Thursday, February 29, 2024

RIP comedian Richard Lewis, who had a Kerouac connection


Comedian Richard Lewis has died. Perhaps you weren't aware of his Jack Kerouac connection, so below is a post I pulled from the Jack Kerouac page (https://www.facebook.com/KerouacEstate) on Facebook. I can relate to Richard because of his first name and that he had Parkinson's Disease. And he was an original, which I appreciate.

The world has lost one of the most inspiring and influential comedians of our time Richard Lewis. We were truly blessed when Richard befriended us and collaborated with us on one of our most acclaimed projects, of which he gave us a truly captivating reading of Jack’s “America’s New Trinity of Love.” This was for the Kerouac-kicks joy darkness album we produced for Rykodisc. After that experience, Richard tapped the album's producer, Jim Sampas, for his album “Live From Hell” which included an interview with Richard by Bill Zehme, recorded in Boston. Richard was not only a joy to work with, he was so caring of others, always wanting to make sure everyone was ok. And not just on the surface of caring, but deep down and honestly, though not without his humor. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
Here is that reading of Jack Kerouac’s “America’s New Trinity of Love.” www.youtube.com/watch?v=bC5YD_Qh2oU


 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Remembering Beat poet Elise Cowen

                                    


Beat poet Elise Cowen died on this date -- February 27 -- in 1962. She appeared as Barbara Lipp in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels and was a close companion to Allen Ginsberg (indeed, it is reported that they were lovers for a brief time). The bulk of her work, tragically, was destroyed after her death by suicide, but some of it survives, including the two poems here (after the bio -- which starts with an enlightening quote from Gregory Corso about the lack of women representation in the Beat movement).

Here's an excerpt from Kerouac's Desolation Angels
We stayed together for an awful long time, too, years—Julien called her [Alyce] Ecstasy Pie—Her best friend, the dark haired Barbara Lipp, happened by circumstance to be in love with Irwin Garden— Irwin had steered me to a haven. In this haven I slept with her for lovemaking purposes but after we were done I’d go to the outer bedroom, where I kept the winter window constantly open and the radiator shut off, and slept there in my sleepingbag. Eventually that way I finally got rid of that tubercular Mexican cough—I’m not so dumb (as Ma always said). (1995, Riverhead Books, pp. 329-330
Click here to read an interesting article about Cowen and her connection to poetry giant Emily Dickinson (to whom poem #2 above refers).

RIP, Ms. Cowen.



Monday, February 26, 2024

Remembering Carl Solomon

                                       


Carl Solomon died on this date -- February 26 -- in 1993. He appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Carl Rappaport in Visions of Cody and as Carl Solobone in Book of Sketches.

Allen Ginsberg met Solomon in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently dedicated his famous poem, "Howl," to Solomon. Solomon worked as an editor for Ace Books, owned by his uncle A. A. Wyn. There are several published letters from Jack Kerouac to Solomon discussing Ace possibly publishing On The Road. The latter never happened, but Ace did publish William S. Burroughs' Junkie; Solomon wrote the Publisher's Note in one version and the Introduction in another. Here's an excerpt from an April 7, 1952 letter from Kerouac to Solomon:
But here's my main idea in this note (and apart from fact that I feel you're okay and wish you'd like me more), I have an idea we could publish ON THE ROAD regular hardcover and papercover, extracting 160-page stretch for 25c edition (the sexy narrative stretch, I'll designate it when I mail in full manuscript some time soon). (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 342.
Click here to read a 1973 interview with Solomon by John Tytell titled, "Carl Solomon On Not Publishing Jack Kerouac." Oops.

RIP, Mr. Solomon.




Thursday, February 22, 2024

Remembering Lawrence Ferlinghetti

                          


Poet and book publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti died on today's date -- February 22 -- in 2021 at the age of 101 at his Bay Area home. We had wished him a happy 101st on March 24, 2020 (click HERE). Ferlinghetti appeared as Lorenzo Monsanto in Jack Kerouac's Big Sur, the devastatingly honest account of Jack's mental health decline at the hands of alcohol and his futile effort to forestall the same at Ferlinghetti's Big Sur cabin near the Bixby Canyon Bridge.

I've never see Ferlinghetti in person, although I've been to his bookstore, City Lights, in San Francisco. You can read about his life in this L.A. Times obit (click HERE).

It would do him a great honor if you read some of his poetry today, or something he published at great personal and professional risk, like Allen Ginsberg's "Howl."

RIP, Mr. Ferlinghetti.



Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Remembering Kerouac friend, artist Robert LaVigne

                                       


On this date -- February 20 -- in 2014, artist and Kerouac friend Robert LaVigne died. LaVigne (I've seen it with the V capitalized and not capitalized) was Guy Levesque in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels. That is it according to the Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend, yet Allen Ginsberg himself identifies LaVigne as Robert Browning in Big Sur (see Ginsberg link below). The Duluoz Key says Browning was William Morris. I asked Key curator Dave Moore about this discrepancy.

Dave Moore sent me the below scan from one of Kerouac's notebooks (titled "Duluoz Legend Personae Names"), where we can see in Jack's own handwriting that Robert Browning in Big Sur was William Morris, a painter friend of Philip Whalen. And so, we will defer to Jack and assume that Alan was wrong.



In a 1955 letter to Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac refers to Lavigne as a "canuck painter." There are no letters to or from LaVigne included in either of Ann Charters' compilations. Ginsberg referred to LaVigne as a "Painter friend of Poets." Natalie Jackson, who we remembered here, was a model of LaVigne's. A well-known story about LaVigne is that it was his portrait of Peter Orlovsky -- his model and lover -- that caused Allen Ginsberg to request an introduction to Orlovsky, beginning a life-long relationship between the two.

LaVigne has papers archived at Columbia University. See https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/collection/data/606938645 (this resource includes a concise biographical sketch).

LaVigne's drawing of Jack adorns the cover of one version of The Scripture of the Golden Eternity (see below).



RIP, Mr. LaVigne.



Saturday, February 17, 2024

Happy Belated Birthday in Heaven to Jan Kerouac

 

Jan Kerouac


Had Jack Kerouac's daughter, Jan, not died at a young age, she would have turned 70 yesterday. Unlike the rest of his family and many of his friends, she never appeared in any of Kerouac's books. Her mother was Joan Haverty, Jack's second wife.

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 -- gnicosia@earthlink.net).

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, available here or direct from the author (see above e-mail address).

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 belated birthday in Heaven, Jan.



Saturday, February 10, 2024

Remembering Mrs. Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac and Stella Sampas Kerouac

Today -- February 10 -- we remember Stellas Sampas, who died on this date in 1990. Jack's third wife (married 11-18-66), she appeared in one Kerouac work, Vanity of Duluoz, as Stavroula Savakis. They knew each other from childhood and he wished her a Happy Valentine in a February 13, 1959 letter:
Happy Valentine and good luck to all the family.
I hope you understand why I dont [sic] write, or visit. My mother is moving back to a small house in Florida now, with me, because it is too expensive in New York. I dont have as much money as people think. I didnt[sic] even sell On the Road to the movies yet but the movies are coming out soon with big pictures using the same theme. So I lost out and wont be rich at all. It's a shame but it always works that way. I dont [sic] need much money for myself, in any case. The awful abuse that I have been getting from critics resulted in the complete neglect of Dharma Bums. For some reason my name has become associated with bearded beatniks with whom I never had anything to do at all. I'm angry now, for sure, I'm going to Paris this spring and forget it all, and write something beautiful about Paris. When I'm an old man I'll at least have my jug of wine and a loaf of bread too. (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1968, Ann Charters (ed.), Penguin Books, 1999, p. 210)

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).

Stella was the sister of  Jack's 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.

I'm waiting for someone to write her biography. Any takers?

RIP, Mrs. Kerouac.