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Passing Thoughts On The Grateful Dead

by Rosie McGee

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Dancing on the stage

Many years ago, in the easy, earliest years of the Dead, I was the girl who danced on the stage - before the need for stringent backstage security, before record contracts, world travels and a general nervousness about the motives of nearby people. I had no motive then except that I wanted more than anything to step inside that magic circle of music and dance with it from that central place. I knew this time of privilege wouldn't last long, so I wasn't surprised when it ended. But for some of the most unspeakably happy and truly liberated times I ever had in my life, I've always wanted to thank you guys.

Troupers Hall, 1966

Troupers Hall was the meeting room for a retired actors' club in Hollywood. The rent for the gig couldn't have been much. We did everything ourselves, all in two days. We plastered handbills all over Hollywood. Stage decor was a few lengths of paisley cloth purchased that afternoon at a fabric store. For a box office, we had a cigar box and a card table. Our not-quite-full house must have had over a hundred people, and when the night was over, our net take was $75. At 2 o'clock in the morning we all went to Cantor's Deli on Fairfax and spent it on dinner for everybody with dessert.

How do you get a job with the Grateful Dead?

Well, a resume probably won't do you much good, and there's no tried and true path to being hired. Initially, it's who you know. If you just happen to have someone on the inside who will vouch for you ("She's cool!"), if you appear just when a desperate need opens up, ("Hey you, sitting in the kitchen, c'mere!"), and show a willingness to take on some lengthy mind-numbing task with the hope of better times ahead you're in! But once you've done that first assignment, just try and walk away! If you're good at the job, you may get stuck with it until you scream for release. On the other hand, if you persevere and are around when a new and different desperate need opens up, you can probably get that assignment.

As for job security, don't worry. Sure, you can get fired (never for the reason you suspect), but if you show up the next morning, there's a good chance no one will know you're supposed to be gone. You can also quit and go away for over three years to live a completely different life - no problem - you'll probably fill a need the very week you get back. And then, one of the band members will see you and say, "Hey, how was your trip? Haven't you been away for a couple of months?" Happened.

(© Rosie McGee. First versions published in The Grateful Dead Family Album by Jerilyn Lee Brandelius, Warner Bros. Books, 1989)

 

 

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