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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Lenny Hart's term of employment

I had never quite seen this much specificity on the dates around Lenny Hart, but in combination with some other factors (Gar talking about the situation with Rakow at the Family Dog, which the GD were playing through 3/1/70), this really seems pretty precise.

Hart was arrested July 26 in San Diego on a Marin County warrant charging he embezzled more than $77,000 between May 22, 1969 , and March 2, 1970, while he was employed as business manager of the group.

And specifics on Lenny's Perfidy: 

During the time he served as business manager, Hart wrote six checks, totaling $35,200, on the Dead’s account made out to the “Sunshine Company.” An investigation revealed that the Sunshine Company maintained an account at the same bank and the account was in the name of Leonard B. Hart, according to Thomas. The affidavit also said that Jerry Garcia, a member of the Grateful Dead, told San Rafael police that MGM Studios wrote $11,000 worth of checks for music composed by Garcia. The checks were made out to Hart, as trustee of the group, but neither Garcia nor the group ever saw the money".
! ref: "Rock Group Embezzling Case is Set," Independent-Journal, August 10, 1971, p. 5.


  1. "Rock Group Embezzling Case is Set," Independent-Journal, August 10, 1971, p. 5.

  2. That is nicely precise - including the Zabriskie Point payment!
    If Hart only started as manager on 5/22/69, Michael Lydon's report for Rolling Stone reveals him in his first week on the job:
    "They took the date [5/29 Santa Barbara] because their new manager, Lenny Hart, Mickey's father, while new at the job, had accepted it from Bill Graham. The group had already decided to leave Millard. Graham's booking agency, and didn't want anymore of his jobs, but took it rather than making Hart go back on his word... Lenny, a minister who has chosen the Dead as his mission, is the latest person they've trusted to get them out of the financial pit... Lenny has done some figuring on the plane. 'Things are looking up,' he says. 'We ought to have the prepaid tickets for this trip paid by the end of next week.'"

    What did Garcia say about the situation with Rakow at the Family Dog?

    1. It's in Greenfield's Dark Star, which I need to annotate. Rakow tells the story, which I infer is the 2/27/70-3/1/70 run at the Dog, the band's last electric sets played at Playland on the Beach.

    2. I couldn't find the story in Greenfield's book, or any other place I looked. Rakow wasn't working with the Dead at the time, I believe.

      In This Is All A Dream We Dreamed, Rakow does mention, "About three months [after meeting Lenny], I went backstage to a gig at the Carousel Ballroom, I think [then the Fillmore West], and Jerry said, 'Hey, Rak, you're going to have to come out of retirement and take us over again because Lenny is working us to death and there's no money.'" (p.142)

  3. Shoot, that is the reference. So, there were at FW a month before, early February '70?

  4. You are absolutely right, I completely botched it. Ahhh, fallibility!

    Here's what happening. I am slowly annotating TIAADWD. I came across the Rakow quote:

    About three months later [after meeting Lenny for the first time, at Mickey's Ranch], I went backstage to a gig at the Carousel Ballroom, I think, and Jerry said, [143] 'Hey, Rak, you're going to have to come out of retirement and take us over again because [Lenny] is working us to death and there's no money.' And the next thing I know there were major problems. (RR in TIAADWD, 142-143).

    I immediately tied this latte piece in my head to my timeline for Lenny, and inferred that it was at the Fillmore West (what Rak would have still called the Carousel), February 5-6-7-8, 1970.

    That could well be correct. (Parenthetically, it would also mean that Rakow didn't meet him until ca. November 1969, which is of little note for anyone who has never tried to figure out who, what or where Ron Rakow was at any given point in time.)

    But somehow when I found this little dating of Lenny's term as 5/22/69-3/2/70, and I put myself on the Great Highway February 27-28 and March 1, 1970, when there would probably have been backstage discussions of WTF to do (since Lenny'd be terminated the very day after the Sunday show []), and I transmogrified them. In my head, Rakow was at the Dog (fitting, too, since one of Lenny's scams was to go into business with Chester Helms, who had "mark" written into his aura - maybe this very weekend, as a life vest, since maybe Chet Helms would go down with the sinking ship of the Family Dog On The Great Highway by April or so, IIRC).

    Fallibility. I have just been reading Kahneman's essential Thinking Fast and Slow, and I think he'd ascribe my error above to our over-eagerness in causal thinking. Our system one brains (which think fast, and of which we the untrained mind remains unaware), snap facts into some broader narrative, which is certainly more coherent than the messy statistical word, which is nevertheless more accurate. Our poor, puny, putt-putting grey matter tells itself stories. That's my story, anyway.

    So, as things stand.

    First, Lenny was hired 5/22/69 and fired 3/2/70.

    Second, note Lenny was fired the day after the penultimate Family Dog run (and the last electric one). There may be more to think about in terms of that, and in terms of the unique nature of the acoustic Bobby Ace And The Cards From The Bottom Of The Deck / Mickey And The Hartbeats stuff from April 17-19, the last night of which has every feel of a not-unhappy, but a little sad, family funeral. I am putting this in my Jerry and the Jeffersons bucket.

    Third, I am also holding in my mind when Jerry mentioned Lenny problems to Rak. We must speculate a bit more here. We know the place --Carousel/Fillmore West-- but not the time. I imagine it's the early February gigs at the Fillmore West. But I don't want to fall victim to the same narrative fallacy that has just tricked me, so I'd love to hear thoughts.

  5. I wouldn't pin too much on the date or place of Rakow's long-ago, half-remembered conversation with Garcia.
    Since Rakow was hanging out with the band, I suspect he met Lenny shortly after Lenny appeared on the scene.
    The Dead played the Fillmore West in December '69 too; but if Rakow misremembered the location, the Dead had also played the Family Dog, Fillmore Aud, and Winterland in the previous months. So anytime late '69 might work too.
    Garcia's comment is interesting because he doesn't say, "Hey, Rak, Lenny's a crook" - he says, "Lenny is working us to death and there's no money." Which indicates that Garcia was troubled about Lenny some time before the final confrontation.
    On the other hand, I'm not sure at what point in late '69/early '70 the Dead were being "worked to death" - they had two or three gigs each weekend as usual, but their "tours" outside San Francisco tended to be extremely brief, just a few stops. So would Garcia actually have said that?
    Once Sam Cutler joined, they started playing a lot more shows, and 1970 would become a much busier touring year for them. It seems part of Lenny's incompetence was not only pocketing the band's money, but not finding them enough places to play in the first place!

    1. Come to think of it, I wonder how much can be read into the Dead's gig schedule during Lenny's tenure.
      It would seem two of his main ideas were: "don't play colleges" and "don't play the midwest" - in fact, don't go on long tours at all.
      There's a huge difference between the midwest/northeast tour of Feb '69 & the college tours of April '69 & May '70, and, well, any tour at all while Lenny was in charge. Apparently he was unable to find them gigs at more than 3 or 4 cities in a row anywhere!

    2. Point well-taken on Rakow as a source for dates.

      Do you know where he was and what he was doing from 5/22/69-3/2/70? I don't, but I would like to know.

    3. "Garcia was troubled about Lenny some time before the final confrontation"

      Just reading Rosie McGee in TIAADWD: "When Lenny came into the scene they needed somebody trustworthy to be secretary." I think that's a really telling statement, that there was deep mistrust of Lenny from the get-go.

      I also kind of love that shambolic Campolindo 5/16/69 was something like the end of an era.

    4. sorry, that's McGee in TIAADWD, p. 143.

    5. The idea about colleges is a testable proposition with my data. I have code for college gigs, that's also of course chronologically coded.

    6. Yeah, I doubt Rakow's memory can be relied on too much for details. He remembers Garcia telling him, "You're going to have to come out of retirement and take us over again." Maybe Garcia said that - but I've noticed Rakow was disposed to telling stories about how Garcia would ask him for help, rely on him, etc.
      So probably we can only conclude that Garcia at some point expressed concern to him about the band's lack of money and Lenny's poor management.

      (I'd also like to know what Rakow was doing between mid-1968 and mid-1972, when he resurfaced in the Dead's affairs. McNally might say something, but I don't recall.)

      It seems pretty much everyone in the Dead scene (outside the band themselves) later said they mistrusted or disliked Lenny from the start. But there's kind of a sense of shared guilt (or astonishment) at how naive everyone was.
      Rhoney Stanley said, "Bear never trusted him. To Bear, the only reason that he was in it was for money. So where was he getting the money? We were broke; we didn't have any money. That was what made Bear suspicious." (TIAADWD p.143)
      But evidently doubts like these weren't aired or listened to at the time. Remember that Rosie McGee quit working for Lenny since she couldn't stand him, but that didn't mean a thing to the band.
      McNally describes another confrontation in mid-1969 when Jonathan Reister quit (and the roadies threatened to quit) due to Lenny's problems, but apparently that didn't sink in either! (See McNally p.306.)

      As far as bookings, Rhoney said that when Lenny booked gigs, "the places he was trying to book the Grateful Dead weren't right for [them]," and he would be rejected.
      Gail Hellund, on the other hand, said that after she started in the Dead office, Lenny wasn't involved with bookings - she and Jon McIntire set up the tours, working with Monterey Peninsula Artists.
      So it's hard to say for sure who was responsible for bookings over the second half of 1969. (In May '69 they were still getting gigs from Bill Graham's Millard booking agency.)
      It's noticeable, though, that from June '69 through March '70, the Dead only played, what, three or four colleges? (Versus twice as many in April '69 or May '70 alone.)

    7. One can't discount that they were in the their 20s and Lenny was a band member's father.

    8. I can't believe I missed this post--what was I doing?

      With respect to the Dead not playing colleges in the Lenny era, it's important to remember that Lenny was running a scam. In the 60s, most rock promoters were local hustlers--theater owners (like Bill Graham) or former dope dealers (like Chet Helms) and similar pillars of respectable society. McIntire may have booked the shows (who were Monterey Peninsula Artists, by the way?), but how did the money get paid? We don't actually know, but Lenny stole a lot of it.

      That means a lot of out-of-town characters were perfectly willing to, I don't know, send a money order to the Grateful Dead's office made out to the name of Lenny's girlfriend, or however he was running the con. Universities, even in the 1960s, were more organized, and wanted to send a check to the booking agent or however they did proper business. Lenny had no interest in that, so colleges were probably less appealing to him.

      Most rock bands liked playing colleges in the 60s because college concerts were underwritten by the school and not really dependent on ticket sales, so performers actually got paid, unlike a nightclub. But colleges also kept records and wrote checks, not appealing if you're undertaking shady business.

    9. Good point about colleges.
      I'd thought Lenny would have wanted any booking he could get, if only to keep the Dead playing and the money rolling in. But naturally checks or contracts from colleges (or other agencies) that everyone in the band could see would be of no interest to him. (Whereas cash payments from rock promoters were perfect.) Any exposure to legitimate business practices, and Lenny would shrivel up like a vampire in sunlight!

  6. I think you are jumping to conclusions on the statement that Lenny "embezzled more than $77,000 between May 22, 1969, and March 2, 1970, while he was employed as business manager of the group." This could just as validly be read as meaning that those dates are the first and last times that the Dead had specific instances (ie the checks) of Lenny's theft as opposed to being his exact period of employment. It does give inner but not exact outer boundaries.

    1. I think you are right, but I feel pretty comfortable using this as the demonstrable range of Lenny's Perfidy, at the very least.

    2. There I was thinking "don't you hate journalists who use ambiguous, imprecise language" as I typed "jumping to conclusions" when I meant "making assumptions" your conclusions are indeed valid.

    3. Per McNally, Lenny was introduced to the band in April 1969, and left in mid-March 1970, ultimately stealing about $155,000. Where he got that figure, I'm not sure.
      Rolling Stone's report on Lenny's 1971 arrest:
      David Parker said, "$70,000 was the amount we [sued him for]; that was the amount clearly beyond a doubt that had been dealt with in a suspicious way. It may have been double that, we didn't know."


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