Steve Bannon is the guy who whispers into 45’s ear, and the POTUS listens. He’s the ultra-nationalist, Muslim travel ban-penning, propaganda-spouting White House strategist whom Saturday Night Live portrays as the Grim Reaper and we all go, “Yeah, that makes sense.” According to a new report from The Daily Beast, however, us liberal snowflakes would’ve actually loved Bannon in college. In fact, we’d probably all meet up in his dorm room, surround ourselves with beautiful coeds, roll a doobie, and put on some Workingman’s Dead, because Bannon apparently was a huge Grateful Dead fan.
The Beast’s principal source was Bannon’s classmate and roommate at Virginia Tech, John DePaola. According to DePaola, the Bannon he knew was a “history nerd,” a “Jerry Brown liberal,” a “ladies man,” and yes, a major Deadhead. That little tidbit came out when DePaola recounted a story about the day British historian Arnold Toynbee died.
Now, Toynbee was and is a bit of a polarizing figure. He was an extremely popular and respected academic, but his history has been shaded by claims of anti-semitism. In 1934, Hitler invited him out for an interview; by the end, Toynbee was so convinced of the dictator’s general good intentions that he wrote the British Foreign Office to say he believed the Nazis had no intention of going to war to conquer Europe. Well, we know how that turned out.
Regardless, Bannon was a Toynbee loyalist, and when the historian died in 1975, the young student was stricken with an idea. He approached DePaola, who hosted a radio show on the college station. “He was a Grateful Dead fan,” DePaola explained. “The guy was passionate about it. He said something like, ‘I gotta play this song for the campus,’ so he came up one night [during my show] to talk about Toynbee, and then played ‘Unbroken Chain’ by the Grateful Dead as a tribute. He also did a brief little speech before the song — an Arnold Toynbee salute — about the importance about his work.”
Bannon is generally seen these days as an ice-hearted manipulator, so it’s strange to think of him getting passionate about someone else. Still, although DePaola said he’d “go do it immediately” if Bannon ever asked him for help, even he’s not a fan of the man he’s become. Maybe the next protest should be people posting up outside the White House blasting From the Mars Hotel, just to remind Bannon of whom he used to be.