Who’s Who: A Guide to Kerouac’s Characters

This originally appeared in Issue Three, available here.

Anyone who knows anything about the Beat Generation knows that while Ginsberg may have been the movement’s publicist, Kerouac was its archivist. Yet his books are called novels, not autobiographies or non-fiction texts. We can pretty much go through each one of Kerouac’s books and find other sources to verify the accuracy of an event, but all the names, and some of the places, are fictitious.

These pseudonyms fool no one, however, and are deliberately transparent. Writing in dangerous times, Kerouac’s publishers demanded he change names to avoid lawsuits and prosecution, and given the furor surrounding ‘Howl’ and Naked Lunch, it’s probably for the best that he did.

But nowadays we are surrounded by books, websites, and documentaries about the Beat Generation, and anyone that takes an interest is soon provided with a view of the players in the movement. Their personalities were all unique, and after learning a few key facts, we can take a look at Kerouac’s novels again and remove the masks, revealing the true participants in the fables of the Beat Generation.

 

Real Name:

Alan Ansen

Bio:

Ansen was big influence on several of the Beats. He was never well know outwith the Beat circle, but he made an impact on Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg and Corso. He appeared in both On the Road and Naked Lunch.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – Irwin Swenson
On the Road – Rollo Greb
The Subterraneans – Austin Bromberg

Real Name:

William Burroughs

Bio:

Burroughs should need no brief biography printed on the pages of Beatdom. If you are reading this, then you know his story and his work. If you don’t, then no few lines is enough – buy his books and books about him.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – Bull Hubbard
Desolation Angels – Bull Hubbard
On the Road – Old Bull Lee
The Subterraneans – Frank Carmody
The Town and the City – Will Dennison
Vanity of Duluoz – Will Hubbard

Real Name:

Bill Cannastra

Bio:

In his short life, Cannastra made a big impression upon the early Beat Generation. He was a wild man like Neal Cassady, and celebrated as such. He appears in several Ginsberg poems and in two Kerouac books.

Aliases:

Visions of Cody – Finistra

Book of Dreams – Finistra

Real Name:

Lucien Carr

Bio:

Carr was central to the Beat movement. He was the embodiment of Beat – intelligent yet wild, well read but crazy. He introduced Kerouac and Ginsberg. “Lou was the glue,” Ginsberg quipped. He killed David Kammerer and sought refuge with Burroughs and Kerouac.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Julian

Book of Dreams – Julian Love

On The Road – Damion

The Subterraneans – Sam Vedder
The Town and the City – Kenneth Wood

Vanity of Duluoz – Claude de Maubris

Real Name:

Carolyn Cassady

Bio:

She was the wife of Neal Cassady and friends with Ginsberg and Kerouac. Cassady married the Holy Goof even after finding him in bed with Ginsberg and his first wife. She was immortalised in On the Road, and wrote her own memoirs, called Off the Road.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Evelyn

Desolation Angel – Evelyn

On the Road – Camille

The Dharma Bums – Evelyn
Visions of Cody – Evelyn

Real Name:

Cathy Cassady

Bio:

Daughter of Neal and Carolyn Cassady.

Aliases:

On the Road – Amy Moriarty
Visions of Cody – Emily Pomeray

Real Name:

Jamie Cassady

Bio:

Daughter of Neal and Carolyn Cassady

Aliases:

On the Road – Joanie Moriarty
Visions of Cody – Gaby Pomeray

Real Name:

John Allen Cassady

Bio:

Son of Neal and Carolyn Cassady. Named after Kerouac and Ginsberg.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Timmy John Pomeray
Visions of Cody – Timmy Pomeray

Real Name:

Neal Cassady

Bio:

Cassady perhaps the only person on this list more famous for his most noted alias – Dean Moriarty. The legendary Holy Goof inspired so much of the Beat movement and literature, despite having no famous literary output of his own. He was Ginsberg’s lover and ‘secret hero of these poems’.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Cody Pomeray
Book of Dreams – Cody Pomeray
Desolation Angels – Cody Pomeray
The Dharma Bums – Cody Pomeray

The Subterraneans – Leroy
On the Road – Dean Moriarty
Visions of Cody – Cody Pomeray

Real Name:

Hal Chase

Bio:

Introduced Cassady to Kerouac and Ginsberg, thus creating the inspiration for so much Beat literature.

Aliases:

On the Road – Chad King
Visions of Cody – Val Hayes

Real Name:

Gregory Corso

Bio:

Corso is a hero here at Beatdom. Whereas most would think of the holy trinity of Beats – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs – we rate Corso among them as an equal. His life was long and tragic, but his poetry immortalised him as a great.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – Raphael Urso
Desolation Angels – Raphael Urso
The Subterraneans – Yuri Gligoric

Real Name:

Elise Cowen

Bio:

Cowen’s tale is heart wrenching. She was part of the Beat group until confined to a mental institution where she killed herself. Her story explains why so few females ever made it to become Beat icons.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Barbara Lipp

Real Name:

Henri Cru

Bio:

Cru dated Edie Parker before she married Kerouac, who was also his friend. Cru is famous as Remi Boncoeur in On the Road, who inspired Kerouac’s seminal trans-American journey. Kerouac and Cru wrote an unproduced screenplay together in San Francisco.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Deni Bleu
Lonesome Traveler – Deni Bleu
On the Road – Remi Boncoeur
Visions of Cody – Deni Bleu
Vanity of Duluoz – Deni Bleu

Real Name:

Robert Duncan

Bio:

Although his role in the Beat Generation was small, Duncan was a large figure in various counter culture movements of the twentieth century.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Geoffrey Donald

Real Name:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Bio:

Although he is only listed as appearing in one novel, Ferlinghetti’s importance cannot be overstated. He was the founder of City Lights, the Beat publisher and bookstore. Ferlinghetti encouraged Ginsberg after the Six Gallery Reading, and fought in defence of ‘Howl’.

Aliases:
Big Sur – Lorenzo Monsanto

Real Name:

William Gaddis

Bio:

Gaddis was never a Beat writer, but counted among his friends many well known Beats.

Aliases:

The Subterraneans – Harold Sand

Real Name:

Bill Garver

Bio:

Burroughs’ addict friend from Mexico City.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Old Bull Gaines
Tristessa – Old Bull Gaines
Visions of Cody – Harper

Real Name:

Allen Ginsberg

Bio:

As with Burroughs, if you don’t know much about Ginsberg, then perhaps you ought to go and do some more reading. This short biography could never do him justice for his role in poetry, and in the Beat Generation.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Irwin Garden
Book of Dreams – Irwin Garden
Desolation Angels – Irwin Garden
The Dharma Bums – Alvah Goldbrook
On the Road – Carlo Marx
The Subterraneans – Adam Moorad
The Town and the City – Leon Levinsky
The Vanity of Duluoz – Irwin Garden
Visions of Cody – Irwin Garden

Real Name:

Louis Ginsberg

Bio:

Allen Ginsberg’s father, who was a poet and a high school teacher.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Harry Garden

Real Name:

Diana Hansen

Bio:

Another of Cassady’s women, Hansen was introduced to the Adonis of Denver by Kerouac, and was soon pregnant. Cassady took Kerouac to Mexico to get a divorce from Carolyn, to make the baby ‘legitimate’, but soon went back to Carolyn.

Aliases:

On the Road – Inez
Visions of Cody – Diane

Real Name:

Joan Haverty

Bio:

Haverty was Kerouac’s second wife. She was a friend of Cannatra’s, who met Kerouac, and married him weeks later. She had Kerouac’s daughter, Jan, but Kerouac refused for years to acknowledge the child.

Aliases:

On the Road – Laura

Real Name:

Luanne Henderson

Bio:

Poor Luanne was integral to the story of On the Road. At fifteen, she married Cassady, and three years later was dumped for Carolyn. Yet not long after that Carolyn was dumped again for Luanne. She was one of the early women to influence the Beats.

Aliases:

On the Road – Mary Lou
The Subterraneans – Annie
Visions of Cody – Joanna Dawson

Real Name:

Al Hinkle

Bio:

A friend of Neal Cassady from Denver.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – Ed Buckle
On the Road – Ed Dunkel
Visions of Cody – Slim Buckle

Real Name:

Helen Hinkle

Bio:

The wife of Al Hinkle. ‘A stolid mother Eart figure of indeterminate age’.

Aliases:

On the Road – Galatea Dunkel
Visions of Cody – Helen Buckle

Real Name:

John Clellon Holmes

Bio:

The ‘quiet Beat’, Holmes is widely considered to have written the first Beat novel. Go was the story of his friendship with Kerouac & co. Perhaps Holmes is most famous for when Kerouac used the word ‘Beat’ to describe to him the nature of their generation.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – James Watson
On the Road – Tom Saybrook
The Subterraneans – Balliol MacJones
Visions of Cody – Wilson

Real Name:

Herbert Huncke

Bio:

Huncke was hugely a influential figure on the life of Burroughs, and became known in his own right as a writer and sub-culture icon. He was a long time drug addict and relentless criminal.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – Huck

Desolation Angels – Huck
On the Road – Elmer Hassel
The Town and the City – Junky

Real Name:

Natalie Jackson

Bio:

Another of Cassady’s women, Jackson cavorted with Carolyn’s husband until she could take being second no more, and killed herself.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – Rosemarie
The Dharma Bums – Rosie Buchanan

Real Name:

Randall Jarrell

Bio:

Kerouac and Cassady visited ‘Random Varnum the great American poet’ and shocked his family with their poverty.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Random Varnum

Real Name:

Frank Jeffries

Bio:

One of Kerouac’s Denver friends, Jeffries travelled with Kerouac and Cassady to Mexico City.

Aliases:

On the Road – Sam Shepard
Visions of Cody – Dave Sherman

Real Name:

Joyce Johnson

Bio:

Johnson wrote Minor Characters and Door Wide Open about her relationship with Kerouac during the time his fame grew after On the Road.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Alyce Newman

Real Name:

David Kammerer

Bio:

Kammerer, a friend of Burroughs, was obsessed with Lucian Carr until Carr murdered him in 1944. The murder was important in Beat history, and inspired several pieces of writing.

Aliases:

The Town and the City – Waldo Meister

The Vanity of Duluoz – Franz Mueller

Real Name:

Lenore Kandel

Bio:

Kandel is respected, but not famous, as a poet of ‘holy erotica’. She had a brief relationship with Kerouac, and participated in the later counterculture.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Romana Swartz

Real Name:

Caroline Kerouac

Bio:

Kerouac’s older sister.

Aliases:

The Dharma Bums – Nin
Doctor Sax – Catherine “Nin” Duluoz
Maggie Cassidy – Nin

Real Name:

Gerard Kerouac

Bio:

Gerard Kerouac died at the age of nine. He was Jack’s older brother, and a figure that Jack always felt incapable of matching. He was revered as a saint by nuns, and throughout his whole life, Kerouac never stopped thinking about his brother.

Aliases:

Doctor Sax – Gerard Duluoz
The Town and the City – Julian Martin
Visions of Gerard – Gerard Duluoz

Real Name:

Gabrielle Kerouac

Bio:

Kerouac’s mother. She remained a huge influence on his life, living with him for much of his adulthood. Her harsh Catholic worldview marked her son with a constant guilt about life. She seems an altogether unpleasant figure, and outlived her own son.

Aliases:

Doctor Sax – Ange
On the Road – Sal’s Aunt
The Town and the City – Marguerite Martin
Vanity of Duluoz – Ange

Real Name:

Jack Kerouac

Bio:

There are dozens of books out there about Kerouac, and his novels are effectively one giant autography, so again, I’m going to miss out on a short bio.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Jack Duluoz
Book of Dreams – Jack Duluoz
Desolation Angels – Jack Duluoz
The Dharma Bums – Ray Smith
Maggie Cassidy – Jack Duluoz
On the Road – Sal Paradise
Satori in Paris – Jack Duluoz
The Subterraneans – Leo Percepied
The Town and the City – Peter Martin
Tristessa – Jack Duluoz
The Vanity of Duluoz – Jack Duluoz

Visions of Cody – Jack Duluoz

Visions of Gerard – Jack Duluoz

Real Name:

Leo Kerouac

Bio:

Kerouac’s father died in 1946, and shortly after this, Kerouac sat down and wrote The Town & The City. He promised his dying father that he would always look after his mother.

Aliases:

Doctor Sax – Emil “Pop” Duluoz
Maggie Cassidy – Emil “Pop” Duluoz
The Town and the City – George Martin
Vanity of Duluoz – Emil “Pop” Duluoz
Visions of Gerard – Emil “Pop” Duluoz

Real Name:

Philip Lamantia

Bio:

One of the poets who read at the legendary Six Galley Reading 1955, Lamantia chose to read poems by a dead friend. Lamantia was involved in movements before and after the Beat Generation.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – David D’Angeli
The Dharma Bums – Francis DaPavia
Tristessa – Francis DaPavia

Real Name:

Robert LaVigne

Bio:

LaVigne was a Beat artist who collaborated with Beat writers, including doing graphics for Ginsberg.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Robert Browning
Desolation Angels – Levesque

Real Name:

Norman Mailer

Bio:

The New Journalism exponent is mentioned briefly during the ‘Passing Through New York’ section of Desolation Angels.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Harvey Marker

Real Name:

Michael McClure

Bio:

McClure is one of the nicest men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. When he spoke to Beatdom, he spoke of Kerouac’s silky voice, and his own voice nearly melted my ears. McClure was one of the poets at the Six Galley Reading.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Pat McLear
Desolation Angels – Patrick McLear
The Dharma Bums – Ike O’Shay

Real Name:

Locke McCorkle

Bio:

A Buddhist neighbour of Kerouac and Snyder, who quickly became friends with the two Beats.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Kevin McLoch
The Dharma Bums – Sean Monahan

Real Name:

Jackie Gibson Mercer

Bio:

A mistress of Cassady in San Francisco, and later, Kerouac’s girlfriend during the story of Big Sur.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Willamine ‘Billie’ Dabney

Real Name:

James Merrill

Bio:

Poet and novelist. Author of The (Diablos) Notebook.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Merrill Randall

Real Name:

John McVey Montgomery

Bio:

Although Montgomery appears as a clownish character, he was an editor and publisher of Kerouac’s books.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Alex Fairbrother
The Dharma Bums – Henry Morley

Real Name:

Jerry Newman

Bio:

One of the circle of friends that made up ‘the Subterraneans’, Newman was a record producer and store owner in New York’s Village.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – Danny Richman
The Subterraneans – Larry O’Hara
Visions of Cody – Danny Richman

Real Name:

Peter Orlovsky

Bio:

Orlovsky is most famous as Ginsberg’s long time lover, but was also a poet in his own right (at least after Ginsberg’s provocation). He travelled the world and in 1974, joined the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, teaching poetry.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – Simon Darlovsky
Desolation Angels – Simon Darlovsky
The Dharma Bums – George

Real Name:

Edie Parker

Bio:

Parker was Kerouac’s first wife, if only for a short time and for strange reasons. They married more or less to get Kerouac out of jail, and split soon after. Parker also shared a flat with Joan Vollmer, that was frequented by many of the Beats in the early days of the movement.

Aliases:

The Town and the City – Judie Smith
Visions of Cody – Elly
Vanity of Duluoz – Edna “Johnnie” Palmer

Real Name:

Kenneth Rexroth

Bio:

Time Magazine mistakenly labelled Rexroth ‘father of the Beats’, much to the poet’s chagrin. However, one could forgive their error: Ferlinghetti considers Rexroth his mentor; the poet MC’d the Six Gallery Reading; he introduced Ginsberg to Snyder; he spoke in formal defence at Ginsberg’s obscenity trial…

Aliases:

The Dharma Bums – Rheinhold Cacoethes

Real Name:

Gary Snyder

Bio:

Ferlinghetti labelled Snyder ‘the Thoreau of the Beat Generation’, and the description seems fair. He was the only Beat from an urban background, and with little passion for the town. He was to The Dharma Bums what Dean Moriarty was to On the Road.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Jarry Wagner
The Dharma Bums – Japhy Ryder

Real Name:

Allen Temko

Bio:

Temko was an architectural critic and writer, who was portrayed in On the Road as against ‘arty’ snobs, but essential snobbish himself.

Aliases:

Book of Dreams – Irving Minko
On the Road – Roland Major
Visions of Cody – Allen Minko

Real Name:

Gore Vidal

Bio:

The famous novelist had a homosexual relationship with Kerouac that was altered into a platonic night together for The Subterraneans. According to Norman Mailer, Vidal ‘ruined’ Kerouac by sleeping with him.

Aliases:

The Subterraneans – Arial Lavalina

Real Name:

Esperanza Villanueva

Bio:

A Mexican prostitute and morphine addict, with whom Kerouac fell in love and consequently wrote Tristessa.

Aliases:

Tristessa – Tristessa

Real Name:

Joan Vollmer (Adams)

Bio:

Vollmer was the most famous woman of the Beat Generation, but for all the wrong reasons. She was ferociously intelligent, and held her own with the men during the early all-night discussions in New York, but is now known as Burroughs’ wife, whom he shot and killed in 1951;  she also may have slept with Kerouac.

Aliases:

On the Road – Jane Lee
The Subterraneans – Jane
The Town and the City – Mary Dennison
Vanity of Duluoz – June

Real Name:

Ed Uhl

Bio:

Uhl was a friend of Cassady’s from Denver.

Aliases:

On the Road – Ed Wall
Visions of Cody – Ed Wehle

Real Name:

Alan Watts

Bio:

Watts was a Zen scholar who became friends with Kerouac.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Arthur Wayne
Desolation Angels – Alex Aums

Real Name:

Helen Weaver

Bio:

Weaver was Kerouac’s girlfriend in New York for a period, and a friend of Ginsberg. She seems to have been intelligent and attracted to the intellect of the Beats.

Aliases:

Desolation Angels – Ruth Ileaper

Real Name:

Lew Welch

Bio:

Welch was a poet in San Francisco, who lived with Snyder, Whalen and Felinghetti, at various times, and was much admired by William Carlos Williams. In 1971, he disappeared in the Californian mountains and left a suicide, but his body was never found.

Aliases:

Big Sur – David Wain

Real Name:

Philip Whalen

Bio:

Whalen lived with Snyder and Welch, and read at the Six Gallery Reading. He was always interested in Buddhism, and eventually became a monk.

Aliases:

Big Sur – Ben Fagan
The Dharma Bums – Warren Coughlin

Real Name:

William Carlos Williams

Bio:

The Modernist poet was a huge influence upon many members of the Beat Generation, both through his style and his mentoring. He was friends with Rexroth, taught Snyder, Whalen and Welch, and most famously mentored Ginsberg.

Aliases

Desolation Angels – Dr. Williams