I'd run across “Bobbi with an I” by country singer Phil Vassar a few months ago and was intrigued. The song tells the story of the singer's friend Bobby, a former “linebacker, a quarterback sacker,” who drives a tow truck and bench presses 335—and who shows up one night at the local bar “in his pink party dress.” Jaws drop, but over time nobody gives it a second thought, it's “just Bobbi with an I.”
Given that country music isn't known as a bastion of social progressivism it was a pleasant surprise, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor (one reason Bobbi gets respect is because “he's been known to knock a few teeth out if you ask him for a beauty tip”) thatdoesn't make Bobbi the butt of a joke. It seemed like Vassar either knew someone who crossdressed, or at least had run across crossdressers hanging out at a bar somewhere.
Vassar just released a music video for the song and it's got some, ah, interesting differences. [Video below the fold.]
The video adds a prequel where Bobby is invited out by his friends, but demurs because he's broke. But his eyes light up when his friend mentions “it's Ladies Night, free drinks for the girls!” Did someone say: free drinks? Cue the music. Bobbi enters the bar, a cigar-chomping burly “man in a dress” (in fact he's wearing sunglasses to conceal the fact that he's not wearing any make-up). And in interviews and his “behind-the-scenes” video, Vassar says: “Bobbi is actually a guy I knew—this outrageous guy who showed up at a club one night dressed as a girl. It was just a funny way to pick up chicks.” In other words—it's all just good fun, it's a one-time thing, and Bobbi doesn't really want to be seen as a woman.
I'll take Vassar at his word, he seems like a decent guy—but also a guy who comes across as savvy enough to know how far he can push things with his fans. Not that that might be a reason the video is at odds with the actual lyrics. (And don't think too hard about how Bobbi, who's flat broke, manages on short notice to get decked out in a cocktail dress, high heels, earings, platinum wig, fashionable women's sunglasses and a black sequin purse, or why he's got seemingly hairless legs.)
But even if the video undercuts the lyrics, Bobbi's having a great time, his friends are having a great time, in fact everyone's having a great time except an eye-rolling old man, who's presented as a curmudgeonly killjoy. The “big-boned girl with a platinum curl” is the life of the party. As Vassar sings: “That's how it is, nobody gives a second thought these days.”
Would I have preferred that the video stayed true to its roots and cast someone like Victoria “Porkchop” Parker as Bobbi? Hell ya. But if the “lite” version ends up making life a little easier for some trans person in some shitkicker bar somewhere, I'm not gonna complain too much.
* Before anyone kvetches, yes I know Porkchop is a gay man who's a professional female impersonator. But she's burly enough as a guy to be a convincing Bobby and femme enough to be a Bobbi who would've left viewers stunned and amazed.