The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats

by Johnny Depp for Rolling Stone | January 1999

I had the honor of meeting and getting to know Allen Ginsberg for a short time. The initial meeting was at a soundstage in New York City, where we were both doing a bit in the film The United States of Poetry. I was reading a piece from Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues, the “211th Chorus,” and as I was rehearsing it for camera, I could see a familiar face out of the corner of my eye: “F** me,” I thought, “that’s Ginsberg!” We were introduced, and he then immediately launched into a blistering rendition of said chorus, so as to show me the proper way for it to be done.

“As Jack would have done it!” he emphasized.

I was looking straight down the barrel at one of the most gifted and important poets of the Twentieth Century, and with all the truth and guts I could muster up, I said in response, “Yeah, but I’m not reading it as him, I’m reading it as me. It’s my interpretation of his piece.”

Silence — a LONNNGG silence. Tick tock tick tock tick tockā€¦

I was smiling nervously, my eyes sort of wavering between his face and the floor. I sucked down about half of my five-thousandth cigarette of the day in one monster drag and filled the air around us with my poison. It was at that point that I remembered his “Don’t Smoke!” poem … oops … too f**ing late now, boy, you done stepped in s*! I looked at Ginsberg, he looked at me, and the director looked at us both as the crew looked at him, and it was quite a little moment, for a moment there. Allen’s eyes squinted ever so slightly and then began to twinkle like bright lights. He smiled that mystic smile, and I felt as though God himself had forgiven me a dreadful sin.

This article has been edited for girlsspeakgeek.com. The complete story appeared in Rolling Stone, Jan.1999.

January 1, 1999 | Interview , | this post contains affiliate links