Five Days in Mill Valley with Croz & Jan
By M. Peggy Quattro
With the sad news of David Crosby’s passing on Jan. 18, 2023, I was drawn to discover more about his intriguing life. I remembered when I first met David, aka Croz. I recalled the captivating love story with his wife, Jan Dance, a dear friend from our Miami days. I flashed back on why I chose to leave my life in Germany, my business, and my friends to move to California. David was indeed the impetus for that drastic decision.
Was it naïve? Yes. Rash? Definitely. Life-changing? Absolutely.
It was at the close of 1978 when Jan invited me to stay with her during my first visit to San Francisco. Five days in Mill Valley with Jan and Croz ended with an unexpected opportunity.
Almost everyone has a Croz story. I enjoyed reading a plethora of impressive ones. His interviews and astute opinions are insightful, entertaining and enlightening. Check the links at the end of this story for his comprehensive books and in-depth documentary.
Even so, my story ties directly to the Crosbys, to a radical life change and the resulting outcome.
For context, let me say I’ve been asked a bazillion times how I got into Reggae; the the music and industry I pioneered and participated in for more than 40 years. The odyssey began in early-70s Coconut Grove, the music-hippie-artsy area of Miami. Jan Dance and her sister “Peppermint Pati” Dance were good fun Grove pals. Side note for astrology buffs: Jan is a Virgo (like me), born same year. If my memory serves me correctly, we may share the same chart … except for our rising sign, maybe. OK, moving on…
It’s the mid-70s, and I’m loving life in Germany. Jan is working reception at famed Criteria Recording Studios in North Miami. Her life transformed when she met the ultra-charming David Crosby, co-founder of Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Byrds. It’s reported David was also smitten with ”friendly vivacious” Jan Dance. Didn’t take long for these two to become best friends and soulmates.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, there’s a party in Nürnberg’s Altstadt. My German friends introduce me to the fresh sounds of Reggae music. Jimmy Cliff’s “Harder They Come” and “You Can Get It (If You Really Want)” blow me away. Then came Bob Marley & the Wailers, the Rasta band touring Germany and drawing tens of thousands of fans. Jimmy Cliff, a celebrated and prolific Reggae singer/songwriter was also an underground movie star. I found my music; I am hooked.
By 1978, Jan is living with David in Mill Valley, a small town on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. When told I’m traveling to San Francisco, she invites me to their house on scenic Mount Tamalpais. Excited and anxious, I have no idea what to expect. It didn’t seem real that I would be meeting David Crosby—a musical luminary from my formative teenage years. The songs. The lyrics. The voice of our generation. Now I’m thinking, ‘Ok, you grew up around musicians, singers, and bands … but this is David Crosby!’ Wow!
Truth be told, I’ve remained fixated on the role David and Jan played in my life story for 40+ years. Unbeknownst to them, I’m pretty sure. Nevertheless, I’m compelled to share our amazing tale of travel, friendship, music, drugs, sobriety, and opportunity.
This condensed personal narrative recounts my unforeseen path to Reggae.
The hillside ride up to the Crosby house is glorious. Eager to see my friend again, I’m delighted when Jan greets me with a welcoming hug. From first look, all seems fine. David, who doesn’t know me from Adam, seems at ease with this strange young woman at his door. Their unique wooden house is everything a Cali hillside home should be. It’s spacious, with large windows, terraces all around, and surrounded by nature. We chat for a while before David and Jan disappear into their bedroom. It didn’t take long to surmise what was going on here.
Yeh yeh, as a “Grove Hippie” I am familiar with pot and cocaine. Despite that, this freebase thing was new to me … and scary. (Note: David and Jan have spoken openly and honestly about those days. I’m not divulging anything. It’s well known that the Crosby’s have been clean and serene since the mid-80s. Their inspiring story is documented all over the Internet.) That being said, this tale is about our time spent over those few metamorphic days in 1978.
When invited to partake in the “pipe,” I tactfully decline. Cocaine is habit-forming enough. But, when reduced to its base form and inhaled through this pipe, you’ll likely get addicted. Instead, I stroll around the house and explore the library. When I walk outside, I meet the very nice and super-cute caretaker/bodyguard (BG).
Croz is more sociable than Jan over the course of those days. I’m now somewhat concerned for my friend. One morning I awaken to thick fog. Looking for something to do, I focus on the kitchen. The least I could do. Good Virgo. Jan soon comes out and thanks me as we sit to talk. No thanks necessary, I tell her. She eventually retreats to her bedroom, which I call “the den”—a lion’s den—as David is a Leo. The den is large, darkened by the heavy drapes that cover the windows. I go in as often as possible to see Jan. We talk, reminisce, share stories.
In contrast, Croz spends some time with me in other parts of the house. We are getting along remarkably well. I’m in absolute awe of how he responds to the pipe. He seems in control, not paranoid. I find him very witty and soft-spoken. And, he does love to talk. There are hours helping him organize books in the sizable all-wood library. He’s sharing personal life stories, i.e. his growing up in L.A. and his father being a well-known cinematographer. He told of his elite upbringing, discovering music, his love for sailing, the Grove, and his group.
The huge living room is a beautiful open space. I take note of the contents—a couch, a fireplace, a grand piano. One day, while sitting on the couch checking out a few books, David exits the den carrying something. He sits next to me and asks if I like to read. After nodding my head yes, he smiles and hands me a screenplay. He wants me to read it and tell him what I think. As he slips back into the den, I slide into his script, Push Play. I thoroughly enjoy it. Although I don’t know if anything came of that effort, I did learn he continued screenwriting right up through 2021.
When David does reappear, he sits before the gorgeous grand piano. I’m thinking, what a privilege. Here I am, amidst books, the redwoods, listening to David Crosby sing and play piano. I wish Jan was next to me. I want to hug and thank her for this unbelievable moment. Who gets this moment? David turns to me and pats the piano bench. I rise and float over to join him. He carries on singing and playing. Really … who gets this moment?
Days fly by as my time to leave nears. I wish for more time with Jan. But, after witnessing how much David loves and cares for her, I feel better knowing he is there … and that cute BG.
The morning of my last day is sunny. I’m sitting outside on one of the terraces. It’s beautiful. The trees, the birds, the smells. I notice the climate is like Nürnberg. Cool, damp, but the comparison ends there. After all, this is California, where I have always dreamed of living. I know I am a Cali girl at heart and soul. And Mount Tamalpais confirmed that.
I jump up when called to come inside. Jan smiles as she waves me into the den. I saunter in and quickly notice all the big heavy drapes are down, lying on the floor. Wait. What? The walls are windows! What seems like hundreds of glistening crystals are hanging along these floor-to-ceiling windows. Spectacular crystals of various sizes and shapes hung at different heights and lengths. The den fills with gorgeous sunshine and beaming colorful rainbows. Wow, I whisper out loud. Wow!
Being this was my final night, Jan and David made plans for us to go into town for dinner. Jan, David, BG (wish I could remember his name), and I are going to San Francisco. It is the first time I will actually see the City by the Bay. As we step outside to leave, David announces he’ll drive. He asks Jan if it’s OK that I sit up front so he could give me the “tour.” She’s cool with that. We pile into a large black Mercedes sedan and take off down the hill. We drive through Sausalito and over the Golden Gate Bridge. David is talking and pointing the entire drive. I feel like a kid. This is awesome!
First stop, the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf. David directs me out of the car. He tells me where to go, what to see, and waves me on. After driving around, taking in more sights and sounds, we arrive at the restaurant. The Crosbys are warmly greeted and escorted to a waiting table. He’s carrying a gym bag, which seems odd, but hey, if that’s his thing. Croz and Jan sit with their backs to this huge mirrored wall. BG and I sit across from them. I’m watching what is happening behind me in that large mirror. We chat, order drinks. While looking at our menus, David disappears under the table. Wait. What? I look at BG and his look back assures me that all is OK. While David puffs on his pipe, we discuss the menu and my return trip to Germany.
After dinner, David drives to a friend’s house back over the Golden Gate. I may be crazy, but I remember walking on a swinging bridge, over a creek, to get to the house. The friend group goes off to do their thing somewhere. BG and I hang out on the terrace, talking about anything else. We are best buds by now.
The next morning, while packing, I notice David and Jan up and moving about. This may be the time he mentions that he likes me. He likes that I am Jan’s friend, and adds that he enjoyed my visit (I’m paraphrasing here.) Then I’m offered the job as his assistant. Wait! What? He also liked that I have a T-shirt business in Nürnberg. He appreciated that I was not interested in hard drugs, and liked his screenplay (I may have added that one.) Being young, naïve, trusting, and ambitious, I believe him. I love California, I justify to myself, I want to be in the music business, so why not? I love Jan and thought this could be good if I was there, with her and for her. And, who wouldn’t want to work with the witty artistic David Crosby? I mean, really … who?
Jan and I chat on the car ride to the airport. I’m on a dream high, wanting to believe this is for real. So much so, when I get back to Nürnberg, I begin preparing for my return to the USA. I will sell and ship some things. Hand over my business (big mistake that was.) Sell my beloved extra-long, extra-tall Mercedes diesel van (now called a Sprinter). And, get my precious dog ready to fly again (Gypsy was not a fan.) The plan included a stop in Miami on my way to the Golden City … and my new career in the music biz.
Fast-forward to January 1980. I’m back in tropical Miami. Perfect weather. Staying with friends, all seems well … until. Until I call David’s contact to check in, only to be told: “Now is not a good time for David. Check back later.” Or something to that effect. My heart sinks. That‘s it. Wow … what was I thinking? How could I believe this job BS? I blame it on the drugs. On the group. On the manager. On myself. I feel like I let myself down. I had a fabulous thing going in Germany. I gave it all up for a dream … a pipe dream, thwarted by the “pipe.”
Accepting it’s time to move on, Gypsy and I rent a picturesque house in South Grove. It’s May 1981 when I come across a job listing in The Herald —‘Music Manager Seeks Assistant’—so I call. Who do you manage? I ask. The female voice on the other end replies, “Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Gregory Isaacs.” Wait! What? These are the top names in Reggae music, the amazing artists who toured Europe throughout the ‘70s. This is the music that touched my soul. I had to jump on this opportunity: “I know these artists. I know this music. I’ll be right down.”
There was a week or so of interviewing and negotiating with Don Taylor—on the phone at first, then in person. I was told to start on the following Monday. Anxious and excited about the future, I stride into Don Taylor Artist Management. It’s May 11, 1981. A date I will never forget, nor the legions of Bob Marley fans around the world.
Addiction is a terrible disease, but curable. Within eight years of my visit, Jan and David were sober. From 1983 to 1985, David spent time on and off in a Texas prison. Reunited in California in 1986, Jan and David were married May 16, 1987, in L.A. David’s various charges were reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988.
“Peppermint Pati” Dance invited me to join her at a show David was giving in Vero Beach, FL, in 2019. I enjoyed the show and reuniting with sister Jan and Croz. That was the last time I would see them.
David Van Cortlandt Crosby remained clean and creative until his passing on Jan. 18, 2023, reportedly from COVID-19, at age 81. Jan Dance Crosby continues to live a beautiful, healthy life, along with their son Django, at the Crosby home in Santa Barbara County.
Unfortunately, throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, the pipe obsession had permeated all levels of the Reggae industry. During my time in the biz, Reggae experienced the loss of several top artists and performers to the freebase addiction.