Grave City

Bobby Soxx, local punk-rock legend, died last week. Finally.

In the fall of 1994, Bobby was hanging out at 14 Records, Big Bucks Burnett's long-defunct store on Lower Greenville. He barely resembled the Bobby Soxx of the 1980s, the nerd-punk raging behind thick glasses. His thin frame had put on several extra pounds; he was all pale flesh and thin scars, and his face was half-obscured by a tangle of thinning hair and a handlebar moustache. We conducted a lengthy interview outside the record store; Bobby was leaning against a car and drinking cheap beer out of a paper bag, a violation of his parole. It was just one of a dozen things Bobby didn't want included in the article, which appeared in the September 8, 1994, issue of the Dallas Observer. Bobby also didn't want his real name used, nor did he want it mentioned where he worked at the time (he was a cook in the cafeteria at the Dallas Art Institute). "And don't put too much about the pen in there," he insisted, as though one could explain where he'd been without explaining how he ended up there.

"My father absolutely loves the shit out of me," he said, when the conversation turned too long to his time spent in Huntsville. Bobby's father, Leonard, still lives in Terrell. "I don't want him to be fucking ashamed of me and shit for going out and talking to some rag newspaper. You know what I'm saying? He got fucking awful upset. I love my dad, but I don't necessarily do what he tells me. But I wouldn't be out now if it weren't for my pop. I couldn't get out. I tried every way of getting out, except I had to go live with my family." Only Bobby didn't live with his family, another violation of the conditions of his parole; he was hanging with friends, couch surfing. Soon enough, he'd wind up sleeping in the streets, hustling beer-money all day long.

He was living behind the Arcadia Theater when he met Paul Kulcsar about a year ago at Bar of Soap. Someone introduced him to Kulcsar, himself an old punk-rocker from Akron, Ohio, by saying that Bobby was "the most hated punk-fucker in town." Kulcsar didn't understand how this guy, who looked homeless, had ever been dangerous. Soon enough, he let Bobby move into a trailer behind his home in Pleasant Grove. They had even begun working on some new music together, only a little bit of which they ever got around to recording.

"Every fifth day, I asked him if he wanted to quit drinking," Kulcsar says. "He said, 'No, it's all I got. I don't do junk or speed anymore. Drinking's all I got.' He told me when he was living on Greenville, he could panhandle 15, 20 bucks a day, and at $1.25 a quart of beer, that was a lot of 40-ounces. I got him down to four bottles a day, but the damage was done. Everybody told me he had more chances than most. One of the originals we wrote was called 'Scarred.' It said, 'I've taken a bullet/I've taken a blade/I'm scarred.' He said he deserved it. He wasn't bitter at anyone. One of his personalities knew the consequences of his actions. At one time in his life there was a good guy there, but somewhere and somehow that person got squelched."

Even those who want only to say nice things about Bobby Soxx have a hard time finding any. Nancy Soxx lived with Bobby from 1973 till the early '80s; she long ago went straight and left behind the punk-rock lifestyle. They met through Nancy's sister, who attended high school with Bobby at Sunset. Nancy thought Bobby was cute back then, a regular little hippie with hair down to his shoulders. The girls thought he was cute, and back then he was. After all, he was not so far-removed from his days in a Christian youth group, of which Bobby insisted he had been part when he was a kid.

Nancy--who doesn't want her last name used; "just say 'Nancy Soxx,'" she insists even now--isn't quite sure when her boyfriend made the transition from hippie to punk, only that by the late 1970s he had become enamored of the Ramones, Blondie, and Robert Gordon--the latter of whom they went to hear at the old Agora Ballroom in 1979. Before the show, there was a punk-new-wave talent contest, and Bobby entered, wearing a red-and-white-checked shirt and straight-legged girl's Levi's, with his hair sticking straight up. For his trouble, he took home a 1953 Seaburg jukebox stocked with 100 records. That night, he introduced himself to the crowd as Bobby Soxx. The nickname stuck.

"We had a lot of friends in punk bands, and we were hanging out with them," Nancy recalls. "He decided he wanted to sing, so he formed his own style, and different bands decided he could play with them. We had a lot of fun with them, and we hung out at some neat clothing places, like Ec-lec-tricity. We got into the scene of dressing, the fun clothing, and things like that. It was a fun time, but he changed. He turned me off after a while. I was quite a bit older than he was. I'm 55 now, and he never grew up. He did everything to the extreme, and I just couldn't live like that anymore. It broke his heart. He was a big crybaby, but I had to do it. I was sick of it. I finally got enough, and I'm still alive."

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