For years Mark Dagostino, a reporter with The Boston Globe in New Hampshire, had been trying to land a job at a major magazine. He’d written all the top editors, mailed them clips of his stories, reached out to them by phone. And he’d done those things again and again and again, with nothing to show for his efforts. Then Jerry Garcia died.

The news came over the radio as Dagostino was driving home after a weekend in the White Mountains. The report noted that Bob Weir, Garcia’s longtime bandmate in the Grateful Dead, would be playing a previously-scheduled show that night at the Casino Ballroom, a famed venue in Hampton Beach. Stunned fans of Garcia’s, thousands of them, were already heading to the Ballroom to share their grief, their music, their memories.

As soon as he got home, Dagostino began making phone calls. “Because it was such a big story,” he recalls, “I managed to get through to top editors of Rolling Stone and Newsweek and The New York Times. Most of them, by the time I reached them, had already assigned reporters to cover what seemed like it was going to be this big vigil.” Late in the day, around 4:00 or 5:00 o’clock, Dagostino talked with an editor at Entertainment Weekly who hadn’t heard about Weir’s concert. That editor hired him over the phone to take photos and write the story.

As luck would have it, Dagostino had worked at the Ballroom as a teenager. He knew the owners, who gave him excellent access. It was, finally, the break he needed—a story in a national magazine.

Dagostino, who lives in Stratham, New Hampshire, went on to work as a writer for People and now helps celebrities—from pro wrestler Hulk Hogan to home fixer uppers Chip and Joanna Gaines—write books. His career in the last few years has soared (the Gaines book sold one million copies in its first three months) and he has more professional offers than he can begin to accept. But it all began on August 9, 1995, the day Jerry Garcia died. As he thinks back, Dagostino throws his hands in the air in disbelief. “It’s funny,” he says, “how things work out in life that you can never imagine.”