ON DVD: 'The Beat Hotel'


By Jerry Portwood

A fascinating documentary about Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, et al in a Parisian hotel that was the epicenter of Beat creativity

Photo: Allen Ginsberg as seen in The Beat Hotel. Photo by Harold Chapman, 1957

Alan Govenar's documentary—which focuses on Allen Ginsberg & Co. when they fled the obscenity trials surrounding the publication of Howl to a small hotel in Paris's Latin Quarter—is now, thankfully, available on DVD. They were soon joined by William Burroughs, Ian Somerville, and Brion Gysin, so it was a regular gay Beat flop house. As it's explained, the Beat Hotel was run by Madame Rachou, and it was "a hotbed of creativity and permissiveness, where Burroughs finished Naked Lunch; Ginsberg began his poem Kaddish; Somerville and Gysin invented the Dream Machine; Corso wrote some of his greatest poems; and Harold Norse wrote a novella, aptly called The Beat Hotel." This is a must-see for every Beat completist and anyone interested in the history of queer creativity in the 20th century. Find the DVD and watch the trailer for the film below.