By AILEEN JACOBSON
Published: October 16, 2009
Before Jack Kerouac left Northport, he had a farewell party at his
house with a small group of friends, a parade of drinks and a
considerable number of stories. That 1964 gathering is the basis for
"Jack's Last Call: Say Goodbye to Kerouac," a play by Patrick Fenton
to be performed at Gunther's Tap Room in Northport on Oct. 24 at 2 p.m.
The performance marks the 40th anniversary of Kerouac's death in St.
Petersburg, Fla., on Oct. 21, 1969, of internal bleeding attributed
to heavy drinking. He was 47.
The title has extra resonance for this performance, said Mr. Fenton,
of Massapequa, who started writing the play about 10 years ago and
has taken it to Gunther's, a favorite Kerouac hangout, twice before.
Kerouac moved to Northport in 1958, partly to escape the attention
brought by the publication of his autobiographical novel, "On the
Road," a year before. "He finally got what he wanted, the fame, but
it scared him to death," Mr. Fenton said.
Mr. Fenton, 68, said he never met Kerouac but interviewed many of his
friends, including three who attended the 1964 gathering. One of
them, Larry Smith, shared a recording he had made of the event. "It
hit me: There's a play in there," Mr. Fenton said.
He fictionalized it, adding flashbacks like a trip to Manhattan that
Kerouac had taken a week earlier with his friend Neal Cassady to meet
the writer Ken Kesey and his psychedelic troupe known as the Merry
Pranksters. Kerouac knows that "a new generation is coming in,"
replacing his own Beat Generation, Mr. Fenton said.
Drew Keil plays Kerouac; Ed Dennehy, the director of the production,
portrays Cassady. Stephen Ryan plays a reporter who narrates the
90-minute work from a bar stool. Len Cariou read the part in an audio
version put out last year.
Sue Zizza of Hempstead directed the recording, which 80 public radio
stations have presented. Ms. Zizza said she became aware of the play
after Mr. Dennehy asked her to design sound effects for it. She is
producing the Gunther's show, at which there will be no admission fee
Afterward, Mr. Fenton and others including the bar's proprietor,
Peter Gunther, who knew Kerouac will answer questions. "We'll
definitely stick around, the actors, too," Mr. Fenton said. "We'll
have a couple of beers."
For details about "Jack's Last Call: Say Goodbye to Kerouac," visit