Q&A: A band manager on the Wavy train

Name: Marc Margolis
Age: 67
City: Oakland
Position: Wavy Gravy’s manager

 

J.: You are a social worker by training. How did you get into managing bands?

Marc Margolis: In the mid-’80s I was involved with Friends of Yesh Gvul, a group that supported Israeli soldiers refusing to serve in the occupied territories. One day I had a message from David Nadel, the [late] founder and owner of [the Berkeley club] Ashkenaz, saying “Any time you want to put a benefit on, you can have it.” I had never put one on before, but I organized a benefit with the group Zero. The drummer had been a volunteer on the kibbutz I had lived on, and I had run into him again at a festival. The benefit was scheduled for Oct. 19, 1989, which turned out to be two days after the big earthquake. It took place with some other musicians, too; it was a way to forget the trauma of the earthquake.

In 1990, Ram Dass was doing a series of community meetings at the Scottish Rite Temple, and the theme was social activism. I was thinking what I could do, and thought of a benefit concert. I was introduced to this all-woman band from Santa Cruz called Pele Juju, and their music really grabbed me. I arranged for them to play at Ashkenaz. I like to say I started by proposing to eight women at once — many of them were lesbians — and they accepted. I was their manager for 10 years.

 

Marc Margolis (right) and Wavy Gravy at the Gaia Festival at Black Oak Ranch photo/kim sallaway


Did you ever practice social work?

 

Yes, in private practice and in palliative care at a hospital. I probably helped 500 to 600 people transition to hospice during that time. I would like to do more of that.



You lived in Israel for 10 years and served in the paratroopers. How did that happen?

I went over as a volunteer to Kibbutz Urim two days before the Six-Day War began. It was a few days short of my high school graduation. I found myself on guard duty at night on the perimeter of the kibbutz holding an Uzi for a summer. I then went home to do my first year of college, and went back to Israel in June of ’68 for ulpan and my sophomore year at Hebrew U., which ended up lasting 10 years. I left when Begin was elected and the government turned rightward. I always felt Israel had no business being in the West Bank and Gaza.



How did you first meet the peace activist Wavy Gravy?

When I was managing Pele Juju they played the Pig-Nic festival on some land that Wavy Gravy owns. We got to know each other then, and he told me there was going to be a Woodstock reunion in the summer of ’94. He was invited to be emcee and I offered to look at his contract, which was not favorable to his interests. I teamed up with an attorney friend and we renegotiated his contract. He’s an artist and has no head for the nuts and bolts of the business. I started attending production meetings with him and introducing myself as his manager, and he’s stuck with me for 23 years now.



Why do you think Wavy, who just turned 80, has endured as this symbol of the counterculture?

He’s still standing, he’s a hippie road warrior, and he’s remained who he is all of these years. One of his favorite phrases is “Put your good where it does the most,” and I’ve adopted that myself. By the way, people began confusing me for Wavy Gravy and it happened so often that I’ve even had a T-shirt made that says “I’m not Wavy.”



You grew up in Philadelphia’s suburbs, where Benjamin Netanyahu was a high school classmate. How close were you?

He lived 100 yards away from me, while his father was a professor of medieval Jewish history. We were quite close. I’m six months older than he is, and since I got my driver’s license first, I was often in the car with him when he had his permit. He was the only one of my contemporaries who was pro-Vietnam. I was involved in the Habonim Dror youth movement and the kibbutz movement, and I could see him smirking, but because it was Israel, it was OK. We stayed in touch when I moved to Israel and I remember a couple things: When he was shot in the arm storming a hijacked plane, I visited him, and he visited me when I was in the paratroopers near Jericho. I also went to sit shiva with him when his brother Yoni was killed in the raid on Entebbe. Yitzhak Rabin and Moshe Dayan and everyone were there. Later, when he’d come to the Bay Area to speak, we’d get together. The last time I had any contact with him was in the late ’80s.


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Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."