Posts Tagged ‘Beat writers’

A scandalous Beat murder in Riverside Park

April 17, 2011

In 1944, Lucien Carr was a 19-year-old sophomore at Columbia University, the nucleus of a group of literary-minded undergrads who in the 1950s would be known as the Beats.

Among them were Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (with Carr, at Columbia), and William S. Burroughs—not a student, but part of the crowd. Carr and Burroughs both hailed from prominent St. Louis families.

Carr was smart and handsome, which made him popular. But it also attracted a hanger-on, a 30-something man named David Kammerer who Burroughs knew from St. Louis.

He followed Carr for years and reportedly hit on him constantly. Carr wasn’t gay, but the stalker apparently was obsessed.

On the night of August 13, 1944, Carr and Kerouac went out drinking at Beat favorite bar the West End, on Broadway and 114th Street.

Kerouac left, and as Carr’s story goes, he went for a walk in nearby Riverside Park. Kammerer reportedly caught up to him and began assaulting him.

Carr pulled out a boy scout knife and stabbed Kammerer, killing him. He tied up his arms and legs, filled his pockets with rocks, and tossed him into the Hudson.

Carr went to the DA’s office and turned himself in. The ensuing trial got huge media play, thanks to the Columbia student angle, rich families, and scandalous homosexual advances.

Carr ended up with two years for manslaughter. Once released, he got a newspaper job, working for UPI his entire career. (He’s the guy who supplied Kerouac with roll of teletype paper, on which Kerouac wrote the first draft of On the Road.) He died, out of the spotlight, in 2005.

1940s Beat writer hangout: Hector’s cafeteria

June 16, 2010

There were actually four Hector’s cafeterias in Times Square, according to a 1970 New York Times article chronicling the closing of the last one on 44th Street and Broadway.

I don’t know which one is in this 1952 photo—nor is it clear which Hector’s was chronicled in the opening pages of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road:

“Dean had arrived the night before, the first time in New York, with his beautiful little sharp chick Marylou; they got off the Greyhound bus at 50th Street and cut around the corner looking for a place to eat and went right to Hector’s, and since then Hector’s Cafeteria has always been a big symbol of New York for Dean.

“They spent money on beautiful big glazed cakes and creampuffs.”

Desserts seemed to be Hector’s specialty. “The dessert counter, 12 feet long and three feet high, was a gourmond’s dream,” the Times article says.

Jack Kerouac at the Kettle of Fish in the Village

January 3, 2010

Opened in 1950, the Kettle of Fish—with its large neon “bar” sign outside the door—was already old-school by the time The New Inside Guide to Greenwich Village came out in 1965:

By then it had earned its cred as a hangout for the early-1960s folk music crowd, and before that as a haunt of beat writers, such as Jack Kerouac.

In Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, author and Kerouac girlfriend Joyce Johnson recalls a night in 1958 when Kerouac visited the Kettle of Fish with poet Gregory Corso:

“Shortly before he returned to Orlando to start packing, [Jack] went out one night with Gregory Corso to the Kettle of Fish, a bar on MacDougal Street that had a rough clientele and was frequented by moving men like Henri Cru. In the fall Jack and I had been photographed in front of its red neon sign by Jerry Yulsman.

“In the small hours of the morning, Jack and Gregory left the bar, followed outside by two men, who beat Jack up, banging his head repeatedly against the curb and breaking his nose and his arm. To his horror, he found he lacked the will to defend himself. . . .”

Kerouac and Joyce Johnson at the Kettle of Fish on MacDougal. The bar moved to the old Lion’s Head space on Christopher Street several years back, where it still is today—and strangely has become the epicenter of Green Bay Packers fandom, as the Daily News explains.

The Kettle of Fish in the 1950s, part neighborhood pub, part beat haunt