FEATURE

The Last Beat

A murder in Riverside Park changed the lives of a group of Columbia undergrads. Did it change literature as well?

by David J. Krajicek ’85JRN Published Winter 2012-13
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Although Ginsberg and Kerouac occasionally visited Carr at UPI headquarters, in the Daily News Building at 220 East 42nd Street, Carr’s UPI colleagues tell me he rarely talked about his old Beat associations. Were he alive, they say, Carr would cringe at the notoriety that the upcoming film might bring.

“Lou” Carr, the UPI man, seemed to have little in common with the dreamy young Beat sage. He was a rough-hewn, tabloid-tinged editor who encouraged writers to tug at readers’ emotions. “Make ’em horny,” he would say. “Make ’em cry.” Like many journalists of that age, Carr was a heavy drinker. Unlike some, he quit before it killed him.

“I believe this boy can be rehabilitated, and I would recommend that he have the attention of a skilled psychiatrist.”

A 2003 history of UPI describes Carr as “the soul of the news service” who “rewrote, repaired, recast, and revived more big stories on UPI’s main newspaper circuit, the A-wire, than anyone before or after him.”

When UPI moved its headquarters from New York to Washington, DC, in 1982, Carr moved, too — from a loft apartment in SoHo to a boat moored in the Potomac. He died of complications from bone cancer in 2005.

Carr’s former UPI colleague Wilborn Hampton crafted an apt epitaph in a Times obituary. He called Carr, the former freethinking Columbia freshman, “a literary lion who never roared.”

 

David J. Krajicek ’85JRN, a former professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, is the author of five books. He writes the “Justice Story” feature for the New York Daily News.

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