News & Politics

Ken Kesey Reappears, Is Busted

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October 27, 1966, Vol. XII, No. 2

Kesey Reappears, Is Jailed in California

Ken Kesey has been busted.

The elusive novelist, who returned from exile in Mexico two weeks ago to remain in the U.S. “as a fugitive and as salt in the wounds of J. Edgar Hoover,” is now in the Redwood City Jail in California. He is charged with possession of marijuana.

Kesey, 31, was captured by FBI agents after a Hollywood-style chase on Bayshore Freeway south of San Francisco. His truck was forced to the shoulder and the agents pursued him on foot.

Kesey has been the subject of considerable speculation since his 1939 bus was found on a desolate stretch of California beach in January. He left in the bus what was construed as a suicide note. Since then, word leaked from associates that the novelist had fled to Mexico. The FBI had applied for Kesey’s extradition.

He returned to San Francisco two weeks ago and appeared on an interview taped at a secret location, on KGO-TV. He explained that he had been travelling through Mexico in a bus.

Kesey, whose “Acid Test” psychedelic-discotheque enterprise has become California folklore, had previously disclosed plans to hold an “Acid Test Commencement” for 7500 persons, complete with caps and gowns and masks. He would attend, also masked. “I think it’s time we graduated from acid,” Kesey was quoted as saying. “LSD has reached the stature where Babbitt begins to take it. It used to be Hell’s Angels and Bohemians, but now the son of the hardware store owner in Des Moines is taking it.”

Allen Ginsberg, a close friend of Kesey, was “aghast” at his arrest. “He is sufficiently distinguished as a literary man for his arrest to be viewed as ideological persecution,” the poet said. “If this man of letters is to spend years in jail, no Lionel Trilling or Arthur Sulzberger will be safe in their beds. Gentlemen, this means war,” Ginsberg declared. “Arm yourselves with ‘Leaves of Grass,’ immediately.”

Kesey is the author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion,” published by Viking Press.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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