Carolyn Garcia

interview by David Gans 1/29/97
Oakland, California

 Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia was victorious in her lawsuit against the estate of her late ex-husband, Jerry Garcia. Following the guitarist's death in August 1995, Garcia's widow and third wife, Deborah Koons Garcia, had stopped making the payments that Garcia had agreed to in a very short agreement he and Carolyn wrote themselves and signed in 1993. The judge in Marin County agreed with Carolyn's position and ordered the estate to perform on the contract and reimburse all of Mountain Girl's legal expenses in the case.

MG asked me if I'd like to interview her for the Grateful Dead Hour. The following is a complete transcript of that conversation. -- D.G.


Garcia: I just want to get some stuff out there because we've had all this publicity from the trial, and it's, like, confusing, at best.

First of all, I want people to know that I brought suit against the estate -- most people don't understand that -- because the agreement that Jerry and I had was not being honored by the estate. And the only way I could get them to honor it was to go through this process -- which, by the way, I had no idea about when I went into it. I was naive. I didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't know it was going to turn into this media circus.

Gans: Did you have any control over whether it was going to be on Court TV?

Garcia: No. I did not know it was going to be on Court TV until I walked in there the first day of the trial.

Gans: How weird that the parties to a suit wouldn't have any ability to...

Garcia: Well, apparently it's a first amendment thing. Court TV has fought this out, and they've got every attorney in the United States on their side [laughs]. And that's it, you know? You can't fight them. They are City Hall.

Gans: In the sense that trials are supposed to be a matter of public record, it's really only a virtual extension of that, I suppose, to make it available on a cable channel. Since any of us could go in and take a seat in the courtroom and watch it, I'm sure their theory is that "All we're doing is facilitating the open courtroom."

Garcia: That's exactly it. It's more than a theory, that's their practice. They have insisted upon their right to do so and, basically, the judicial system in the country has rolled over and said okay, rather than get into a projected fight about it. Yes, people have a right to see what's going on in a public courtroom. And... if you're going to have a closed hearing or in chambers, that stuff is not going to be on TV. But they just keep the camera running the whole time that you're in there, and at first, it's a tremendous distraction to be on camera. But then it becomes a part of the struggle to keep focused in the courtroom is to deal with the guy over there recording your expressions and your voice for the whole thing. I did not anticipate any of that. My attorney, bless his heart, didn't tell me that this was going to happen. He did mention it in passing a couple of days before the thing, but it wasn't said in such a way that I locked onto it as an issue that might come up. So it was a bit of a shock. And also, the way the courtroom was set up, I was sitting on the opposite side of the room from the camera with the kids in the gallery behind me. The opposition was sitting right under the camera, so it was kind of one-sided coverage.

Gans: Your troupe was frequently on camera, and Deborah [Koons Garcia] was never on camera.

Garcia: Yeah.

Gans: And [Estate attorney Paul] Camera was viewed from a sort of reverse three-quarter angle.

Garcia: Right. And I asked the people of Court TV why they chose that position.

Marin County has a very unique courthouse that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; it was one of his last projects. The rooms are round. Weird things happen in round rooms. If you're in there for long enough, you feel like you're in a spaceship, for starters. A round room with no windows, with these weird, round lighting fixtures up above it that kind of flickered off and on eerily -- you know, they would come and go. I think that everything for this courthouse has to be custom-made, because nothing is regular. There's no square things, except for the doors themselves. Everything else is rounded.

And the sound -- the whole center of the room is a dead spot. When you say something, it's like it just goes into empty space and nothing comes back. So, it's very quiet in there, except for right around the outer edge, where there's kind of a sibilant hissing going on. I told my kids to stay out of that outer ring of seats, because the energy out there was... terrible.

Gans: Plus, I think sound, if you say something there, it kind of travels around the perimeter of the room and doesn't go into the middle.

Garcia: It doesn't seem to go across the middle very well, either.

Gans: Seems like, uh, eavesdropping possibilities.

Garcia: So, basically, the attorneys were sort of shouting to make themselves be heard, and then right in the middle of the thing, my attorney got a horrible case of laryngitis...

Gans: Boy, did he ever!

Garcia: He sounded like he was drowning as he was talking. That was some of our most important arguments and testimony, too, so it was hard to make anything out of it.

Gans: Let's backtrack a little bit.

I'm sort of uncomfortable with the whole nature of this thing having been made public, and I can't imagine that it was a thrill to you that that was going to happen, either. But since it all became tremendously public, a huge amount of stuff that was the subject of rumors for years in Grateful Dead land suddenly became a matter of public record. That must have been kind of bizarre for you.

Garcia: Well, it's like having a hold of something that's out of control. I remember one time I had a calf that grew and got big, and it was time to load it in the truck and move it, and I got a rope around its neck and then I foolishly held the other end of the rope. It yanked me down the road on my face [laughs]. You know, and it was kind of like that. There's a time when you know you really should be letting go of it at this point, but you can't 'cause you're going to lose the whole thing. It got into that juggernaut aspect, especially with the media thing that was going on out in the hall. So you come out of this courtroom and there's five reporters wantin' to talk to you about it as well. Plus, I had the girls [daughters Sunshine Kesey, Annabelle Garcia and Theresa Garcia] with me, and they were not unwilling to talk, and so this whole thing turned into sort of affair of rumors and innuendo flashing back and forth between the print reporters and the TV camera and what was going on in the courtroom. I began to feel really, really trapped by it. By about the third day, I could see that this thing was completely out of my control. I just had to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Gans: You could have made the decision not to talk. You must have weighed that issue very carefully before deciding to go ahead and be part of the public spectacle, as well.

Garcia: Well, going into the thing, I didn't imagine that it would be like this. I imagined something a lot more discreet and discretionary -- not that the public would be excluded, but that there wasn't... I never thought there was going to be a TV camera in the courtroom or that the college professors, the law professors from Harvard, were going to have a symposium about what had just happened on Court TV, or that people were going to be discussing my case in faraway places. That certainly never occurred to me, and it's amusing, but I must say I haven't looked at any of that footage. I have not looked at myself on TV. I haven't seen any of it. My attorney wisely commanded me to have a media blackout during the period of the trial, just so I could get some sleep.

There's something so strange about being in court and having somebody... first, asking you questions in a sort of negative way. [You're] defending yourself, basically, and then, that becomes part of your inner dialogue with yourself. And it's a semantic game. What you say may hang you, and so you have to watch every word you say. It's paying so much attention in the moment that you get really tired. But then it enters your dream life and you dream about it all night long. And you wake up the next day and you have to go to court, you've been dreaming all night long, and it's a terrible merry-go-round. And even when it was over, it was still going on inside of me for two or three weeks afterward. It's only now that I can say that I'm dreaming about something else besides being in court.

Gans: I have Court TV here on my cable system, and I found it, of course, very compelling stuff, even though it was incredibly tedious. There's something about... it's people that you know and you care about, and it's a story that's important to you. And even though it's playing out at the stately pace of a glacier marching to the sea, it's still something you sort of can't avoid paying attention to.

As things went by, it seemed that Court TV began with very little knowledge beyond the initial complaints, whatever the initial court documents were. And their coverage seemed to become much more sympathetic to your side as things went by when some of the experts began to ask what seemed like obvious questions to people like me, like "Why is this case happening this way?" and "Why are these things in doubt?" and "Why is the estate's attorney being so violent in his accusations and stuff here?" It seemed like the more the Court TV people found out about you, for example, and the more about the situation... I mean, I had the opportunity to give a little background to one of the reporters of Court TV, and she seemed to be completely clueless as to what was going on until she heard from people like me.

Garcia: Right. And the cluelessness of the media is, I think, partly a function of age. They're all pretty young, they're all from the East Coast, and they really had not done any homework as far as what the case consisted of and who the characters were. So they were entirely dependent upon what they found out during the course of the case. The video crew that Court TV sends out is just a local crew; they contract for that, so the camera people were just really nice young people with a contract to produce the video. They did have a reporter or two standing by who was paying attention to what was happening on their feed and commenting and doing the updates and so on. I realized that this was just grist for their mill, but I think I realized that kind of late in the game. Up to that point, I tried to fill them in a little bit on the background. When they came and asked me questions, I told 'em what I thought and I gave them some history. So I felt like I kind of helped bring 'em along into some of the answers about our life story as it was.

But I think that the case itself was just based on my need to resolve this issue about the marital settlement agreement that Jerry and I made in 1993. It was a lot of money, but it was a lot of money over time. And it was the agreement that we made, and he was honoring it before he died, and both of us had gone on to other relationships, kind of happily, and there was never any question about it during the period that he was still alive. But when he passed away, his estate and his executors ended the contract unilaterally. And that was what my case was about: to have it ratified in court.

The reason that Jerry and I made an agreement outside of the legal system was because we were afraid of just this kind of stuff. Neither of us wanted to go to court; we didn't want to submit ourselves to scrutiny. What I didn't know before I went to court was that there's a divorce industry, a civil justice industry in this country. And it's got a lot of people that make their living performing services for people that are undergoing these kinds of disputes -- over marriage, over property, over finances, over agreements that were made and broken, relationships gone bad. There's a whole culture there that I was blissfully unaware of until I got into the courtroom. And some of it has a pretty negative aspect. There's a tremendous amount of money involved, and everything -- the courthouse, the bailiffs, the judges, the attorneys... I'd been unaware of this, but there's a lot of people they call. There were these two guys brought into our case called "forensic accountants," which I was told we had to have.

Gans: I loved that -- it reminded me of a Saturday Night Live thing.

Garcia: Well. I think Saturday Night Live should do a skit about it, because it's the funniest thing in the world! The forensic accountants are paid for their testimony. And the judge, of course, has seen these guys lots of times before. Every time a divorce case comes to court, each side will hire one of these guys to present their side of the financial picture. And so you get a very wide range from these two characters. They are looking at the same sets of figures related to money and assets and so on, and they come up with totally different conclusions, depending on who they're working for. And then they give these logical-sounding arguments... It was hilarious! I had no idea that these people existed, but the really horrific part of this was that not only do they exist, but they're making huge amounts of money off of it -- thousands of dollars per case and hundreds and hundreds of dollars per hour. And it was very difficult to sit in the courtroom and know that the clock is ticking. You're looking at your watch; the meter's running. Everybody in the courtroom is making an hourly except for me [laughs]. I'm paying for a good deal of it, and the estate is paying for a good deal of it, and it's just the process that's so expensive. Just the financial part of it is so expensive that I really recommend that anybody out there that's contemplating anything like this think twice! Try to make your deals outside of the courtroom. Don't get in there unless you absolutely have to.

Gans: Conversely, though, it could be said that if you had had an attorney enshrining your agreement in proper language, the ambiguities that gave rise to some of the controversy would never have happened.

Garcia: That's true. And there was quite a bit of work being done on that during the intervening time... Jerry and I signed our agreement, and then there was going to be a further contract that settled those ambiguities, but that didn't get finalized.

Gans: Was there any reason given when your payments were cut off?

Garcia: No. Not that I know of.

Gans: And it emerged in the course of the coverage that the estate had to cut off a number of things, like Theresa's car payments and things like that.

Garcia: Right, and I think that there's always a period of readjustment when somebody passes away that's got a substantial estate. One of the problems was that Jerry had a lot of claimants, and some of the claims were, I think, specious. It was unfortunate that everybody sort of rushed in there with claims, and it made it look a lot worse than it was. Basically, Jerry's estate is going to have quite a bit of value over time, and I don't think that taking an adversarial attitude toward the people that were Jerry's close associates and friends during his lifetime is a very good way to go with settling some of this stuff. The adversarial attitude is really expensive.

And I'd just like to point out that Jerry himself was a collaborator; he did all his work in concert with other people. I think that the estate made an error in sort of like shutting everything off and not wanting to negotiate with people. I think that that's changing..

Gans: It seems pretty clear from what I heard of the decision, that the court very much agreed with you about that: Jerry was honoring his word to you, and he had performed consistently on that contract, and it didn't seem to make any sense for the estate to decide that it was not a valid contract.

Garcia: Right. The judge found for every single one of our points and actually even awarded us attorneys' fees and costs. So, that's like a full victory. It's unfortunate that it happened at all, but it also put me through a number of changes that I think I wouldn't have gone through. I mean, I might have just retired up to Oregon and never paid any attention to any of this stuff again if this hadn't happened. So, frankly, in my heart, I have a good deal of gratitude to the estate for making me jump through all these hoops, because it's changed me. It's made me a different person. I'm a lot more alert and aware, and I've had to go back through all my old papers and documents and filing cabinets and boxes full of mementos and so on for the document searches that led up to this trial for the deposition period and the fact-finding period. It forced me to reassess who I was and who we were and what our relationship was all about and our family history, and go through all the old photos... It was an incredible process. It really took me about a year to do this. I've only just now started to put that stuff away again.

Gans: Did you get to talk about what you thought was important when you were on the stand?

Garcia: Only marginally. Unfortunately, my period on the stand was mostly taken up with answering the questions of the estate's attorney, and he, uh, you know, he was trying to win, and he was trying to get me flustered and, basically, undermine anything I said. It's like being stuck with the vice principal you can't stand for weeks on end in his office. You know, just being grilled over and over about minutia and detail of your life until pretty soon, you don't want to say anything at all, 'cause the minute you say anything, the guy's going to jump all over you. It's a struggle to present yourself in that kind of an atmosphere. It's very, very difficult, because you get so caught up in resistance to the process that you forget to make your own points about the case you're presenting. And sometimes, you have to wait five days to get your chance to say anything, and people can get up on the stand and say anything they want about you. (She takes a breath.) And you have to keep your mouth shut for four or five days until it's your turn.

Gans: Were there times when you wanted to stand up and shout out in the courtroom?

Garcia: Well, the thought crosses your mind, but it's impossible. You can't do that stuff in the courtroom. You've got to keep your outer person and your inner person in pretty good control. I liken it to rolling rocks up a hill, and sometimes the hill gets really steep, and the rock's extra, extra heavy, any you've gotta just keep going a little step at a time. And you don't even get a chance to look at the size of the hill ahead of you; you've gotta just keep rolling, you know? And you roll and you roll and roll, and finally, all of a sudden, one day, it's over, and the judge made the decision. I don't think I was looking ahead that much to the decision. I was just glad it was over. And I was fully prepared to lose. There was no way I could go into that thing and not be fully prepared to lose.

Gans: That would've been a very expensive proposition.

Garcia: Oh, yes! That in itself would have cost me a lot.

I was prepared to lose. I had sort of mentally run myself through what would happen if I'd lose everything: "Well, I've got just enough money in the bank to pay the attorneys, go away and do other things and try to make some money and carry on with life."

You know, it makes you count all your blessings, every one, and we've been incredibly blessed in the finest sense of the word. We've been unbelievably lucky, the Garcia family, and amazing things have happened, and the more I thought in that vein, the happier I felt. And it made me realize that win, lose or draw, things are the way they have been. History is what it is. Lots of cool stuff has already gone down, and I don't have to feel bad about a thing. So, I think the mental preparation that I did to go into this court case was fabulous. It was like writin' a master's thesis...

Gans: Wow.

Garcia: And it's left me a different person. I'm a lot more careful about what I say. (She starts to laugh.) For instance, the English language takes on a whole new shading once you've been through four weeks of court testimony. You watch what you say, and you consider the meaning and the thrust of your words and the possible interpretations of 'em before you say 'em. That takes time, but you can get up to speed with that. It's fascinating to me to have gone through it and have won, and I'm grateful to the judge. But at the same time, I also feel that there is this tremendous interest from the news media, everything from People magazine to "Hard Copy" was hammering on our door. And we really turned down most of it. Some of them have gone ahead and done their own programming from the Court TV footage, but just the whole idea of having that family history aired out for the grist of the big commercial mill of news, of news coverage, it's very distasteful to me. And there's really no place for me there. I'm not comfortable with that. And it was hard to get everybody to shut up. That was very difficult to do.

Gans: And the media have to distill this stuff down into facile, clever little headlines and short captions and things. To those of us who are more involved in the culture from which this thing came, knowing the immense complexities of it and knowing the richness of the characters involved, it was really infuriating to see these little one-paragraph blurbs in the mainstream media where it was boiled down to two, you know, jealous women fighting for dominance in the memory of Jerry... I mean, they oversimplified it and made it into a cartoon.

Garcia: Well, they focused on that, and that was unfortunate. It was also unfortunate that they were able to get anything out of me about it at all, because, you know, I sort of fell into with them there for a minute, and I was sorry later. They focused on that because that was newsworthy. And despite all the other newsworthy aspects of this, that was the one they decided to play up.

Gans: It's sexier than contract law.

Garcia: Exactly. It gave them something to chew on, and they milked it. I felt milked after that. They stopped calling about four days after the judgment came in -- that was it. It ended, and I was so relieved that they stopped.

I just felt that there was a lot of potential for abuse there. When some crazy celebrity status gets you into the news, it's very hard to get back out again and go back and hide some more, but I'm doing that. And I want to be in control of those things -- I don't want that stuff to control me or my life. I didn't like it that the news media chose the feud aspect to sell their documentaries or whatever the heck they were doing, or the newspapers.

Gans: Even though you were, more or less, the sympathetic character in that presentation.

Garcia: But I didn't set out to make myself a sympathetic character. I just was me. They drew their own conclusions from it. I think that whatever happened is what happened, and I'm so relieved that that part of it is over, and I'm refusing to do any more about it. I'm talking to you about it today because I want to sort of clear up in anybody's mind just what was that that just happened, and is there going to be any good to come out of it. Well, the good that I'd like to have come out of it is, you know, dear people, don't enter the court of law naively. Go in there and see what's going on. If you're going to file suit against somebody, or you're going to take somebody to court or do any of these things, you'd really better know what the moral and ethical consequences of that are -- and also the financial ones, because it's staggering! And if you walk into this thing without knowing what you're doing, you run the risk of hurting a lot of your personal relationships and damaging your inner self. It's very hard, and there's a lot of people who make their living in that world. They're rats, and they're sort of living in this world of conflict.

Gans: Let's talk a little bit about the way other people got thrust into that. I'm thinking of watching employees and partners and friends -- Sue Stephens, Phil Lesh, Steve Parish -- thrust into the middle of this thing. That must have been a horribly uncomfortable position for each of them as individuals, and probably for you, too, watching them have to do it.

Garcia: Well, I didn't call any of them. My side didn't call any witnesses -- I was the only witness for my side, except for the forensic accountant. It was really tough. I felt terrible for Sue, 'cause she's such a sweet person and completely innocent of any real connection to it at all.

Gans: And yet, when she was on the stand, there was this big thing made of a conversation you'd had with her, where you had advised her to shred --

Garcia: Oh, right. Well, I think I might've said something about that, because basically, when we were doing the fact-finding part of this case -- it's called the discovery process -- and a tremendous number of documents appeared from our attorney's filing cabinet. This has been our tax attorney for the last 20 years, and all this stuff came out on the table. Well, I thought that stuff was covered by attorney-client privilege. It was all his notes and his little diagrams and handwritten stuff, and anybody can look at that and draw whatever conclusions they want from it. In other words, there's no explanations that go with these things. They're just an attorney's notes to himself, based on conversations he had. A lot of the stuff was undated. Some went all the way back to the mid-'70s... Shoot, you know -- what are you going to do with all this stuff? These are things that should not have been in there, that should have been long gone.

I think I did say something to Sue about the number of documents that had been produced, that I had no knowledge of or understanding of or connection with, that were being used to create a scenario where I cheated and lied and somehow defrauded Jerry over a period of time, which was complete baloney! And yet, this attorney was able to somehow string together a story based on these notes from our tax attorney's filing cabinet, going way back in time. And that was very distressing to me, 'cause there's nothing you can do about that. If somebody wants to build a case against you out of these fragments, that's what they do. That's how they make their living. It's horrible to be the target of something like that.

Gans: So much of the proceedings and the commentary on Court TV seemed to be proceeding from this notion that there was this bizarre marriage between you and Jerry. And it wasn't 'til Steve Parish was on the stand that anybody cut straight through all the BS and said, "This is not a conventional society of people we were part of." I mean, Steve hit the stand and sort of just exploded that whole point of view; it seemed like the first moment of real clarity in the proceeding, in which it was understood that it wasn't an unusual thing for people to be in committed, long-term relationships and yet not living in the same house, or that the life of a famous musician who spent more than half his time on the road would not conform to the ordinary contour of a middle-class life.

Garcia: Right. The concept that there's sort of middle-class ideal we have to conform to to be legally married -- that's not true, and a lot of celebrity relationships, of entertainers and so on, they have more than one home, and wifey and family lives over here in Rhode Island and the celebrity lives in LA, because that's the way it is. And that's often just a fact of life, and that can be held against you in a divorce case if you have separate residences. And unfortunately, that came up and they made it a big part of their case.

Gans: Well, isn't it ironic, though, and did it ever come out in court that the last Mrs. Garcia had a separate home from her late husband?

Garcia: Yes, it did. That was asked and answered a couple of times and that's -- again, that's typical. And I don't think that anybody should make too much of it, because that's kind of just the way things worked. [Jerry] liked to have a private place to go to that was his. I think that, at the same time, he wanted to have his friends around him.

You know the whole period where my kids were little, there was a lot of weirdness going on in California around the Grateful Dead scene. There was a lot of very strange people who thought nothing of dropping by the house at four a.m. to seek admittance or to seek your opinion on some wild topic or other, and would knock on the door. I totally couldn't stand that. I became security-conscious.

We had a couple of incidents that led up to my getting very nervous about living in Marin County. Everybody knew where we lived, and it was very difficult to maintain the premises in a secure fashion, because there was that whole big anxiety out there about Jerry. I couldn't deal with it after a while. It was too hard to deal with around the kids, and it became very necessary to seek sort of a retreat position for them when they were young, so that they wouldn't be into that thing of, if they wanted to go somewhere, call a limo. I can't stand that. That's not me. If they want to go somewhere, they can ride their bike, you know? They're kids. And that was the essence of most of my decisions about that stuff -- how to make it right for them. Jerry had his chosen path with the Grateful Dead. Hell nor high water was going to shake him loose from that. So nothing could make that stop happening; it had a life and an energy of its own.

Sometimes I even felt crushed by that, like my needs and desires were infinitesimal compared to what the Grateful Dead or the public needed from Jerry or from the band, and so our lives were just lived in the corners and edges of all that. And it just ate up everything. Of course, we were all willing participants in that in the beginning. That is what we were trying to do, but once it reached a juggernaut status in the '70s, that became a real problem as far as how to live and how to live well and how to live ethically.

Neither Jerry nor I came from wealthy backgrounds. I think that he enjoyed his wealth more than I did. I kind of had an ethical problem, a moral problem with having too much money. When we finally did have a bunch of problems, it just created a bunch of conflict for me. And also, as a parent, it created quite a bit of conflict.

Gans: Now, I see Jerry as a guy whose public image and, at least, one of his internal images, was as a boundlessly generous man who was generous with his time, and later with his material stuff, and yet I also, in the last years in particular, saw that there was another side to that and another inner guy that was weary of that entire thing, like really bone-weary of it. I saw him do incredibly rude things to people who attempted to enter his sphere at unwelcome times. It gave me some insights into what it cost him to be that guy.

Garcia: I think that's true -- I really didn't see much of that rude guy. I know Jerry had a lot of facets to his personality. He definitely saved some of them just for his family, and some of them were for his very public aspects. He was rude so rarely in my presence that I really don't recall anything like that, so you must have seen something I never saw.

Gans: [laughs]

Garcia: But, you know, he was obviously struggling with a lot of his own personal problems, and his solution to some of that stuff was to close himself off from everybody for periods of time. That was really hard on the kids. They didn't understand that. Really, in retrospect now, I can look back at that and see that that was a hurdle that he set up that we should have been able to cross.

Gans: If you wanted to get to him --

Garcia: Well, we did want to, but the whole thing was kind of fear-inspiring. I think that if we had tried harder or had more encouragement, maybe things wouldn't have gotten as bad as they did.

Gans: You mean he did want you to leap over the moat.

Garcia: That's my guess now, but you know, hindsight is 20/20...

Gans: And there were a lot of people getting a lot of mixed signals ...

Garcia: Yes.

Gans: ... not knowing who to help over and who not to.

Garcia: And it's very confusing when you've got so many people invested in his ability to play and go out on the road and do shows. To have your life accounted for a year ahead of time in the bookings -- they booked these shows a year ahead of time. For old radical hippies like ourselves to have to be somewhere on day X at hour Y... it's terrible! You hate that! And I think that's what Jerry hated more than anything was the commitment of his time to stuff that he couldn't -- you know, at a certain point, you can't control it any more.

Gans: But that was true of a traveling musician in 1967. It wasn't quite as long term as...

Garcia: No. You would make gigs a month in advance back then.

Gans: Well, certainly by the mid-'70s, it was more long-range than that.

Garcia: No. No, no, no. The stuff fell together, you know? Stuff would come together, sometimes it would fall apart. It was shifting and changing all the time.

Gans: So when did it become --

Garcia: When it went mega... the mega-tours, I think... plus booking and touring all got a lot more locked down when they started working just for two or three different people, for Monarch and Cellar Door and BGP and so on. Those things were, you know, everything sort of got graven in stone. We became the establishment. And then everybody started taking shots at us. We were the people taking shots at the establishment for a really long time, and then that turned over. And that was a scary process, to become the musical establishment. I mean, ewwww! (She laughs.) How did that happen? This was the truly down side of success, and I feel bad for the band members, because they really got caught up in that. And I think it hurt everybody, because we had a lot of fun back when things were loose and came and went and things fell together and fell apart. It was no big deal. Suddenly, it all became such a big deal, and that's hard to live with.

Gans: I saw some of that being, as I am, a sort of emblematic Deadhead. I found in my dealings with the band that sometimes I would find myself forced to carry the baggage of thousands of Deadheads that took the band so seriously, and to whom the Grateful Dead was the single most important thing going. And it sort of became hard sometimes to deal with the band, because, you know, I became one of the point men for the invasion of their privacy and the loss of their autonomy.

Garcia: This is the importancy dialogue that we've all had a lot. It was so important to people to go to these shows. And the band recognized that and understood it innately. They understood it way back at the beginning, how important it was. We knew that. We knew it was important to people, because it was that break-out thing, the change in space, that change of mental space. And then there was the healing aspect that came along with it, and people would go to the shows for healing, for the uplift, for whatever that big cookie was that you would come away with that would put the big smile on your face. That was generated not just by the music, but also by the event. But I think it was, in large part, from the music.

Gans: Well, without the music, it wouldn't have become --

Garcia: -- it wouldn't have become an event, and that magical thing -- it just became so overwhelmingly positive and such a force of positiveness.

Gans: And then it became a burden.

Garcia: Well, at times, yeah. Terribly so. But the fact that it was a burden is no excuse for anything. I think that it's on everybody to stay polite and be excellent to each other. It's still part of the deal. Just because you're famous and a celebrity doesn't mean you have to turn into an angry person, even though sometimes it makes you angry.

My feeling about the importance of the Grateful Dead hasn't changed. It's still really important. And it's really important that people remember about what it was like before this band happened in this country. It was kind of grim.

I remember the first show we went and did in Chicago, and it was like, the late '60s, and there had been riots and the Chicago Seven... And every person backstage that wasn't one of us was a cop! There was 150 armed cops backstage! They were not even out in the audience -- they were watchin' us! And the feeling that you got from that... you get so mad, because the attitude, and it's that attitude of "These people must be controlled." You know, that controlling attitude -- that's still alive and well in this country, and it's flourishing and passing new laws every day. And it's up to people that know better and that have seen the importance of being aware and being alert to that sort of thing to keep it going.

Gans: I still can't get over how that happened in the '60s, when it became public common general knowledge that people were having fun with LSD. And that the natural course of authoritarian America was to, without any legislative due process, simply make it illegal.

Garcia: And then they've gone and made everything illegal. I mean, is there something now that isn't illegal?

Gans: Sex and coffee.

Garcia: Well, the stuff that grows hair is now over-the-counter. They've decided that's okay. That's about the only thing that hasn't become more illegal. I think a lot of that is a control issue for pharmaceutical companies who've worked very, very hard to keep things illegal so they can sell Prozac.

Gans: Hmmm...

Garcia: I really think that there's a powerful pharmaceutical lobby at work. Also, the tobacco and alcohol industries refuse to allow marijuana to become legal. We used to think that marijuana was going to become legal next year, no problem, it's going to happen. And then, everybody kind of went to sleep about it.

Gans: Yeah.

Garcia: Now, it's going to be a terribly difficult fight, and it's up to voting citizens of conscience to stand up and speak their piece about it and say how they truly feel. This is the democratic process. Unfortunately, it feels really dangerous when you're doing that. And I just want to say that anybody who can do that has got my support.


Gans: Do you have any ideas about how the Grateful Dead community can continue to do the important thing in the absence of the band touring?

Garcia: Oh, I think there's a good deal of connectivity in the Grateful Dead community without the band. I think the online stuff has been tremendous, and Bob Hunter's done an incredible job of sort of revealing his personal self in his journal on I think there's a lot of different places for some of that communicative energy to go. I feel bad that the events aren't going to be there. I miss the events; I'm an events junkie. I love events.

Gans: I guess that's what I was asking: Is there a way we can create an event that approximates that feeling of safety, importancy and healing like we were talking about? The most important feature of the Grateful Dead concert that I would tell a civilian was, "You're in the safest place on earth." And at its best -- it felt that way no matter where we were -- the Grateful Dead concert was a "time-out" space, as Bill Graham put it.

Garcia: Yeah, it was safe. Statistically, I think that could be shown, too. But I don't know -- I don't know what's going to become of that. I know that Deadheads are going to other bands -- of course, they should. The Furthur Festival is going to go back out this coming summer. The Furthur Festival was kind of hard for me. (A short laugh) I missed somebody during that.

Gans: Hmmm.

Garcia: It was bittersweet. I think a lot of people felt that way. I don't know what's going to grow up; I don't even know if it should. I'm uncertain as to what to say to that question. But I think we have to find the events that speak to our own hearts, whether it's church or community action or the folk music scene or hip-hop -- whatever it is that makes you feel good. But that connectivity at Grateful Dead concerts -- I feel that it's not lost. I think people that have found each other have found each other for good. It's not going to go away.

Gans: Yeah. I don't think the friendships are going to end, and I don't think that the valuable things we can do for each other will stop happening. We've just lost our principal excuse for gathering.

Garcia: Right. The attractant seems to have faded. You know, I'm a big proponent of rave scenes, myself, mainly because I love that loud, fast music, and quadraphonic, and get in there and there's a light show. But the fact that there's no bands at rave scenes -- it's all recorded music -- well, it's kind of interesting. There's no celebrity; there's no waiting for the guys to come on or go off. So, it's a lot less personal, but the good energy is there. I mean, you can have a good time at a taped party without live musicians. Sorry, musicians -- I don't mean to make it sound like... I'm going to catch fire for that one, I know. But...

Gans: Well, as a person who's both -- who does the Grateful Dead DJ thing at the Fillmore and a guy who plays in a band -- I see both sides of that argument. I see the up side of what you're talking about with it being pre-recorded music, and I also see there's something you get when there's live musicians onstage that you can't get otherwise. And in doing the Fillmore parties that Dick Latvala and I do, and all these other guys who are doing the local little clubs and stuff, the challenge is to have any sort of spontaneity at all when what you're doing is presenting a sequence of pre-recorded tunes. I do that by not planning ahead too much. We bring a stack of things we might play in a given evening, and then we let the event dictate to us as much as possible.

Garcia: Uh-huh. And you also know your medium really well. You know what you've got in the stack; you know the different vibes are that you've got recordings of that you can throw on in a second.

Gans: Well, sure, but that's as much an opportunity to manipulate as it is to respond...

Garcia: Well, I think that's valuable.

Gans: ...the trick is to respond...

Garcia: ...and keep it open...

Gans: ...rather than attempt to force it --

Garcia: I think that overly controlling people should try to stay out of it. One of the biggest problems the Grateful Dead have had over the years is getting next to overly controlling influences and... and becoming controlling themselves. I think that looseness and spontaneity go hand-in-hand with fun, and --

Gans: There's the Prankster ethic in a nutshell. [both laugh]

Garcia: -- and it's important to focus on fun. I know there's a huge number of young Deadheads that I haven't met who have tasted the fun, and I encourage them all to pursue that as a lifetime thing. But everybody's got to be kind to each other, and don't have too many big expectations for the remainder of the band to pull anything out of their hat right now. There's a process going on. I don't know what it is; they're all in a state of change, and I think they're a bunch of tired puppies, too. They gave and gave, and uh... it's going to be interesting to see... how the rest of their lives are led. The Grateful Dead was one of those things that was greater than the sum of its parts. Self-conscious as it was, there was that tremendous unconscious side that the reckoning still hasn't been made for all the things that have happened because of the Grateful Dead. We don't even know what's been set in motion. And I'm watching; I'm paying attention.

Gans: In a very real sense, each of us had both the power and the obligation to manifest the Grateful Dead spirit as we see fit, and that there never really has been a central dogma to which we must adhere. And each one of us, no matter how far-flung we are, really does have the power to keep the Grateful Dead alive, in a way.

Garcia: I think we all have the ability to keep the good spirit alive. And that's about all you can do. It's guys like you who have the killer tape library that can come up with the gems from the past. That's been pretty meaningful to me. And I'm very happy that that can happen, because it's, you know... I listen to that stuff and it's -- it's deep, and it matters a lot. And it's really weird to have that be shared with so many people, but that's just the way it is, now. I'm grateful that they recorded everything. I hope everybody buys the stuff and keeps going and encourages what's left of the organization to keep it together, keep the faith. I think everybody needs a lot of encouragement right now about the whole thing. Life is a confusing place, post-band.

Gans: Well, like Bob Hunter said through Mickey, "We'll know the next step when it comes."

Garcia: Yeah! And I know that there's a lot of intelligence at work in this situation. And I think that whatever happens is going to be manifest some time soon.

© 1997 by Carolyn Garcia and David Gans. All rights reserved.

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