by David Safier
This post is a bit of a stretch, but it's Sunday, which is my Day of Stretch. Optional headline: Secular Meets Scholarly Meets Sacred.
First, the Secular Meets Scholarly part. The Grateful Dead "will donate a cache of their papers, posters and props on Thursday to the University of California, Santa Cruz, which plans to use the musical miscellany as part of a research center to be known as Dead Central."
The university, located in a hippie-friendly city 75 miles south of San Francisco, already teaches a popular undergraduate course about the Grateful Dead’s music, and is known as “a hotbed of current Deadhead culture,” said Bob Weir, the group’s rhythm guitarist.
Insert jokes about the state of academia here.
In the Secular Meets Sacred part, during the Pope's visit to the U.S., they held a youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary, in Yonkers. Now, how do you organize a large, successful youth rally with a star-quality headliner? Line up Christian musicians like Kelly Clarkson, Saint Michael’s Warriors, the Messengers of Christ, A Fragile Tomorrow, and Jammin’ with Jesus & Friends. And call in Chris Wangro, a concert stager for big time rock stars, and a large contingent of roadies he'd worked with over the years, including Ken Viola, the head of the Grateful Dead's security.
The police and the Secret Service—who had mapped out their sniper positions—had told him not to worry, but Wangro said that he’d be relying on Viola’s guys, who, from their years with the Dead, knew concert protocol. “No matter how good the police are, they’re not trained for the things that these people are trained for,” he said.
A few other wonderful tidbits.
They used a modified stage from a Rolling Stones show.
And, because the crew, some of them Jewish, had to work during Passover, Wangro organized
a small Seder, which would be held at sunset in the bishops’ tent, after the papal entourage had left. Wangro, who calls himself “a good atheist Jew,” had included the event out of consideration for the Jewish members of his crew he’d asked to work during Passover. He’d enlisted Father Michael Martine, the procurator of St. Joseph’s, to deliver a blessing.
America. What a country!