What drugged-up rock star changed his life in Jupiter 32 years ago?

Updated Dec 11, 2017
12/13/1985: David Crosby in Palm Beach County court after surrendering to the FBI. (Shaun Stanley / The Palm Beach Post).

David Crosby was a fugitive from justice and a freebasing cocaine fiend when he arrived at a boat dock in Jupiter on Dec. 12, 1985.

It wasn’t the happiest of holidays.

The rock and roll legend was “isolated, frightened, paranoid and broke,” as he later wrote in a memoir.

The previous August, he had failed to appear at a hearing in Texas where he was appealing a 1983 conviction for possessing cocaine and a .45-caliber pistol. Warrants had been issued for his arrest.

“They got me for a quarter of a gram of pipe residue,” Crosby complained to People magazine at the time. “For that I’m going to spend five years in the state penitentiary?”

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He came to Jupiter with drug-addled dreams of escaping on the Mayan, his 59-foot schooner docked here. The boat may have reminded him of happier times — he had sailed it all over the Caribbean, and wrote “Wooden Ships” and other famous hits onboard, according to Wikipedia.

Crosby’s plan was to flee to Costa Rica, where he thought he would be safe from extradition to the United States. But when he got to Jupiter, he discovered the boat wasn’t seaworthy, he recalled in his autobiography, “Long Time Gone.”

And that’s when the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, a charter member of both the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “had a flash” that changed his life.

“It was my moment of clarity— my Moment of Decision— when I realized with utter lucidity that I could not go on,” he wrote.

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So, he stepped ashore, barefoot and wearing a red T-shirt, and didn’t even tell his future wife Jan what he was about to do. “I didn’t even go back for my shoes,” he wrote. “I got a ride to the FBI office in West Palm Beach, where I turned myself in, just as I was, barefoot…That’s how crazy I was.”

Music legends David Crosby (from left), Graham Nash and Stephen Stills close out SunFest in 1991. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) Photo: Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

His decision became front-page news. “Crosby Gives Up In WPB,” read the 1A headline in the Palm Beach Post. Robert Neumann, then head of the FBI’s West Palm Beach office, told the Post that Crosby was “extremely uptight” when he surrendered.

Crosby asked reporters to “wish me luck” as he was handcuffed and put inside a Palm Beach County sheriff’s vehicle. Asked why he gave himself up, he said it “seemed like the right thing to do.”

The following day, Crosby appeared in Palm Beach County court. He was unshaven. His eyes were puffy. His hair was a mess. He was wearing blue prison garb and sat with about 75 other inmates.

The photo shot by The Post — of Crosby looking back over his shoulder at the camera — is right up there in the Celebrity Mug Shot Hall of Fame. Not quite Nick Nolte-level, but close.

At the hearing, Crosby called County Judge Edward Garrison “sir” and waived his extradition rights, settling in for a week until he was sent back to Texas on Dec. 20. He spent several months in prison, and, with a few detours here and there, eventually beat his drug habit.

He’s paid a price for his wasted-on-the-way years. Crosby has suffered from hepatitis and diabetes, and required a liver transplant. But, unlike many of his contemporaries, he has survived.

He’s returned often to West Palm Beach for both solo and CSN concerts at the Kravis Center, SunFest, and the former Carefree Theatre. He’s an engaging presence on Twitter, where he responds to fans’ queries. In 2015, he even stopped by the Boca Raton restaurant Farmer’s Table.

As for the future of Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young, it’s dicey. You can take the drugs out of rock ‘n’ roll, but never the drama.

In 2016 interviews, Graham Nash raged against Crosby, saying he has poisoned relationships with both him and Neil Young. “David has ripped the heart out of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,” Nash told Lust for Life, a Dutch magazine, as reported by Rolling Stone.

But earlier this year, Nash told Variety  that there was one person who might persuade the fractured group to promote their themes of peace and justice again.

The Variety headline says it all: “Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Could Reunite — Because They Hate Trump More Than Each Other.”

Sources: This story is based on original accounts by former Post reporters Nick Madigan, Mary Broussard and Greg Schwem, as well as online stories from Wikipedia, Ultimate Classic Rock, Variety, People and Rolling Stone magazine.