Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 13, 1944: Lucien Carr stabbed David Kammerer twice in the heart with a boy scout knife

Lucien Carr, who was born in 1925 in New York City, was a key member of the original New York City circle of the Beat Generation writers in the 1940s.

In 1939, at the age of 14, Carr met the 14 years older David Kammerer, who was leading a youth group, of which Carr was a member, and became friends with him. Kammerer had a profound influence on the course of Carr`s life. Over the next five years, Kammerer pursued Carr, showing up wherever the young man was enrolled at school. Carr would later insist, as would his friends and family, that Kammerer had been hounding Carr sexually with a predatory persistence that would today be considered stalking. Carr moved quickly from school to school and Kammerer followed him to each one. After a suicide attemp while he was studying in Chicago, Carrs mother Marian enrolled him at Columbia University which was close to her own home. She couldn`t protect her son from David Kammerer, who quit his job and followed Lucien to New York City.
At Columbia, Carr became friends with Allen Ginsberg and would soon introduce Ginsberg to his St. Louis friends, William Burroughs and David Kammerer. Soon afterwards, he introduced Kerouac to Ginsberg and Burroughs. Thus, it is through Carr that the three primary Beat Generation writers met each other. Ginsberg was plainly fascinated by Carr, whom he viewed as a self-destructive egoist but also as a possessor of real genius.
On August 13, 1944 Carr and Kammerer went for a walk ending up in Riverside Park on Manhattan's Upper West Side. According to Carr’s version of the night, he and Kammerer were resting near 115th street when Kammerer made yet another sexual advance. When Carr rejected it, he said, Kammerer assaulted him physically, and being larger, gained the upper hand. In desperation and panic, Carr said, he stabbed the older man, using a Boy Scout knife from his St. Louis childhood. Carr then tied his assailant’s hands and feet, wrapped Kammerer’s belt around his arms, weighted the body with rocks, and dumped it in the nearby Hudson River. After seeking advice from Burroughs and Kerouac, Carr turned himself in. He was convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter and sent to the Elmira Reformatory where he stayed for two years before being paroled.
Carr died at George Washington University Hospital in January 2005 after a long battle with bone cancer

(from left to right: William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, and the poet Allen Ginsberg in New York City, 1953)

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