The sleeper Broadway hit that was Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin and Matthew Sklar’s The Prom is now a star-studded spectacle on Netflix starring Meryl Streep, James Corden, and Nicole Kidman, all of whom drown in autotune in the first trailer for Ryan Murphy’s upcoming adaptation.
Bridget Lee Pendell-Williamson was 23 years old when she vanished while following the Grateful Dead in 1996.Douglas Simmons was last seen at a Grateful Dead concert in 1990.Mitchel Fred Weiser and his girlfriend, Bonita Bickwit, went missing while hitchhiking to a Grateful Dead concert in 1993.In 1995, a man’s body was found on the side of a highway by a Grateful Dead concert in Atlanta. His identity is still unknown.In 2008, a woman’s body was discovered by a fisherman underneath a boxspring in Sacramento. Her cause of death and identity is still unknown. The one marker: she was wearing a Grateful Dead jacket.A murdered woman was found in the woods of Warren County, New Jersey, in 1991. The only identifying feature on her mutilated body was a tiger tattoo on her left leg—the same tiger design on Jerry Garcia’s guitar.Two men were found dead in a ghastly Volkswagen van crash in 1995, but only one of the men could be identified. The only clues to who the second person was: two Grateful Dead tickets in his pocket.“When you think of the Grateful Dead, you think of peace and love and music and community,” podcaster Jake Brennan tells The Daily Beast. “You don’t think of murder and true crime.”Brennan and co-host Payne Lindsey are behind the podcast Dead and Gone, which has been grabbing attention since its release earlier this month for its investigations into the unusual spate of missing and murdered fans of the Grateful Dead, better known as Deadheads. (The aforementioned cases are just a handful of the examples.)There’s a record-scratch intrigue in the seeming dissonance between the vibe associated with the psychedelics-devouring, hippie-skewing, tie-dye-wearing anti-establishment fan community and the darkness underscoring the violent crimes and mysteries outlined in Dead and Gone.The podcast explores the surprising darkness at the core of the Dead’s music and the culture surrounding them, and the phenomenon of how susceptible Deadheads, in their free-wheeling nature, have been to predation. (After founding member Jerry Garcia's death in 1995, surviving band members continued to tour.)While surveying the spate of cases that all share a Deadhead connection, Dead and Gone zeroes in most specifically on the double homicide of Mary Gioia and Greg Kniffin, who were 22 and 18, respectively, when they were murdered at the free Rainbow Village fan encampment in San Francisco in 1985. The couple was planning to crash in the Deadhead commune for a few nights. They were found beaten and fatally shot.A 31-year-old Black man named Ralph International Thomas was sentenced to death for the killings, only for it to be revealed years later that he was wrongly convicted and the real culprit could still be on the loose. (America’s systemic racism exists even inside Rainbow Village.) The podcast then takes on an investigation: Who killed Mary and Greg?“The Grateful Dead fan base is just so huge, fans across several generations and all across the world,” says Lindsey. ”Anytime anything Grateful Dead-related comes out, it's got the interest of millions of people from all walks of life. There's this very strong network of people who communicate very well amongst each other, who want to see justice.”The point is made early on that there is not a serial killer who has been hunting down Deadheads for decades. As prolific cybersleuth Todd Matthews explains in an interview, what he established by linking these cases to the victims’ Grateful Dead fandom is a commonality that garners attention—murder and the Grateful Dead is pretty tantalizing as far as headlines go—and hopefully helps solve cold cases.“The real commonality is this sort of vulnerability that exists in a lot of different subsets of people,” Lindsey says. “The importance of this whole thing is that, by bundling them all together like that and giving them a moniker, it creates this commonality that is noticed. And so people who are part of the Grateful Dead world will see this, and they're likely the people who could help solve it.”It’s tempting to generalize about Deadheads in order to get to the heart of that vulnerability, but it’s also valuable in understanding why there is a link between these cases.Dead and Gone features interviews with Deadheads recalling the vibe at concerts and in the encampments, where inebriation and the euphorically familial community mixes for a high of undeterred, disoriented trust. An attitude of carefree acceptance can make all that tie-dye warp into a target.“There are plenty of opportunities for a wolf in sheep's clothing to take advantage of the vulnerability,” Lindsey says.One fan describes scalping tickets in the parking lot and, in all the ecstasy of excitement, not realizing until well into post-concert celebrations that he had no memory of where he parked his car. Others recount willfully hopping from van to van and tent to tent to parties and the common practice of hitchhiking, all while stoned and out of sorts.“Not to sound like an authoritarian square…” Brennan starts. “And the Grateful Dead, obviously, they didn't have anything to do with this and we're not casting blame on them. But they live and they preach this super anti-authority lifestyle, even after they became an institution themselves. Being a Deadhead and traveling on the road following the band was all about living outside of the bounds of society, and there's a lawlessness that goes along with that. It's ultimately part of what contributed to this environment of vulnerability where people went missing and lost their lives.”Riding a wave of pop culture’s true-crime obsession, the Dead and Gone hosts credit a “chocolate and peanut butter” appeal to the mixing of Grateful Dead lore with true crime, two things that don't appear to go together but end up being a compelling combination.Lindsey’s background is in true-crime investigation, having created the podcasts Up and Vanished, about the cold-case disappearance of a former beauty queen in Georgia, and Atlanta Monster, about the infamous murders of 25 children in the city from 1979-81. And while Brennan’s podcast Disgraceland was about musicians getting away with murder, he was largely unfamiliar with the Dead and their fanbase before working on Dead and Gone.One thing they’ve both been struck by after interviewing Deadheads from all over the country is how many of them are not surprised to learn about these murders, an acknowledgment of the darkness that seemed to be always lurking in those sketchy parking lots and risky invitations by strangers.“That darkness is not only prevalent in the history of the culture of the Grateful Dead, the people who went to see the show, and the things that happened to them that we're exploring through the murders here, but the other piece of it is—and this goes a bit unsaid at the surface level of the Dead narrative—that darkness is pretty well represented in song as well,” Brennan says, citing “Dire Wolf” and “Death Don’t Have Mercy” as examples.“It's just ironic that some of those tales of murder and violence came to fruition in some ways at Dead concerts and in the Deadhead community.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. 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In a cramped rehearsal studio in Hollywood last February, a group of Harvey Weinstein accusers gathered for the first live run-through of a remarkable by-product of the MeToo movement: a musical about their experiences that is aiming for Broadway.The story of a powerful Hollywood mogul brought down by the women he trampled, “The Right Girl” was co-written by Louisette Geiss, one of Weinstein’s accusers, and producer Howard Kagan, with music by Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren, and direction and choreography by Tony-winning director Susan Stroman (“The Producers”).But just days after this first rehearsal with Broadway performers, the coronavirus struck, ending in-person work on the project. Broadway went dark indefinitely and since then the producers have been struggling to find a path forward. The first baby step is finally here, with a Zoom-like filmed performance of the script at a theater in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on November 1.“Were it not for the pandemic, we planned for this show to premiere at an off-Broadway or regional theater right about now,” Kagan said. “So, when the world changed in March, we changed course to rehearse and film this live theater performance in a way that kept everyone involved safe and socially distanced, while providing all of us a chance to work in the theater industry we love.”Also Read: Harvey Weinstein Scandal: A Timeline of a Hollywood Mogul's Downfall (Photos)Howard Kagan, Diane Warren, Louisette Geiss, Susan Stroman at 2020 rehearsal (Photo courtesy of Louisete Geiss)“The Right Girl,” whose live-read in February WaxWord attended, tells the story of fast-rising producer Eleanor Stark, who goes to work as the second-in-command to Paul Schulz, a brilliant studio chief with a remarkable resemblance to Weinstein. She comes to realize his predatory behavior toward other women and has to decide if she will go public with what she knows. The show stars Alysha Umphress (“On the Town”) as Eleanor, Tony Yazbeck (“On the Town”) as Paul and Robyn Hurder (“Moulin Rouge!”) as the accuser.In an odd twist of fate, the first-ever run-through of the play came together just one day after the former mogul’s rape conviction in New York City. In another odd twist, Stroman directed the 2001 musical hit “The Producers” that Weinstein himself produced and for which he won one of his nine Tony Awards. The rehearsal took place at Warren’s music studio in Hollywood, where she saw her songs set to the story for the first time. The audience included Geiss and a tight-knit group of friends, fellow survivors and investors.“I burst into tears as they read the first part of the verdict, and then I came here to work on this,” said Sarah Ann Masse, one of about 20 “silence breakers” who contributed their stories to the musical. Masse was also one of the performers at the March run-through, singing soulfully about “predation.”Those who have followed the Harvey Weinstein case will recognize in the play details tied to Weinstein in particular and the MeToo movement in general. Eleanor is taught on her first day of work to knock six times on the mogul’s door so as not to interrupt activities behind it. After a traumatic experience with Schulz, one character leaves entertainment to become a real estate agent — which is pretty much what happened to Geiss herself.“The impetus for me was on a daily basis listening to the other women on our email thread,” Geiss said. “So many of the stories are so challenging and horrific. I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I need to change the way we look at this experience.’… I could see the spiraling down of so many of us. And I woke up one morning and I thought, ‘How can I change it?’ These are all artists, all creatives. We need to create a show about it that would uplift these women and allow them to focus on something that’s positive.”Also Read: Harvey Weinstein: Here's What's Next for His Los Angeles Sexual Assault CaseScreenshot from a performance of “The Right Girl”When one survivor describes her attack by the mogul in the play, she says she found herself unable to move. “I was frozen. I felt like my limbs were bricks, like every movement was like moving through thick mud,” she says, describing getting to the hotel room door, and Paul blocking her exit.And another survivor says: “It all seems perfectly normal — thrilling even, I mean he’s a really big deal in this town — until he’s on top of you.”Geiss met Kagan, a veteran Broadway producer and former Wall Street investor, when he bid on the bankrupt Weinstein Company but lost out to Lantern, a private equity firm. In the course of the bidding, Kagan stood out because he wanted to create a fund for the women who had claimed sexual abuse by Weinstein. “We lost the auction,” Kagan said. “A couple months later, Louisette called with this idea — do something like ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ letting women speak their truth.” Kagan said he thought it would be better as a musical (he was thinking of “A Chorus Line.”)Geiss decided to pitch Warren when she met the celebrated songwriter at TheWrap’s first annual Power Women Summit for women in 2018. Warren performed at the event and Geiss was honored along with other survivors of sexual abuse in the media and entertainment industries.Warren, who has written songs for Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Chrissy Metz and many others, said she found the project “interesting.” “I write songs for an artist,” she said. “I’ve never been in a room and seen something like this. I’ve never sat there and watched people act out the songs before. I’ve never done a show on Broadway.”Also Read: Watch Chrissy Metz and Diane Warren Perform 'Breakthrough' Song 'I'm Standing With You' | VideoLouisette Geiss, Diane Warren, Sharon Waxman, Sarah Ann Masse at TheWrap’s Power Women Summit in 2018 (Photo courtesy of Louisette Geiss)Warren has written a dozen songs for the show, one appropriately titled “You F—ed With the Wrong Girl.” (Most of the songs are drawn from Warren’s catalog, such as “Till It Happens to You,” the Oscar-nominated anthem performed by Lady Gaga for a documentary about rape on college campuses, “The Hunting Ground.”)The story is based on the true stories of about two dozen Hollywood sexual assault survivors — accusers of Weinstein as well as James Toback, R Kelly, Russell Simmons Louis CK and others — who gave the rights to the producers and will receive 2% each of the musical’s take.“We’re the Tom’s Shoes of musical-making,” Geiss said. “These women are desperate for work. Anabella Sciorra needs work. So I hope we’re creating something other companies will look at, and say — ‘Do it this way.'”The idea that a tragic story about serial rape and the struggle of women to be heard — the heart of the MeToo revolution — could end in a play co-written by a woman, scored by a woman and directed by a woman was a karmic arc that no one could have predicted.“It’s a miracle to tell this story,” Kagan said.Read original story Harvey Weinstein Accuser Writes MeToo Stage Musical With Diane Warren (Exclusive) At TheWrap