Tag Archives: denver

HUNTER S. THOMPSON INTERVIEWS KEITH RICHARD

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Double Gonzo: Hunter S. Thompson interviews Keith Richards

Keith Richards and Hunter S. Thompson muse on The Beatles, the afterlife, getting a full blood transfusion and using the Hells Angels for concert security.

Wayne Ewing, who shot this video, writes of the behind the scenes goings on at the Hunter Thomson Films website:

The interview itself was, like most of Hunter’s interviews, quite disappointing. You can begin to see why it took me so many years to shoot and piece together enough material with Hunter to make intelligible films – Breakfast with Hunter & the work-in-progress Breakfast with Hunter: Vol. Two. Old television interviews with Hunter like these abound on the internet, except this one has Keith.

At 4am we stopped shooting, and I urged the crew from Denver to wrap as quickly as possible. Rather than splitting asap as you expect, Keith hung around while we wrapped, sitting on the couch in the kitchen, not wanting to leave the inner sanctum of Gonzo quite yet. Hunter clearly wanted to get the Denver crew out so he could have more private time with Keith, who by now had fallen asleep on the couch, looking exactly like the famous 1972 Annie Leibovitz shot of him splayed out in a chair. As the crew endlessly wrapped cables, an unconscious Keith began to slide off the couch onto the floor.

Good luck understanding much of what the good Doctor says. Keith speaks the Queen’s English compared to mush-mouthed Thompson.

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NEAL CASSADY

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Neal Cassady

Born: February 8, 1926
Place of Birth: Salt Lake City, Utah
Died: February 4, 1968
Place of Death: San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

‘The bus came by and I got on, that’s when it all began
There was Cowboy Neal at the wheel of the bus to Nevereverland’
(‘The Other One’ by The Grateful Dead)

‘N.C., secret hero of these poems …’
(‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg)

  Texts from Levi Asher – Literary Kicks
Excerpted by permission of copyright holder

The real genius behind the Beat movement in literature never published a book during his life. He appeared as a main character in many books, though, from ‘Go’ by John Clellon Holmes to ‘On The Road’ by Jack Kerouac to ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ by Tom Wolfe. His free-flowing letter writing style inspired the young Kerouac to break his ties to the sentimental style he’d picked up from Thomas Wolfe and invent his notion of ‘spontaneous prose.’ Without Neal Cassady, the Beat Generation would never have happened.

Neal Cassady was raised by an alcoholic father in the skid row hotels of Denver’s Larimer Street. A car thief with a unique ability to charm strangers, he spent time in reform schools and juvenile prisons and developed the suave instincts of a con artist, although he never seemed to want to con anybody out of more than a ten-dollar bill, a roll in the hay or a good conversation.

A friend named Hal Chase left Denver to enroll at Columbia University, and Cassady traveled to New York to visit him in December 1946. It was here that he met Kerouac and Ginsberg. Ginsberg immediately fell in love with him, and Cassady, who had a hustler’s instinct to be whatever the person he’s with wants him to be, began a sexual relationship with Ginsberg, balancing it with the numerous heterosexual relationships he enjoyed more. At the same time, he persuaded Kerouac to teach him how to write fiction.

Soon he and Kerouac began the series of cross-country adventures that would later become ‘On The Road’. They raced aimlessly across the U.S.A. and Mexico, with Cassady setting the agenda. Kerouac began writing about their adventures even as they were taking place, but he could not find a style that fit the content, and put the project away in frustration.

He picked the project up again later, after a series of letters from Cassady gave Kerouac the idea to write the book the way Cassady talked, in a rush of mad ecstasy, without self-consciousness or mental hesitation. It worked: ‘On The Road’ became a sensation by capturing Cassady’s voice.

Cassady married several women and fathered many children (much of this activity is discussed in ‘On The Road’). He finally settled down with Carolyn Cassady in Los Gatos, a suburb near San Jose, where he worked as a brakeman on the Southern Pacific railroad. He remained close friends with Ginsberg, Kerouac and many others from the Beat crowd, although he never profited from their eventual success. Kerouac wrote in ‘Desolation Angels’ of the strange way he felt when Cassady dropped by his apartment after the first advance copies of ‘On The Road’ arrived:

When Cody said goodbye to all of us that day he for the first time in our lives failed to look me a goodbye in the eye but looked away shifty-like — I couldn’t understand it and still don’t — I knew something was bound to be wrong and it turned out very wrong …

In the 1960’s, as Kerouac withdrew into alcoholism and early middle-age, Cassady began an entirely new series of road adventures, this time with young novelist Ken Kesey in Jack Kerouac’s place. When Kesey organized a trip to the New York World’s Fair in a psychedelic bus named ‘Furthur,’ Neal Cassady was the madman behind the wheel. This trip is chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.’

When Kesey and Cassady were in New York, a party was organized for the purpose of introducing Kerouac to Kesey. But Kerouac and Cassady had been changing in opposite directions, and the meeting did not go well, especially after Kerouac, offended by somebody’s frivolous treatment of an American flag, solemnly rescued the flag and folded it.

After a night of hard partying in Mexico in 1968, Cassady wandered onto a deserted railroad, intending to walk fifteen miles to the next town. He fell asleep on the way, wearing only a t-shirt and jeans. It was a cold rainy night, and Cassady was found beside the tracks the next morning. He was in a coma, and died in a hospital later that day. Kerouac would die a year later.

Neal’s unfinished autobiography was published as ‘The First Third’ after his death. Some of his letters, such as the one Kerouac called ‘The Great Sex Letter,’ were also published.

In the autumn and winter of 1995 I conducted an extensive e-mail interview with John Cassady, Neal’s son.

Here’s another interview (conducted by Bill Horbaly, a Cassady relative himself) with several of Neal’s adult children.

Andrew Burnett wrote a heartfelt tribute to the city of Denver and the streets Neal Cassady walked. It’s illustrated with many photos of places mentioned in the Beat classics. Here’s Neal’s Denver.

A list of books, tapes, videos and other things relating to Neal is here.

Finally, here is Tim Bowden’s fascinating memoir of his relationship with Carolyn Cassady a few years after Neal’s death. There are some interesting insights here, and we encounter quite a few marginal Beat legends and ‘On The Road’ characters as well.

Literary Kicks
by Levi Asher

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