The CBS Television series Route 66 (1960–64), featuring two untethered young men “on the road” in a Corvette seeking adventure and fueling their travels by apparently plentiful temporary jobs in the various U.S. locales framing the anthology styled stories, gave the impression of being a commercially sanitized misappropriation of Kerouac’s “On The Road” story model. Even the leads, Buz and Todd, bore a resemblance to the dark, athletic Kerouac and the blonde Cassady/Moriarty, respectively. Kerouac felt he’d been conspicuously ripped off by Route 66 creator Stirling Silliphant and sought to sue him, CBS, the Screen Gems TV production company, and sponsor Chevrolet, but was somehow counseled against proceeding with what looked like a very potent cause of action.
John Antonelli’s 1985 documentary Kerouac, the Movie begins and ends with footage of Kerouac reading from On the Road and Visions of Cody on Tonight Starring Steve Allen in 1957. Kerouac appears intelligent but shy. “Are you nervous?” asks Steve Allen. “Naw,” says Kerouac, sweating and fidgeting.
Kerouac developed something of a friendship with the scholar Alan Watts (renamed Dave Wayne in Kerouac’s novel Big Sur, and Alex Aums in Desolation Angels). Kerouac moved to Northport, New York in March 1958, six months after releasing On the Road, to care for his aging mother Gabrielle and to hide from his newfound celebrity status.
In the following years, Kerouac suffered the loss of his older sister to a heart attack in 1964 and his mother suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1966. In 1968, Neal Cassady also died while in Mexico.
Also in 1968, he appeared on the television show Firing Line produced and hosted by William F. Buckley. The visibly drunk Kerouac talked about the 1960s counterculture in what would be his last appearance on television.