Week of June 10, 1995
This week's program features a press conference held at the Hard Rock Cafe in San Francisco on May 21, 1996, regarding a charitable t-shirt sale benefiting the Rex Foundation, "various schools in Lithuania, and the Lithuanian Olympic basketball team." And some fine Grateful Dead music, too. Enjoy!
Grateful Dead 6/16/85 Greek Theater, Berkeley CA
FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN->
SAMSON AND DELILAH
THAT'S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE
LITHUMANIA press conference
Grateful Dead/Lithuanian Olympic Basketball T-Shirt
Hard Rock Cafe, San Francisco 5/21/96
Sarunas Marciulionis -- Lithuanian National and Sacramento Kings star
Don Nelson -- Phoenix Suns assistant coach
Bob Weir -- former Grateful Dead guitarist
Mickey Hart -- former Grateful Dead drummer
Bill Walton -- former NBA star and noted Deadhead
Chris Mullin -- Golden State Warriors star
Dennis McNally -- Grateful Dead spokesperson
Dennis McNally: My name is Dennis McNally. I work for the Grateful Dead, and, uh, welcome. I want to introduce everybody here and give you a 30-second exposition as to why you're here. The short of it, quite simply, is that the Grateful Dead and Lithuania once again, as we did in 1992, are joining forces to sell a t-shirt, a couple of different -- many different designs, and lots of t-shirts, that will support the Rex Foundation, which is a Northern California charitable fund associated with the Grateful Dead, various schools in Lithuania, and the Lithuanian Olympic basketball team. And it's a neat story, and it's written there and I won't repeat it, but just suffice it to say that the connection of the Grateful Dead and Lithuania, and the NBA, in general, is funny and odd and very sweet. And the result, in 1992, was over a quarter of a million dollars for charity. Because we're gonna be a little more organized this time, we're gonna do a *lot* better this year, and, you know, that's the point of it all. So, introductions. On our far right, NBC commentator and former all-world basketball player, Bill Walton. Also, all-world Deadhead and generally part of the families of both the Grateful Dead and the Lithuanian Olympic team. Friends of the NBA.
Bill Walton: And someone who's very proud to be at a press conference in tennis shoes and a tie-dyed t-shirt once again.
McNally: Still. Nothing changes. On our right, Mickey Hart --
Mickey Hart: Noted Walton-head.
McNally: Noted Walton-head, percussionist for the Grateful Dead, and I actually am gonna slip in an extra announcement today, because Mickey's too shy to do it himself, but we're also -- the ACOG, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, is announcing today the fact that Mickey Hart, along with Philip Glass and Zakir Hussain, has composed the music for the opening ceremonies of the Games that'll take place in Atlanta. So, the Grateful Dead have *two* connections now to the Olympics.
Walton: Yeah, Mick.
McNally: And you're also gonna hear a little more of Mickey's music in a little while, which -- but we'll get to that. Right here, Sarunas Marciulionis, whom we met in '92 as a [Golden State] Warrior and is now with the Sacramento Kings, and the heart and soul of the Lithuanian Olympic basketball team.
Bob Weir, rhythm guitarist of the Grateful Dead, and, uh, the heart and soul of the Grateful Dead.
From the Warriors, and along just because he's a member of the Bay Area good vibes and close friend of Rooney's, Chris Mullin.
And the assistant coach of the Phoenix Suns -- now are you coach, or assistant coach, or coordinating coach --
Don Nelson: Assistant coach.
McNally: -- of the Lithuanian Olympic basketball team, Mr. Donnie Nelson.
So, Donnie, why don't you kick it off.
Nelson: Okay. Do I stay here?
McNally: Um, could we make a space here, while you scootch forward? You guys are gonna lose it all.
Nelson: Musical chairs.
Nelson: We felt real strongly to have this here, 'cause this is basically the birthplace of Lithu-mania. I mean, this is where it all happened. This is where the Grateful Dead bestowed upon us the tie-dyed jerseys that later on became famous at the '92 Olympics. This is where they showed their generosity to us as a team, and as a young, independent country that just received its freedom. The marriage really was magical from the get-go. They stood for independence, freedoms and celebration, and that's exactly what Lithuania was going through at the time. When they entered in the Olympics in '92, they showed the expression of that to the world, and they tried to use that after being under Soviet occupation for years and years. They tried to use that Olympic experience to catapult herself back within the European community. And with the Grateful Dead, they did that extremely successfully. Now that brings us up to '92. Briefly, in 1992, we ended up wearing the tie-dye t-shirts on the medal stand, in a way of saying thank you to the Grateful Dead, because really, nobody knew anything about Lithuania. It's a tiny little runaway republic that was under Soviet occupation for years and years. It's about the size of Switzerland, with a population of under four million. And the Grateful Dead looked at us with kind eyes in '92. Like I said, they sent us a check that helped us get to the Olympics, and without their help we never would have made it. So on the medal stand, when we stood next to Chris Mullin and the Dream Team, the original Dream Team, we wore Grateful Dead tie-dye t-shirts, in a way of saying thank you to them for believing in us when we were nobodies. And that experience was magical. After that event, we ended up coming back to the Bay Area, marketing the t-shirts, and as Dennis said, the t-shirts absolutely took off, exploded. This time around -- and all of those monies were sent back to Lithuania, to the Lithuanian Children's Fund, which is basically a children's miracle network. The Olympics were over, we had no need for money, so those funds went to the children's miracle network, which is the Lithuanian Children's Fund. This time around -- again, the country's in a state of depression, the banks shut down not six months ago. It's a lot like it was here in the United States in the '30s. That's what we're experiencing right now. So we need all the help we can get. And that's again what the Grateful Dead is stepping forward here today in this press conference, and we're trying to market these t-shirts, and as a result, it'll fund our way to the Atlanta Olympics. There's also some -- we're going to go through a brief jersey-raising ceremony. I don't know if we want to do that now, Dennis.
McNally: What I had in mind -- why don't we go through everybody's speaking piece --
Nelson: Okay, okay.
Sarunas Marciulionis: Ladies and gentlemen, today is a great opportunity for me to thank Grateful Dead, American basketball fans, and the media for helping to accomplish our dreams and goals. And I sincerely appreciate financial, moral, spiritual support, and thanks for having faith in our team and our country, and God bless you, and see you in Atlanta.
Bob Weir: I'm next, I guess? Well, I guess it was about four years ago when we were sitting at a Rex Foundation board meeting. And what the Rex Foundation board does is, we sift through all the numerous applications for grants, things like that, and try to select the ones where we can do the most good, the ones that we know for sure are gonna fall through the cracks, with other foundations, institutions that hand out assistance. And we try to select the ones that -- okay, these guys are obviously very worthy of some support here, and we *know* that no one else is gonna cover them. And the Lithuanian basketball team came to us. The Lithuanian basketball team, these aren't homeless people, this isn't a soup kitchen, but at the same time, here's something that can do a lotta good for a lotta people. That whole country of Lithuania can have a spirit of national identity, and these people can go to the Olympics. And it seemed pretty irresistible to us to go ahead and fund it, plus it was our friend Donnie who brought it to us. And you know, friendship means a lot to us as well. Well, then, after we went ahead and helped out with the funding of the team, the team went to the Olympics and kicked butt. And it sort of exploded in everybody's faces. It was wonderful. Everybody got a little of this wonderful stuff all over them. And here were the tie-dye jerseys on TV, and there was -- I gotta say, I was immensely proud watching these guys doin' their thing on TV. And then after that, the excitement that all that generated turned into jersey sales, t-shirt sales. It actually started making money *for* the Rex Foundation, which I don't have to tell you, I shouldn't have to tell you, it's not real often that a foundation -- whoever they are benefiting actually turns around and starts kicking back, in spades. So it worked out real well for all of us, and I'm just hoping that we can turn that bronze to silver, or better, this year. Thank you.
Nelson: Sounds like a deal.
Mickey Hart: Well, you know, this is a -- I was also proud to see the underdog come up there as a David and Goliath fight. And here they were wearing our colors, and their colors, actually. And basketball really represents an important part of the human spirit. When people can get together and play together and do all these -- it's a good model. It's not unlike a band, you know, there is the group mind at work, and when people see this work like this, coming from nowhere, taking the bronze and fighting against the odds, it's a great story. Bill and I were speaking earlier -- we're proud to be a part of this, because it's such a great story. I mean, it really is, if you look at the whole thing, it's just a wonderful -- it's a great victory. And it's the power of the group mind and how people can work together for the good. And it's about freedom, it's about all that good kinda stuff. So I'm very proud to be a part of it, and Rex, like my associate points out, is an unusual instrument, able to reach into the cracks and the crevices, and be able to do these kind of things. Rex doesn't fund big things that can get funded other places. It looks for the stuff that's really needy and, you know, we can do hands-on kind of work, where boom! They turned it into some kind of victory, some kind of wonderful story. So *they're* really the story behind it. We were just there, at that moment, with a few dollars, and maybe a vision and a little thought, and then they just took it the rest of the way, and then *your* imagination took it the rest of the way. And that's what really happened. It is a marvelous story, and it's not over. And that's the best part of this story, because this story is yet to be written. The page has not been turned on this. And I can't wait to see how this story turns out, this year. And so, I'll be there, yes, I will be at the Olympics, but I will certainly be watching this performance, I'll tell you that. Again, I'm very proud to be part of this.
Bill Walton: This long story, this long saga started for me in the early 1970s, just after I became a Deadhead, growing up in Southern California and started going to these giant celebrations of life that were Grateful Dead concerts. I had the privilege of playing in international competition against the Soviet Union long before Sarunas, long before [Arvidas] Sabonis came along. And growing up in the luxury and privilege of the United States basketball system, I was shocked and dismayed how, in the early '70s, after we waxed the Soviet Union team, their players would come up to us, after the game on the court, and ask us for our used personal equipment. Our socks, our shoelaces. And it was so sad to see the expressions, and defeat and gloom on their faces. And then 10 years later, when I was privileged to see, in the early '80s, Sabonis play as a 19 year old player, a 7'3'' version of Larry Bird, with creativity and fluidity and expression, and dreamlike aspirations and goals. And then when it all came together, in the beauty of the '88 Olympic games when the Soviet Union, then keyed and led by Sarunas and Sabonis, just destroyed the United States team. They came out and they played with a vision of basketball, a dream of basketball. They played a more appealing style of basketball than the United States team did, and when Sabonis was just tearin' apart David Robinson, it made me feel so proud, because I've known the struggles and the sacrifices that these players, these people have made to get to this point. And that single day, when the Soviet Union, with Sabonis and Marciulionis, beat the United States, that is what forced the opening up of basketball in *this* country to join the Olympic and the international movement. And now it's come full circle, as we see Sarunas and Sabonis become full-fledged NBA stars. And that is the ultimate accomplishment, the ultimate reward for their sacrifices. Now, the sacrifices that Bob Weir and Mickey Hart and Donn Nelson and Chris Mullin have made in their lives, in their professions to get to where *they* are, reminds me of when I was a player, and then the nicest thing anybody ever said about me as an individual basketball player was that I made my teammates better. And then I learned at an early age, from hanging out with guys like Mickey and Bob, in the family of the Grateful Dead, that the ultimate skill of the true star of the team is to make everybody else in the family the real stars. Now, I've learned on this long, strange trip that we've all been on through all these years, that this big circle of life -- the wheel of life, if you will, that represents the Grateful Dead and the joy and the happiness, is now presenting ourselves with an opportunity to give something back, to make other people's lives better. Not just the lives of the players, not just Marciulionis and Sabonis and the other players on the team, but the people in Lithuania, the people who now have joy, who now have hope, who now have dreams, and who now have visions. Visions spurred on, inspired, motivated, by the sacrifice of the people here at this table, by the people who have given *us* all the greatest lives. Because it's that interrelationship between basketball players, basketball teams, musicians, and the fans, that makes everything so special and I know has pushed these men to the greatest heights that they've ever been able to achieve, but also the basketball people as well. And I am proud and privileged to be here today to be part of this, because this Lithuanian team, these Lithuanian people, they really need our help, and they're most grateful for it. Thank you very much.
Chris Mullin: Well, I think with enough said -- what Billy just said, I think, kinda sums everything up. But I'm really just here out of friendship, and being loyal. Sarunas called me up and asked me to stop by, and that's really all I'm here for. Although everything that's said is what Sarunas is doing. He does so much for that country, and puts so much time, energy, and money and his whole life into that place. I went there two summers ago and visited him. And to get off the plane -- and you don't see *everybody* smiling, but when they see him, they smile. And that means a lot. And I think they know, you know, not only what he means to them, but why he does it. He does it out of the goodness of his heart, much the way he plays basketball and much the way he lives his life, is what he does for those people. And we walked through the airport, we walked downtown, and if there was a grim face, when Sarunas showed up, that changed to a smile. And I'm gonna try and help them out as much as I can. I might, when they come to the States, work out with them a little bit, and just be a friend. That's about it. Thank you.
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- David Gans