A Busch Raised in the Wild Kingdom
David Busch, a 33-year-old member of the Anheuser-Busch dynasty, does whatever he wants. But his “whatever he wants” isn’t about couch-surfing his way through adulthood with a gaming remote fused in his fist. It’s about pursuing any one of his seemingly endless interests in the world around him—a world that’s notably different than my own.
“My grandfather had a private zoo in St. Louis, which we still have,” David says casually, as if he’s describing the swing set on which he grew up playing. “He has over 300 animals.” When he was young, David ate breakfast with a T-shirt clad chimpanzee. He maneuvered around a free-roaming donkey. Two African elephants—the aptly named “Bud” and “Mickey”—roamed the 400-acre backyard (they’re still there).
But with the idyllic also came “the smell of pee” and the unwanted advances of a diapered Kangaroo that wanted to cuddle. And there was the sad day when Stanley, a one-fingered alligator (yes, the middle) who liked to swim with the kids in the pool, became too big and, subsequently, a potential hazard. (Don’t fear; Stanley was relocated to the back ponds of the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary where he lives out his days flipping the bird to his cold-blooded brethren.)
Today, David carries his grandfather’s eccentric appreciation for the animal kingdom on a smaller scale. He built a Steve Wynn-worthy chicken house for his beloved pets, that’s entirely enclosed and includes an electric fence. “It’s like a fortress,” David says, with a touch of pride. He also raises screech owls in his kitchen and as a result has become an “expert in taxidermy,” surgically skinning and dicing the rats and baby chicks that sit in a Ziplock bag in the freezer next to a bottle of vodka. This all sounds a little serial killerish if you didn’t know that David is a staunch supporter of his father’s venture: a wildlife sanctuary he built down in Jupiter, Fla., that houses, rehabilitates and releases more than 6,000 wild animals.
Outside of David’s menagerie, his life has been surrounded by opportunity and influence. He’s started branding himself as a creative consultant, working with companies through which he’s had various contacts through the years. When I ask how he came about hosting a popular talk-radio show, The Dave and Cindy Show on 107.9 FM, he told me that a friend had bought some airtime and asked if he’d be interested. And his co-host, whom David describes as a “rocker chick from the 70s” is a luxury real estate agent and family friend who at one point in her life housed the rock bands down in Miami, including the BeeGees, Diana Ross, Eric Clapton and The Eagles. (“Hotel California” was famously written in her own kitchen, but David’s been “sworn to secrecy” and won’t spill any details as to what the song is really about.) She’s also part of David’s travel club, an exclusive group of six people who frequent Barbados—their “headquarters”—and other places I read about in Travel & Leisure. As a woman whose version of travel club extends to determining who’s responsible for car-pooling the kids to school, it should be easy to give David and his gilded groupies a perfunctory eye roll, especially when he tells me I could join but there’s an “protocol and an initiation,” which is a nice way of saying I can’t join. But the truth of the matter is, he gets it. He gets that not everyone can bankroll every whim. He gets that his childhood was more Silver Spoons than Facts of Life. And most important, he gets that—as my dad would say—everybody’s shit stinks.
Though as someone with a thing for well-spoken, blue-eyed dimpled heirs with come-hither cologne and an easy laugh, I can’t help but wonder if maybe David’s doesn’t.