Two wives of Jerry Garcia fight over musician's estate


When Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Adams Garcia discovered that her longtime love, Jerry Garcia, was seeing another woman, she became incensed. The younger of her two daughters with the Grateful Dead guitarist, Theresa, wasn't even a year old.

Desperate to hold her family together, Carolyn Garcia said, she drove to a Mill Valley, Calif., film studio and confronted Deborah Koons, who was working there on a movie about the Grateful Dead, and pleaded: "Please go. Please let Jerry come home."

She said she had handed her rival a one-way plane ticket to New York, where Koons had been living when she met Jerry Garcia. Carolyn Garcia said Koons had "laughed" and said, "The spoils belong to the victor."

Deborah Koons Garcia remembers it differently.

"She told me she hadn't had a conversation with Jerry in years," she recalled. "She felt like a waitress."

She said she and Jerry had cashed in the ticket.

Twenty years later, the two women are still battling. Now, they've faced off in Marin County Superior Court over the late musician's estate. Carolyn Adams Garcia, 50, of Eugene, Ore., has sued to get her $5 million divorce agreement restored. Deborah Koons Garcia, 47, of Mill Valley, the widow and third wife of Jerry Garcia, cut off the $20,883 monthly payments to Carolyn Garcia after the musician died in August 1995.

Just last month, the Rex Foundation, the charitable arm of the Grateful Dead, canceled a planned benefit concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco after musician David Grisman pulled out because of trouble between the two women.

"Our [the Rex Foundation] executive director found out that if David played the benefit or any benefit for Rex as long as I was on the board, she [Deborah] would block releases of records that David recorded with Jerry over the last two years of his life," Carolyn Garcia charged.

Deborah Garcia told the Examiner she knew nothing about a canceled concert, but Carolyn Garcia's account was confirmed by Diane Blagman, a Rex Foundation board member who works as a lobbyist in Washington.

"We were disappointed. The purpose of the event was not for us -- it was to put money back into the community," Blagman said. "We were upset. The Rex board is a separate entity but dependent on the Grateful Dead."

Carolyn Garcia resigned after the cancellation.

The ongoing clash between the two women is part of the bizarre legacy of Jerry Garcia and his extended family of three wives, assorted girlfriends and four daughters (with three different women).

Deborah Garcia insists the apparent animosity between herself and Carolyn Garcia is completely one-sided. "There's no feud," she told the Examiner. "It's a strategy on their part to take the focus away from the facts. I do believe they're jealous of me. They're basically jealous of Jerry. He was talented and very creative. He had a life. They don't really have one.

"They're so jealous of me because I'm beautiful. They're jealous because I have money. They're jealous because Jerry loved me."

Carolyn Garcia seemed taken aback by Deborah Garcia's comments.

"I had a great life with Jerry," she said. "I had nothing to be jealous about. Besides, she didn't have kids. I have kids."

Both women are strong-willed with forceful personalities. But the similarity ends there.

Carolyn Garcia looks very much the middle-aged hippie earth mother with her long, graying hair, loose-fitting clothes and love beads. She's relaxed and smiles on the witness stand.

Deborah Garcia is slim, cool and professional and almost always wears expensive tailored black pants suits and a single strand of pearls in court. Her dark hair is cut in a chin-length bob. She rarely smiles in court and speaks so fast that her lawyer has asked her to slow down.

The enmity between the women came out in force after Garcia's death from a heart attack two years ago at a Marin drug rehab center.

Deborah Garcia refused to allow Carolyn Garcia to attend the musician's funeral at a Belvedere church. She also excluded her from a ceremony scattering his ashes at sea, leaving Carolyn Garcia sobbing at a San Francisco dock.

"I was devastated," Deborah Garcia said of her husband's death. "He didn't like Carolyn. He wanted her out of his life. I think if my husband says he wants her out of his life, he wants her out of his death.

Carolyn Garcia said the incident is still very painful: "The whole thing feels like an open wound."

Pub Date: 1/07/97

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