My first introduction to the “Beats” was a caricature. Long before I had heard of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Denise Levertov, William Burroughs, Frank O’Hara and Neil Cassaday, as a child I watched a weekly sitcom called The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, set on a small-town college campus. Dobie (Dwayne Hickman) was the hero, chased by the dowdy Zelda and not by the girls he wanted to be chased by. His best friend was Maynard G. Krebs, played by Bob Denver, who went one to greater fame as the lead character in Gilligan’s Island.
Maynard G. Krebs had a goatee in the error when all men shaved. He wore a beret. He acted kind of goofy. He used slang that accentuated the goofiness. Maynard was a beatnik, but a lovable beatnik. We loved to laugh at Maynard G. Krebs. Denver played the character with innocence and often naiveté; Maynard was the child in all of us.
The caricature, safely homogenized for television audiences, including berets, smoke-filled coffee houses, and poetry. Coffeehouse denizens listening to Beat poets didn’t applaud; they nodded and snapped their fingers.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Photograph: Jack Kerouac.