This is an excerpt from chapter 4 of This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead by Blair Jackson and David Gans. The authors are neighbors in Oakland, so if you order a signed copy at perfectible.net it’ll be signed by both of ‘em.

Gail Hellund: One of the things [Lenny Hart] did was let everybody take advances. If my car broke down, he’d say, “Do you need a loan to get a new car? I could set it up where I’d take so much out of your salary every week…” He would give you your check, and then he’d make another check out for the amount you had to pay back, and you had to sign that over to him. Nobody else was going to lend us money — we couldn’t go into banks and function that way. So we were all complicit in that, without really realizing what was going on. We didn’t realize he was cashing those checks.

Garcia, Mountain Girl, and Robert Hunter were living in Larkspur. Jerry did [some music for Michelangelo Antonioni’s film] Zabriskie Point, and they were going to buy their first house with the check from that. Mountain Girl would call them every day: “That check come yet?” She had a house she wanted to buy, and she was anxious to get it. Every morning I would go to the post office and pick up the Grateful Dead’s mail. I was not allowed to open it — I just put it on Lenny’s desk. I saw the check from Warner Bros. — “Jerome J. Garcia” — put it on Lenny’s desk, and called Mountain Girl. She says, “Oh my god! I’ll be right up!”

She comes up, and “Where is it?” “It’s on Lenny’s desk.” She goes in, and Lenny says, “There’s no check here for you.”

He goes, “What the fuck? Yes there is. I know it’s here.”

He says, “No.”

She comes into my office and says, “What’s going on?”

I said, “I guarantee you, that was the check. I didn’t open it, but… Let’s call Warner Bros.” 

I called Warner Bros. They said, “Yep, we mailed it two days ago.”

She goes back in and starts storming at Lenny. Lenny says, “That was something else. You’re wrong about that.”

She calls Jerry, and the word gets out. Pretty soon, every single member of the band is in my office, and Mountain and I are telling the story. Mickey is standing there. It’s a little rough. People are telling their Lenny stories, and it’s going around and around and around — what shall we do? How do we confront him?” It really wasn’t even a lot of stories. It was a pretty subdued kind of thing — “I don’t like the way he does this,” you know. We didn’t really have any evidence then. This is how naive we were.

Finally Ram Rod, who hasn’t said a word until this point, says, “I’ll tell you what: It’s me or him.” Ram Rod was that kind of guy: He didn’t say much, but when he did, it was important. Everybody loved Ram Rod.

Jerry says, “That’s it, then. No contest: We fire Lenny.”

Mickey is freaking out. He doesn’t say a word, and people are asking. “Did you know this? Did you know he was like this?” Mickey was just numb.

Whoever went in — I’m pretty sure it was Jerry — told Lenny he was done. “Take your stuff and get out.”

Then we, as a group, decided to go out to lunch. There was this great little place in Novato that had crab sandwiches that were out of this world. So we all went up there; must have been twelve of us. Left him alone in the office.

When we came back, you know what was in the office? My phone, on the floor. All the file cabinets were gone, the desk was gone, the chairs were gone. Everything was gone! He had a truck come and he said, “Take everything. Why go through her desk? Just take the fucking desk!” Took everything.