Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Used To Be The Heart Of Town

We have, Enthusiasts, both answers and questions in front of us.

Most admirers of the Grateful Dead are familiar with this photo shoot, but the specifics have eluded. Where was it taken? When was it taken? How long was it before Billy slugged someone? Was Mickey ever more fuckable? (The responses in order: I’m getting to it; I’m getting to it; less than five minutes; no.)

This picture was taken 4/16/79 at Litchfield’s Bermuda Palms, a motel at 737 East Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael, right near the 101 (which can be seen all the way to the right of the shot). A guy named Whitey Litchfield built the joint in the ’40’s; it was upscale, baby. Teevees in every room playing anti-Japanese propaganda, and a guy in the lobby who would draw a line up the back of women’s legs so it looked like they were wearing nylons. That’s real class.

The motel was part of a complex that included a convention hall, restaurant, cocktail lounge, and even a ballroom originally named the Flamingo. (When you think San Francisco, you think of the huge flocks of flamingos.) Count Basie’s big band played there, and so did Lionel Hampton’s. Lili St. Cyr took her clothes off there, and she only did that in the swankiest clubs. Following the usual trajectory, the ballroom was given over to hippies in the 60’s; they changed the name to (variously) Pepperland and the Euphoria, and all the usual Bay Area suspects choogled on the stage so the kids could get real loose with it.

Entropy checked in. By ’88, the fronds were off the Bermuda Palms and it was a shooting gallery; whores screeched at one another in the parking lot; the ice machines were tragedies. Whitey plastered this on the marquee–the same one that WELCOME GRATEFUL DEAD is on–before abandoning the property.

I have sinned. Please forgive me. I have created a haven for humans. Don’t judge me too harshly.

Lord knows he meant no wrong.

But whither the Dead? Whither? WHITHER?

Stop that.

Sorry. Longtime residents of Marin County (or Enthusiasts with too much time and too much access to Google Maps) will recognize that East Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael right near the 101 is in the vicinity of Club Front, the Dead’s office/rehearsal space. In fact, it’s more than in the vicinity:

So–according to reliable sources–the band was herded around the corner, and then successfully wrangled for however long it takes to shoot a roll of film. Why were they all together, you ask?

Because of this.

Keith and Mrs. Donna Jean’s last show was 2/17/79, and I do not believe that there was a rehearsal with Brent before their departure. (Bad form, first of all, and there is no evidence at all of such a gathering.) While 4/16 may not have been the full band’s first time playing with Brent, it is the first tape we have, and we know that the Dead recorded all of their (infrequent) rehearsals. Was this Brent’s first integration within the Grateful Dead machine? Perhaps.

What we do know–absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt know–is that the pictures taken in front of Litchfield’s were the first commissioned shots taken of the new Dead lineup. Some bands would choose a more professional setting–and by “some,” I mean “literally every single other band that ever existed”–to introduce their new member, but not the Grateful Dead.

No, they went for this:

I have sinned. Please forgive me. I have created a haven for humans. Don’t judge me too harshly.


  1. The Central Shaft

    Bush league is too good for this.

  2. NoThoughtsOnDead

    On the other side of the freeway, there’s a BevMo (“Beverages & More”). I have two dear friends (mother and son) who have both worked there. Both sides of the freeway have a lot of retail and a lot of working people, of various kinds. It’s a place to get stuff done — who knew it was also a photo shoot location.

  3. Luther Von Baconson

    Mickey and Billy are co-dependents in that they iron each other’s jeans

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