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Mill Valley Literary Review
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night..." Allen Ginsberg, Howl poem, 1955.
Jan Kerouac - Deposed Literary Princess
Jack Kerouac's only child. Jan at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, October 1979, age 27. MillValleyLit exclusive unpublished photo copyright 2020 by Gerald Nicosia.
Transition Issue - Spring, 2020
What's new? Interview with Gerald Nicosia, author, poet, journalist, interviewer, Beat expert and literary critic. Replete with photos. Nicosia's new poem debuts in this issue, commemorating famed poet Gary Snyder packing the house at Mill Valley Public Library. An additional Nicosia poem for poet Gregory Corso. New reads in On My Nightstand. How a lterary journal was born: Haight Ashbury Literary Journal memoir by Joanne Hotchkiss.
Complete "Salutes Psychedelia issue" from Winter still included.
GERALD NICOSIA INTERVIEW: PART 2
Jan Kerouac with Gerald Nicosia, On the Road 25th anniversary conference, Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado, August 1, 1982. Photographer unknown.
Gerald Nicosia’s Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac is one of the earliest Kerouac bios (1983), and considered to be the best of the now many Kerouac bios. Nicosia edited and published Jan Kerouac: A Life in Memory in 2009, about Jack’s daughter, and Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century in 2019, of which this conversation proved to be a preview. Nicosia was interviewed in the Chicago Tribune article by Rick Kogan in February, 2020 (link follows this interview).
Part 1 of this interview was published in our Winter 2012-13 issue. The following revelatory, actually shocking, Part 2 interview (HOW could this have happened to Kerouac's legacy and blood heirs??) was recorded October 19, 2012. As we were a fledgling literary review, Part 2 was not published at that time because of concern of repercussions, which become apparent in the interview. The place of the interview - the historic Mill Valley Depot, which Kerouac himself had used (pre Cafe & Bookstore) during his time with influential Zen poet, Gary Snyder. Gerald Nicosia was on a roll, having just recently consulted for On the Road, the Walter Salles movie based on Jack Kerouac’s acclaimed novel, had partied at Cannes Film Festival with Kristin Stewart, and would soon promote the epic "Beat at the Sweet" Tribute at Mill Valley's internationally-known Sweetwater Music Hall. This event boasted some of the most well-known Beats, post-Beats, and Beat fans in the area, including Al Hinkle and Jerry Kamstra (both of whom sadly past recently), Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Wavy Gravy, and Joanna McClure. (Plus MillValleyLit poets J. Macon King and Ari Maslow in their big-stage debuts.)
Interview with Gerald Nicosia by J.Macon King
King: You grew up in Illinois, living for your first twenty-five years or so in the Chicago area. I grew up in Illinois myself in the middle rural plains.
Nicosia: What town did you come from?
King: Carrollton, Illinois, an hour from where the Mississippi and two other rivers come together at Alton across from St. Louis. You and I both moved to San Francisco in the mid '70s. How did your Midwestern roots affect you and your writing as opposed to the west coastal creativity belt, which later attracted you?
Nicosia: Well, I remember when I came to San Francisco, I was working on Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, and was sitting at the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach and told somebody what I was doing, and they said, "You just moved to San Francisco, you'll never finish your book now." Because everybody in North Beach at that time had a notebook in front of them, but nobody ever accomplished anything. I have what you probably know as the Midwestern work ethic. I mean, I try to get things done and that was instilled into me from a young age.
So, I think that although there is a creativity belt out here, there is also kind of a waywardness...
King: A slacker belt...
Nicosia: ...Yes, where people do not finish things. They have all these ideas and then things never get done. I guess I am very oriented towards making things happen and finishing things because that is the Midwestern work ethic that was drilled into me. But you know, there are a lot of good things from the Midwest. The values are solid. Out here, people's values seem very slippy-slidy and shaky, and people never know what they believe in.
I was raised where your values were something solid, your ties to people were solid, your connections, and your friendships were for life. I mean, I still have deep friendships back in the Chicago area and so on. I go back there as often as I can afford to. A lot of people out here strike me as very disconnected. They do not feel roots to where they live, they do not feel permanent connections with other people, so I have a very different view of life. Coming out of the Midwest, the connections are important, and you honor them, and you keep them as much as you can.
And, a person's word means something too. You know, one of the things about California, it's like people say something and they do not mean it. "I'll see you in a week."
King: "Let's do lunch."
Nicosia: Yes, "I'll get you my manuscript in two weeks," and then you never see it again. Midwesterners, we call it plain speaking, but we were brought up to think that words meant something. If you said something, you meant it.
King: You were long-term friends with a difficult poet, Gregory Corso, spent some time roaming North Beach with him. The other Beats you hung out with included whom?
Nicosia: Jack Micheline, Bob Kaufman, Howard Hart, Philip Lamantia, Jerry Kamstra, Kirby Doyle, Janine Pommy Vega, Harold Norse, Michael McClure. All the others too, but those are people that I probably spent the most time with. They were all my close friends, people I saw on a regular basis, did things with, hung out with, had meals with.
King: So you knew Allen Ginsberg but didn’t really hang out with him?
Gerald Nicosia (right) with Allen Ginsberg at the Rencontre Internationale Jack Kerouacin Quebec City, October, 1987. Photographer unknown.
Nicosia: Well, yes, because I did not really connect with Allen. There were a lot of things I did not like about Allen - I was not sold on Allen as the great holy man. I thought he was arrogant, egotistical, very much of a self-promoter. I did not like all the sex with young boys. I thought a lot of that was irresponsible. So yes, I knew Allen, but did not connect with him. I interacted with him professionally. I even gave poetry readings on the same stage as him, but I would not have called him a close friend. Gregory Corso, I liked very much.
And, Gregory was considered a bad boy. He was an alcoholic, he was a drug addict. He was not the most reliable person, he was always trying to hit you up for money. But Gregory was an interesting person, and he really had a heart, he cared about people, he had seen a lot of suffering. He had a real heart for the poor and for the down-and-out, and his poetry was profound, I think. Anyway, I liked Gregory. A lot of people did not like him, but I liked Gregory.
King: Well, he could be obnoxious...
Nicosia: He could be obnoxious, and he liked to attack people, and he liked to shock people, and he could go after you in a mean way, you know, size you up and find out what is your weak point and go after it. I saw him do that to many people. But I liked Gregory. Gregory was right there with the people, he would be in the ordinary bars talking to the ordinary people. Whereas these other people, I mean, Ginsberg went for the money and the fame. At the end, you know, Ginsberg was nothing but dropping names all the time, "Well, I was with Paul McCartney yesterday and then I was with Philip Glass," and so forth.
This isn’t what the Beats were about. It was not about dropping the names of all your millionaire friends. Gregory Corso, if he had a choice of hanging out with a few millionaires or going over to the local bar, he would go over to the local bar and hang out with the ordinary people, and Kerouac was the same, Kerouac would rather be in a working-class bar talking baseball and football with people than hanging out with a bunch of snobby writers.
King: Mill Valley Literary Review is including your beautiful poem you wrote for Gregory Corso on his marble tombstone in Rome...
Nicosia: Have you been there, by the way?
King: I have been to Rome but before he died [in 2001.] I used to see Corso in North Beach back in the '70s, and on the street one night, somewhere between Specs and the Saloon he, let’s say “enthusiastically,” recited a poem for my girlfriend. I gave him a couple of bucks. On your website you say, "Gregory was always mad that I had written Kerouac's biography and not his. He used to say in his Greenwich Village bad boy's voice, 'I got one thing against you, man. You went for the dead one, man, you didn't come for the living one,' meaning himself," and then you said, "I think I should write a book about him.”
These days it seems like most people, unfortunately, have no idea who Corso was or his powerful impact on those around him. With the resurgent interest in the Beats, would a book on Corso be publishable in today’s literary world? Or even feasible on spec?
Nicosia with Gregory Corso, in front of Little Joe’s restaurant on Broadway in North Beach, Nov. 1980. "Gregory had just talked me into buying him dinner, and I was smiling because I’d get to hear him talk for an hour!" Photo by Marc PoKempner.
Nicosia: First of all, you cannot write a biography on spec, because a biography takes money. Very frankly, when I wrote Memory Babe, things were a lot cheaper. I hitchhiked, and I slept on people’s floors, and so on. But even so, gasoline was a dollar a gallon maybe, you could stay at a motel for $25 a night. You cannot find that anymore.
If you are going to write a book about Corso, I mean, you can do a Douglas Brinkley book where you have your research assistants dig up some stuff, or you can do a real biography which is you go out and find the people, and you interview them the way I have always done. But that takes money. Phone calls are the least of it, but then you have to get on the road and you have to get airplane tickets.
I was writing about Mumia Abu-Jamal, but I finally had to give up. [Mumia Abu-Jamal is the convicted police murderer, once described as "perhaps the world's best known death-row inmate."] There were too many threats against me and I just did not want to deal with that. It was not worth it. I am against the death penalty, so I do not want to write anything against Mumia, but it began to seem like he had some involvement in the killing, maybe not a cold-blooded murder, but I think maybe he was protecting his brother or something. Anyway, I could not be honest about that book without incurring a lot of wrath, so I just dropped it.
Now, I am writing a biography about Ntozake Shange. [Best known for poem-play “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.”] She’s a wonderful poet - and novelist, which a lot of people do not know. But she lives in Brooklyn, so I have to go to New York and it's killing me financially because you cannot stay in New York for less than $200 a night. You cannot even find a fleabag in New York for less than $200.
And, Corso lived in New York. If you were going to write his biography you would have to spend a lot of time in New York. You are talking about 30, 40, 50, $60,000 just for research costs. You cannot do a book like that unless you are independently wealthy, but I am not. I wish I was. I wish Larry Ellison, the guy that owns Oracle, I wish he was my father-in-law or something [both laugh] and I could write all the books I wanted. But seriously, the publishing business now is killing a lot of books because they do not want those kinds of books anymore, what used to be called "the mid-list book."
We could spend two hours talking about the evolution of the publishing business. Twenty-five years ago, most publishers were independently owned (like Random House, which Bennett Cerf had founded). That does not exist anymore. In the course of the 1990's what happened was, five or six multi-national corporations like Bertelsmann, Von Holtzbrinck, Rupert Murdoch, Viacom, bought up all these individual publishers, so you now have like six multi-national corporations that own all of those individual publishing houses.
The decisions on what to publish are no longer made the traditional way - you do not have the editor, you do not have Malcolm Cowley, or that famous Hemingway editor...
King: Max Perkins.
Nicosia: You do not have a Maxwell Perkins, those guys reading the manuscript, saying, "Let's get a contract for this guy." It has to go before a multi-national marketing board, and they look at the demographics and, "How many millions has this guy sold before?" And if they do not think they are going to make enough money, they do not care what you are writing about.
People could tell them this is the greatest book in the world, but unless they think that book is going to make a ton of money, they do not want it. And once the corporate marketing board kills it, no editor in the world can get a contract for it. So it’s a whole different ball game right now. There used to be what they called the mid-list book. The mid-list book was a book that would maybe sell between 10,000 and 30,000 copies. It would not make a lot of money for the publisher, but it gave a lot of respectability and credibility to the publisher.
These were intellectual, good, solid books, good biographies, or books that explored some aspect of life, and the writer would not get a huge advance. He would get $25,000, or he would get enough to finish the book, and if the publisher broke even or made a little profit, they were happy with it. When these multi-national corporations took over, the mid-list book died. It died! They do not want the mid-list book anymore. You go to them and tell them, "I wanna do a book on Gregory Corso. This book might sell 20,000 copies." They'll answer, "We don't want a book like this, are you kidding? No way. Unless you can show me a book that's gonna sell 200,000 copies, we don’t want it."
So those books are not getting funded, and they are not getting written today. Unless you are independently wealthy, you cannot afford to write it without the publisher writing a check for your expenses. It's a whole different ball game now, John. It’s too bad, because there are a lot of writers I would love to write about. Seymour Krim* was somebody that I knew well, and I thought he deserved a biography, and certainly Corso deserves a biography. Many of these writers deserve biographies, the so-called lesser Beats.
Nobody, no publisher today, because of these multi-nationals, is going to fund books like that. So as a result, they are not going to get written unless you find somebody that has got the money to write them on their own.
King: And, meanwhile, all the source material is dying out. The people you need to interview. So this may never happen.
King: You got to know Jack Kerouac's daughter, Jan, quite well. You chronicle her in your 2009 Jan Kerouac: A Life in Memory. Jack had really more than abandoned her - he rejected her. I know this happens all the time, but Kerouac was devoted to his mother; he was an intelligent, sensitive writer type. Why did he do this? Did he truly believe that she was not his?
Nicosia: Jack had a lot of paranoia about his own poverty, about women wanting to take his money. A lot of that paranoia was fed by his mother. You also have to understand that with his first book, early on, he had an idea that he was going to be a successful novelist, that he was going to make a lot of money. He thought he would be able to go live in Paris. He had sort of the image of becoming Hemingway, or some sort of successful novelist.
His first novel, The Town and the City, totally disillusioned him with that idea because it sold 400 copies. The publisher wanted the advance back. After he had worked four years on it. Then, instead of deciding, "I'm gonna keep writing traditional novels," he decides, "I'm gonna break through, and I'm gonna write the most innovative things I can," and of course, what happened? He wrote On the Road on this roll of paper, took it to his editor Robert Giroux, and he unrolled it on the carpet of Harcourt, Brace and said, "Behold!"
And he thought that Robert Giroux was going to jump up and down celebrating with him, and Giroux by the way had gone to bed with him. There is a tape where Kerouac says when Giroux was editing his novel, he told Jack he was a beautiful young man. Giroux said, "Jack, I wanna have sex with you," and Jack said, "Okay." He was always open to everything. After having gone to bed with this guy, an older gay guy, he sort of felt like Giroux owed him something.
More than anything, he thought he had written a great book, which he had. So he thought when he unveils this thing in Giroux's office, Giroux is going to go, "Oh, Jack, my God, you've done this great thing!" and instead Giroux says, "Oh, Jack, what is this awful thing? I can’t edit it, there's no place to put my pencil marks." You know, he has basically coldly rejected Jack, and so Jack realized at that point, "I didn’t make money on my first book, but now if I keep writing this experimental stuff, they are not gonna even publish it."
Yet, Jack did not retreat, this is where we have to give Jack great credit, he did not back down and say, "Oh gee, I better go back and start writing traditional novels again because I’m never gonna make any money doing this stuff." He was like, "Fuck that! I'm gonna keep writing the most experimental stuff and I don’t care if they publish it." But along with that was a feeling that he would never be able to support himself, never be able to pay the bills, that he would have to live off his mother for most of his life.
Jack did get married, but when his wife got pregnant he told her, "I can’t support a kid. You need to get an abortion." Joan said, "No, I don’t want an abortion, I want the kid," and that is when they split up. Then, Jack's mother who was a good Catholic woman said, "Jack, you can’t abandon a pregnant wife," and Jack said, "It's not my kid, Ma." So it was a way to get his mother off his back, and then he got stuck with the lie. Because he knew it was his kid, and later in life he even carried a picture of Jan in his wallet. People have told me, like one of Kerouac's closest friends, John Clellon Holmes**, that Jack would secretly pull out the picture and say, "This is my daughter," but he could not undo the lie that he had told his mother, the lie that it wasn’t his kid.
Then it came out of this paranoia about money as well. When Joan sued him for child support, that made him even more paranoid. Irrational. He knew it was his kid, at that point. But it was like, "She just wants my money and I don’t have any money," and in truth he did not have any money.
Even when he made a little bit of money from On the Road, he was still neurotic. He would not give anybody money. There is a story where Herbert Huncke got out of jail, and Huncke is the guy that gave him the word "Beat." Huncke had been in Sing Sing for 10 years or something and he gets out of prison and Jack is now famous with On the Road. Huncke asked, "Can you give me 25 bucks, Jack?" and Jack said, "Oh no. Get lost! I'm not giving you any money."
He just had that kind of attitude, a kind of poor Canuck’s attitude about money. That had a lot to do with the denial of Jan. That, and the story that he gave his mother, which he could not back out of. I think he was tormented by it, though, because Jan tells a story about when she saw him in '67. She went up there when the authorities were after her, just before she escaped to Mexico. You probably read this in my book Jan Kerouac: A Life in Memory, but she went up to Lowell and he was very shy with her and told her to go ahead and write a book, advising her, "Use my name."
And, it was Stella who ended up throwing her out of the house. Jack was acting like he was very affected, according to Jan. Very affected by her presence. I think there was some torment going on. This was the guy that had written about the importance of family in The Town and the City. And he read Saroyan - although William Saroyan, too, was a terrible father, even though Saroyan’s stories are all about the warmth of children and the family.
I knew Aram Saroyan, and William Saroyan was a terrible father to him. Jack, like Saroyan, was also writing about the glories of the family, but could not do the family scene in his own life.
King: That is what I was going to get back to. In your Jan Kerouac book, William Saroyan’s son, Aram, and John Steinbeck's son, John Steinbeck IV, Neal Cassady’s son, John, all reached out to her from their experiences, fellow offspring of the famous. I’ve seen photos of Jan, including the ones you took for your Jan book, and she was very cute, adorable, really, reminiscent of the young Jack. What was it about Jan that brought out such support for her?
Nicosia: First of all, Jan was a very special person. She was brilliant, she was funny, she had a great heart. She rolled with the punches. She had gotten dealt a very, very bad hand in life and she made the best of it. She made the best of life, she was an adventurer, travelled all over herself, had fun with language, loved to write funny poetry. Lewis Carroll “Jabberwocky” poetry.
She was somebody who had no materialism whatsoever. I mean, Jan would give you her last dollar; she literally did give her clothes and money away to people. A totally non-materialistic person. That in itself is a beautiful thing. But also, I think, one of the things with these other kids of the famous, was that they were screwed up too. They understood that the children of the famous often have impossible tasks set in front of them, are given impossible expectations to live up to.
I mean, you can go down the list. John Cassady has had serious problems with alcohol, and John Steinbeck IV abused alcohol and drugs, which might have contributed to his early death. He was a very bad alcoholic, and he was the one who told Jan that she should have been collecting royalties under Copyright Law while the Sampases hid that from her. Aram drifted as a kind of hippie for a while. Aram found himself eventually and put his life together, and he has been a good father and a hard worker. But I know Aram would tell you that he had a pretty hard youth. And Billy Burroughs Jr., of course, drank his liver out by the time he was 30 years old; and they gave him a new liver, and he drank that one out in three more years and died at 33.
So being a child of the famous, when you have got this powerful father overshadowing you, and everyone giving attention to that father and then expecting you to live up to that, and you are a different person, but they expect you to be a mirror image of that - it's a very hard thing to have to deal with every day. Anybody who has been in that role would realize that Jan was going through the same thing. But at least they had the benefit that they were recognized. At least Aram, even though his father was not there for him, his father never said, "You're not my kid." Steinbeck, again, was not really there for his kids, but he did acknowledge and spend time with them. Great artists, geniuses, often are so caught up in their own world, their own ego, that kids are a low priority for them.
You even saw that with Frank Sinatra, you see it over and over. These people are not into taking care of the kids, they are into who they are, "I'm a famous person, I've got more important things to do than take care of kids." But at least they were recognized, at least their fathers acknowledged they were there. John Cassady's father was not there, but his father acknowledged him, supported him, tried to share a few things with him. These other kids knew that Jan did not even have that, she did not even have the public acknowledgement.
She had the private thing, finally, in '67, where privately Kerouac said, "Go to Mexico, use my name." But in public, she had to face this thing of her father having disowned her, saying she was not his. So, that was a really added wound that she had. I think these other kids realized, "As bad as it is to be famous, at least our fathers recognize us as their children, and this poor, gentle, sweet soul does not even have that." So people saw she was a hurt bird, and people wanted to take care of her. I think that a lot of people felt that she needed care. I felt that, certainly.
Nicosia (on right) with Jacques Kirouac, founding President of the Kerouac Family Association in Quebec, with “Save Jack’s Papers” banner in Washington Square Park in NYC, June 5, 1995, after they had been both been thrown out (along with Jan Kerouac) of NYU’s Jack Kerouac Conference. Photographer unknown.
King: Jan made you literary executer when she passed in '96, and her wish, which you shared, was for the Kerouac archive to be kept together and made publicly accessible. But the Sampas family made a deal with Jan's heirs to get rid of you. The Sampases seemed determined to make Jack's only offspring, Jan, a non-entity, and milk the cash cow. They quickly sold off a myriad of his papers and belongings, including Kerouac's trench coat to Johnny Depp for 50 grand.
In the foreword in the book you edited on Jan, you say, and some of the other contributors indicate, that Kerouac's legacy and estate turned into a Pandora's Box, a labyrinthine complex and bitter ordeal that most people are really unaware of. After everything, the Sampases successfully control the Kerouac fortune and his literary estate. I know it's a long drawn out saga, but would you care to comment on this?
Nicosia: The Sampases stalled Jan's lawsuit--which asserted that her grandmother's will had been forged--until she died in '96. She knew she was dying and so she made me her literary executer and asked me to carry on the case for her. She said to me, "Gerry, do you think I should make you an heir too?" and I said, "No, don't do that, because if you do that people are going to say that the only reason I am doing this is to make money, and I want it to be clear that I'm not doing this to make money." I felt as she did, that the important thing was to save those papers.
But it turned out that was a critical mistake because as her heir I would have had co-equal powers with her half-brother David Bowers and her ex-husband John Lash. She revered this ex-husband. He was ten years older, and she said he had taught her about the occult and about literature. She revered him although for most of his life he was kind of a gigolo living off rich women in Europe.
I said to her at the time, "John is your heir, do you think he'll give me a hard time?" and she said, "Oh no, John loves me. John would never oppose my wishes." Of course, as soon as she died, what happened? This loving John Lash went over to the Sampases and made a deal with them, and the deal was for an undisclosed amount of money. Part of the deal was that he and David Bowers would ditch me, get rid of me as literary executer, because the Sampases were terrified of me carrying the case to court.
In fact, they basically did not want the case to go to court because they knew they were going to lose. All of the evidence was so strong that the will was forged. The case finally went to trial in 2009 - 13 years after she died. I sat there, in the Pinellas County Court House in Clearwater, Florida, near St. Petersburg. A handwriting analyst determined that the will was clearly a forgery. Whoever signed the will had even misspelled the name of Gabrielle Kerouac.
Medical evidence said the old lady, who had been paralyzed with a stroke, was physically unable to have even signed the will. There was evidence that she hated Stella, would never have left anything to her. The evidence was so overwhelming that the Sampases did not want the case to go to trial. That was their big focus for years and years, to keep the case from going to trial, and they knew that I was empowered by Jan to take it to trial. So they had to get rid of me.
John Sampas bankrolled the fight to dump me as literary executor, and for three years they fought as dirty as they could fight in Albuquerque, because that is where Jan died. They brought in all kinds of bullshit stuff to the court. They had people writing on the internet that I committed eleven felonies in one year, and they brought in all this shit and threw it in front of the judge. The judge asked, "Where is this stuff coming from?" and they said, "We got it off the Internet," and the judge took it and threw it in the wastebasket.
But, eventually, they got a decision in their favor because New Mexico has a flawed legal system. They may have paid off some judges--because the New Mexico Supreme Court, which initially agreed to hear my appeal, suddenly turned around and refused to hear it. The final decision in New Mexico was that heirs can fire a literary executer. I thought this was a terrible decision for future writers. Because it's on the books now, it can be used as a precedent. Once a decision is made, any other court can take it and use it as a precedent.
Now, if you are a writer, the most important thing to you is who is going to take care of your papers after you die. But this decision in New Mexico says that your heirs can fire your literary executer, he is not a real executer, because a real executer cannot be fired. If somebody successfully uses that decision as a precedent, that means no matter who you have picked as literary executer, your heirs can come along and get rid of them. You can read the history of New Mexico, it was founded by outlaws. Basically, what happened was, one week these people would be outlaws, the next week they would be county commissioners.
King: [laughs] This all sounds more Raymond Chandler or Cormack McCarthy than dharma freedom and On the Road.
Nicosia: It’s true. Three years later, after I had lost a lot of money and done tremendous damage to my health and everything else, they got me thrown out, or fired as they put it. Then, Sampas thought he was home clear and free, and the heirs went down to Florida to carry out their half of the bargain, and they said, "We wish to have this suit dismissed." And they had a really good judge in Florida. They had seven different judges on that case and they were all good judges. The judge at that time, George Greer said, "Well and good, Mr. Lash, Mr. Bowers, you wish to dismiss your portion of the case. However, there is another grandchild here. Jan Kerouac was not the only grandchild. Jack Kerouac had a sister who had a son, Paul Blake Jr., and he has absolute interest in this case as much as Jan Kerouac." So, the judge refused to dismiss the case on that basis. He said, "You guys can dismiss your portion of the case, but you can’t dismiss Mr. Blake’s claim on it."
In fact, the judge contacted Jack Kerouac’s nephew, Paul Blake, made sure that he had a lawyer, because he had no money. They had a lawyer appointed for Blake. Then, the Sampases spent three or four years trying to get Blake thrown out. They said, "He can't take over the case, this is Jan's case." And, of course, the whole thing was, he is the other grandchild, why should he not have the same complaint about his grandmother's forged will? It’s the exact same dynamic.
But they spent four years trying to argue that he cannot take over the case since he was not there at the beginning, and the final ruling on that was, Mr. Blake can substitute in. He became a substitute plaintiff in the case, and the case went forward. They stalled again, and they spent tons of money, God knows how many hundreds of thousands, if not a million bucks stalling the case, and then it finally went to trial in 2009. The judge ruled that the will was a forgery. I sat through the trial. The evidence was overwhelming.
The judge made a statement in his ruling. There are different standards for different courts. Probate court is not the highest standard, it is simply "preponderance of the evidence," like the scale tips one way or the other. In probate cases, if you have the preponderance of evidence, you win the case. But the judge wrote in his decision--he was a famous judge in Florida too. He wrote, "I know I only have to judge this on the probate standard, but were I judging this under criminal standard, the highest standard, beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt, I would still rule that this is a forgery." ***
He meant, the evidence was that strong. So they took it to appeal, and in August 2011, the final decision came in. It cannot be taken any further, and the appellate court ruled again that Gabrielle's will is a forgery. The reason the Sampases still have all Kerouac's property and copyrights is because of a quirk of Florida inheritance law, because the people that have it now, John Sampas and his brothers and sisters, did not get that material through the forged will, they got it through Stella's will.
When Stella died in 1990, she left everything, including Kerouac's stolen estate, to her brothers and sisters. Florida inheritance law allows you to keep anything you inherit, including stolen property, if no one complains within two years. Jan did not know within two years to make that complaint, because Stella died in 1990, and Jan did not see the forged will until 1994. They had hidden that will from both the grandchildren for more than two decades.
That is the only reason that the Sampases now are still holding and controlling the estate that has been ruled in court as stolen, because they inherited it through Stella's will, and Jan did not find out soon enough. Now it's possible that a federal law could overrule that state law; that is where the case is now. If Paul Blake’s attorney, William Wagner, can figure out some way to get around that Florida law, there is still a chance that he could reclaim that estate. Paul is living in a trailer with his family in Arizona****; they are dirt poor. The Sampases are sitting on an estate that is generating millions of dollars a year. Millions a year.
Kerouac's nephew and only other, would-be heir, late Paul Blake, Jr. with Ken Kesey, at benefit show Nicosia held for Jan Kerouac. Fort Mason's Cowell Theater, S.F. April 1, 1995. Photo by Gerald Nicosia.
King: You have been an outspoken champion and Jan and the Kerouac legacy, and the truth despite the pressure of blacklisting, which some fellow poets succumbed to, including the pivotal poet, the late Allen Ginsberg. Surprisingly, even though Ginsberg was a good friend of Kerouac. So, we do applaud you for that, which I call doing the right thing, not necessarily the smart thing. The drain on you emotionally and creatively must have been quite excessive.
NICOSIA INTERVIEW CONTINUED IN SALON
*Seymour Krim was an American author, editor and literary critic. He is often categorized with the writers of the Beat Generation. He wrote for the Village Voice, Playboy, New York Element and International Times, among many other publications. He worked for a time at The New Yorker.
**Holmes: American author, poet and professor, best known for his 1952 novel Go. Considered the first "Beat" novel, Go depicted events in his life with his friends Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. He was often referred to as the "quiet Beat" and was one of Kerouac's closest friends. Holmes also wrote what is considered the definitive jazz novel of the Beat Generation, The Horn.
*** Kerouac will declared fake by Florida judge in 2009: “The ruling is sure to please some Kerouac devotees who have objected to the handling of the writer’s estate,” says the AP report, “including the sale of his raincoat to actor Johnny Depp for $50,000 and the original manuscript scroll of Kerouac’s 1957 classic On the Road, which was sold to the owner of the Indianapolis Colts for $2.43 million." https://www.mhpbooks.com/kerouac-will-declared-fake-by-florida-judge
**** Paul Blake, Jr. died in 2018.
UnHappy St. Patricks!
"When Irish Writers 'r naught Smilin'..."
Stuck cowering in place? Irish Writers placemats available. Picture Press.ie LTD, Wicklow, Ireland. Brian Murphy design.
Rooftop graphic - Howl: A Graphic Novel by Allen Ginsberg and Eric Drooker, poem animater. Harper Perennial; Original edition (August 31, 2010)
King with Hinkle and with Kamstra: copyright J.Macon King, photographer unknown.
Jan Kerouac, Beat poets, Nicosia: Gerald Nicosia, excet where noted.
Book covers: mostly web sources and J.M.King library.
© MillValleyLit. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material without permission is strictly prohibited.
All writing, submissions, and comments are the views of the respective authors and interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of MillValleyLit or Editorial staff.
Mill Valley Literary Review is a Non-Prophet organization. We do wish we had one.
Mill Valley Literary Review
"These are Tales of the Great Drug Runners..." Interview with co-founder of the group that fueled the Counterculture Revolution with 130 million hits of Orange Sunshine LSD and mega-tons of first-ever-in-U.S. Afghani hash. Michael Randall of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love speaks about what the sixties were like before LSD, his smuggling life, tripping around with Tim Leary, Albert Hoffman, Owsley, Jimi, plus his continuing gospel of spiritual expansion. Interview in Salon.
“But then it got out of the lab.”
"It's a real power trip." Legion TV series: non-linear, intentionally obscure and designed to mess with your mind. (Created by Noah Hawley of Fargo fame.) Final Season 2019 immersed the viewer with retro-psychedelia design, costuming, alternate reaities, and the unreliable protagonist's cult group.
Psychedelics are having a renaissance. They are being taken seriously once again. Usually by mouth. No, seriously, new studies show that psychedelics can radically change how we view ourselves and can be used to improve our mental health and outlook.
In celebration of Woodstock's 50th Anniversary, soon after Summer of Love's Anniversary, a renewed interest and nostalgia in those times, fashions, and mind-altering fuels have been peaking. T.C. Boyle released his novel this spring on The WORLD'S GREATEST LSD SHOWMAN - TIMOTHY LEARY (see sidebar). Recent movies include Rolling Thunder Review, Echo in the Canyon, Rocketman, Framing DeLorean, Woodstock doc, Abbey Road all played at our local theater within a few weeks (photo below). Psychedelics' impact and tendrils of influence have lit up and tilted our society, affecting even those who have not partaken. All personskind's - screw it, mankind's - lives and consciousness have been affected by the mushrooming ripple effects.
Go ask Alice. Or Allen Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, Robert Lowell, Charles Olson, Maynard Ferguson, Charles Mingus, Coltrane, the Beatles, Hendrix. OK, really almost all of the rock bands of the 60s. True, LSD wasn’t for everyone, some had bad reactions and "bad trips" or worse. Like that guy who thought he was an orange and was afraid that if someone "squoze" him he would turn into orange juice. Or the guy who felt like Superman and jumped off a roof. True or urban legends? See what Brotherhood of Eternal Love co-founder Michael Randall has to say in our Salon interview. Even for those who just said, NO!, the influence has been there.
Science writer Michael Pollen states in a "Vice" interview: "...there is in this country today a fairly expansive and thriving underground consisting of serious professionals, many of them trained therapists in one modality or another, who are administering psychedelics to people in a very controlled environment. You wouldn't call this recreational use: These are guided journeys, by people who really know the territory. What they're doing is they're risking their freedom every time they do this, but there's so convinced of the value of this that they do it anyway. Some of them were working above ground when it was legal, going back to the early seventies, and some were trained by those people."
Ken Kesey. Kesey voluntarily (Me! Pick me!) took psychoactive drugs, including mescaline and LSD, as part of Project MKUltra. This was waaay before most had even heard of these substances. He wrote the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1959. How many people read, attended the theatrical production, and saw Cuckoo’s Nest with its five Oscars? Kesey, the Merry Prankster, Trips Festival leader, the hero of Tom Wolfe’s metal-flaked, The Electric-Kool-Aid Acid Test had untold societal impact. How many read Castaneda’s don Juan books? 28,000,000 sold. Peyote sales hit close to that number, too. ; )
Marin County musician, Carlos Santana, in his 2014 memoir, states that he was on mescaline during his electrifying set at Woodstock. (Having seen Santana numerous times in Golden Gate Park, Bill Graham productions, etc, I would say that was not the only time.) Santana? Influential? Popular? 100,000,000 plus records sold. Those of us who wished we were at Woodstock, but washed our hair and returned library books instead, left no stone unturned to see the film version the following year. On a big screen, with decent sound, well, OK sound before Ray Dolby, and the right “warm-up” treats, it felt like we were there. Wait, did Wavy Gravy say, "Eat the brown acid, man" or don't eat it?"
Steve Jobs and allegedly the double-helix-dude-what's-his-name, and many other out-of-the-box thinkers answered Jimi’s query, “Are You Experienced?”
In the NYT* report, Oct. 2018 by Laura M. Holsun, Dr. Johnson said: “For decades, though, researchers have shunned the study of psychedelics. In the 1960s, they were on the cutting edge of neuroscience research and understanding how the brain worked. But then it got out of the lab."
Research stopped, in part, because the use of mind-altering drugs like LSD and mushrooms became a hallmark of hippie counterculture. Dr. Johnson said that in 2005, he volunteered to work in the “bad trip” tent at Burning Man, the festival in the Nevada desert known for rampant drug use.” Ya’ think? (Matthew Johnson, is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins.)
Drug laws appear to be loosening. On the other hand, a mish-mash of local, state and federal laws make possession and use of drugs an ongoing conundrum (dude, conundrum is like a mashup of cannabis and Drum rolling papers!). For instance: If cannabis is kinda sorta legal in California but you are getting high in a Federal Park, can a Park Ranger bust you? Who cares? Light up and hope you don't end up at Lompoc. But you could because Federal (National) Parks, Forests and lands are not technically California. "Yosemite has the most citations for illegal herb of any national parks. Coming in close behind is a federally-owned park right in San Francisco - The Golden Gate National Recreational Area." The Kindland 2017. "PSA: You Cannot Smoke Pot in National Parks, Ever."
"California prisoners can possess pot but not consume it, appeals court rules." IJ headline. Lafayette, CA attorney Dan Horowitz said, “I have a client who’s facing life in prison for allegedly shipping marijuana to Missouri, yet California inmates can have it in their prison cells. It’s insane,” he said.
Cancer Patient in Chicago Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Marijuana Chocolates.
Neuropharmacology, a medical journal focused on neuroscience, reports that researchers (see Dr. Johnson above) from Johns Hopkins University recommended that psilocybin be reclassified for medical use – arguing its benefits in helping treat PTSD, depression and anxiety and helping people to stop smoking.
June, 2019. “Oakland became the second city in the United States to decriminalize magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelic drugs after the City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday night.
The California city joins Denver, which passed a similar measure back in May, in decriminalizing the possession and use of psilocybin - more commonly known as magic mushrooms - and other entheogenic, or psychoactive, plants and fungi for adults.
Magic mushrooms would remain illegal under both federal and state laws. Entheogenic substances are considered Schedule 1 drugs under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which categorizes drugs that have potential for abuse and no medical value.” Fox News
"Ocasio-Cortez wants to make it easier to study magic mushrooms, other psychedelic drugs." The Rep. filed legislation to make it easier for researchers to study the therapeutic and medical benefits of certain psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms amid a growing national shift in attitudes toward the substances.
For FURTHUR (sic) reading: Michael Pollan, T.C. Boyle, Ayelet Waldman discuss "The Highs and Lows of LSD Literature." Psychedelics are back, now in the language of health and wellness. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/12/books/lsd-books-pollan-waldman-doyle.html Plus, the web site https://www.psymposia.com shares fresh perspectives on how emerging psychedelic science and drug reform shape society, and appears to promote legalization of psychedelics for medical use. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) submitted their MDMA PTSD expanded access protocol to the FDA on January 14, 2019.
Creation: Alex Segal
Where were these miracles when we needed them? (Tahoe City Thrift, 2019)
MillValleyLit promotes the work of emerging writers, interviews well-known authors and should-be-known personalities, reviews books, and reports on the literary scene. MillValleyLit has hosted events and salons and been featured in numerous publications such as San Francisco Magazine, Marin Magazine, Marin IJ, and Marinscope newspapers.
MILL VALLEY, California - Home to The Mill Valley Film Festival, Mt. Tam, Muir Woods, redwood trees, Dipsea foot Race, waterfalls, rock stars, artists, & WRITERS, WRITERS, WRITERS.
Mill Valley's literary pedigree is impressive, more so for a town of barely 14,000: Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Peter Coyote, David Harris, Martin Cruz Smith, Alan Watts, Sam Shepard, Jack Finney, Don Carpenter, Gina Berriault, Kay Boyle, Louis B. Jones, Wright Morris, Michael Murphy, Elsa Gidlow, Joyce Maynard (J.D. Salinger's companion), Tom Barbash, Cyra McFadden, poets Jane Hirschfield, Maxine Chernoff, Echo Heron, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Anton LaVey and Tupac Shakur (Tam High School!). The late Tom Clancy often wrote in Mill Valley.
Writers who call(ed) Marin County home include Isabel Allende, Dave Eggers, George Lucas (San Anselmo), Jack London, Jan Kerouac (Kerouac's daughter, also a writer), Ram Dass, Stirling Silliphant, Shel Silverstein, Sterling Hayden, Susan Trott, Catherine Coulter (Sausalito), Leonard Gardner, Robert Hunter (San Rafael) and Van Morrison (aural poets), Philip K. Dick (Point Reyes Station), Barnaby Conrad, Joe Eszterhas (Tiburon), Richard Brautigan, Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, Ambrose Bierce (San Rafael); Poet Aram Saroyan (son of William Saroyan), Joel Cohen, Jim Carrol and Herman Berlandt (all Bolinas); Danielle Steel (Stinson Beach), Jacqueline Winspear, Allen Drury, T.C. Boyle, Gerald Nicosia, James Dallesandro. Julia Child lived in Ross while attending Branson School.
Writer connections: Ernest Hemingway's son -Jack, and grand-daughters Mariel and Margaux lived in Mill Valley's* Boyle Park area in the 60's. Papa's nephew still lives in Tiburon (editor, writer). John Steinbeck's connection: Ed Ricketts - marine biologist author\Steinbeck inspiration - "Doc" in Cannery Row, Lee in East of Eden -Rickett's son, Ed Jr., lived in Mill Valley. Ricketts, Sr. was also a muse to Joseph Campbell and Henry Miller. A student of S.F.-born Robert Frost's Dartmouth College lectures lives in Tiburon. This is stretching it but we love the story: Dylan Thomas once hit Mill Valley on a book tour and drank mightily at “The Deuce” - the iconic 2 a.m. Club on Miller Avenue. In a hilly Mill Valley neighborhood nicknamed "Poet Hill" all streets are named after poets. In San Anselmo, the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood and streets are named after a former resident's good friend, Washington Irving. As far as we know, Washington never slept here.
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"The Mill Valley Literary Review drags the literary journal kicking and screaming into the 21st century." San Francisco Magazine
San Francisco's Mission Bay comes kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.
Opening Field of Lights photo by Scott Roberts - ScottOfTheWorld.com, instagram.com/ScottOfTheWorld.
The Field of Light display at Sensorio in Paso Robles is an art display made up of nearly 60,000 solar-powered lights on 15 acres situated just off Highway 46 East. Thousands of color-changing fiber optic lights transform a Paso Robles landscape at the long-awaited art display off Highway 46 East.Internationally-acclaimed artist Bruce Munro has premiered his largest artwork to date - an enormous multi-acre walk-through installation. The Tribune
*Janis romps on her Psychedelic Porsche, the 1964 drop-top 356C 1600 Cabriolet. The car was parked outside the Hollywood hotel where Joplin died of an overdose in 1970. Sotheby's auctioned in 2015 for $1.7 mil. https://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/janis-joplin-porsche-auctioned/ See new Janis bio, "Janis: Her Life and Music" by New York writer Holly George-Warren. Includes her Marin County life in Lagunitas and Larkspur.
Line art: Creation by Alex Segal, Fairfax artist pencil 23x23.
Sands Hall at Copperfields Novato, CA: Perry King.
Trump on Peyote: Carl Macki, Fairfax, CA
Alice book shrooms: Igor Siwanowicz.
Sidebar insert photos and uncredited photos: J. Macon King.
Sponsor promotional photos and info provided by sponsors.
*"Psychedelic Mushrooms Are Closer to Medicinal Use (It's Not Just Your Imagination)" https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/03/science/magic-mushrooms-psilocybin-scheduleiv.html
© MillValleyLit. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material without permission is strictly prohibited.
All writing, submissions, and comments are the views of the respective authors and interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of MillValleyLit or Editorial staff.
Mill Valley Literary Review is a Non-Prophet organization. We do wish we had one.