These days, America knows and loves Steve Bannon as one of the most inexplicably powerful men in the White House, the leprechaun who tells Donald Trump to burn things, and the grim-faced specter of death who haunts the backgrounds of photographs like a slightly scarier Slenderman, but according to a Daily Beast report, the Bannon of today would be unrecognizable to the people who knew him when he was going to college at Virginia Tech in the ‘70s. That’s because the old Steve Bannon was actually a “history nerd,” a Grateful Dead fan, a “Jerry Brown liberal,” and a total “ladies man” who “didn’t have to work hard” to meet girls.
The Daily Beast gathered this information by talking to “old friends, acquaintances, and roommates” who knew Bannon, and they all seemed to agree that he was a pretty hip dude in college with a sharp political mind. One guy who lived with Bannon for a year said that he remembered one of their friends predicting that Bannon would “end up in the White House one day,” presumably right before a bone-chilling wind blew through their apartment. That same guy also now says that he “does not like” Bannon’s nationalist, ultra-conservative beliefs, but he’d still go “immediately” if Bannon called him up and asked for help with something. That’s just how charismatic and likable he used to be.
The story also touches on the way Bannon worshipped historian Arnold Toynbee, who—as The Daily Beast points out—is probably best known these days for the time he incorrectly declared that Adolf Hitler didn’t actually want to conquer Europe and for his apparent dismissiveness toward Jewish people. When Toynbee died, Bannon commandeered his friend’s radio show so he could eulogize the historian and play the Grateful Dead’s “Unbroken Chain” in his honor.
The Daily Beast story offers one explanation for Bannon’s transformation, suggesting that his time in the Navy during the Iran hostage crisis made him into a “Reagan-worshipper,” but that’s not quite satisfying enough. If anything, it seems just as likely that the liberal Bannon from Virginia Tech was actually taken over by Vincent D’Onofrio’s alien bug monster from Men In Black, and he’s been wearing Steve Bannon like a suit ever since then. It may seem ridiculous, but it’s not really any more ridiculous than the many Hollywood movies he tried to make over the years.