There is a lot of misinformation out there these days, and it's abetted by the ease of dissemination on the Web. In regard to Cathy Casamo, aka "Stark Naked", most of the confusion began, I believe, with Tom Wolfe's popular second-hand version of the bus story in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and has been perpetuated in typical web fashion. She has been portrayed as "a bus dropout", "psychotic", and "stark raving mad" none of which is true. When Albert Hoffman and Aldous Huxley spoke of being transfixed and thinking they died or were out of their bodies during hallucinaions, they didn't assume psychosis or insanity. Ken Kesey in Cuckoo's Nest writes of his sympathies for people who are conveniently labled mentally ill by the system. In the only first hand accounts of the bus story (Larry Hankin's tale of Cathy's disappearance, the flashbacks of Ken "Intrepid Traveler" Babbs in On The Bus, and a short piece by Larry McMurtry in Spit In The Ocean #7) nowhere is there any mention of Cathy going crazy. George "Hardly Visible" Walker told me,"I never thought she was mad". From my conversations with Cathy and with Ron "Hassler" Bevirt, her state would be more correctly described as extremely high, and it is my intention to correct the record (as well as the persistent misspelling of her name...seen everywhere as Kathy Casano).
Cathryn Marie Casamo was the last to join the original group of Merry Pranksters. She got on the bus after arranging with her significant other, actor Larry Hankin, to care for her daughter, Caitlin, in her absence. The Northwestern University drama major had been asked to become one of the group and star with Neal Cassady in the movie they were making chronicling the Prankster's "search for a kool place".
Once on the journey, she became disheartened with a bunch of stoned guys admittedly running around trying to make a film with no apparent direction, in Kesey's own words, "embracing amateurism". In Texas, she became further disillusioned and missed her daughter deeply. After a rather large dose of acid and removing her clothes in the sweltering bus, she saw Larry McMurtry's little son playing in the yard, and rushed out of the bus "Stark Naked" to hold him . (The blanket she had been wearing around her shoulders was left behind in the bus.) According to McMurtry, "James, in diapers, had no objection to naked people, and the neighbors, most of them staid Republicans, took this event in stride; It was the Pranksters who were shocked".
She subsequently spaced out, went for a walk with the now famous blanket around her shoulders, and was picked up by the cops who didn't have a clue what was happening. Staunchly refusing to implicate her fellow bus riders, a case can be made that she actually had "her wits about her" at the time. "In the morning the Pranksters - who would soon be advising America to tear up their schedules and embrace spontaneity and disorder - remembered that they had a schedule: Ken's book party for Sometimes a Great Notion was happening in New York in only a few days." So they hit the road without her.
Without assigning any blame, I'd like to point out that on the first public group tripping experiment ever, the code of staying together was abandoned in Houston with Stark Naked when things got really complicated. She was an expression of the innocent, pure spirit on the bus to me; the prototypical flower child.
And here is the whole story as well as I can put it together. -Stephen Ehret
In the summer of 1960, Cathy Casamo left Northwestern University after four years as a drama major, a few math credits short of a degree.
Pregnant with Caitlin, she set out on the classic road trip for the West Coast and the burgeoning literary and art scene in San Francisco accompanied by her boyfriend, Yale undergraduate Jim McGiffin. After running out of gas and pawning a stereo, they finally arrived with no money to what Jim describes as an incredibly friendly scene. Put up for a time by generous strangers in North Beach, they soon settled in one of the arks on the Sausalito waterfront and Cathy became a waitress at the No Name Bar.
Several years later, after she and Jim broke up, Cathy and Caitlin moved back over the bridge to North Beach where they lived with actor Larry Hankin.
"In 1959, Ken Kesey, a graduate student in creative writing at Stanford University, volunteered to take part in a government drug research program at Menlo Park Veterans Hospital that tested a variety of psychoactive drugs such as LSD, which was legal at the time, psilocybin, mescaline, and amphetamine IT-290."
"The experiments at Stanford were part of a secret operation (MK-ULTRA) funded by the Central Intelligence Agency to determine the potential utility of hallucinogens as weapons in the Cold War. Hospitals and psychiatrists across the country, carefully selected by the CIA, conducted these government-sanctioned and financed experiments on patients. Many individuals were unaware they were being given the drugs. Others, like Kesey, were volunteers. LSD, peyote and other hallucinogens were revelations to Kesey..."
"Over a period of several weeks, Kesey ingested these hallucinogens and wrote of his drug-induced experiences for government researchers. From this experience, Kesey wrote his most celebrated novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and began his own experimentations with psychedelic drugs. His goal was to break through conformist thought and ultimately forge a reconfiguration of American society. In the early 1960s, Neal Cassady showed up to meet the famous author and became the most celebrated member of Kesey's fledgling group, the Merry Pranksters. Much of the hippie aesthetic that would dawn on the San Francisco scene in the mid sixties can be traced back to the Merry Pranksters who openly used psychoactive drugs, wore outrageous attire, performed bizarre acts of street theater, and engaged in peaceful confrontation with not only the laws of conformity, but with the mores of conventionality. As Kesey put it: 'What we hoped was that we could stop the coming end of the world'."
"The 'trip' was a powerful metaphor linking an LSD-inspired interior journey to the historic American inclination to take to the road in search of another place. But Kesey's bus trip reversed the historic direction of American movement. He and the Pranksters went from west to east. They wanted to discover what might happen to themselves and the country when the East experienced what had been uncovered in the West a hundred years after the Gold Rush: the liberating qualities of LSD."
"One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was an immediate critical and commercial success. It was read as a compelling cautionary tale that viewed society, represented by Big Nurse, as a cold, formidable negation of all that is free, lusty and nonconformist. McMurphy, a malingerer from a penal work farm, tries to rekindle a spark of life among his fellow patients, and is thwarted at each step by the cold, calculating Nurse Ratched, who ultimately curtails McMurphy's free wheeling ways by subjecting him to a lobotomy. From this book, Kesey gained the notoriety and the income necessary to draw together his motley band of Merry Pranksters, who through their many antics and travels, set the stage for the Psychedelic Era that was to follow. A critically acclaimed novel that is still taught at universities today, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest remains Ken Kesey's most popular work.
"With the commercial success of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey bought property in La Honda and moved his wife and children and assorted Merry Pranksters to the mountains outside of San Francisco."
Conceived as a way of getting to New York for the publication party of Sometimes A Great Notion, Kesey's second novel, the trip required a worthy vehicle to transport the Merry Pranksters further.
"Fresh from the stunning success of 'Cuckoo’s Nest', Kesey bought the bus for $1,250 from Andre Hobson in Atherton, Calif., a sales engineer who had outfitted it with bunks, a bathroom and a kitchen to take his 11 kids on vacation...”
"At La Honda, Kesey’s home in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco, they installed a sound system, a generator on the back and went wild with the paint. Artist Roy Sebern painted the word “Furthur” on the destination placard as a kind of one-word poem and inspiration to keep going whenever the bus broke down. It wasn’t until much later that he found out he had misspelled it. Just as the bus was constantly being repainted, somewhere along the line the Further sign was corrected."
"The day they were ready to go, Ken Kesey recruited Cassady from a bookstore where he was working, Babbs recalls. The bus pulled out of the driveway with Ray Charles singing 'Hit the Road Jack,' and ran out of gas. That was quickly remedied, and down the road they went, Cassady spewing the speed-talking rap-babble that inspired Kerouac’s writing style."
"With Neal Cassady at the wheel, they left La Honda in June 1964 and began their now legendary journey across the country, smoking marijuana, and dropping acid along the way. The top of the bus was made into a musical stage and when it detoured through some cities, the Pranksters blasted a combination of crude homemade music and running commentary to all the astonished onlookers."
On the way through San Francisco, they stopped at actor Larry Hankin’s where they met "The Beauty Witch", Cathryn Casamo, later to be known as "Stark Naked". Cathy a drama student from Northwestern University and ingénue was convinced to go on the “trip” and star with Neal Cassady in the movie they were making. She was reluctant to leave her small daughter, Caitlin, behind but wanted the chance to star in the movie so she accepted after Larry agreed to watch over Caitlin.
And off they went.
The Merry Pranksters
Ken Kesey * Chief/Captain Flag/Swashbuckler
(and the original 13)
Ken Babbs * Intrepid Traveler
John Babbs * Sometimes Missing
Ron Bevirt * Hassler
Steve Lambrecht* Zonker
Jane Burton * Generally Famished
Cathy Casamo * Beauty Witch/Stark Naked
Neal Cassady * Speed Limit
Mike Hagen * Mal Function
Chuck Kesey * Brother Charlie
Dale Kesey * Highly Charged
Sandy Lehmann-Haupt * Dis-Mount
Paula Sundsten * Gretchen Fetchin
George Walker * Hardly Visible
"Dressed in combinations of fluorescent orange and green, the Pranksters acquired new names as their personalities developed. Female Pranksters included...'Gretchen Fetchin' and 'Stark Naked'; their male equivalents included 'Mal Function' and 'Hardly Visible'; Kesey was 'Swashbuckler' and Lehmann-Haupt 'Dis-mount' on account of his habit of getting off the bus every time it stopped."
"The wildly painted bus got stopped by the police, but with their short haircuts ..., the Pranksters were never arrested. They carried orange juice laced with LSD, which was legal at the time.
The bus got stuck in an Arizona river." (The Wiki-up incident)
It was here that all the beautiful pictures of Cathy and Neal on the left were taken by Ron Bevirt. (see photo gallery page "THE MAGIC BUS" and links for movie clips "Mud Puddle Satori 1 & 2)
"It stopped in Houston for a visit with author Larry McMurtry, who was with Kesey at the Wallace Stegner writing seminar at Stanford University when he wrote 'Coockoo’s Nest' in the early 1960s."
This is where Stark Naked got her name and when she first parts ways with the Pranksters.
Larry McMurtry and son, James, 1964
Houston...Quenby Street. Shading oaks. Birds chirruping. Manicured lawns. Respectable homes. A curtain pulls back from a front window and a bespectacled eye peers out.
"See anything yet?" a female voice calls from the kitchen.
"They called from Flatonia, so it should be a few minutes yet," Larry McMurtry says.
Novelist, writer of Horseman, Pass By (made into the movie Hud), Larry was a classmate of Kesey's at Stanford's graduate writing program four years earlier. He stands poised, his son in his arms.
"Oh, God!" he says, dropping the curtain.
"What is it, dear?" his wife calls.
"It's them. But what a them."
"What do you mean?"
"It's indescribable. You'll have to see for yourself."
Shifting the boy into his other arm, he goes outside. A shrill laugh comes from the bus. Larry walks to the curb and the bus door opens..."Cathy shrieks, stepping out of the bus and out of her blanket. She tugs at Larry's son.
"Ma`am," Larry says in a soft drawl. "Ma`am, would you please let go? The boy is crying, ma'am....
"Cassady pops out with the blanket. "We all have children back home, m'dear, and even our hardened hearts are suffused with longing; but you must admit, this is not the one...."
"Wow!" John says, head out the window. "What a shot! Did you get it, Hassler?"
Hassler turns, 35-millimeter camera in hand. "I was ready, but the shock was too much. I forgot to click the shutter. Did you see that? She was naked. Stark naked!"
Kesey steps off the bus and he and Larry shake hands. Larry's wife comes out and there are introductions all around.
"Make yourselves at home," Larry tells everyone, and the Pranksters troop inside, escorting Cathy. Larry looks at them nervously.
"She going to be all right?" he asks Kesey.
"I hope so. Strung out is all. If she can make it through the next day or so it ought to wear off."
"Better keep an eye on her. I just hope no one witnessed that exhibition outside. They're pretty straight folks around here, you know."
"Hey!" Babbs says, "Straight is as straight does. Like an arrow, varoom! Not to worry, we got it under control."
"Hummmm," Larry murmurs, looking over the top of his glasses.
-- by Ken Babbs, from the book, On The Bus.
Here is the first hand account by Larry Hankin:
Cathy would call regularly in the evening and speak to Katy and me. And then the phone calls got irregular and then one morning around 10am, I got a call from a male voice that said he was one of the Merry Pranksters calling from Houston, Texas and that they were all sleeping on the floor in Larry McMurtry’s house. Cathy had disappeared last night around 2am and they couldn’t find her and the Pranksters were going to leave town the next day or two,… so I better come down and look for her because nobody’s going to be here in Houston. Whaaaaat? I said I’d be right there.
I was picked up at the Houston airport by a group of Merry Pranksters in a borrowed car, and was filled in on everything that anybody knew. The basic story line was: Cathy was high on acid when they all went to sleep on McMurtry’s living room floor around 2am and somewhere in the next hour or two Cathy went out for a walk. She never came back. That’s it. They’d been calling hospitals and police stations all day and there was no one fitting her description anywhere in Houston. It was now 6 pm. I didn’t believe anything anyone told me. I was just angry.
Because they were so famous, of course I remember Larry McMurtry’s and Ken Kesey’s names, but every other name and face is a blur. I was just there to get Cathy, and this acting rule kept going off in my head: “Every scene has an objective for your character. Help your character accomplish that objective.” I was there to find Cathy. To me, all The Merry Pranksters were just one big Person-of-Interest in Cathy’s disappearance.
I remember getting out of the car at Larry McMutry’s house and being filmed by the Merry Prankster’s cameraman, Mike. Inside, Ken Kesey and McMurtry rapped out what they knew about “Cathy’s Disappearance”. That’s what it became to me, a chapter TITLE: “Cathy’s Disappearance”. I was so pissed and confused - and pissed because I was pissed and confused – that I’m sure the first 24 hours were distorted. I could feel my brain manufacturing it’s own LSD from running scenarios of dread; and I suspected everyone in that house. I didn’t drink, smoke, or eat anything anyone at Larry M’s house gave me for the first day. Cathy could’ve gone for a walk and been kidnapped. Murdered. Nobody knew anything. Not knowing is insane, but not knowing around a chunk of long-haired Pranksters you know are just coming down off many days and doses of LSD doesn’t calm you down much. You need a house with a stone foundation and a kitchen table. I clung to Larry McMurtry’s every word. At least he gave off an assumption of sanity. He lived and in a house with a solid foundation that didn’t go anywhere. He’s to be trusted. Larry McMurtry was the only voice I allowed myself to listen to. Even Kesey was not above suspicion.
Larry M. let me use his phone. I wanted to call the police.
“We already called the police”, someone said.
I called the police. “I want to report a missing person.”
“What’s your relationship?”
“Friend. We live together – significant other.”
“Is she over 18?”
“Yes. And she’s a mother.”
"Why are you looking for her?”
"She didn’t come home last night.”
“How long has she been missing?”
“She went for a walk at 2am and never came back.”
“She’s only been missing 21 hours.”
“Right. But she’s never—"
“She’s over 18, sir. She’s an adult. She can stay away as long as she wants. You’ll have to wait 24 hours before we can take a missing person’s call.”
"But that’s only 3—"
“Call back after 24 hours have passed, sir."
And he hung up. It wasn’t going well. I felt totally violated. I hated that cop; I hated the Merry Pranksters; I hated Kesey. Larry M. calmed me down. Right. Find Cathy. Actually, Kesey was sympathetic about my state of mind but there was nothing he could do, really. McMurtry lived in a safe-zone in the middle of Houston’s suburbs. Once you go outside his green zone, you were in The South and we were hippies. And we weren’t well–tolerated. The only hope was Larry McMurtry’s lawyer. There was talk of a missing persons bulletin. Larry’s Lawyer was well connected and he was on it. I spoke to him on the phone. He was a smart, calm, logical guy and I trusted him. He was on the case and would keep me notified. He was making phone calls to everyone he knew plus the morgue.
3 hours and 2 minutes later I called the police station back.
“Okay, it’s 24 hours.” Nobody there by that description, no reports of anybody by that description were picked up. We didn’t know where to go or what to do or who to call next. I slept at a nearby motel and early in the morning went over to Larry’s house and starting making phone calls to police stations and hospitals again, and Larry’s Lawyer called in to say he had no new info. I just dialed another police station for the third time and described her for the third time.
“Oh yeah. She’s here. We have her.”
“What! She’s there now?”
They found her!
“How is she? Can I talk to her? Is she okay? How’d she get there?”
“You can’t talk to her right now. She’s in a holding cell.”
“She has no I.D., no shoes, and she bit the arresting officer.”
I actually smiled. I asked him to describe her: it was Cathy. “Can I see her?”
“Yeah. You can pick her up. She didn’t have any ID.”
“I’ll be right there.”
“She’s not going anywhere. Do you know if she’s on anything?”
“Just asking.” He gave me the station’s address.
“How long have you had her?”
“She was brought in yesterday about 3 am.”
“What?! I called you twice yesterday! I was told both times, you didn’t have her.”
They wouldn’t tell me anything else over the phone. Kesey told Mike and a sound man to go with me and film it, and three other Pranksters jumped in the car and I just lost it. I flipped out. I told everybody to back off and I didn’t want Kesey filming this - totally forgetting it was the ‘60’s, I was a long-haired hippy in the south, and I was not controlling my temper, and neither were the Texas Police. So if I went, a camera’s record might be a good thing to have. On the other hand, from what I was experiencing in S.F. and seeing on the news, the southern police didn’t take kindly to Hippy’s with Cameras and I didn’t want any bumps on this particular road. This was a different road.
Kesey called off his band of Merry Pranksters and asked Sandy, the soundman, to drive me and just audio tape it, and nobody else goes. Sandy got a Nagra tape deck, threw it in the back, and we took off for the Houston Police Station, about 20 minutes away.
But somehow the police didn’t know what we were talking about. They didn’t have anyone by the name of “Casamo, Cathy.” No one by that description, either. No females in the holding cell at all. Whaaaaat? The Captain insisted they didn’t have any female and we should leave. This had to be an acid trip because this was just too big a hiccup in reality: this was too big a lie.
Someone’s missing, someone you really care about, and nobody will tell you anything. And then they change what they tell you. It kept getting crazier and I just kept getting angrier. I didn’t understand. Alice in Wonderland is real or I’m crazy or one of the pranksters slipped me some LSD. Cathy’s disappeared and the police are laughing at me and Mike and making haircut jokes after every question we asked, ‘til, out of nowhere, another officer walked over and said, “She was here. They just took her over to the county asylum.”
“She bit the arresting officer.”
“What’s that got to do with anything? That’s resisting arrest: the county asylum for resisting arrest? Why were you arresting her in the first place? I called and you said you had her and I could pick her up if I came here and I said I’d be there in 20 minutes and you said okay. What happened between then and now?”
The Captain opened the slatted blind that was blocking out the bright Texas sun and pointed to the city of Houston outside.
“You Damn Yankees see that? That’s Houston, Texas out there. You’re not in the north no more and we do things different down here. Now, we just told you where she is. So you better leave now right, son. You understand me?”
We did, and we left. In that instant I was a Merry Prankster and I hated the pigs. Sandy and I both figured there must have been a fight and they don’t want Cathy’s bruises to be found on their turf. They’re getting rid of the evidence until she heals. Now, I knew that Cathy didn’t like the police. A lot. Really. All the time I knew her, I couldn’t mention the police without Cathy going off on them. I wasn’t a stranger in the ‘60’s to police harassment: I was a hippy, I was a professional working satirist – a paid Doberman Clown trained to attack the police, the government, and pompous a-holes in general. I was a clown. I had rent. It was a gig. But it was a lot of fun. And, as in all cultures throughout time: too much fun is a bust-able offense and we must have been having fun-right-up-to-the-edge because the police were always harassing our company or our theater or our director (and the whole city of San Francisco in general), because of our anti-war, anti-Nixon material and pro-pot references and use. So I was no stranger to the problem of harassment. But Cathy’s dislike of The Man took it to a whole other level. So, if Cathy was on acid and the Texas Police tried to hassle her in any way, I could see her putting up quite a battle. This is what Sandy and I talked about on the way to the asylum.
It was on the outskirts of Houston, a massive, grey, hospital building out of a Batman comic book. It had to have been built in the 30’s and no one painted it or changed a light-fixture since. I was the one seeking custody of Cathy, so the receptionist told Sandy to wait in the lobby while I was taken to see the head nurse (Kesey: head nurse? Yeah, I know). I had an attitude. I was trying to be nice but she could feel my hostility through my answers to who I was and who Cathy was and why we were here and what Cathy did and what she was on and what was I on and on and on. I just wanted to let Cathy know that we knew where she was and we’re going to get her out. She’d been gone for at least 36 hours -- obviously busted by the police in the middle of the night for a good reason or no reason at all. Probably & simply it was because she was wandering around still on acid in a Texas suburb at 2am, and female in the ‘60’s wearing a blanket with no I.D., and a northern accent, and an attitude, and didn’t remember which house she came from. I just wanted to get her a message. But this was turning into an interrogation.
When she asked me what I did and I used the word “satire”, she said, “You don’t like authority, do you?”
“What if the tables were turned and it was someone you couldn’t talk to or see?”
She simply said, “Sir, if you don’t calm down and stop making trouble, I’ll have you committed right now. We can legally keep you here for
three days. It’s up to you. But I do have the authority and I will use it. Don’t test me.”
She was very calm and serious. She told me I could talk to Cathy and see her the next day at 2pm. I wrote a quick note to Cathy, leaned on the word “Caitlin”, and asked the nurse to give it to Cathy. She said she would, and I left. My thoughts were simple and basic: this is stupid. There is nothing that I could possibly dream of or do that is stupider than this real reality. I started thinking of very dark, stupid things to do, knowing nothing I did could be stupider than this reality right now that’s getting even stupider. I was getting close to The Time Of The Totally Stupid Move. It’s a Living Organism Thing: “I can, therefore I will”.
I came the next day at 2pm with a bouquet of flowers. Sandy and the Nagra came with me. The nurse that interviewed me the day before came out to the lobby. She told me as flatly as she could that she was sorry but I couldn’t see Cathy that day. She didn’t know why because the doctors hadn’t told her why.
“Doctors? More than one?”
She just looked at me, waiting for a wrong twitch.
Sandy said, “We’ll come back tomorrow. Thanks, ma’am.”
I handed over the bouquet of roses and my long letter and asked the nurse to give them to Cathy. She said she would.
“Did she say anything?”
“My note yesterday.”
“You gave it to her?”
“I can’t see her today?”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Are you married to her or a blood relative?”
They were driving me insane with reasonableness and red tape. I was driving myself insane trying to reach the level of humanity these people were function at - or on. Was it even bi-pedal?
Back at the house I told my crazy sad tale to Kesey who listened patiently. All he said was, “I know; I wrote a book about it.” Touché. But I also got that he was leaving soon. And they did.
Larry M’s lawyer called and says that he’s getting responses and paperwork going. “We’re going there tomorrow and picking her up. I’m going with you.”
“What about today?”
The next day Larry McMurtry, and I drove back with his lawyer. The ride was very solemn. (All three of us named Larry, which probably wouldn’t help our cause with the authorities.) Larry the Lawyer was loaded for bear: he had a writ. He had documents. He had signed papers. He had Authority in every pocket. He had made many phone calls and had arranged for us to get her out of there immediately. Plus: The three days were legally up. I was instructed to not say anything: let Larry the Lawyer do all the talking. We brought a bag of clothes for Cathy. She hadn’t seen or talked to anyone outside of her custody or that building since she went for a walk that night. The lawyer confirmed that the City of Houston had a legal right to do everything they’d done so far and/or had threatened to do.
In the Chief Doctor’s office, Larry the Lawyer signed papers and heads were nodded. While all this stuff was going on, another nurse asked me if I wanted to see Cathy, “Upstairs”. When the nurse and I got off the elevator, all I could think of was the b/w movie, The Snake Pit, plus excerpts from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (yeah). It was that hard to grok. Literally, inmates were wandering the old grey-green halls with high ceilings, totally zoned, wearing grey hospital smocks, and/or bathrobes, and paper slippers. Shuffling slowly. One in five was mumbling, one in ten babbling. Each green “room” door had a hole cut in it with a little green hatch that opened and closed at face level. We came up to this one door and the nurse open the little hatch and she said Cathy was in there. And there she was in a grey hospital smock sitting on the edge of a bare army cot, bare feet on an old, linoleum-covered floor, a metal grate over a pebbled-glass window so you couldn’t see out of it. She looked totally drained. Paint peeled off large swatches of the wall; no discernable colors anywhere. It was like a scene from Titicutt Follies, a documentary about a horrible little mental hospital in the small town of Titicutt, New York.
She came right up to the face hole and whispered, “Get me out of here.” She was completed exhausted.
I told her we have McMurtry’s lawyer downstairs and he’s getting her out right now. I asked her if she got the notes and flowers I’d sent. She said, “No”.
“Any messages from anybody? Any contact?”
“They didn’t tell you we were looking for you? That we knew you were here a day-and-a-half ago? That I’d been here twice?”
“No. Just get me out of here.”
The nurse said I had to leave. I told Cathy she’ll be out in less than an hour, and I was taken back to the lobby. The lawyer said everything’s ready but, since they were releasing Cathy to my custody, I had to go to the office to sign custody papers and then we can all leave. I was led to the office. It wasn’t really “custody” papers. It was a legal document saying that Cathy Casamo was given into my custody and therefore it was my responsibility to have Cathy Casamo out of the State of Texas within 24 hours or we’d both be arrested. We were Undesirable. They didn’t say why. I asked what was wrong with Cathy? Why they had to keep her so long?
“She was psychotic. She was having psychotic episodes.”
“You mean she was angry? What does that mean?”
“It’s hard to define in layman’s terms. Psychosis is a very general medical term that covers a vast array of mental problems so it’s really difficult to define simply or succinctly.”
He wasn’t going to tell me. They brought Cathy into the room. She was dressed in the clothes we had brought her, her hair was combed, no shoes. She looked like anyone would look if they’d been on acid, got in a fight with the police and spent three days awake in an old, southern mental institution being tested for every drug under the sun and asked every question there is warmed over.
She leaned down and again whispered in my ear, “Get me out”. I signed the paper and Cathy and I walked out to the lobby where Larry and Larry were waiting. I was never told what exactly the matter was with Cathy or why the police sent her here or why they held her incommunicado for 3 long days. Cathy was strangely quiet and all Larry and the lawyer wanted to do was to get her out of there so we headed for the door – which is when this young nurse came running up waving a folder and saying,
“Excuse me, sir. We need one more blood sample before she leaves.”
Cathy froze in her tracks and said in a startlingly strong voice, “No. No more. They’ve taken enough.”
So, I said, “She said no. So, no. No blood.”
The head nurse said to the lawyer, “Then she’s not leaving.”
Larry the Lawyer said, as nicely and as calmly as he could, “Cathy, let them take the blood and we can all go home.”
Cathy sat down on a wooden bench, folded her arms and said, “No.”
So I said, “Hey, look. Obviously she doesn’t want to do it, so that’s it. No.”
So the nurse said to two nearby very muscular male nurses – who’d obviously been bred for this job, “We need to take one more blood sample before she leaves. Miss, would you go with these two gentlemen, please?”
Cathy said, very loudly, “No! They’ve taken enough! No.”
The nurse nodded to the two males in white: they grabbed Cathy, one to an arm, and started dragging her away. Larry grabbed my one arm and the lawyer put his hand on my opposite shoulder and said very close to my ear, “Don’t. Don’t do anything. Let them take the blood. We’ve got to get Cathy out of here. They can keep you here for 3 days, I can’t stop them, and I can’t go through this again for you.”
Cathy screamed as loud as she could as they dragged her down the hall and into a room. The door closed and the yelling abruptly stopped. (She later told me they just threw her on the bed, put a pillow over her face, held her down and took the blood). About a silent minute went by, the door opened, a very exhausted Cathy was drag-carried back to us, deposited back on the wooden bench, and the nurse said to Larry’s Lawyer: “Thank you. She can go now.”
Larry’s lawyer drove Cathy, me and Larry back to Larry’s house. Cathy didn’t speak a word the whole way back. That last little bit of blood taking had walloped her bad. We were concerned. Back at the house we celebrated but Cathy was very quiet. She wanted to see Katy. Everybody agreed that was a great idea. I remember, later that eve, during the last dinner at Larry’s house, there was a lot of food and wine and whatever, but Cathy just sat on the back porch and petted Larry’s Dog. Was it the cops, the arrest, the LSD, The asylum, the blood-taking, the exhaustion, the bus trip, all of it, some of it, which,…?
It was the same on the flight back. She came out of it a bit when she saw Katy, but it took a while.
--Larry Hankin, Marina del Rey, 4.3.10
continued on the
Stark Gets Off The Bus
By Larry McMurtry
from Spit in the Ocean #7
"The tremors struck Houston on a fine spring morning in 1964, when Ken called and said they were coming to see me; little did I know that the breeze of the future was about to blow through my quiet street. A very few minutes later there it came, the bus whose motto was FURTHER, and whose occupants probably indulged in a bit of drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll, as well as almost continuous movie-making and a good deal of rubbernecking as they sped across America. There were Pranksters sitting on top, waving at my startled neighbors with Day-Glo hands. Ken was plalying a flute. Living legend Neal
Cassady - who had inspired both On The Road and Allen Ginsberg's beautiful poem The Green Automobile - was at the wheel. My son James, aged two, was sitting in the yard in his diapers when the bus stopped and a naked lady ran out and grabbed him. It was Stark Naked (later shortened to Stark), who, being temporarily of a disordered mind, mistook him for her little girl. James, in diapers, had no objection to naked people, and the neighbors, most of them staid Republicans, took this event in stride; It was the Pranksters who were shocked.
To that point virtually every moment of the trip had been filmed, but there was Stark, wearing not a stitch, and the Pranksters were not camera-ready. I soon coached Stark inside, where she rapidly took seven showers. Neal Cassady came in, said not a word, went to sleep, and didn't stir until the next day, when it was time to leave.
The Pranksters, at this stage only on the road a few days, were extremely appealing. They were young, they were beautiful, they were fresh, and they were friendly. My neighbors at once adopted them; soon cookies were being baked and doughnuts fetched. I was glad to see the Keseys but also nervous. Who knew what Stark would do when she finished taking showers? The Kens, Kesey and Babbs, parked a mysterious jar in my kitchen cabinet - I didn't investigate but I suslpect we'd all be just getting out of jail now if that jar had fallen into official hands.
I never got a solid count of Pranksters on that visit, but there were enough of them to cover most of the floor space in my small house. In the night, despite my vigilance, Stark slipped away, having no idea what city or state she was in. The police found her and at once popped her into what Carl, the Billy Bob Thornton character in Sling Blade,
calls the 'nervous hospital'.
In the morning the Pranksters - who would soon be advising America to tear up their schedules and embrace spontaneity and disorder - remembered that they had a schedule: Ken's book party for Sometimes a Great Notion was happening in New York in only a few days. They lingered long enought for Ken to teach James his first word - 'ball' - before hurrying off, Cassady again at the wheel...
This smooth departure left me, my lawyer, and Stark's lovelorn boyfriend to extract Stark from the nervous hospital. It didn't help that all our first names were Larry, but in time, we got her out. The boyfriend was screamed at and driven off. My lawyer advised me to get her on the next plane to San Francisco, which happened to be the red-eye. In the airport, with several hours to wait, I asked her if she was hungry and she said she might eat a grilled cheese sandwich. She ate $78 worth, a big meal for an airport restaurant in 1964. As she munched she slowly regained a measure of her sanity, enough of it that when her boyfriend straggled up, the picture of woe, she meekly took his hand and got on the plane."
with the gracious permission of Larry McMurtry
CLICK HERE->CONTINUED ON PAGE 2<-CLICK HERE