Beat News: May 7 1996

1. Francis Ford Coppola, according to recent reports, still has vague plans to direct a film version of “On The Road.” He’d better hurry, though — others are moving in on his territory. A movie about an incident in the life of Neal Cassady, for instance, is now in the works. It’s based on a letter Neal wrote to Jack Kerouac about some sexual escapades involving a girl named Joan Anderson, and it might be called “The Last Time I Committed Suicide” (a phrase found on the well-known recording of Neal onstage at a Grateful Dead show in the 60’s). A guy named Stephen Kay is the writer/director, and Keanu Reeves, a friend of Stephen’s, will play a friend of Neal’s. Neal will be played by an actor named Thomas Jane. The filmmakers have also enlisted the help of Carolyn Cassady — and I’d like to thank Carolyn for giving me this scoop!

2. I insist that Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter is a beatnik in the truest and best sense of the word. Not just because Neal Cassady rapped onstage with the Dead (see above) but also because of the deep and raw beatness of the characters in many of Hunter’s songs, from “Brown Eyed Woman” to “Jack Straw” to
“Wharf Rat” to “Dire Wolf” to “Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo” and “Cumberland Blues.” I bet Kerouac would have even liked “Workingman’s Dead” (he died about two years too soon, so we’ll never know). Anyway, the reason I mention this is that Robert Hunter is now on the web! His site is huge and
highly personal, and he’s doing all the techie work himself (using PageMill, I understand). A novel in progress, “Giant’s Harp,” is part of the site, along with journal entries, lyrics, e-mail and lots of other stuff. Check this place out!

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