Everyone knows that Beat brothers Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady loved the ladies, but few have heard the women’s stories.
“The women were often in the shadows in the Beat movement, which is a shame,” says Gerald Nicosia, co-author of “One and Only: The Untold Story of ‘On the Road,’” a book that expounds on the real life of Lu Anne Henderson, the basis for the character Marylou in Kerouac’s classic novel.
Henderson – who met Cassady and Kerouac in her teens and died in 2009 – was a lover to both men, one of many. She is often credited as the glue between them, and the one who got them on the road in the first place.
Nicosia, who appears at Beat-themed events this week in Marin and The City, has been studying the Beats for more than 40 years. When he was 29, he interviewed Henderson, who spoke with him for eight hours. Their discussion is transcribed in his book.
“One and Only” also informed actors in Walter Salles’ new film adaptation of “On the Road,” opening in March and starring Kristen Stewart as LuAnne-Marylou.
At a “Beat boot camp” for the actors, Nicosia says, Stewart asked to hear Lu Anne’s actual voice. He adds, “I started playing the interview recording and I thought I’d play it for half an hour. But when I shut it off I saw the whole cast and crew had gathered around, and everyone said they wanted to hear more. We played the whole eight hours. She was telling the whole back story of ‘On the Road.’”
Kerouac’s fiery, wandering novel, describing Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty and Marylou’s journey across the country, is based on the real-life road trip in which Kerouac (Sal), Cassady (Dean) and Henderson fell in and out of each other’s arms – often with drama.
“The first night Neal left, Jack laid in my arms and cried like a baby,” Henderson is quoted in “One and Only.”
Nicosia credits the Beats’ penchant for an almost confessional, uninhibited approach to life and art as part of the movement’s continued popularity and allure.
“The Beats were not setting out to have careers in the arts, they were people with their own agonies and problems,” says Nicosia. “They have an authenticity that speaks to every generation.”
A poetry reading tribute to Jack Kerouac and “On the Road” with Joanna McClure, Al Hinkle, Clark Coolidge, Jack Marshall
with Gerald Nicosia, Joanna McClure, Peter Coyote, Dennis McNally, Rick Dale, Brad Parker