in Nicosia's Jan Kerouac: A Life in Memory, also available at the above link. Here's a link to a review/interview: https://www.punkglobe.com/kerouac0220.php.

I didn't start out to write a commercial here, so I'll finish with some of Jan's own words to inspire you to read some of her writing. This is about one of the two times in total she ever saw her father in person (and they talked on the phone once).

Jack's reaction to me was shrugs and uncertain smiles. He said "Hi" but didn't make much of a fuss. When the doorway back-slapping and bantering was done with, he went back to rocking again, calling to his brethren across the room, "Hey, why doesn't somebody turn this thing down, I can't hear myself think!" This seemed odd, for he was closer to the TV than anyone else in the room. But someone did turn it down for him, and he continued to guzzle his giant baby bottle [a fifth of whiskey], rocking himself as if in a cradle. 
The relatives all left, and Jack nodded a casual so-long to them over his shoulder. I watched him curiously, once again with the feeling that I had to be careful of what I said, like I'd felt the first time I met him on Avenue B when I was nine. He was desperately trying to keep his shield in place, at a loss for what to say. (Baby Driver, 1981, St. Martin's Press, p. 184)

You'll learn where this took place and what Jack was wearing when you read Baby Driver.

I'll conclude by saying that Jan was surprisingly forgiving of her father, understanding that he belonged to the world.

Happy Birthday, Jan.









Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Google validates The Daily Beat re: Stella Sampas Kerouac

When one Googles a famous person, there is often a box on the right hand side of the search results with quick info. Try it. You will see images, then a quick blurb, and then demographics like birth date, death date, spouse, siblings, etc.

I noted when I was posting about Stella Sampas Kerouac the other day that my blog entry about Stella is what Google is using for her blurb in that quick info box. Try Googling "Stella Sampas" and you should see the below image:


I'm not sure my entry is the best Google could do for the quick info bio -- I was simply pointing out that it was Stella's birthday -- but there is a dearth of info about Stella on-line and apparently the Google machine settled on my post.

To which I say -- huzzah for The Daily Beat!


Monday, February 10, 2020

Remembering Stella Sampas, Jack Kerouac's third wife

Jack Kerouac and Stella Sampas Kerouac
Today -- February 10 -- we remember Stellas Sampas, who died on this date in 1990. Jack's third wife, she appeared in one Kerouac work, Vanity of Duluoz, as Stavroula Savakis.

Stella inherited Jack's estate when Jack's mom, Gabrielle, died in 1973, triggering the well-known Kerouac estate controversy over the forged will (so said a judge) and endless vitriole on-line about the whole matter. The Sampas family controls the estate to this day. For an insider's look at estate details, grab a copy of Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century by Gerald Nicosia (reviewed here).

Jack was a lifelong friend of Stella, who was the sister of  his closest childhood friend, Sebastian Sampas. Most would agree that theirs was mainly a marriage of convenience (she looked after Jack's invalid mother). Nevertheless, she played a major role in the Kerouac saga.

RIP, Mrs. Kerouac.


Saturday, February 8, 2020

Happy Birthday to Neal Cassady



On this date -- February 8 --  Neal Cassady was born (in 1926). Cassady served as a significant muse for Jack Kerouac and appeared as Dean Moriarty in On The Road; Cody Pomeray in Visions of CodyBook of DreamsBig SurDesolation Angels, and Book of Sketches; Leroy in The Subterraneans; and Neal Cassady in Lonesome TravelerDesolation Angels, and Satori in Paris.

So much has already been said about Cassady that is strains my brain to think of anything original to say. Thus, we'll let Kerouac's description of Dean's parking attendant prowess from On The Road suffice:
The most fantastic parking-lot attendant in the world, he can back a car forty miles an hour into a tight squeeze and stop at the wall, jump out, race among fenders, leap into another car, circle it fifty miles an hour in a narrow space, back swiftly into tight spot, hump, snap the car with the emergency so that you see it bounce as he flies out; then clear to the ticket shack, sprinting like a track star, hand a ticket, leap into a newly arrived car before the owner's half out, leap literally under him as he steps out, start the car with the door flapping, and roar off to the next available spot, arc, pop in, brake, out, run; working like that without pause eight hours a night, evening rush hours and after-theater rush hours, in greasy wino pants with a frayed fur-lined jacket and beat shoes that flap. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 9)

To the ever kinetic Neal Cassady -- Happy Birthday in Beat heaven.


P.S. Happy Birthday, also, to my friend Keith Fisher, who turned me on to Kerouac in the first place and served as my Dean Moriarty on quite a number of adventures in life.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Happy Birthday to William S. Burroughs



Core Beat Generation member, writer, and cultural icon William S. Burroughs was born this date -- February 5 -- in 1914. He appeared in several of Jack Kerouac's works: as Old Bull Lee in On The Road; Frank Carmody in The Subterraneans; Bull Hubbard in Book of Dreams, Desolation Angels, Doctor Sax, and Visions of Cody; Bull in Tristessa; Bill/William Seward Burroughs in Lonesome Traveler; Wilson Holmes Hubbard in Vanity of Duluoz; Bill Dennison in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; and, Will Dennison in The Town and the City and And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks.

Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no biographical details on Burroughs, and others can simply Google his name to reveal a trove of information on this seminal Beat figure, author of classics such as Naked Lunch and Junky.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Burroughs.


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A significant calendar date in Kerouac history (a 6-for-1)

L-to-R top row: Neal Cassady, Albert Saijo, Joan Vollmer Adams; L-to-R bottom row: Gabrielle Kerouac, Mary Frank, Allen Temko

February 4 is a date on which no less than 6 people that Jack Kerouac immortalized in his works were born or died. I am not aware of another similarly synchronous and significant date (purposeful alliteration there).

I won't rank these in any particular order of importance, and I'm not going into much detail about any of them for sake of time. When relevant, I included links to other posts I've written about the person.

Today is the date in 1968 that Kerouac muse and friend Neal Cassady died. Kerouac immortalized Cassady in On The Road as the central character, Dean Moriarty, but also dedicated an entire book to the Holy Goof, Visions of Cody, in which he appeared as Cody Pomeray. Cassady also appeared as: Cody Pomeray in Book of Dreams, Big Sur, Desolation Angels, and Book of Sketches; Leroy in The Subterraneans; and Neal Cassady in Lonesome Traveler, Desolation Angels, and Satori in Paris.

Kerouac friend and writer Albert Saijo was born this date in 1926. Albert appeared as George Baso in Big Sur and co-authored Trip Trap: Haiku on the Road with Kerouac and Lew Welch based on a road trip across America in Welch's jeep.

Core early Beat Generation figure, Joan Vollmer Adams, was born this date in 1923. She appeared as Jane Lee in On The Road; Jane in The Subterraneans; June Evans in Book of Dreams, Desolation Angels, and Vanity of Duluoz; June Hubbard in Visions of Cody; Joan in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; Mary Dennison in The Town and the City; and "my old lady" in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks.

Jack Kerouac's mother, Gabrielle, was born this date in 1895. She appeared as Angie in Vanity of Duluoz and Desolation Angels; Ma in Book of Dreams; Angy in Maggie Cassidy; Angy Duluoz in Doctor Sax; Ange Duluoz in Visions of Gerard; Marguerite Martin in The Town and the City; and, Sal's Aunt in On The Road.

Artist and wife of photographer Robert Frank, Mary, was born this date in 1933. She appeared as Mary Frank in Lonesome Traveler.

Architectural critic, writer, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Kerouac friend Allen Temko was born this date in 1924.  He appeared as: Roland Major in On The Road; Irving Minko in Book of Dreams; Irwin Minko in Desolation Angels; Allen Minko in Visions of Cody; and, Alan Minko in Book of Dreams (expanded edition).

RIP, Mr. Cassady and Happy Birthday to Mr. Saijo, Ms. Adams, Ms. Kerouac, Ms. Frank, and Mr. Temko.



Sunday, February 2, 2020

Happy Birthday to Kerouac friend, Ed White



Ed White, close friend of Jack Kerouac, was born this date -- February 2 -- in 1925. He appeared in several Kerouac works: as Tim Gray in On The Road; Ed Gray in Visions of Cody; Guy Green in Book of Dreams; and, Al Green in Book of Dreams (expanded edition).

Notably, White is credited with suggesting the practice of sketching with words to Kerouac, a practice Kerouac implemented in the notebooks he always carried with him. Kerouac defined it in a 1955 letter to Neal Cassady as "writing fast without thought of words" (Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956, Penguin Books, 1995, p. 473).

In a May 18, 1952 letter to Allen Ginsberg, Jack said:
Sketching came to me in full force on October 25th, the day of the evening Dusty and I went to Poughkeepsie with Fitzgerald--so strongly it didn't matter about Carl's offer and I began sketching everything in sight, so that On The Road took its turn from conventional narrative survey of road trips etc. into a big multi-dimensional conscious and subconscious character invocation of Neal in his whirlwinds. Sketching (Ed White casually mentioned it in 124th Chinese restaurant near Columbia, "Why don't you just sketch in the streets like a painter but with words") which I did . . . . (Ibid, p. 356)

To which I say, one never knows when a passing comment will have significant influence on another person.

Happy Birthday in heaven, Mr. White.