Ken Kesey: One Who Wigged Out (May 1966)

“Where is novelist Ken Kesey? It has been months and still no word on him. Not since O. Henry, 70 years ago, has an American lit­erary figure taken it on the lam after getting into trouble with the law. O. Henry was accused of embezzling bank funds. Kesey has been convicted of possessing marijuana and sentenced to six months in jail. Then, while his case was under appeal, he was picked up again, for marijuana and also for resisting arrest lo­cally, when he was taken one night from a Telegraph Hill roof­top with Mountain Girl, 19 years old. The neighbors had complained, as they have been doing ever since Kesey hit California. O. Henry skipped because the idea of prison frightened him. Kesey ran because the ‘com­bine’ was going to deny him justice and instead make an example of him. This is the way his followers, who reach from Portland, Oregon, down to Los Angeles, look at it. Others, not so fond of him, including novel­ist Robin White, say he ran be­cause, despite the bull neck and the big biceps and the big talk, Kesey is a coward. This is part of the Kesey fascination: he doesn’t add up. … He regards himself as fiercely independent, no doubt as the McMurphy of his own novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There are no limits. His buddies are LSD cultists, the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang, peace marchers, Allen Ginsberg (off and on), Jack Kerouac hangers-on, a bookshop owner, a helicopter pilot wounded in Vietnam, and people who prefer anonymity, like Mountain Girl, and the man she says she is going to marry. She is seven months pregnant. Independence has a price. Kesey is convinced that the gutty individual is only doomed to failure and oblivion (like McMurphy). ‘Ken has as elaborate mystique about the system and retaliation,’ a friend who knew him from the Palo Alto days said. In a weird record album made by Kesey and his LSD ‘trip’ buddies, just before he skipped, voices, including Kesey’s, say in one segment: ‘Oh my God, what does it mean? . . . Electrical impulses through all this statical feedback clicks . . . You do achieve a clarity that passes you one step over the be-good fence . . . He thinks I am dangerous. America doesn’t need these kind of impudent young snots . . . We are at war. ‘This is Franklin Delano Roosevelt speaking. The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.’ The only salvation is to be good. Be good.’ Kesey had no care for community sensibilities. …”
Weird Load: Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters 50 Years On
W – Ken Kesey

Merry Pranksters on Further, their fabled bus, in San Franciso, 1965.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Allen Ginsberg, Books, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, LSD, Marijuana, Merry Pranksters, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s