A New Years Eve Story
© 2005 Evan S. Hunt
Evan is the visionary of Tay
Music. For those not familiar with the Tay label, they
selectively offer diverse musical offerings that range from
contemporary and smooth jazz; folk, progressive rock and R&B;
techno and electronica-based pop and urban hip-hop; New Age and
world beat; Celtic, Latin, Middle Eastern, and Indian music.
In 1972 I was working with a friend doing
painting and remodeling. Around the end of the year we got this job
for these rich folks. The housewife was a friendly person named
Diana, 16 years my senior and desperately in need of being hip. Over
the next few weeks I got very chummy with her and when she asked me
how I was celebrating New Years I replied that I was doing the
usual--going to see the Grateful Dead at Winterland. She expressed
interest and asked if she could tag along. I was certain that the
concert was sold out and told her, but she insisted on going along
anyway. She volunteered to let us use her station wagon and promised
that she would not leave without us if she were not able to get in.
I hesitantly and skeptically gave in to her proposal, but at the
last minute, I decided we needed a backup plan and convinced one of
our group with an ample chunk of Nepalese Temple Balls hashish to
drive my car--just in case.
On the 31st we all piled
into her car and, with me driving Diana's station wagon and my buddy
following us in my car, zoomed over to the city. Diana kept assuring
me that she would find a ticket and brought along over $200.00 in
cash for a scalper's pleasure.
When we walked up to the
building there was no line. I was shocked. This was the first year
that Bill Graham had instituted stringent rules for concertgoers to
enter the confines. The cops out on the sidewalk were yelling
"ticket holders only, this show is all sold out" and they
so quickly herded us in that all I could do was reach back and give
Diana her car keys and yell at her "Meet us back here at around
3:00 am!" She screamed back at me, "Don't worry, I'll get
in somehow!" Seconds later we ticket holders were sucked
Once inside, I huddled
everybody in our party and we all agreed we were going to go out
onto the floor, forty feet from stage, dead center. I let them go
and turned back to see how Diana was doing. I stood just inside the
doors looking out the windows toward the sidewalk. The cops kept
telling me I couldn't stand there, but I just kept stalling them.
I felt somewhat responsible
for Diana, but there wasn't anything I could do except walk out of
Winterland to be with her, but no way was I going to give up my
position. Good thing I gave into my selfish desires for, once out, I
might not have been able to get back in. I stood there trying to
hide my immensity, watching in futility. Time sledged by as if I was
on a TV game show being asked the 64,000-dollar question.
Just then Bill Graham
walked up, clipboard and all, and started talking to Diana.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to shrink in the shadows of the foyer and I'm
seeing them chatting for about five minutes. All of a sudden, Bill
Graham smiles and, with arm around her shoulder, escorts her to the
front doors and lets her walk in!
I scooted to meet her as
she's walking in. I have this most incredulous expression on my
face, I'm sure, because I had heard all the stories about Graham
being such an asshole that he would not even let his mother in
without a ticket. Diana was as surprised to see me as I her. I
blubbered, "Blup blup duhp how...wha…what did you say to
him?" She replied, "Oh, nothing much really, I just told
him I wasn't going to leave until I got in." Bill Graham had
let her in for free.
With that we were sternly
told to leave where we were standing and so I grabbed Diana and we
walked into the swirling mass of New Years Eve Dead show
Winterland's floor. Somehow we found our friends and settled in for
a delicious evening of Grateful Dead.
It was a pretty good show, but the music wasn't as memorable as what
was yet to come. Sometime around 3 am while the Dead were thoroughly
steeped in their eerie snake music, I got sort of tired and started
looking around. For some reason, I started rolling my head around to
stretch it and, looking ceiling ward, noticed this guy standing on
this thin little beam way up above the stage. He's just teetering
there hanging on for dear life.
I thought he was part of
the lighting crew and thought no more about it, but then I just kept
looking back up there and, after awhile, I realized he was not part
of the crew. Suddenly I grokked at the fact that that guy had
somehow slipped in through the vents in the ceiling.
Minutes later I could see
that on both ends of the beam there were techies motioning to him to
come toward them, but the guy was frozen in place. They were trying
to throw a rope to him, but they couldn't get him to grab it--so
tenuous was his hold on life. He had gotten himself into a fix from
which he could not extract himself.
Eventually, Bob Weir stops
the music and says, "We gotta get outta here on account of
we're having some problems up above." The Dead leave the stage.
Winterland becomes deathly quiet and Bill Graham walks out on stage
to the center microphone and calmly says to the guy above:
"Just hold it for a
second please. Just one second please. If you can just try to find
your way back from where you came, there, please."
Someone from the audience
Graham snaps at the
shouter, "Why don't you shut your hole, boy, okay?"
Then back to the guy above,
"Just for one moment try that."
Someone else yells
"Happy New Year" and Graham adds, "Why don't you just
wait, just take your time out there, y'know. Some people wait for
you, just take your time."
Then to the audience Graham
implores, "If you love the guy, just let him feel you love him,
Someone yells, "We
love you, brother!"
Graham utters to the guy on
the light beam as the crew lowers a rope to him from the roof vent,
"Take it easy, we're going to try to find the way you came up
there, try to find the same way out."
Then to the audience Graham
orders, "If there's anyone out there in a hurry, do us a
favor...go home. None of the other people here are in a hurry, okay?
Good. When the situation is like this, you gotta work at his pace,
you understand that?"
It's obvious by now the guy
is not going to go back the way he came. Someone on stage says to
the guy, "Tie that rope around your waste."
Graham says to lighting,
"Can we put a spotlight on the top of this rope please? Is
there a schmuck...?"
Just then Graham grabs the
rope that a techie has dropped to the stage, and with the crew above
holding another rope around the guy, the guy lowers himself down the
rope to the stage hand-over-hand, feet-gripping-rope gym class style
with Bill Graham directly underneath him holding that rope like he's
hanging onto a sinking ship. If the guy would have fallen, it's for
certain Graham would have caught him midair.
The guy gets down on the
stage and Graham asks him why he did it and the guy says, "I
couldn't afford the ticket!" The audience bursts into
Moments later the Dead
arrive back on stage to finish their set and Weir quips, "Next
week we're gonna have trained seals!"
This, my friends, is a true
story. To disprove and lay to rest all the negative comments about
Bill Graham here and now forever, at least two people got into one
of his shows for free.