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Famous Like Me > Writer > C > Neal Cassady

Profile of Neal Cassady on Famous Like Me

Name: Neal Cassady  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 8th February 1926
Place of Birth: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Neal Cassady, left, with Jack Kerouac, photograph by Carolyn Cassady.

Neal Cassady (February 8, 1926 – February 4, 1968) was an icon of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the psychedelic movement of the 1960s, perhaps best known as the inspiration for the character of Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's classic On the Road.

Born in Salt Lake City and raised by an alcoholic father in Denver, Cassady spent much of his youth bouncing between skid-row hotels with his father and reform schools for car theft. In 1946 Cassady met Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at Columbia University in New York and quickly became friends with them and the circle of artists and writers there. He had a sexual relationship with Ginsberg that lasted off and on for the next twenty years, and he later traveled cross-country with Kerouac. Cassady proved to be the catalyst for the Beat Movement, appearing as the hero Dean Moriarty and Cody Pomeray in many of Kerouac's novels; Ginsberg mentioned him as well, in his ground-breaking poem, Howl ("N.C., secret hero of these poems..."). Additionally, he is commonly given credit for helping Kerouac break ties with his Thomas Wolfe -inspired sentimental style and discover his own unique voice through "spontaneous prose", a stream of consciousness approach to writing.

In the late 1950's, Cassady settled down, married Carolyn Cassady, started a family and went to work for the railroad. While he kept in touch with his Beat counterparts, they drifted apart philosophically. In 1964, Cassady met up with Ken Kesey, becoming part of the Merry Pranksters and serving as the crazed driver of the bus named Furthur, which was soon after immortalized in Tom Wolfe's book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. He later played a prominent role in the California psychedelic scene of the 1960s.

In January, 1968, Cassady was holding court at a beach house just south of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico with girlfriend Annie Murphy, fellow Prankster George "Barely Visible" Walker and some Berkeley folk, Barbara Wilson and Walter Cox, who had driven down in their aquamarine '48 Dodge, "Bilbo Baggins." The days were full of classic Cassady performances (" a trained bear," Carolyn Cassady used to say)--one hand on the wheel of a big Ford sedan as it careened along dusty lanes and grazed passersby, all-night story telling, speed runs in George's psychedelic Lotus and plenty of acid for everyone. At one point Cassady took Walter, 20, aside and spoke his regrets:

"It's no good, I'm all washed up. Twenty years of fast living, there's just not much left. And my kids are all screwed up. Don't do what I've done."

After a party in San Miguel de Allende in early February, 1968 Cassady went walking by a railroad track to reach the next town, but passed out in the cold and rainy night wearing nothing but a T-shirt and his jeans. In the morning he was found in a coma by the track and brought to the closest hospital, where he died a few hours later. He was 41.

Kesey retells the story of his death in a short story named The Day After Superman Died (in his collected short stories published as Demon Box) where Cassady is quoted with mumbling the number of nails (sixty-four thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight, 64928) in the rail he'd counted so far, as his last words before dying.

Cassady never earned anything for his role in the Beat Movement, but his autobiography The First Third was published posthumously.

The film "The Last Time I Committed Suicide" (1997) is based on the "Joan Anderson letter" written by Cassady to Jack Kerouac. The film was directed by Stephen Kay and it starred Thomas Jane as Cassady. The cast also included Adrien Brody, Gretchen Mol, Claire Forlani and Keanu Reeves.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Neal Cassady