Western Brooklyn

Remembering The Grateful Dead’s Trip To The Universal Theater

Photo courtesy of brooklyneagle.com via dead.net

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle remembers when The Grateful Dead, America’s consummate acid-jam band, rocked Bensonhurst over 40 years ago in a four-day-long concert.

The event was held at Universal Theater, located on 46th Street and New Utrecht Avenue, now a furniture store. The atmosphere described by those who somehow remember the show, was one filled with marijuana smoke and lasted until the sun rose the next morning. The scent of that most dangerous, cholesterol-packed drug known as bacon also permeated the air when Pigpen started cooking it right on the stage. Mmm… Grateful Bacon…

The Dead’s cool, but the real star here is the Universal Theater, which opened on October 9, 1927, and was pretty incredible for its time. Decked out with Greco-Roman furnishings designed to mimic an Italian garden, the theater also boasted a gorgeous cloud projected ceiling and intricately carved columns.

The theater hosted superstar acts ranging from Jerry Lee Lewis, The Byrds, Steely Dan and Gladys Knight and the Pips but was closed in 1973 because of community complaints over noise.

What cool concert experiences do you remember at the Universal Theater?

The former Universal Theater today, now a furniture store (Source: Bing Maps)
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  1. In spirit, yes, and vice a versa. Actually once upon a time (up until FDR was opened in 1966!), all of Borough Park, west of McDonald Avenue, attended Bensonursts’, acclaimed and world renowned, New Utrecht High School. In fact, most of that Schools’, soon to be famous Hollywood talent (Gene Barry, Dane Clark, John Errico (Saxon), David Geffen, Buddy Hackett, Pat DiCaputo (Cooper), Phil Silvers, Arnold Stang, etc.) came from, and grew up in Borough Park! Didn’t know it was called the Universal, thought it was once called, The Blythebourne, where movies were shown there, and afterwards, in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, they use to hold the Battle of the Bands! How do I know all this?! Well I was there, before moving to our townhouse on the Bay!

  2. For Pete’s sake!! This location is NOT in Bensonhurst! Not now, and not when the Grateful Dead played there! Does this writer even KNOW the neighborhood he writes about?

    Hey Willie, Google “Bensonhurst”, there are many instances where the
    “official” (and UNofficial) boundaries are stated clearly, and NONE of
    them are anywhere near this location.

    And if you’re going to write an article like this, can you at least mention the exact dates?