Louie Lardo was without a doubt the coolest kid in my high school class in the late '70s at Peabody.
He was a Deadhead, which was uncommon, at least at Peabody, because most kids were either into disco or hard rock like Kiss, Blue Oyster Cult and Aerosmith (raises hand), much like in "Dazed and Confused" or "Detroit Rock City." His first Dead show was 1978 at the Civic Arena (a really good one, judging by the set list) when he was 16 or 17.
Louie lit up the school, in more ways than one, with his big smile, tie-dyed shirts and bandannas. He was the glue between the stoners, the jocks, the brains, the 'Sliberty kids, the whole school. Everybody loved him, enough that he became our class president. Our prom theme was "Tonight's the Night," ostensibly after the Rod Stewart song, but our little secret, on prom committee, was that it was really named for the druggy Neil Young tune.
He went on to graduate from Pitt and became a drug counselor, and when I would run into him at concerts, just about every Dead or Dead-related show, he was always the same happy Louie. If you had to hang all night outside the arena waiting for tickets, you wanted to do it with Louie.
He was also a good guitarist whose career (and probably life highlight) was having the honor to play with Dead bassist Phil Lesh as part of the Phil Lesh University program at SOBs in New York in 2006. People in the Dead scene loved him as well, as you can see on Phil Lesh's web site.
People are mourning his loss on the PhilZone this week. After battling hepatitis C for many years and not being able to receive a liver transplant, as Phil himself did, he died on May 9.
Louie's friend John Lescisin told me in an email: "He had been in poor health for many years, especially the last 3 or 4....but it wasn't (I believe) until the last approx 2 years that he was "sick enough" to be on a transplant list. So, then he goes and sits on the transplant list for a couple of years, waiting for his MELD [Model for End-Stage Liver Disease] score to get him to the top of the list....which obviously never happened. "
He continues, "Along the line, Louie lost his insurance, struggled to get on Medicaid, etc. It just seemed like every step of the way, he ran into roadblock after roadblock. It was awful to see him die so slowly. You'd like to think that if someone has 5 years lead-time for something like that, eventually the right things will happen."
Louie was buried on Tuesday with his first acoustic guitar, bearing a drawing of Jerry Garcia. I'm sure that if there's a Dead section of the Afterlife, Louie is with Jerry right now. There are probably a lot of Deadheads Jerry wouldn't be able to tolerate for very long, but he would love Louie Lardo, who was cut from the same cloth.