Gotta Serve Somebody

On the Tracks publishers build a career on the relentless intensity of Bob Dylan's fan base

Future siftings through Dylan's garbage uncovered Gainsburgers and Ken-L-Ration wrappers, balled-up aluminum foil, copies of Rolling Stone and other rock magazines, bills from the vet and the Book-of-the-Month Club, a birthday card sent by Dylan's parents to one of his children, ripped-up fan mail, a shopping list for cookie mix, liverwurst and granola, and lots of used, disposable diapers.

Weberman's archaeological approach--he coined the term "garbology" to define his unique type of hero analysis--was soon thwarted. One morning, Dylan left his townhouse to walk his child to school prior to the trash pickup. While throwing away a wine bottle someone had left on the street, he noticed his garbage was missing. Someone informed him that Weberman was the culprit, and from that time on, Dylan's refuse was no longer left in the trash can. According to Weberman, Dylan later rode up behind him on a bicycle, choked him and repeatedly punched him in the head. Weberman grabbed yet another discarded wine bottle, intending to clobber Dylan, but dropped the potential weapon, having second thoughts about conking his idol.

Soon after, Weberman wrote a piece for the East Village Other called "Dylan's Garbage's Greatest Hits." Articles on Weberman's bizarre obsession also appeared in Newsday, Time, Rolling Stone, Ingenue, Newsweek, Esquire and Glamour. In order to get Weberman off his back, a frustrated Dylan offered to boost his career as a music journalist. Weberman squandered the offer when, as a requirement of the bargain, he insisted that Dylan quit using heroin. Weberman claims he was rebuked.

The self-proclaimed garbologist eventually moved from digging through Dylan's trash to unraveling the singer's dense lyrics. In some cases, he conjured up themes that the average Dylan fan would never unearth. For instance, Weberman believes that "Just Like a Woman" (widely viewed as an homage to Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick) is about Dylan's move away from his folk music roots with 1965's Bringing It All Back Home.

Other interpretations were more damaging. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was supposedly Dylan's admission that he was a serious drug addict. "Johnny's in the basement/Mixing up the medicine" is, according to Weberman, a reference that suggests the extraction of codeine from cough syrup. "God knows when/But you're doing it again" is supposedly stating how "the use of codeine and other opiates causes addiction." Even the goofy "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" is, in Weberman's dubious estimation, about Dylan's heroin use.

Weberman's accusations have only escalated over the years. The garbologist is convinced that Dylan's 1997 contraction of histoplasmosis proves that he has AIDS. Weberman also has diagnosed Dylan as having cytomegalovirus retinitus (a vision impairment common among those who are HIV-positive), based on Dylan having supposedly stumbled when meeting Pope John Paul II a year and a half ago.

On his Web site, Weberman openly wonders if Dylan contracted AIDS from shooting up with Jerry Garcia and the Dead when they toured together in 1987. For those needing further "proof" of Dylan's ongoing junkie lifestyle, if one looks hard enough, Weberman claims a vial of Dylan's medication can be seen on the inner sleeve photo accompanying Time Out of Mind. Others conclude that it's only a bottle of mineral water. Weberman now claims that Dylan's son Jakob, leader of the multiplatinum Wallflowers, is also a heroin addict.

"A.J. has been proven wrong so many times, but he still persists," says Mick with disgust. "Our guess is that he is not so much an admirer, but is obsessed by the attention he receives when saying such outlandish things about Dylan. We haven't heard of another person that agrees with him.

"Still, we interviewed him in On the Tracks several years ago, and at that time he actually apologized to Dylan for all the trouble he had caused him, as well as stating that his earlier claims about Dylan were erroneous. But he now has a Web site that resurfaces his early ramblings about Dylan, as well as creating a few new harmful rumors. We figure Weberman thought Dylan would respond to his apology in On the Tracks, and when Dylan didn't, Weberman reverted to his old ways."

The couple has absolutely no interest in Dylan's trash--or trash about Dylan, for that matter. For a couple who warehouses 5,000 items of Dylan memorabilia, they're surprisingly devoid of the wacko factor.

"We have an extremely enjoyable job that deals with one of the most interesting people in the world," Laurie says. "But we're not groupies to any degree, and we don't follow him from concert to concert trying to get close to him. In fact, we've never made any attempt to meet him, even though we've had a couple chances. What would we say? 'We're your biggest fans'? We bet he can't wait to hear that line again."

Bob Dylan and Paul Simon are scheduled to perform on Sunday, June 27, at Desert Sky Pavilion. Showtime is 8 p.m.

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