Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Happy birthday in heaven to Henri Cru


Today we celebrate the birthday in 1921 of Henri Cru. Jack Kerouac met and befriended Cru while attending the Horace Mann School, a prep school in New York City. Cru appeared in several Kerouac works: as Remi Boncoeur in On The Road; Henri Cru in The Dharma Bums; Deni Bleu in Book of DreamsDesolation AngelsLonesome TravelerVisions of Cody, and Vanity of Duluoz; and Hank in Book of Dreams (expanded edition). Cru had been Edie Parker's boyfriend and introduced her to Jack, who ended up marrying her.

Edie Parker's and Henri Cru's papers are stored HERE and there is biographical information on both at this site.

Gerald Nicosia, in the new & revised Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, says that Cru was Jack's best friend from Columbia University days (2022, Noodlebrain Press, p. 45).

Jack had first met Cru at Horace Mann, where Cru used to sell daggers to the younger kids. Raised in Paris, he spoke French elegantly, and somewhere he had acquired a penchant for elegant naval uniforms larded with "scrambled eggs," which set off his dark good looks. This giant dandy had a great sense of humor perfectly complemented by Jack's, for while Cru could laugh at Jack's "peasanty" ways (a favorite Kerouac word), Jack had a humorous appreciation of Cru's princely vanity. More importantly, they responded to each other's basic, childlike kindness and decency and to their mutual joi de vivre. (p. 125)

One of my favorite sections of On The Road is about Jack (Sal Paradise), Cru (Remi Boncoeur), and Remi's girlfriend, Lee Ann (real life Dianne Orin) and their various escapades: Sal and Remi working as barracks guards, or checking out the rusty freighter in the bay where Lee Ann sunbathes in the nude, or the couple fighting heatedly, or eating with Remi's stepfather at swanky Alfred's in North Beach.

Happy birthday in heaven, Mr. Cru, and thanks for providing Jack with such great fodder to write about.

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