KESEY AND BABBS
Subject: What's Kesey Got To Do Wid Da Chukker?
I was partying in my bedroom at the house on 8th Street back in '73
and this guy at the party started looking at my Ann Charters book,
Kerouac. He opened it up to the pictures and pointed to Neal Cassady
and said, "That's my Dad." I will never forget the glow I felt when
I first realized I was with John Allen Cassady (He was named "John"
after Jack Kerouac and "Allen" after Allen Ginsberg.)
John had come to Tuscaloosa and opened an alternative movie
theatre on University Boulevard near Johnny's Restaurant. Here's an
interview where he mentions working as the projectionist here in
What is here is only a sample of the conversations I saved --
many of them were interesting but not relevant enough to include in
the "real" interview. Like this exchange, which took place after
John and I discovered we were both into Marx Brothers movies:
John: Duck Soup is my favorite. A buddy and I opened an alternative
cinema in a college town in '72 and showed all of them as well as
W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, etc. Two shows per night for a week;
I saw them all 14 times each and know every line.
Me: That's great. My favorite was prob. Horsefeathers, like when
Groucho is in the canoe with Thelma Todd and she says "will big
strong man give icky baby the bad little football signals?" and he
says "Was that you or the duck? Because if it was you I'm going to
finish the ride with the duck?"
John: And then he sings "Everyone Says 'I Love You'" while
accompanying himself on guitar, at which he was quite proficient, a
leftover from their old vaudeville acts. He used surprisingly
sophisticated diminished chords as passing phrases in that
arrangement (not that I studied it or anything) and of course
finishes by throwing the guitar into the lake, argh! But showing
future Pete Townshends how it's done. Chico's version of the song
had a great line: "The great big mosquito and-a he sting you" (had
to have been there). Zeppo turned it into a torch ballad, and of
course Harpo ripped it up on the harp. Horsefeathers was indeed a
classic I had (almost) forgotten.
I don't know if anybody will fully believe this, but I knew all
about those diminished chords.
Anyway, I remember seeing John at the Chukker but he says he
doesn't remember it but he does remember the girl he picked up at my
party on 8th St. I'm pretty sure it was Betty Boswell.(Sorry, Craig)
When Kesey got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he
asked John to drive the bus because "Neal wasn't available to do the
Kesey also hired John to drive the Bus through England in 2000
when Channel 4 sponsored the "Searching For Merlin" Tour.
After Kesey spoke at the University with Leary in the early 90s,
Kesey partied at Tracy Priest's house on Audubon. Babbs says that
Kesey had fond memories of Tuscaloosa. Kesey actually played a video
of John's father at the party on Audubon. Babbs says that Kesey had
a big BAMA bumper sticker on the front of his desk on the day he
Anyway, if any of ya'll remember that long haired blond guy who
was the projectionist at the movie theatre where "Last Tango In
Paris" was banned, it was John Cassady, the man who inherited the
job of driving Further.
And another thing. The Summer of '04 will be the 40th anniversary
of the famous road trip described by Tom Wolfe in "The Electric Kool-
Aid Acid Test". They came through Mobile because Babbs had been
stationed at Pensacola before he shipped out for 'Nam to fly Marine
In honor of the publication of the two new Kesey books, I tuned up
my weblog for kesey.