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Garcia’s Death: ‘A Very, Very Sad Day’

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Old hippies and the children of old hippies, mainstream lawyers and stockbrokers stoking the fire of youth, high schoolers discovering the laid-back life for the first time and other true believers of the Grateful Dead found themselves in mourning Wednesday for bandleader Jerry Garcia.

Phones rang off the hook at Orange County public television station KOCE, which planned weeks ago to air a Grateful Dead concert Wednesday night to kick off its summer pledge drive.

“A lot of the pledges in are in tribute to Jerry Garcia and the music they remember fondly,” said Ed Miskevich, the station’s production director. “It’s pretty overwhelming. There are a lot of pledges. They want to say the Grateful Dead meant a lot to them.”

By 9:30, the station had received $6,000 in pledges, higher than usual for the same amount of time on other opening nights.

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Miskevich said the band gave public television the exclusive rights to air its 1980 performance at Radio City Music Hall for fund-raising efforts.

“Jerry Garcia was a nice guy, and his music counted a lot,” Miskevich said. “Tonight it’s doing something good for public television.”

In Los Angeles, fans assembled through the day at the merry-go-round in Griffith Park for a candlelight vigil. Radio station KSCA-FM (101.9) played nothing but Grateful Dead music after confirming reports of Garcia’s death about 8:30 a.m. KCRW-FM (89.9) aired a tribute in the morning and planned another for Wednesday night, while KLOS-FM (95.5) played an hour of Grateful Dead music at noon.

“The response has been remarkable,” said KSCA general manager Bill Ward. “It’s much like when Lennon was shot. The response now is so immediate.”

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Music stores reported a run on Dead records and Capt. Ed’s--a 25-year-old head shop in Van Nuys--had sold out its large supply of Dead memorabilia by noon.

On the fabled corner of Haight and Ashbury where the Dead got their start--and where Ben and Jerry’s ice cream store now carries Cherry Garcia, named for the bandleader--teary-eyed fans placed flowers and lit candles. On the polo field in Golden Gate Park, swaying mourners--some in tie-dye, some in suits--gathered under sunny skies and a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace.” Candlelight tributes were planned Wednesday night there and in other cities.

News of Garcia’s death Wednesday morning also shot through the intricate weaves of cyberspace, where the band has a high profile. So many Wall Street professionals called up the news on Bloomberg news service terminals that the system froze briefly around noon. On the Prodigy online service and at The Well in Sausalito, the online home for many Deadheads, admiration and shock was evident.

“A very, very sad day for all of us,” said a posting on one of the popular Usenet newsgroups devoted to the Dead. “I must say that I feel right now the same way I felt when my dad died. But I came into my office and saw my 6-month-old son waking up from his nap with a sleepy smile in his eyes and knew that I had to try to teach him some of the things that Jerry and the rest have tried to teach me over the years.”

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Now, they have lost their compass.

Also contributing to this story were Times staff writers Anna Cekola in Orange County, Jerry Crowe and David Wharton in Los Angeles and Times researchers Nona Yates in Los Angeles and Norma Kaufman in San Francisco.


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