It all started with a phone call. First, to David Amram—my dear friend, and Kerouac’s early collaborator. Then, to actors Michael Shannon and John Ventimiglia, “How about doing a little show for the Kerouac House at Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village?” They all agreed. That was three years ago.
On Friday, October 30, 2015, we celebrated the third annual Kerouac House fundraiser in New York City. It was a spectacular event, taking place in the middle of the World Series on All Hallows’ Eve in Greenwich Village. The energy at Joe’s Pub was electric from the moment the house lights dimmed till the final notes under David Amram’s fingers lifted from the keys of the baby grand piano.
This year, we were graced with the presence of actors John Ventimiglia and Day Daniells, who read corresponding letters between Jack Kerouac and Joyce Johnson; endearing love letters in which Jack asks Joyce to join him Mexico City, and she gladly accepts. Guitar legend Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth gave a riveting reading of selections from On the Road and NY spoken word icon Bob Holman lifted the roof off the place with his bigger-than-life readings from Jack’s iconic novel. Kentucky blues great Tyrone Cotton delighted the crowd with a pair of his original songs backed by Amram and his quintet featuring bassist Rene Hart, drummer Kevin Twigg, and percussionists Eliot Peper and Robbie Winterhawk. Summer Rodman, president of the Kerouac Project, spoke briefly about the project’s mission and its current needs. Maya Sloan, novelist and former resident of the Kerouac Project, gave a soulful account of how her residency profoundly changed her life. And it was my pleasure to finish off the evening with a reading of Jack’s beautiful letter to Marlon Brando, in which Jack asks Brando to recreate his novel into a movie; a letter Jack wrote from the little bungalow on Clouser Avenue we all know as the Kerouac House.
Thanks to everyone who attended the show. If you couldn’t make it, there’s an old saying in baseball: “There’s always next year!”