Video of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks

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If the only Beat Generation writers you can name are Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, then it’s time to educate yourself about the rest of the gang. A great place to start is Original Beats, a short documentary by Francois Bernadi that we learned about thanks to Dangerous Minds. The film, shot in the mid-’90s, follows Herbert Huncke and Gregory Corso — the oldest and youngest member, respectively, of the Beat inner circle. In fact, while Corso’s work may be more famous, Huncke was hugely influential to the movement, introducing the major players to (’50s) hipster culture and even coining the term “Beat.” (Sadly, he was also a lifelong junkie who spent his last years in poverty; Jonathan Lethem recently wrote a New Yorker piece about the time he caught Huncke shoplifting at the bookstore where he worked as a high schooler.)

The documentary offers an entertaining look at the origins of the Beat movement, as well as some readings, and a number of epic anecdotes from Huncke and Corso, from Huncke’s first glimpse of Times Square to both men’s stints in prison. One of Corso’s stories, about a time when he and Allen Ginsberg read in Chicago, ends with this wonderful moment: “One of the people in the audience said, ‘Mr. Ginsberg, why is there so much homosexuality in your poetry?’ And Allen said, ‘Because I’m queer, madam!'” Enjoy Original Beats after the jump.