Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Neal Cassady

Neal Leon Cassady (February 8, 1926 – February 4, 1968) was a major figure of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. He served as the model for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road.
Cassady was born to Maude Jean Scheuer and Neal Marshall Cassady in Salt Lake City, Utah. After his mother died when he was ten, he was raised by his alcoholic father in Denver, Colorado. Cassady spent much of his youth living on the streets of skid row with his father, or spending time in reform school.

As a youth, Cassady was repeatedly involved in petty crime. He was arrested for car theft when he was 14, for shoplifting and car theft when he was 15, and for car theft and fencing when he was 16.

In 1941, the 15-year old Cassady met Justin W. Brierly, a prominent Denver educator.Brierly was well known as a mentor of promising young men, and, impressed by Cassady's intelligence, Brierly took an active role in Cassady's life over the next few years. He helped admit Cassady to East High School where he taught, encouraged and supervised his reading, and found employment for him. Cassady continued his criminal activities, however, and was repeatedly arrested from 1942 to 1944; on at least one of these occasions, he was released by law enforcement into Brierly's safekeeping. In June 1944, Cassady was arrested for receipt of stolen property, and served eleven months of a one-year prison sentence. He and Brierly actively exchanged letters during this period even through Cassady's intermittent incarcerations; these represent Cassady's earliest surviving letters.[3] Brierly, apparently a closeted homosexual, is also believed to have been responsible for Cassady's first homosexual experience
In October 1945, after being released from prison, he married the fifteen-year-old LuAnne Henderson. In 1947, Cassady and his wife moved to New York City, where they met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at Columbia University through Hal Chase, another protégé of Justin W. Brierly's. Although Cassady did not attend Columbia, he soon became friends with them and their acquaintances, some of whom later became members of the Beat Generation. He had a sexual relationship with Ginsberg that lasted off and on for the next twenty years,[5] and he traveled cross-country with both Kerouac and Ginsberg on multiple occasions.After Cassady's marriage to LuAnne Henderson was annulled, Cassady married Carolyn Robinson on April 1, 1948. The couple eventually had three children and settled down in a ranch house in Monte Sereno, California, 50 miles south of San Francisco, where Kerouac and Ginsberg sometimes visited.[7] Cassady committed bigamy by marrying a woman named Diane Hansen, with whom he fathered one son, Curtis Hansen, in 1950. During this period, Cassady worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad and kept in touch with his "Beat" acquaintances even as they became increasingly different philosophically.
Cassady was the model for the character Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's On the Road, and Cody Pomeray in many of Kerouac's other novels. In the surviving first draft of On the Road, which Kerouac typed on a 120-foot roll of paper specially constructed for that purpose, the story's protagonist's name remains "Neal Cassady." However, in Kerouac's final edition of On The Road, Cassady's character is known as "Dean Moriarty."

Ginsberg mentioned Cassady in the notorious and critically acclaimed poem "Howl" (1955) as "N.C., secret hero of these poems..." Ginsberg is credited with helping Kerouac break with his Thomas Wolfe-influenced sentimental style, as seen in The Town and the City, and Kerouac's discovery of a unique style of his own he called "spontaneous prose", a stream of consciousness prose form, first used in On the Road
Following an arrest during 1958 for offering to share a small amount of marijuana with an undercover agent at a San Francisco nightclub, Cassady served a sentence at San Quentin State Prison. After his release in June 1960, he struggled to meet family obligations, and Carolyn divorced him when his parole period expired in 1963. Cassady shared an apartment with Allen Ginsberg and Charles Plymell in 1963 at 1403 Gough Street, San Francisco.

Cassady first met author Ken Kesey during the summer of 1962, eventually becoming one of the Merry Pranksters, a group who formed around Kesey in 1964 and were proponents of the use of psychedelic drugs. During 1964, he served as the main driver of the bus Furthur, which was immortalized by Tom Wolfe's book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Cassady appears at length in a documentary film about the Merry Pranksters, Magic Trip, directed by Alex Gibney, released on 5 August 2011.
In Hunter S. Thompson's book Hell's Angels, Cassady is described as "the worldly inspiration for the protagonist of two recent novels," drunkenly yelling at police at the famed Hells Angels parties at Ken Kesey's residence in La Honda, California, an event also chronicled in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Although his name was removed at the insistence of Thompson's publisher, the description is clearly a reference to the character based on Cassady in Jack Kerouac's works, On the Road and Visions of Cody. His name appears explicitly in the 50th anniversary edition of the original scroll of On the Road (On the Road: The Original Scroll, Viking 2007). Cassady also appears in Ken Kesey's book Demon Box as "Superman" in the chapter "The Day After Superman Died" and briefly in 'Howl' by Allen Ginsberg under the initials 'NC' as 'the secret hero of these poems'.
In January 1967, Cassady traveled to Mexico with fellow prankster George "Barely Visible" Walker and longtime girlfriend Anne Murphy.[citation needed] In a beachside house just south of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, they were joined by Barbara Wilson and Walter Cox. All-night storytelling, speed drives in Walker's Lotus Elan and the use of LSD made for a classic Cassady performance – "like a trained bear," Carolyn Cassady once said. Cassady was beloved for his ability to inspire others to love life. Yet at rare times he was known to express regret over his wild life, especially as it affected his family. At one point Cassady took Cox, then 19, aside and told him, "Twenty years of fast living – there's just not much left, and my kids are all screwed up. Don't do what I have done."

During the next year, Cassady's life became less stable and the pace of his travels became more frenetic. He left Mexico in May, traveling to San Francisco, California; Denver, Colorado; New York City, New York and points in between: then returned to Mexico in September and October (stopping in San Antonio, Texas on the way to visit his oldest daughter who had just given birth to his first grandchild); visited Ken Kesey's Oregon farm in December; and spent the New Year with Carolyn at a friend's house near San Francisco. Finally, in late January 1968, Cassady returned to Mexico once again.
On February , 1968, Cassady attended a wedding party in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. After the party he went walking along a railroad track to reach the next town, but passed out in the cold and rainy night wearing nothing but a T-shirt and jeans. In the morning, he was found in a coma by the track, reportedly by Dr. Anton Black, later a professor at El Paso Community College, who carried Cassady over his shoulders to the local post office building. Cassady was then transported to the closest hospital, where he died a few hours later on February , four days short of his forty-second birthday.

The exact cause of Cassady's death remains uncertain. Those who attended the wedding party confirm that he took an unknown quantity of Secobarbital, a powerful barbiturate sold under the brand name of Seconal, that can easily lead to overdose. Cassady was not a heavy drinker, though he may have participated in a toast to the bride and groom. The physician who performed the autopsy wrote simply "general congestion in all systems". When interviewed later, the physician stated that he was unable to give an accurate report, because Cassady was a foreigner and there were drugs involved. 'Exposure' is commonly cited as his cause of death, although his widow disputes this and believes he may have died of renal failure

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from Wikipedia

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