I’ve mentioned the Bobby/George W. Bush connection before (they both think they’re actual fucking cowboys,) but there might be more to it.
Both are men of privileged backgrounds possessed of excessive charm. Both were in the right place at the right time, Dana Morgan’s music shop and Barbara Bush’s womb, respectively. George W. Bush fought terrorists; Bobby was a terrorist.
Imagine if Bobby had a camera on him as much as Dubya did–there would be unimaginably more and worse incidents than Bush trying to open that locked door or dance with those clearly terrified black kids. (Whatever your political leanings, no can deny that Dubya really couldn’t be trusted to appear on camera for more than 45 seconds before getting up to some truly goofy shit.)
Plus, both were surrounded by teams that far surpassed them. Garcia was Bobby’s Dick Cheney. Phil was Rumsfeld. (Picture Phil giving the “known unknowns” speech to his guitar tech, then hitting him with a shoe.)
Bobby, obviously, never started any land wars in Asia, though the UN did send him several strongly worded letter about playing Me and My Uncle any more.
But, in the end, we’ll take Bobby, won’t we? First off, Bobby wrote Looks Like Rain. Go listen to Dick’s Picks 30, where Phil harmonizes with him while Garcia plays pedal steel: all is forgiven.
Secondly, Bobby was something that Dubya wasn’t: pretty. He was like Justin Bieber in the early days, for Christ’s sake. Not only that, but he took the words of Thornton Mellon to heart: if you want to look handsome, hang out with the Grateful Dead! (I am, of course, paraphrasing.) Donna was the only other member–ever, all time, totally inclusive, even of people who only sat in for one set–who was anything near the general human version of presentable. Out of the three decades the Grateful Dead existed, Phil Lesh’s hair looked good for fifteen minutes. That’s altogether. At first, there was that maddening page-boy, then the reddish-blond blowout with the giant beard, and then somewhere around ’80 or ’81, Phil started asking his barber for “the Han Solo.” Phil’s liver didn’t give because of the years of constant be-swozzling and intravenous drug use: it just couldn’t bear sharing a body with any more bad haircuts.
Bobby was also, other than Mickey, the only one in the entire goddamn band with a chin. This was a remarkably non-mandibled group of men, as if looking like an otter staring straight up was part of the audition process. The Dead had less chins than a racist joke about a phonebook and a certain section of town. That few chins.
Vince wasn’t that physiognomically cursed, though–Vince just made bad choices such as the aggressively casual shirts. Plus, his hair always struck me as vaguely anti-semitic, like how a summer stock Shylock would wear it. That’s right, I’ll say things the big Dead sites won’t! VINCE WELNICK’S HAIR HATED JEWS.
But, when it comes to scaring children, animals, and the children of animals, no one held a candle to Keith. Actually, no one should hold a candle anywhere near that man. Lot of grease, lot of fly-a-ways.
Keith was so ugly that if he had been born in ancient times, he would have been left outside the city walls to die of exposure. Any cows that wandered by his corpse would only give sour milk from then on, and when the wolves from the north attacked the herd, they would never eat the tainted heifers Over time, the villagers forgot the original reason the cows were, in essence, immortal, and just began to worship them as demi-gods. And that, my friends, is the story of India. You heard me: Keith Godchaux is so ugly he would have caused India.
And they couldn’t dress themselves. Yes, there were serapes and bel-bottoms and elaborate jacketry, but this was when the band was unknown: they had to look good to get laid. Quickly, they learned they could get laid in anything up to, and including, several mascot costumes (Here’s another thing Relix magazine doesn’t want you to know: Brent Mydland invented being a furry. That was him, he did that.) and they outgrew their original little burst of sartorial splendor. Post-hiatus, the Dead lapsed into a Quest for Comfort. There were sloppy t-shirts and Phil had a thing for Dad Jeans. There was a lot of New Balance sneaker going on.
(New Balance are the shoes for white people who caught a glimpse of death, learned the meanings of sin and shame, and been to rehab and and/or grad school. It’s the official shoe of Embarrassed Entitlement. Mine are grey and shiny.)
But not Bobby: Bobby had Madonna t-shirts and pink izods and those thighs. So, so much thigh.