I met Annie Leibowitz in the fall of 1972, at the offices of Rolling Stone, on 3rd near the train station on Townsend, scene of various events recounted by the great Beat writer Jack Kerouac.

In fact, it was through following those chronicles I happened to be there. I had become pen pals with Carolyn Cassady, who was the wife of the juggernaut Neal, star of many Beat dramas and much sad private tragedy besides. She was writing her autobiography, expecting to be famous, and said, why don’t you come out and be famous too? (I used to write snappy surreal milk notes when I was young. I’d shown ’em to her. "You don’t have to specify `unleaded’; it comes that way," she said.)

I said, what about the car wash? But I chose fame over foam and here I was.

Rolling Stone had recently done up a story on Neal, his life and death and the worried return of his ashes from San Miguel. Annie Leibowitz was a Rolling Stone staff photographer then, so she took the pictures for the article. Carolyn and I took the train up to the City sometimes to go sit with the kind folks at RS, just because we could, and sometimes Annie was there. I think I met her twice. We had no real business there, but I think Carolyn wanted to show me the digs up in the City (I lived with her for four months in Monte Sereno down the peninsula), and I was certainly avid to see.


Carolyn was one of those who did astrology then. In fact, every facet of her being and that of everyone we met was involved in star gazing. She offered to do Annie’s chart, so Annie called her mother to ask the exact time of her birth. There’s Annie, over there on the phone, smiling at typical Jewish mother are-you-taking-care-of-yourself questions with dutiful daughter yes-I-will-Mom answers.

Annie has really come along, and she’s only recently out of school, Alan Rinzler told us. He was the editor of the RS imprint Straight Arrow Books. She walked with us the half block to the train station the last time I saw Annie. She sat between us, and she turned to me, tried to think of something cordial to say. But, really, what would you have said to a 29-year-old hick with a thick rural accent just off the Texas plains? I gave her a lot of credit for even trying.

I think you could take the elevator up to Rolling Stone at the fifth floor, and it didn’t stop at the third, which was Straight Arrow Books. I think also that’s not true. In any event, we met in Straight Arrow the very first biographer of Jack Kerouac, Ann Charters, who sat down with Carolyn and asked her about the famous drug bust for which Neal spent two years in San Quentin beginning in 1958. (We thought it very odd then, and I still do now, that anyone would produce a booklength biography of Kerouac and never ever even once contact the wife of his best pal in the Road years and the lover of them both. It isn’t like she was that hard to find. I know of one dumb cracker who found her all the way from Texas.)

Carolyn is quite garrulous always and ready to talk, so she did. She was, of course, at that time working on her own report of those times, and she’d done a thousand pages and was in a spastic lax edit mode. Ann Charters had some facts wrong. Although it was corrected later, she had another bust, this one of Allen Ginsberg in Manhattan, the way it was first reported in the newspapers, which was wrong, and not the way it came to New Yorker, which was righter. So now was her opportunity to learn the particulars of one very signal event in the life of Neal Cassady, hero of On the Road! Hey, maybe I could visit you and look at your own work on the subject? Sure, said Carolyn.

The plan was for her to bring Annie, but Ann Charters says, I left a message on her answering machine, but didn’t hear from her. I’m suspicious of that, based on what transpired, or conspired, during the visit of Ann Charters to Monte Sereno. She’d brought a friend with her, who engaged Carolyn in diversionary discussions of Carolyn’s artwork and Astrology charts in the next room while Ann with a plastic smile pasted on was frenetically copying from the loose typed sheets of Carolyn’s manuscript.

It was all for naught anyway. Carolyn took a spell of talker’s remorse about her profligate sharing and we went back to Straight Arrow and asked that the offending liftings be expurged. Editor Rinzler, very cordial and most accomodating (more so that I might’ve been in his shoes) graciously acceded to her wishes, and Kerouac, by Ann Charters, had to muscle forth as a fledgling foal on its own without Carolyn as midwife.

So Kerouac became a medium seller anyway, and Carolyn’s book came out some years after, and Annie became very very famous and still is, and the train station at 3rd and Townsend is now the Moscone Center, and Straight Arrow Books is no more, altghough Rolling Stone almost is, and, as for me, well, I never quite made it as a famous writer, and by the time that was obvious to everyone, they’d already filled my slot back at the car wash.

But I sure did meet Annie Leibowitz once! I did do that!

Clovis

Clovis

Smalltown Texan, Blackland Prairie, a senior. Sometimes I have trouble keeping up. Married, with Rottie/Pit. Reading, and some writing, that's me.

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