A story I love so much (and tell way too much according to friends,) is the story about how Jerry Garcia started selling neckwear. You may remember that Garcia was the front man for the enormously popular “jam band” known as The Grateful Dead. The “Dead,” as they were known to legions of fans, started and thrived during the Haight Asbury/Woodstock/Hippie/Summer(s) of Love period. They were truly Ground Zero. And they weren’t just popular in the mid-60s, nor did their adoration die down as the counterculture became the mainstream. For decades, The Dead played their unique sound, a sort of rock’n’roll/blues/folk/country/bluegrass blend. They attracted stadiums of fans, many of whom followed the group from gig to gig, city to city, setting up camps at the performance venues. These camps became a traveling circus, filled with super-fans who traded Dead swag and stories. In an era where taking photographs or recording concerts was strictly verboten, the Dead encouraged it. Long before the internet facilitated online file trading or easy e-stores, fans (and entrepreneurs) would sell and trade through the classified ads in the back of popular rock’n’roll fanzines. Posters, glossy photos, audio cassettes, and autographs all spoke to the unique popularity of The Dead.
My son texted me a few weeks ago. He lives in L.A., works at a well-known music recording studio, and is up on all-things-cool-and-groovy. He shot me some phone-pics of an “incredibly cool band we saw this weekend.” It was The Dead, or rather, survivors of the original Grateful Dead, playing under the name “Dead and Company.” (Jerry Garcia died in 1995 - almost fittingly in a drug treatment facility.) The boy was drawn to the show because contemporary pop star/guitarist John Mayer was on the bill – in effect partnering with Dead and Company for various tours and new recordings. Mayer, like my son, had “rediscovered” this old hippie group and couldn’t get enough. The Dead circus may be headed your way.
But I digress…
Jerry Garcia, in addition to fronting The Grateful Dead, was also an artist. He dabbled in painting, etchings, pen and ink, and graphic design. By the 90s, he began exhibiting and selling his work. Near the end of his career, someone asked if he would license his work for men’s neckwear. Garcia was initially not interested at all, he could probably count on one hand how many times he’d ever worn a neck tie. He even showed his disdain by making the physical sign of a hangman’s noose when asked about it. His manager persisted, and after receiving a non-commital non-answer when speaking with him about it, Garcia found his work on men’s neckwear. In modern terms, the ties went viral. At one point, his ties were reportedly the best-selling ties in America. They could be seen on celebrities, Wall Street types, politicians, and old hippies that somehow ended up with “real jobs.” President Clinton was seen in a Garcia tie, and even Parliamentarians in the UK sported them.
They were bright and colorful, most with graphic geometric or fractal patterns. For an old counterculture hippie like Jerry Garcia, their wild commercial success was almost an embarrassment.
The story that I recall was that at a press conference (or possibly a simple magazine interview?) regarding the success of his neckwear a reporter harkened back to Garcia’s anti-establishment hippie roots, and asked him if he didn’t think that maybe he had “sold-out”? Garcia quipped, “Sold out? I’ve been trying to sell out for years but nobody was buying!”
Now, I swear I saw this press conference. OK, OK… maybe I read it in a magazine. Could it have been an old Letterman interview? But I can’t find it sourced. Maybe it’s apocryphal and I’ve told it so many times that it’s just in my head… but it happened, I tell you.
And like Jerry Garcia, I’m ready to sell out.
Look, I’m no slut. But to paraphrase the late Leon Redbone, “I’m not easy, but I can be had.” I will require some… compensation. Oh don’t worry, I don’t want to go all Jared Kushner on your ass… taking 2 billion from the likes of Saudi Arabia’s murderous Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Not my style. I mean even Lucifer heard about that one and was all, "Whoa, Jared... you don't have to be such a suckup."
But still… remuneration. Expense reimbursement. Like Fanucci in The Godfather, a little something to “wet my beak.” Nothing too extravagant. Nothing more than any good GOP soldier might require.
Where am I needed most? I’m here to serve. “I’m just a giver in a taker’s body,” as Kinky Friedman liked to say.
How about selling out in BUSINESS?
I’m a mere Fine Arts major, but it sure doesn’t seem very hard to run a good business into the ground these days (and make it pay.) What is CEO pay these days? 670 to 1, in terms of CEO to worker ratio? That’s some nice scratch. Put me on that gravy train and I’ll be happy to lay off a few thousand employees! It’s all about shareholder value, (and my bonus! amiright?) We’re gonna trim the fat all the way to the bone! Find me some damn robots! Automation is the key, here. And why are these workers using the bathroom so damn much? That shit has to stop! (Literally!)
(Am I on the right track, here?)
The secret is outsourcing. And more layoffs. Where are those robots I ordered? And what’s all this talk about unions? We don’t need to steeenkin’ unions. You see how Starbuck’s is handling this? Perfection.
“We are ALL Starbuck’s partners …we are listening, learning and taking action with partners include our recent nationwide partner collaboration sessions and announcements of new partner investments. Through these sessions, together we are inspiring real and meaningful change... This is a tremendous opportunity to uplift the partner experience now and for the future.
Some Starbucks partners are voting to join a union... Simply put – there are two paths forward. We can work together, side by side. Or we can work with you through a third party across a negotiating table. Side-by-side, we can hear YOUR voice directly from you.” Blah blah blah.
"...uplift the partner experience…" Bwah-ha-ha! Is that great or what? I’d prefer a simple ‘Get your ass back on the serving line and get that customer her Iced Brown Sugar Oat Milk Shaken Espresso before I put your ass back on the unemployment line, but, whatever. I can pretend to give AF as easy as the next boss. But as CEO, I’ll take a Venti-sized baseball bat to their union plans.
Speaking of unions, HAVE WE GOTTEN THOSE ROBOTS, YET?
How about it, guys? Layoffs, union busting, outsourcing, stock buybacks, and then sell whatever’s left. (We didn’t even talk about price gouging and moving the customer service dept. to India!) I got this. It’s an easy playbook. (You need me to put “Harvard MBA” on my resume? Sure, whatever.)
Or maybe I’m needed in politics?
The line for sell-outs in politics is a long one, but I think I can underperform, oversell, and grift with the best of them.
First, I’ll have to scrape my old social media accounts. My Facebook feed is a little too low-key. Too many calls for broad-based consensus, ‘reaching-across-the-aisle,’ finding common ground, all that BS. There’s no money in that approach to politics. I know that now. Sell out time!
Let’s run on a platform of fixing our public schools, bringing affordable healthcare to all, taking care of our vets, seniors, and our underserved communities. HA-HA! KIDDING! We’re riding this GOP horse with one message, “The election was stolen from the greatest president this country has ever seen by the most corrupt, dishonest, and criminal political party in the nation – the Dumbocrats! Our President Trump won the election but was robbed in a rigged vote count by crooked Joe Biden and his Chinese accomplices.”
That’s all we need, really. Unless we should warn voters against socialists trying to take their tax money to pay for free stuff. Or scream about the jack-booted libruhl thugs coming for their God-given guns. Or how the plan for “free health care” is simply woke freeloaders preventing hard-working Americans from choosing their own doctors!
And immigrant thugs streaming across the border! They're too lazy to work and they're taking your jobs (!?!)
Close it out with a few comments about the woke mob taking over your children’s schools in order to teach CRT lies and indoctrinate them at Drag Queen Story Hour.
I can do all of that, though it will take practice to say it with a straight face. For the right price though, I can scream it out with my teeth bared. If JD Vance, the hillbilly elegist, can flip from being a 'never Trump guy,' ("Trump is America’s Hitler") into publicly deifying him… then I can too. Vance’s price was Paypal founder and former Facebook investor Peter Thiel’s $10 million dollar donation… Hey, with inflation, let’s make it twenty mil for me. Vance once accused Trump and the GOP of selling “cultural heroin,” and in just a few short months he was happy to accuse President Joe Biden of getting working class folks addicted to fentanyl out of a desire to “punish people who didn’t vote for him.”
Man, that is some multi-million dollar sell-out stones, right there. That’s just epic. Put me in coach, and I’ll be hitting them out of the park, too.
Primaries over? No need for more sell-out politicians?
How about selling out in health care? Rx?
Selling out in health care and big Pharm is too easy.
Step 1. Raise Prices.
Step 2. Raise Prices.
Step 3. Return to Step 1.
It’s a product/service that people are dying to get! (I crack myself up!)
Put me in charge... I'll explain to the public that cost increases are needed for “research and development and the outrageously high cost of getting the government to approve new drugs.” I'll try not to laugh.
Martin Shkreli is the Big Pharm high priest. A real Bro’ priest, if you will. As CEO of Turing pharm, he obtained the manufacturing license for the antiparasitic drug Daraprim and raised its price by 5,455%. Overnight! Patients went from paying $13.50 to $750 per pill – no generic was available. That’s hero-level sell-out, friends. That’s “fuck the sick and suffering, let’s do this” stuff. Putting every shred of human decency aside and watching your fellow humans bankrupt themselves trying to alleviate pain and suffering is giving 110%! OK, sure, he went to jail. But for securities fraud, not pharm profiteering! LOL! After he was jailed, his company promised to lower their prices… and didn’t. You don't ask for refunds when you're on the sell-out express to hell! You pocket that legal tender!
What about religion? Isn’t that the ultimate sell-out?
Too easy, the template has been set for years, now.
I’m gonna need to find a good hair stylist, and I'll need a few extra pesos for a clothing allowance. You can’t preach about making great sacrifices looking like a schlub!
But once I get started, I’ll whip ‘em into a Jesus frenzy and then pass the plate! My congregation is not gonna receive the “blessings of freedom” (in the form of wealth and success) unless they give ‘till it hurts! No more bleeding-heart Sermon-on-the-Mount claptrap, from now on, it’s Old Testament fire and justice. And winner take all.
For starters: No more gay marriages and Pride Parades! Sure, I have close friends and family members that are part of the LGBT community, but… selling out requires sacrifice! You don’t make a modern GOP Christian Nation without pointing to some evil – real or made up! No more of them gays and trans using the wrong restrooms, no more of them drag queens corrupting our little precious childrens in those libraries (the ones with all those filthy books!) We will not tolerate our Godly real man/real woman marriages being destroyed by the gays! (Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, etc., etc.)
And to attract new congregants, we can have some door prizes. Like an AR-15 (but not to anyone wearing BLM t-shirts or ANTIFA apparel.) You think they would have nailed Jesus up if he’d been swinging an AR with a 50-round clip???
Most importantly, I’ll remind my people that true believers give their ‘first fruits' to the church… at a minimum of 10% of earnings -before taxes!! Because this is a God investment - one that returns to you a hundredfold. Jesus loves you and wants you to be happy and own 40 Acres and a Lambo. Open your hearts wide and your purse wider if you are ready to accept the Lord and his faith dividend. If you only believe and enter our payment plan, your joy and ROI will increase by double digits. We now accept Paypal and Venmo. No crypto, please. God is not into the whole blockchain thing.
I was such a good little choir boy as a kid. Saying my earnest little prayers about forgiving debts and delivering us all from evil… Singing about how this little light of mine will shine… Learning about how blessed the poor are and how giving is so much better than receiving. Where's the money in that??
Luckily, along came Jerry Falwell, and Jim and Tammy, and Joel the esteemed Osteen, and then Jerry Falwell, Jr., (who Fell-well with the pool boy!)… and ultimately, the most devout believer of all, the Martyr of MAGA-lago, the King of wings, the Lord of Lard, a mess of a Messiah, and God's grift to us all, Donald "The Chosen" Trump.
There’s a different kind of Christianity in the nation. It IS the nation. And with a new Messiah in town, it's time to get on board. Thirty pieces of silver is a fair price when you're ready to sell.
Jerry Garcia, hand me one of those ties. I’m with you all the way. I’m ready to sell out. A lot of work ahead for me, but I’ve got my eyes on the prize! What was that song you wrote and sang… “The Friend of the Devil is a Friend of Mine.” Now let’s make it pay.