Saturday, August 15, 2009

In The Beginning There Was The Grateful Dead

Many of the good friends of Howl At The Moon Gifts, made over the years, can easily trace back where we first crossed paths. They would remember a scene where everybody was happy and having a great time and suddenly they come upon a couple blankets laid out on asphalt, covered with all kinds of handcrafted jewelry and tons of bright colors, and overseen by a very nice guy all decked out in tie dye with a huge smile on his face. That's It! Deadheads Pre-Show Parking Lot Extravaganzas. You know how some people sometimes sound weird when they mention that at the movie theatre, the previews are their favorite part. Well for Grateful Dead fans, the pre-show parking lot get together is right up there at the top of the list, right next to the show itself.

I remember my first show like it was yesterday. Oh and before I continue, if you are totally unfamiliar with the society that is Deadheads, you need to know that it is very hard for any us to not smile when talking about all of those good times. On February 17th, 1979 the Dead headlined an environmental cancer benefit show at the Oakland Coliseum. This show was my first exposure to everything that is the Dead. I had never really listened to their music and certainly never experienced the very unique environment of love and caring that is totally emulated from Deadheads. My friends that grabbed me and took me to the show, kept telling me in the car, that I was about to embark on an adventure that I would remember for the rest of my life. OMG! They were sooooo right.

When we got to the Coliseum parking lot, four or five hours before the show, which I couldn't figure out why we were going so early, I found several thousand people already there when we pulled in. Everybody was dressed in every bright color in the rainbow. And as we got out of the car, the smells of great food, incense, etc. was overwhelmingly wonderful and immediately made you feel at peace and full of glee to be there as part of it. This huge parking lot had aisles like a craft show but bordered by cars and vans instead of walls. Every four or five feet we came across a group of big smiles inviting us over to have something to eat, drink, and/or take a look at all kinds of handcrafted jewelry, fashion, books, memorabilia, and even paraphernalia. And what intrigued me the most about all of this, was that a significant portion of all of these new friends, had traveled very far to be there. And even stranger, was that I felt that they were not there to turn a profit, raise money for their rent, or anything commercial whatsoever. Their main objective was to generate a little cash so they could buy tickets to the show and defray the costs of travel and expenses to get them to the very next show. The artisans that I met would talk a mile a minute about how rewarding it was to create something and share with someone with the added bonus that they make a little money to keep doing it. Maybe a lot of you are thinking "starving artist" kind of thing but this was totally different. This was people doing what they love to do to enable them to do more of what they love to do. I have never experienced this wonderful attitude anywhere else...ever. A couple months later, when I started Howl At The Moon Gifts, this same attitude became my mission statement that still exists today.

The show that evening was phenomenal. Everyone was dancing in the aisles and I swear that everyone was singing the words to every song. And these fans were as diverse as going from an eleven year girl there with her parents to a successful Manhattan surgeon that took a couple months off from his practice to follow the Dead. I was not what you would call a die-hard (pardon the pun) fan of the music at first. I walked into this being a rocker to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Stones, AC DC, etc. But I will be first in line to say that yes, the Grateful Dead is an acquired taste which after more exposure, I acquired and could never get enough.

The very next local show was slated for April 22nd 1979 at the Spartan in San Jose. When we departing the Coliseum from my first show, I was kinda like a little kid whining “Are We There Yet?” but instead whining “Are We Going Go To The Spartan...yet?” Now earlier I mentioned the wonderful feeling I felt from artisans handcrafting jewelry to defray the expenses of being a Deadhead, and how great it was; however, there were also people that did commercialize it as well…like my friends and me. Guilty as charged! I was not a jewelry artisan yet and just a narrow minded kid out of college that thought making an extra buck never hurt anybody. So for the next show, my friends and me went out and bought fifteen cases of Corona and a couple dozen limes and sold cold ones in the parking lot of the Spartan before the show. We didn’t really turn a profit but more reaped the rewards of meeting of new friends including hot girls. lol I think we ended up selling Coronas with a lime wedge for a buck each. There were two shows at the Oakland Auditorium a couple months later in August, where we either got more creative or lazier. Each afternoon of the two shows we ordered, and had delivered to us in parking lot, thirty or so Domino’s pizzas and sold them all by the slice. Again no profit but we attracted a crowd of new friends. Well, that was the last time I experimented with commercial foodservice retail at a Dead show.

Now I mentioned that a couple months later, I started Howl At The Moon Gifts and even though a lot of my heart was filled with my wonderful experiences intro into the world of the Dead, it would not be until six or seven years later, that I would begin setting up at Dead shows to sell jewelry and memorabilia. Stay tuned to my blog for more on those very first days of Howl At The Moon Gifts in the near future.

In the early days of introducing Howl At The Moon Gifts to my Deadhead family, it started with a beach towel on the hood of my car with a dozen pieces or so. Most of my time with Howl At The Moon Gifts was spent in Arts & Crafts Fairs, Civic Events, Flea Markets, and the like but when a local Dead show would periodically pop up, I would make tracks to head there. I would grab some stuff and figure that I would load a cooler with food and beverage, throw some of my HATM inventory into a case, and take off for the show and establish wherever I landed, as a base in the parking lot, where my friends could find me before the shows. Beach towels eventually blossomed into a blanket on the ground and then two and then three. And handful of necklaces then turned into a couple dozen necklaces, rings, earrings, etc. At the height of Howl At The Moon Gifts Deadhead years it was a ten by ten roofed booth with stationary clothing racks as I became a licensed vendor featuring hundreds of handcrafted jewelry items, full lines of licensed Dead memorabilia, and even full lines of vintage clothing and leather jackets, vests, and pants. For many shows I picked up the nickname as the Dead Dancing Bear Jewelry Guy after designing a couple Sterling Silver Dancing Bear Sculpted Rings for men and women coupled with carrying just about ever sticker, shirt, hat, you-name-it item brandishing a Dancing Bear when I became an authorized dealer for Grateful Graphics in the Bay Area. Some of those shows in the eighties were the most memorable of my life; especially, several series of shows at Irvine Meadows and a NORML Rally at the Federal Building in Santa Monica where I had sales in the thousands.

As I look back and reminisce all of those great memories from those thirty to forty Dead shows, it is so easy to see the influences they had on Howl At The Moon Gifts. I still maintain the love and caring nature that the Dead family etched into me permanently. I still have a lot of those unique designs finding their way into items I create today. But the most significant influence from those days that totally defines “Why Howl At The Moon Gifts?” is still to this day and that is “I am just a person doing what I love to do to enable me to do more of what I love to do.

Gerry Garcia to Geraldo Rivera on 20/20, December 10, 1981 “Our audience is like people who like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people that like licorice really like licorice.”

Miss You Gerry

Love and Peace!

Howl At The Moon Gifts

*Pictured below is my friend Jan and me in parking lot of 2001 Dead New Years Eve show at Oakland Coliseum Arena


  1. Please stop by my Etsy store in September when my Monthly Feature for September will be "Deadheads" featuring Grateful Dead themed selections in jewelry and memorabilia.

    Howl At The Moon Gifts

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  3. Dead Head til' the word your etsy shop! Nothin' left to do but :) :) :)'ve brought back wonderful memories of the old days! Peace to you and yours.