Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bill Graham — Through the Turnstiles

by Bart Bull
California magazine, (excerpt)

You! Out!” It’s Bill Graham, and he’s charged over to a grizzled Deadhead standing in line at the soup counter wearing something woven and dirty from Mexico. Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill could be called lacking in enthusiasm, energy, panache. Graham is ranting in the Deadhead’s face, yelling, hollering “Get out of here!” Every single other Deadhead has stepped back away from them, pressing back against the wall or somewhere, and now this one finds himself walking backwards toward the door, shoved along by sheer decibels.

Graham keeps after him, top volume and full speed, until he’s backed him all the way out of the building and across the sidewalk to the gutter. Graham’s howling. “You think you’re gonna come in this building tonight?” There’s not an inch between his significant beak and the broken bridge of the Deadhead’s nose. The guy has two inches and 30 years and a lot of weight on Graham and there’s not a BGP person anywhere in sight — no big Event Security guys, no security bluecoats, nobody. Graham doesn’t seem to have noticed. He’s about to get killed.

“I got a ticket for tonight, Graham” the Deadhead snarls. He’s keeping his hands jammed inside the woven jacket’s front pockets.

“I see you in here, I’ll bust you wide open,” Graham growls. His voice clatters off the Civic Auditorium’s gray granite blocks. “You threatened me with a gun last night — remember, asshole? I see you on this sidewalk, I see you near this building, I’ll bust you — you don’t believe me, go get your gun! Split! You got a ticket, I’ll give you money for it but you ain’t comin’ in this building!”

As he turns away, a big-shouldered kid in a plaid flannel shirt comes up. He’s from New York, see, drove out here with his two buddies because he hadn’t heard one way or another as to whether his money order for tickets had been cashed and now he has no tickets and no way of knowing if he’ll ever see his 80 bucks again and the Grateful Dead guy in the ticket booth won’t even talk to him about it. He knows Bill has nothing to do with the situation, but he was wondering if there wasn’t something he could do -- not so much about the tickets, maybe but at least the money, or at least maybe get the guy at the window to at least listen to him.

“I’m sorry,” Graham says. “I really feel for you. There’s a lot of people in your position tonight, and they’ve really made a mess of things—” a quick nod in the direction of where the Grateful Dead’s own people are manning the ticket booth “—but it’s really out of my hands.”

The guy says he understands but thanks anyway, and he goes back to his pals, who’ve been watching expectantly off to the side. Graham watches them go, watches them walk away, then he calls over a security bluecoat. “See those three guys? Go get them. Take them and walk them through, around the turnstiles. Tell the person at the door I said it was okay.”

(For Mark Wellins, a true friend; In memory of Bill Graham, mensch)

No comments: