Beat News: August 8 1996

1. I just heard that Herbert Huncke died this morning. Huncke was a close friend of William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg during the days of their early adventures together in New York City. He was their prototypical Times Square junkie/hustler connection, the “real thing” that they (especially Burroughs) often tried to emulate. He appeared in On The Road as the character named Elmer Hassel (Sal and Dean are always wondering “Where’s Elmer Hassel”), and in Junky as the experienced drug-user Herman. According to Kerouac, who first used the term “beat” to describe his literary generation, it was Huncke who first introduced him to the word.

Like almost all friends of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs, Huncke became a published writer after the beat phemonenon occurred. His story “Elsie John,” reprinted in Ann Charters collection “The Beat Reader,” is a raw, honest and fascinating piece. He also wrote a full-length autobiography called “Guilty of Everything,” as well as a shorter Hanuman book with the same title.

He lived out his last years in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. He was taken to Beth Israel Hospital a few days ago, and that’s where he died this morning at 7:15.

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