The debut one night only screening of Neal Cassady: The Denver Years at the Sie Film Center on June 26th, 2014, opened with a pre-show reception in the lobby with complimentary drinks and food. Elbow to elbow with other ticket holders in the cordoned buffet-bar area, your reporter was reminded of the line in Gregory Corso’s poem, “Marriage,” about the grubby, bearded handful of his friends at that piece’s imagined wedding, “just waiting to get at the drinks and the food.” Co-producer Daniel Crosier, one of the artists whose work is featured in Ms. Dalton’s film, presented your reporter with a couple of complimentary prints of wood carvings he’d done of Neal’s face. Your reporter gave Mr. Crosier an update on the Beat Guide’s progress, and asked him, “Is Karl Christian Krumpholz here?” Mr. Crosier promptly introduced your reporter to the film’s other artist, with whom he exchanged business cards. The screening sold out close to showtime, and several people were turned away, including Ed Ward and this reporter’s sidekick from the spoken word 90s, Devin Scheimberg. Even Bob Hyatt had to play the “son of Neal” card to get tickets for himself, Vera and Henry. Full disclosure: this reporter’s lady friend attempted to subtly convince Bob to try to score one more for Devin, clearly asking too much (though, of course, I don’t blame her) and Bob, wisely, avoided that hook. Neal’s children with Carolyn, all of whom appear in the film, were in England finalizing the details of her estate or they would have attended.
No one had expected such an overwhelming reception, least of all its directors and producers, including Heather Dalton and Colorado Public Television Channel 12. The theater was packed; this reporter and his lady friend found seats in the very front, and he dutifully kept his neck at a 90 degree angle straight up and ahead throughout the excellent, edifying feature, the first film to commemorate Neal’s days in Denver before adding his spark to the powderkeg of the world at large. A ten years labor of love on the part of director Dalton and all its producers, including Joshua Hasel, this film is full of heart. Its debut screening was a personal landmark for lots of great people in all kinds of ways, and this reporter was glad to join that experience, speaking briefly before the screening by way of promoting his limo tour job and soliciting inside connections for the Beat Guide. He was pleased to note the film’s similarity of intention and content to this combined history and localized landmark itinerary, and pleased to see his name appear in the credits in acknowledgement of his years of dedication and encouragement. Your reporter found himself standing in the aisle with the three Hyatts after the film’s conclusion, slightly choked up with unbidden emotions evoked by the film, and he told them so. Producer Joshua Hasel spoke with him briefly about the roundabout course taken by himself and Ms. Dalton in first contacting Carolyn Cassady, involving travel back and forth to her home in England and a blithe contrariness on her part ultimately giving way to the great and generous sharing of opinions and memories which is the heart of Neal Cassady: The Denver Years. “At one point, she didn’t even want to talk about the Beat stuff at all,” confided Hasel. “She just wanted to talk about herself. She had an interesting life.”
Carolyn’s personal history as the child of landed gentry who became a devout follower of “sleeping prophet” Edgar Cayce as an adult is rich in lively individuality. This reporter was pleased to learn that the volume, “Love, Always,” which he’d assumed was a collection of letters to Cassady, was in fact a film centered on Carolyn’s life as Neal’s amanuensis and the legislator of his estate and legacy. This reporter is grateful to the late Mrs. Cassady for all her assistance in fleshing out Beat history, and to Denver media maven Heather Dalton, for providing a forum for Carolyn’s voice in this excellent film, which was written, directed and produced in part by her, featuring the talents of several other Denver artists, among them poet Paulie Lipman, artists Crosier and Krumpholz, and the film’s other narrator, Rodney Franks of Denver jazz station KUVO . The unexpected and overwhelmingly positive reception of this one night only screening might cause Sie to extend the run time, or in some way lead to further screenings of this opus.