Jim Fleming: You have probably read the book. Soon you will be able to see the movie, finally. Although Jack Kerouac's groundbreaking novel "On the Road" was published in 1957, it's taken 55 years for it to make its way to the big screen. Beat historian Gerald Nicosia helped some of the actors prepare for the movie version of "On the Road." He is the co-author of "One and Only: The Untold Story of 'On the Road'," which includes a little-known character, Lu Anne Henderson.
She was 15 when she met 19-year-old Neal Cassady in Denver back in 1945. They got married and moved to New York, where they started hanging out with a group of young writers, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. A guy named Al Hinkle was part of the group too. One of Neal Cassady's best friends. Gerald Nicosia and Al Hinkle tell Steve Paulson about the pivotal role Lu Anne Henderson played in making the beat generation possible.
Gerald Nicosia: A lot of people don't realize that Jack and Neal were very, very different at the beginning. We are so used to seeing the pictures of them now with their arms around each other and everywhere is the Icon, Jack and Neal, Jack and Neal, but Jack Kerouac was as I say a good French-Canadian Catholic Momma's boy from Lowell, Massachusetts. He was totally bought into the system. His parents had given him this drive to Columbia. They had no money, but he got to Columbia on a football scholarship, get ahead in the world Jack, make something of yourself. Of course, he had the whole morality from the Catholic upbringing. Neal Cassady was not bought into the system at all. Neal grew up on skid row in Denver, his mother was not even around, his father was a wino, a derelict. He had to fend from himself from five years old. Stealing the change of news boxes, by the time Neal was 12, he was stealing cars and taking women up to the mountain for sex, 13 years old, he is in and out of reformatories at one point he was in a reformatory that was almost like a penitentiary. Neal had no investment in the system. They knew that they were very different, they were physically alike, they were strong, athletic handsome. Jack said in "On the Road," "we they tiptoed around each other because they didn't know if they could trust each other. But Lu Anne saw onto the heart of both of them. She would tell Neal, you know Jack is more than a Catholic Momma's boy, he has profound thoughts about life he wants to, experience life. She will tell Jack, Neal was not just a jail kid from Denver. He read Nietzsche and Proust when he was in the reformatory. He also wanted to make something of himself. She was able to interest them in each other and begin to understand the depth in each other, to the point where they could get close enough to become friends. And without that friendship, we wouldnâ€™t have had the beat generation.
Al Hinkle: I sure agree with that.
Steve Paulson: Well Al, you sure do these people very well.
Hinkle : The decision to go to New York was made in my apartment.
Hinkle : Neal was having an affair with another girl, Lu Anne came to my apartment, Neal and this other girl were in my apartment and was quite upset about it, because Neal had promised that he will have no more "Jeannie." Lu Anne said if we don't leave this day for New York, I'm leaving you. I think that's the thing that pushed Neal into going because the weather wasn't good, in fact it really kind of sleeted when I drove them out to edge of town where you start hitchhiking.
Paulson: Gerry, how would you describe the personal dynamics between these early seminal Beat figures, especially Kerouac, and Cassady and Allen Ginsberg.
Nicosia: It's an interesting three-way, Ginsberg was gay, somewhat in the closet although by Neal came to New York in 1946. Alan was starting to emerge from the closet, starting to admit at least to close friends that he was gay, he was looking for a male lover. We need to say, that both men and women fell in love with Neal instantly. If you had any bisexual gay tendencies, you would fall in love with Neal, likewise women fell in love with. He was handsome, he was full of energy, he was dynamic, he could talk beautifully about anything. So Neal when he met Alan, Alan fell in love with him. This was a problem in a way, because Jack who later found was bisexual but was not involved with Neal. Jack was looking for material, he wants to be a writer, but you got to have something to write about. You don't get it living at home with Mom. And here is this guy that has been in and out of penitentiaries, prisons, stolen cars, tons of women, been all over the county. Jack immediately saw, "Wow, this is someone I can write about, this guy has got the adventures." Neal wanted to be a writer, so there was an interesting dynamic. They kind of envied each other because Neal saw that Jack had patience, and Jack was bright and going to Columbia University, he had patience and training to sit down and be a writer. Neal wished he could do that, he was able to do that. He was always moving so fast he couldn't sit down at a typewriter. So Neal envied Jack, Jack envied Neal, because Jack had no way with women at all, Neal was honored that Jack wrote about him. But it froze Neal in time, because Neal wanted to go on beyond that, Neal had dreams of going to college, becoming a writer, doing other things with his life. But suddenly he was set like in a photograph, he was held in that moment, the young car thief wild man, womanizer, and people expected Neal to live up to that role, called Dean Moriarty in "On the Road." Meanwhile, we had Ginsberg who was jealous that Jack was getting so much of Neal's time. Then Ginsberg and Neal formed a close bond and Jack become somewhat jealous of that bond. Of course, Lu Anne is in the midst of it all, and she becomes both Jack's lover as well as Neal's lover. One of the things we talked about Alan interviewing you, a year or two was the fact that you were very close to Lu Anne also when you were both young.
Hinkle: Oh yes.
Nicosia: Paulson: Also you said Lu Anne met with you and at one point she was saying â€œI know This guy is going to keep having other women and I'm not sure what do I do about it. Do I accept it? She was troubled by the fact that he has so many women, but she also loved him, right?
Hinkle: Right. It got to a point where she just accepted her place in the storyline, you might say.
Paulson: In fact in some of the famous road trips that then later became part of "On the Road," they had actually divorced by this point, right?
Hinkle: Oh yes.
Paulson: But then Neal would swing by and pick her up, and they were still sexually involved as they were talking these road trips, even though Neal had gone off and married another woman, and in fact had children with the other women.
Hinkle: There were three children with Carolyn.
Nicosia: And they were sexually involved to the very end of Neal's life. You can relate that 'cause you helped bring them together in those days. Secret rendezvous right in the Sixties?
Hinkle: Oh yes, like 57, when Jack's book was published, I drove out and picked Lu Anne up, pick Neal up from the depot, coz he had just come in from a passage around ?? and the three of us went over to Barkley, and busted in on Jack, just as he was opening the package of his..
Nicosia: His author's copies of "On the Road."
Hinkle: The funny thing about it, he tried to hide them, from us. Neal spotted them and grabbed one and Neal started off reading from chapter from chapter and jumping up and down and really getting all high.
Paulson: Why did Jack try to hide the books that were telling the story of all of you?
Hinkle: He said "You are gonna hate me , you are not gonna like what I had to write." We had to spend five minutes telling Jack how much we loved him, regardless of what he might have said, or didn't say. We were just so happy for Jack.
Nicosia: Can I say something here?
Paulson: Yeah, sure. Go ahead.
Nicosia: What I wanna say is about why he was so afraid of letting them see the book, in "On the Road," he basically says that he and Lu Anne were left alone together, they were abandoned by Neal in San Francisco. They were staying together briefly in a hotel, in the book. Jack Says "I chose to leave her because she was a whore. She went off running off with other men, for money. I saw her in a car with a sailor." This, of course, really angered Lu Anne. The interesting thing she told me, in this long interview that I print in the book, she said "The real thing was yes, we stayed in the hotel, together after Neal abandoned us, we had no money, but I wanted Jack to go out and get a job, get us an apartment." She was a teenage girl and he was already like 26-27 years old. She expected him to take charge, she said every night he lay in bed in my arm and he cried. He was like a baby, he was incapable of going out and getting a job and getting an apartment, setting a place for himself and Lu Anne to live. But he couldn't tell that in the book. He never tells in the book that he lay in her arms and cried like a baby, he changed it to "Oh, she ran off with this guy she was whoring."
Paulson: Let me ask you about some of the road trips, that Kerouac of course immortalized in "On the Road." Did you all take these trips basically to get to your final destination, or was it partly to see America as well?
Hinkle: For me it was to see more of America, and to fulfill a promise that I promised Neal, that when we got laid off, we were going to New York.
Paulson: Was this the trip in December of 1949 you are talking about?
Nicosia: December of 48, January 49.
Paulson: You had gotten a new car, but there was no heater?
Hinkle: Well yeah, that was kind of an amazing thing. Everything on automobiles was extra.
Nicosia: Didn't you tell me you wanted to get the radio instead of the heater? Wasn't that the deal?
Hinkle: Oh, we had to have a radio.
Hinkle: Regardless of what...
Paulson: So you were blaring music as you were going, but freezing in the process?
Hinkle: That's about it.
Hinkle: I'll tell you about what a trooper Lu Anne is. When I was driving, and she is actually scraping ice of the inside of the windshield, they are in Nebraska one time. So I can look out. I didn't have any gloves, my hands are freezing and she takes one hand, put it down her pants between her legs, to warm my hand up. Absolutely non-sexual, friend move. She warmed my hand up, and then I warmed up the other hand. I'd just go through hell for that woman if it was necessary, because she would do it for me.
Narrator: Al Hinkle is the author of the booklet, "Last Man Standing," which chronicles his adventures with Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Gerald Nicosia is the co-author, with Anne Marie Santos, of "One and Only: The Untold Story of 'On the Road.'" You can find links on Hinkle's and Nicosia's websites on our website at ttbook.org, you will also find links to our Facebook page, and Twitter account there.