Requiem for the Dead: Tribute to Jerry Garcia

Immediately after Jerry Garcia’s death, Newsweek wondered in its August 20, 1995 issue whether the Grateful Dead could survive without its intrepid leader. 

Jerry Garcia did his last recording session a month ago, on a Sunday in July 1995. A week before, the Grateful Dead, Garcia’s band for three decades, had just played what would be the last of their thousands of shows with him, at Soldier Field in Chicago, to a sellout crowd. The Dead hadn’t played to an empty seat in years—that is, until the dancing started. In fact, they were probably the most popular concert attraction anywhere, ever. Those who were there say it wasn’t their best show: The band sounded listless, and Garcia forgot even more words than usual. Now, in the Marin County, California, home studio of the mandolinist David Grisman, an old friend he’d met in the parking lot at a bluegrass festival in 1963, he sang Jimmie Rodgers’s “Blue Yodel No. 9” for a Rodgers tribute album being put together by Bob Dylan. It took a few takes to nail the song, but that was to be expected. Garcia didn’t look well, but he sounded fine—even pulled off the yodel. Who knew the guy could yodel?

The next day, Garcia checked into the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, to try to deal with the heroin habit he’d been trying to deal with for years—that and his smoking and his eating. He had a million projects in mind, he’d gotten married for a third time just last year, the oldest of his four daughters was getting married next month—he was to give away the bride—and he wanted to be clean for the Dead’s fall tour. He’d been busted in 1985 with coke and heroin, and his health had been intermittently lousy since 1986, when he came out of a diabetic coma so neurologically scrambled [that] he had to relearn guitar.

Jerry Garcia was named after legendary songwriter Jerome Kern, who penned standards like “Old Man River,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Kern died when Garcia was 3 years old. Michael Putland/Retna LTD.

Unlike the Beatles, the Grateful Dead never truly crossed over into mainstream musical culture: Their best-selling single, “A Touch of Grey” (1987), went only to No. 9, and you’ll never hear “Dark Star” in an elevator—unless you’ve been taking something you shouldn’t. Yet the avuncular-going-grandfatherly Garcia had gradually become as beloved a personage as the charming, changeable, sometimes overearnest John Lennon. His thin, shaky voice suggested that you, too, could sing with a band if you loved doing it enough; his guitar-playing radiated joy and ease, without a trace of guitar-hero affectation; and his increasing portliness, a trial to Garcia himself, clearly gave others a sense of comfort.

By Wednesday afternoon, high-profile fans—Peter Jennings, Bill Walton, Al and Tipper Gore—were returning (or not returning) reporters’ phone calls, and everyday folks were planning candlelight vigils in every city big enough to rate a Strawberries or a Record Town. A remarkable number of Deadheads are in their teens and 20s—both rebels in search of the ultimate alternative band and well-adjusted members of families who’d gone to Dead concerts the way other families went to water parks. Some are even drug-free: the Wharf Rats, a Deadhead 12-step group, help each other resist the various temptations for sale in the parking lots at Dead shows.

By Thursday, there was a mad dash for the merchandise. In Chicago, one Tower Records sold out all its Dead and Garcia CDs; Marshall Field’s moved 114 Garcia-designed ties in a day and a health-food supermarket ran out of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream. Celebrity reactions ran true to form. Timothy Leary called the Dead “the finest and largest disorganized religion in the world.”

Deadheads gather for a candlelight vigil to mark the death of Jerry Garcia in Lee Park in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, August 9, 1995. All over the country, fans of Garcia and the Grateful Dead filled parks and public spaces to grieve. Karen Stallwood/Dallas Morning News/AP Images

Jerry Garcia created and left behind a following most musicians only dream of: the young and the young at heart, hungry for authenticity, intelligent and forbearing, predisposed to be pleased and up for anything you could throw at them. The sort of people you’d expect because any performer’s audience is a mirror. The burnouts and bottle-throwers belonged, too, even though everybody wanted to cast them out: Garcia was the first to admit that something inside him craved his own undoing. But the few feral fans, like Garcia’s own abused body, were finally a small part of the story. If Garcia didn’t get his threescore and ten, he still made more music, touched more hearts and lifted more spirits than seemed humanly possible. At his small, private funeral in California last Friday, Garcia’s bandmates and buddies from decades on the road and on the bus—Dylan, Kesey, Grisman, Bill Walton—played tunes, talked about him and gave him a standing O. And his wife wanted them to know he’d died with a smile on his face.

This article appears in Newsweek’s Offical Collector’s Edition, The Grateful Dead, by Issue Editor Tim Baker.

Courtesy The Grateful Dead
So Tatiana takes Tatiana’s identity and soon meets two more Tatianas. Another Tatiana is hunting them, so Tatiana shoots Tatiana. But Tatiana doesn’t die. Tatiana turns out to be the  sister of Tatiana. Another evil Tatiana wants to control all the Tatianas. Tatiana ass-kicks Tatiana. Then Tatiana has to kick a lot of ass to keep her daughter, Kira, safe.
—  Graeme Manson, A summary of orphanblack via Newsweek

In a October 1987 article, Newsweek portrayed bisexual men as “the ultimate pariahs” of the AIDS epidemic. Dr. Alan Rockway, bi activist and person with AIDS, spoke against the stereotype. Dr. Rockway was also a pioneering psychologist who helped write and defend the first LGBT employment non-discrimination ordinance to be approved in a major city. Dr. Rockway’s contributions are often “bisexually erased” and he is often misoriented as a gay man instead of being properly identified as bisexual. Photo Credit: WYPR News (x)

A co-worker at the LGBT non-profit I worked at told me bisexual history was “difficult to find,” and that is why we only teach people about gay and lesbian history. That’s not just lazy, it’s ridiculous.

Celebrating American Ballet Theatre’s Past, Present and Future at 75

On Tuesday night, Manhattan’s Lincoln Center Plaza bubbled with life as patrons arrived for a night at the ballet. A warm breeze met bare shoulders on this summery night in May as city traffic rumbled past, countered by the sound of water falling on itself in the square’s iconic fountain. In between, snippets of English, Russian and other languages could be overheard.

Toddlers waddled about cheerfully, parents pushing strollers in their wake; couples and groups of teenagers stood chatting; and members of an older generation slowly negotiated their way toward the Metropolitan Opera House’s grand entrance. Some of them might still remember a time when neither American ballet nor American Ballet Theatre (ABT, née Ballet Theatre) existed.

But this year the company celebrates three-quarters of a century of performances and the creation of an American tradition for the art form. Its annual spring season at the Met—whose facade sports an enormous banner announcing ABT’s 75th anniversary—opened Monday. Audiences the next evening filtered up the grand staircase in the lobby, through red velvet passages to the tiers above and into red velvet seats. As the lights dimmed and the Met’s dazzling chandeliers rose toward the golden ceiling—part of the ritual of that theater—the audience was both invited into the moment and swept into the past.

“Every night that a dance company goes out to dance, except for when it’s performing a brand-new [work], it’s bringing to life an aspect of the past,” says Ric Burns, who has spent the better part of a decade making the film American Ballet Theatre: A History. In other words, because dance is ephemeral, lasting only as long as bodies are moving onstage, it is by nature an art form of the present. But at the same time, when dancers bring to life an old work that has been passed on from one generation of performers to the next, they are also opening a window into history. In his film, Burns plays on this interaction between past and present by cutting between archival footage and more recent clips of different dancers performing the same passages.

Tuesday’s program of three short ballets choreographed in the 1930s and ’40s—post-Revolution Russian émigré George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Englishman Antony Tudor’s Jardin aux Lilas and New York City-born Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo—harked back to the company’s early days when these and other important choreographers’ voices entered its repertory.

Polina Semionova in Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations,” choreographed for ABT in 1947. Marty Sohl/ABT

The season consists of 19th and 20th century classics—including Giselle, a French ballet from the Romantic era; Swan Lake, the Tchaikovsky masterpiece that came out of late-19th century imperial Russia; Fancy Free, a tale of three sailors on shore leave, choreographed by the Jewish-American Jerome Robbins during World War II (and later became the basis for the musical On the Town); and a new version of The Sleeping Beauty by artist-in-residence Alexei Ratmansky. These works identify the company’s roots in the French and Russian traditions as well as its commitment to reinterpret seminal works and experiment with new possibilities for the art form.

In honor of its 75th anniversary, ABT has already had a special exhibit, “American Ballet Theatre: Touring the Globe for 75 Years,” up at the Library of Congress, from August to January; presented a three-part Works & Process series at the Guggenheim Museum delving into its history in 25-year increments; and premiered With a Chance of Rain, a new work by British choreographer Liam Scarlett.

Diana Vishneva in “The Sleeping Beauty.” Gene Schiavone/ABT

Still to come, besides the spring season repertory, is a new work by choreographer Mark Morris scheduled to premiere in the fall of 2015, as well as the 75th Anniversary Gala on Monday and Burns’s documentary. American Ballet Theatre: A History premieres on PBS on Friday night and will be available to stream on PBS’s American Masters website starting Saturday.

With the help of dance scholar and writer Jennifer Homans, Burns takes viewers all the way back to Louis XIV in 17th century France and through the development of ballet, to put ABT in its historical and geographic context.

“It would be meaningless to tell the story of ABT” without reaching back into the history that preceded its founding, Burns says. “You’re not going to understand what the hell they’re doing in 1940 or 1950 if you don’t understand the five positions,” which were codified in the court of Louis XIV, he explains. “Ballet wasn’t invented in 1940. It had been brought to [the U.S.] most immediately by the Russian diaspora. It was brought to Russia most notoriously by [Marius] Petipa,” a French ballet master who moved to St. Petersburg and worked at the Imperial Theatre in the second half of the 19th century. In France, and later in Russia, ballet had to reinvent itself alongside political revolution.

In America, ballet was reinvented again, and American Ballet Theatre is a main character in the story of ballet in this country. Though there were other choreographers and companies at work, Burns chose to home in on ABT without elaborating on other parallel developments. (One curious omission: The film calls Balanchine one of the most important choreographers in American ballet without a mention of his New York City Ballet, which developed in tandem with ABT during the second half of the 20th century and now performs just across Lincoln Center Plaza.)

“The key to our identity is in the three words of our title,” says Kevin McKenzie, a former ABT dancer and artistic director since 1992. As he explains:

American”:ABT is not American in a nationalistic sense, McKenzie says, noting that, instead, it’s about experimentation and a diversity of cultures and voices. “People came from all over the world to start the company, just like people came all over the world to start this country.”

Burns adds that “in its bones, [ABT] mirrors aspects of American experience” with a “degree of radicalism and conservatism,” and dancers from around the world performing works from diverse choreographers.

Lucia Chase, a founder and artistic director from 1945 to 1980, was “a woman who believed that this country should have a ballet company that gave American audiences and American dancers the opportunity to dance and to see classical dance, because it didn’t exist,” says Julie Kent, a principal dancer who joined the company in 1986. “She thought it should be a part of the American culture. And it has become that.”

American Ballet Theatre dancers Nora Kaye, Fernando Alonso and Alicia Alonso as they embark on their first tour of Europe, circa 1946. Steeplechase Films, Inc.

Ballet”:“Ballet is our language, and it has developed immensely over 75 years,” McKenzie says. As Frederic Franklin—a former dancer for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo who helped found the Slavenska-Franklin Ballet and the National Ballet in Washington, and was an artistic adviser to Dance Theatre of Harlem—explains in the film, the French terminology that ABT and students and professionals all over the world use in their daily classes and rehearsals comes from ballet’s early development in that country. Since then, it has evolved with different methods (the Agrippina Vaganova method is distinct from that of Balanchine or August Bournonville). ABT draws from various methods and incorporates other dance techniques to create a versatile repertory, McKenzie says.

Theatre”: As an aspiring dancer, McKenzie loved watching ABT stars like Carla Fracci and Erik Bruhn, who rehearsed at his home studio when they came to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He admired the beauty and drama they brought to the stage, and was in awe when “five unbelievably distinct couples” rotated the lead roles in one ballet and “shaded it and made it their own.” When he became artistic director more than two decades ago and was contemplating how to make his company distinct, he went back to what had impressed him as a student: a dancer’s ability to create nuanced drama onstage.

American Ballet Theatre dancer Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones in “Swan Lake,” 1972. MIRA

Burns’s film is tied together with slow-motion video footage of some of ABT’s top dancers, including Misty Copeland, Gillian Murphy, Marcelo Gomes and Daniil Simkin. Watching a passage from Swan Lake or The Firebird at up to 2,500 frames per second is unlike anything this writer (and ballet lover) has ever seen, and lends a poetic and physical quality to the documentary.

“What that looks like is exactly what it feels like…to be doing it,” says McKenzie, who feels the footage captured something about dance that he recognized. “When you hit that point of concentration, you get into this Zen-like place…. Certain things feel surreal and defy gravity in that way.”

Burns explains that while putting dance on film inherently robs it of its ephemeral nature, this technology gives something back: It allows viewers to see and feel something new about ballet that they can’t get at the theater.

Like the slow-motion passages, the film as a whole “is a wonderful look at what dance really means to the people that do it, and explains a lot to the audience about the dancer’s soul, the dancer’s process, the dancer’s mindset and dance itself—what it represents to humanity,” says Kent, who will leave the stage after this season.

By articulating answers to these questions and putting ABT’s history in context within a larger story, the film becomes both a meditation on the essence of an art form and an entry point into ballet for the uninitiated. Burns, who was not a seasoned balletomane (read: ballet enthusiast) at the outset, learned about the art form while making this film and takes viewers through a similar process in an hour and 23 minutes.

As the documentary nears its end, he turns from the past and present to the future. “Ballet, a little bit like theater, is often said to be dying,” he says. “I think that ballet is poised now not to die but to continue to live exuberantly.”

When Kent was growing up in Maryland, her mother would alternate taking her and her sister to the ballet when ABT came to the Kennedy Center. “I had these wonderful role models that I looked up to and followed with great wonder,” she says. By the time she was 16, she had joined the company and began sharing the stage with some of the same dancers she had admired from the other side of the footlights.

When she dances her farewell performance in Romeo and Juliet on June 20, somewhere in the audience, or backstage, might be one of the next stars. And he or she will become the next chapter in the company’s history, after Alicia Alonso, Natalia Makarova, Erik Bruhn, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Julie Kent and others throughout the last seven and a half decades.

While new generations of dancers come to the fore, the company will try to continue breathing life into the classics with new interpreters, sweeping audiences into the past. But it will also “explore new works using a classical medium,” says McKenzie, “to make every effort to find the classics of our time, the things they will be looking at in 75 years.”

 by Ed Morrissey

In other words, Interpipe should have been slapped with penalties and sanctions for its operations with Iran. Pinchuk’s company has a US subsidiary, which means that US sanctions apply across the entire organization. The agency for imposing penalties for sanctions violations in these cases, Ross notes, is the State Department. Who was in charge at the State Department during this period? None other than Hillary Clinton.



The timing of this release is curious. This is a bona-fide scoop, and yet Newsweek published it on a Saturday morning — perhaps the lowest-attention spots in the news cycle. Ross frames this oddly, too, in the lead:

Enemies of Hillary Clinton waiting to discredit her bid for the White House are likely to seize on news that one of the biggest benefactors to the Clinton Foundation has been trading with Iran and may be in breach of US sanctions imposed on the country.

Where to start with this paragraph? First of all, “enemies” should be opponents, unless one is so invested in Hillary 2.0 as to mistake the latter for the former. Mostly, though, is the big story here that Hillary’s opponents are “likely to seize” on evidence of corruption — or the evidence of corruption itself? Would Newsweek have covered Watergate with the lead, “Enemies of Richard Nixon are likely to seize on the Oval Office tapes in an attempt to discredit him”? I rather think not.

Guilty, guilty, guilty!