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Rolling Stone Shows Garcia's 'Secret Life'

August 01, 1996|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's not a pretty picture, a ghostly Jerry Garcia with a skeleton clutching his shoulder. But the illustration is appropriate for Rolling Stone's latest cover story, "The Secret Life of Jerry Garcia," which lays out the dark side of the bearish rock star and his use of heroin.

The recollections of friends and lovers come a year after Garcia's death and are taken from Robert Greenfield's "Dark Star," an oral biography newly published by William Morrow & Co. and sure to receive a lift in the marketplace as a result of Rolling Stone's eight-page excerpt.

"Heroin was a great drug, and it had worked very well for Garcia in the studio because he could really concentrate with it," former Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully recalls in Greenfield's book. "But once it became a real habit, he wouldn't look after himself, and he started burning up the bedroom and the hotel rooms and so on. His nods got to be very scary."

Another former manager of the band, Jon McIntire, is cited by Greenfield as remembering that in the early 1980s, Garcia used to "hibernate" in heroin-induced stupors: "This one time, he opened the door completely with this grand gesture, and his pant legs were up above his knees, and his legs were all open sores."

As a result, McIntire led a so-called intervention in 1984 to get Garcia into drug treatment, Greenfield writes. Four months later, the musician was arrested for possession of cocaine and heroin. His death at a drug-treatment center last summer, at age 53, following years of health problems that had been masked by the heroin use, was attributed to hardening of the arteries around his heart.

McIntire makes clear that Garcia personified "an avowed duty to experience joy."

At the same time, Garcia was "ill-suited for the additional roles forced upon him: the smiling hero of the counterculture, the gentle role model to the hippie nation" says an introductory note written by the magazine's editor and publisher, Jann S. Wenner.

Greenfield's compelling material sees print at a time when heroin is prominent in the news. Actor Robert Downey Jr. was arrested in June for possession of cocaine, heroin and a concealed weapon. In a widely reported episode last month, Jonathan Melvoin, a backup musician with the Smashing Pumpkins, died in New York from an apparent heroin overdose, and the band's drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin (since fired), who allegedly injected heroin at the same time, was charged with drug possession.

That Rolling Stone's choice of excerpt appears against this wider backdrop is coincidental, says Robert Love, Rolling Stone's articles editor. "This is the first time that the women in Jerry's life talked about him on the record," he says. "The book also shows that, behind this smiling, beneficent figure of the counterculture was this other life, this other self."

"Dark Star" recently had a second printing, which brought the number of copies in print to 25,000. That's a modest sum, considering the huge crowds that packed the Grateful Dead's concerts through the years, but it's a number in line with the comparatively small printings of other journalistic accounts of rock figures.

For example, there are fewer than 50,000 copies in print of a Morrow title that last week won first-place honors in the prestigious Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Awards, "You Send Me: The Life and Times of Sam Cooke," written by Daniel Wolff and three collaborators who were close to the late singer. Published last year in hardcover, the book was reissued a few months ago in a Morrow / Quill paperback edition.

Meanwhile, "Harrington Street," a childhood memoir written and wildly illustrated by Garcia himself, has been republished by Delacorte Press in a hardcover edition that shows him on the cover. The newly packaged book has received a 15,000-copy printing, on top of the 300,000 in circulation since the original was published last year.

*

Rollins Returns: Like a firecracker tossed into a garden party, Ed Rollins' memoir of Republican campaigns past is expected to reverberate through the GOP National Convention that begins Aug. 12. The word from Broadway Books is that Time magazine plans to run a healthy excerpt from "Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms" in the issue that goes on sale Monday, and Tom Brokaw will follow on Tuesday's edition of "Dateline NBC" with a profile of the author and former GOP strategist.

Rollins' book, which goes on sale Wednesday, is said to bear out its title by presenting blunt, behind-the-scenes accounts of his political work with top Republicans (and with Ross Perot in 1992).

*

Afterwords: Jack Ryan becomes president of the United States on Aug. 13. That's when G.P. Putnam's Sons plans to put on sale "Executive Orders," Tom Clancy's first novel in two years and the author's continuing report on the derring-do of his hero Ryan, the former covert agent who has survived a deadly assault on the federal government and now must rise to his greatest challenge. A galley copy of the novel being circulated among reviewers runs 874 pages. List price: $27.95. First printing: 2 million copies.

* Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His column is published on Thursdays.

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