Thursday, July 18, 2024

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Chandler Brossard


On this date -- July 18 -- in 1922, American writer Chandler Brossard was born. He would have been 102 years old today. Brossard appeared as Chris Rivers in Jack Kerouac's and William S. Burroughs' And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Some claim Brossard's Who Walk in Darkness (1952) was the first Beat novel. Brossard was not pleased with being associated with the early Beat writers, but given the content of Darkness it is hard to dismiss the connections. I wrote about that book HERE.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Brossard!

P.S. Hunter S. Thompson -- who was not a Beat but sometimes gets associated with them -- was born this date in 1937.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Painter Robert LaVigne


On this date, July 15, artist and Jack Kerouac friend Robert LaVigne was born in Idaho in 1928. He appeared as Guy Levesque in Kerouac's Desolation Angels.

We said a bunch about LaVigne back on February 20, 2022 (click HERE), so there is no need to repeat ourselves today. Don't believe what Ginsberg said in the above picture about LaVigne being Robert Browning in Big Sur. See my February 20 post for an explanation.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. LaVigne.

Monday, July 8, 2024

A Two-For-One Kerouac-related Heavenly Birthday


Stanley Twardowicz (L) and Peter Orlovsky

Two important Jack Kerouac figures were born on today's date -- July 8: painter Stanley Twardowicz in 1917 and long-time Allen Ginsberg partner Peter Orlovsky in 1933. Twardowicz appeared in one Kerouac novel, Satori in Paris, under his own name. Orlovsky appeared in several Kerouac works: as George in The Dharma Bums, Simon Darlovsky in Desolation Angels, Simon in Book of Dreams, and Paul in Beat Generation.

You can read more about each in our remembrances HERE (Twardowicz) and HERE (Orlovsky).

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Messieurs Twardowicz and Orlovsky.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Happy Belated Heavenly Birthday to Ted Joans


We missed pointing out that jazz poet and trumpeter Ted Joans was born on July 4 in 1928. He appeared in one of Jack Kerouac's works, The Subterraneans, as John Golz.

Joans moved to NYC in 1951, where he met and became friends with Kerouac, Ginsberg, et al. Click HERE for the Wikipedia page on Joans, which states that Joans once shared a room with Charlie "Bird" Parker. Joans is credited with saying, "Jazz is my religion, and Surrealism is my point of view." HERE is a link to an obit in SFGate. In that obit you'll find this gem of a story:

Mr. Joans was born July 4, 1928, in Cairo, Ill. His father was a musician who worked aboard the riverboats of the Mississippi River, and he instilled in his young son a strong work ethic and love of jazz.

"The story goes that he gave Ted a trumpet when he was 12 years old and dropped him in Memphis with the words, 'OK, son, go make a living,'" recalled Gerald Nicosia of Corte Madera, a friend of Mr. Joans' for 40 years.

According to editor Ann Charters in a note on page 211 of Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 (1999, Penguin Books), Joans was present at the poetry reading on February 15, 1959, at the Artists Studio in Manhattan where Fred McDarrah took the famous picture of Kerouac reading from On The Road, standing on a stepladder, arms outstretched (see below).

You can read 15 of Joans' poems HERE.

Happy Belated Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Joans.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Remembering Philip Whalen


Philip Whalen (L) & Jack Kerouac

Today we remember Beat poet Philip Whalen, who died on this date -- June 26 -- in 2002 at the age of 78. He appeared in several Jack Kerouac works: as Warren Coughlin in The Dharma Bums, and Ben Fagan in Desolation Angels and Big Sur.

Whalen was a force behind the San Francisco poetry renaissance of the mid-50s, and was one of the poets who read at the famous Six Gallery reading on October 7, 1955.

To get a sense of Whalen's place in Kerouac's world, I highly recommend reading John Suiter's Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen & Jack Kerouac in the North Cascades. This is my favorite Kerouac-related book of all time (a gift from my great friend, Richard Marsh).

Whalen was a Buddhist, close with Lew Welch and Gary Snyder (who all met at Reed College in Oregon), and a much greater piece of the Beat Generation puzzle than he gets credit for, especially the West Coast aspect. You can read a brief bio and some of his poetry HERE. Whalen and Kerouac were also close, evidenced by the more than two dozen letters from Kerouac to Whalen included in Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 (Penguin Books, 1999). Here is an excerpt from a mid-August 1957 letter from Kerouac to Whalen:
Got your letter about the malefic flashes and forms just in time to stick them into my article ABOUT THE BEAT GENERATION where I catalog the visions experienced by members of our generation to try to show the general religiousness of "beat" (including Lamantia's and Allen's and all)--(my own, Gary's, etc.)-- (p. 67)
RIP, Mr. Whalen.

Monday, June 24, 2024

A Heavenly Birthday Wish for Beat Poet Ruth Weiss


Noted Beat poet Ruth Weiss was born on today's date -- June 24 -- in 1928. I could not verify whether she appeared in any of Jack Kerouac's works.

You can read about her interactions with Kerouac HERE. It's a bit of a challenge to find her poetry online, but with some Googling you can find some. HERE is a clip of Ruth reading at the San Francisco Public Library, on the same stage that yours truly was part of in a panel discussion in 2013 (click HERE).

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Ms. Weiss.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Helen Weaver


Today -- June 18 -- is Helen Weaver's birthday. Weaver, one of Jack Kerouac's paramours, appeared in two of Jack's works: as Ruth Heaper in Desolation Angels and as Eileen Farrier in Book of Dreams (expanded edition).Weaver granted me an interview in 2009 that you can read HERE.

There are two letters from Jack to Helen in Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 (Penguin Books, 1999). In that same volume, in a long letter to bestie John Clellon Holmes, Jack writes the following about Helen:

Yes, I'll bring my mother [to Holmes's house in Old Saybrook], we'll come over en route to Lowell on the NYNHH [railroad] or whatever they call it, or else a nutty weekend with my favorite doll Helen Weaver who isnt mad at me no mo . . . . sends me cigars . . . .beautiful girl, but Lucien doesnt like her . . . . I think because he can't snowjob her and also she doesnt like to get drunk ... but is mad. (p. 92)

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Ms. Weaver.