Grateful Dead Poster (Original Photo Illustration)

A Great Hippie Tale

I shot this in the basement of the Greek around 12pm - 2 am in the morning, for some reason. The art director, Dan Ziegler, got a human skull for the Anatomy Dept. at Cal, from a creepy old guy who told him that it was from a teenage girl–he said that he “cleaned it himself”.

There was a model of the Greek stage and steps, in the basement below the public area, I guess it was a green room. I set up the lights and placed the skull on the model to photograph it, and we added roses to the sides of the head for effect. As was the time, to encourage our creative vision, we lit up a large joint. This was about 2 stories below street level. We thought that it was a very private place.

Suddenly two police walked in, a man and a woman, who were shocked at the skull, the joint and the bright lights of the set. They almost pulled their guns out!

After we explained that it was a Grateful Dead poster they calmed down a little. What we couldn’t figure out is why they were down there so late. There was nothing to steal, just some dusty couches. We realized that they wouldn’t arrest us, as they would be caught having an affair. It was a stand-off!

The promoter of the show–someone from UC Berkeley–thought that the poster was too graphic with the skull. So Ziegler, the designer, painted over a print so it would look more mellow. Later I heard that the promoter tossed out the posters, as he still believed that they were too gross.

Many years later I saw the poster in a shop in North Beach, the Postermat it was called. I asked the owner how much the poster was. He said it was $500 as it was the rarest Dead poster. I started laughing, because I got $50 for shooting the job. He got really mad, as he thought that I was laughing to get the price down.

I still have about 2-4 posters somewhere.