Warning to Deadheads: Group Not Grateful for Rowdy Fans : Pop music: ‘Meatheads’ could bring an end to Grateful Dead’s concertizing, their promoter threatens.
Could the Grateful Dead’s shows Saturday and Sunday at Cal State Dominguez Hills’ soccer field be the veteran group’s last in the Los Angeles area?
Bill Graham, the dean of rock concert promoters who has worked with the Dead since 1966, isn’t exactly shouting “the end is near.” But he warns Deadheads that, thanks to poor behavior by a small minority of fans, the group’s concert future--in Southern California and elsewhere--is in jeopardy.
For the record:
12:00 a.m. May 5, 1990 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 5, 1990 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 8 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong Term--In a Thursday Calendar story about problems associated with Grateful Dead concerts, rock promoter Bill Graham was incorrectly quoted as calling trouble-making fans “Meatheads.” The term he used was “Me-heads,” refering to a small but rowdy minority of newer Dead fans who show up at concerts without tickets and become agitated when unable to acquire them at the site.
“Maybe because you parked on the highway and defecated on a lawn, maybe next time we’ll be 300 miles away,” he scolded during a recent L.A. visit to film a small part as a concert promoter in “The Doors,” Oliver Stone’s Jim Morrison movie. “Maybe next time we’re not coming to your town.”
The Dead is already unwelcome at Orange County’s Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. When the group played three dates there in April, 1989, 91 arrests resulted as fans clashed with security forces, parked illegally and otherwise raised community hackles. The Dead is still on good terms with the Forum, despite the death of a fan in police custody during a three-day stand in December. A planned return engagement in February was postponed so that security measures could be re-evaluated, and this weekend’s outdoor shows were scheduled instead. The Dead expects to return to the Forum within the next year.
The expansion of its legion of Deadheads--many of whom follow the band from concert to concert around the country, establishing temporary villages near show sites--has caused the Dead organization to declare that it has outgrown a number of traditionally favored concert sites, including in its own back yard at Stanford University and UC Berkeley.
Graham wants the band’s loyal fans to think about that while they enjoy the post-hippie vibes this weekend.
“Maybe you should ask yourselves, ‘Why did we lose Irvine?’ ” Graham said, identifying the biggest problem as people who show up without tickets and then become agitated when unable to acquire them at the site.
While the vast majority of Deadheads are peaceful, many of these Meatheads, as Graham calls them, are rowdier newcomers, brought on board by the band’s Top 10 1987 album “In the Dark.” This has also focused attention on drug use by some Dead followers and the inconsiderateness of some who camp near the concerts. That behavior this weekend, he said, would likely mean the loss of another concert site.
“If people come and loiter and leave garbage or urinate in public or challenge the law, then goodby to the facility,” said Graham, 59, who began his career as a concert promoter with a Grateful Dead show in 1966 and has helped develop the band into one of the most successful touring acts in the world.
“What if I came to your house and acted like that?” he continued. “I’m all for the (Deadhead) spirit, but not when it’s abused. There’s all this to-do about getting busted and the ‘horrible police.’ I’m not taking the side of the police, but until they change the laws, why are (people) surprised that what they want to do they’re not allowed (to)?”
The first solution, Graham said, is simple: “If you don’t have a ticket, don’t come. Don’t be a child about it.”
Graham may be one of the field’s most successful and respected businessmen, but when he talks about the Grateful Dead he sounds like a mystical high priest of Deadheads.
“They’ve meant so much to so many people and have a pure spirit that came out of the ‘60s, and the Dead crowd on a righteous night exhibits that spirit,” said the colorful promoter, who’s currently in discussions about marking the group’s silver anniversary with the June concerts at Mammoth Mountain.
“People look at me and say, ‘You’re a businessman and a New Yorker and you’re a Deadhead ?’ What can I say? I love the music and the space and it personifies that spirit.”
As a Deadhead, Graham is calling on others to take the responsibility for the actions of the newer members of the “family.”
“I have great respect for the Deadheads and fans, and one thing I’ve noted is rarely does someone get out of line, and when they do others generally deal with it,” he said. “It’s up to the veterans to explain to the new ones: ‘You know it’s wrong, so why are you doing it?’ ”