High Times Greats: Interview With Herbert Huncke

in Culture

Happy birthday to the late, great Herbert Huncke (1915-1996). Here’s Steven Hager’s interview with the beat pioneer from the September, 1990 edition of High Times.

Back in the 1950s, when Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs or Neal Cassady returned to New York City after a trip on the road, the first person they looked up was Herbert Huncke, a streetwise hustler who could usually be found hanging out in Times Square. Huncke served as mentor and guide to the Beat Generation and, according to Kerouac, even invented the term “beat.” In 1990, Paragon House published Huncke’s autobiography, Guilty of Everything, an entertaining trip through the drug subculture, from Prohibition-era Chicago to New York in the ’60s. Huncke came to the offices of High Times to discuss the book. Although addicted to hard drugs for much of his life, he was surprisingly chipper, witty, and entertaining.

High Times: When and where were you born?

Herbert Huncke: In Greenfield, Massachusetts, on January 9th, 1915. My father was from Chicago. He had a conservative German-Jewish background but I didn’t find out he was Jewish until I was 15. He always denied it. My mother was of English and French descent and was from a fairly well-off family. Her father was a cattle baron.

HT: You started running away from home at an early age.

HH: I started when I was 12. I went off the see the world and got as far as Chicago.

HT: When did you first smoke pot? Do you remember the first experience?

HH: No, I can’t recall the first time. I do remember the feeling of hilarity I got from it. One image rather clear in my mind is the feeling that my face was frozen into a smile I couldn’t break. You could buy six sticks for …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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