Friday, January 15, 2016

David Bowie

It’s hard to find words for the monumental loss the world has experienced with the passing of David Bowie. I never get emotional about celebrity deaths, but this is different. I still can’t believe how this even happened; he was supposed to live forever. I keep hoping that it’s all a ruse. Perhaps he faked his death like in VELVET GOLDMINE. I just don’t want to accept it to be true. There has never been an artist like Bowie and there will never be another. He changed the shape of music and influenced so many. People say these things all the time when a celebrity dies, but in this case it couldn't be more true. Growing up in the 1980s, Bowie’s music was so prominent. His videos were everywhere. His songs were infectious and I was completely mesmerized by his clothes. As I got older I came to understand all the personas of this beautiful alien. I’ve been thinking of just how much he’s been a part of my life. I cannot recall a time before Bowie, and I really don’t want to consider a time after Bowie. I thought I’d share some of my favorite Bowie moments.

I certainly love his performances as Warhol in BASQUIAT and as Pontius Pilate in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. He's great in LABYRINTH and THE HUNGER. However, my favorite Bowie acting performance is as Agent Phillip Jeffries in FIRE WALK WITH ME. Even the details surrounding his character were such a vague mystery. Jeffries disappears for two years and then suddenly appears in the Philadelphia FBI offices spouting bizarre ramblings about the inhabitants of the Black Lodge. Then just as quickly as he appeared, he’s gone again. This performance in FIRE WALK WITH ME added a charm to David Lynch’s saga we never knew we needed. “He was here, but where did he go?”

I used to say many years ago that I wanted “Under Pressure” to be played at my funeral
. I always imagined a grandiose montage of people looking very somber as the coffin is lowered down right at the climax of the song. The thought never occurred to me that David Bowie’s funeral would come before my own. I now imagine Bowie and Freddy Mercury singing this song together someplace far, far way.

Speaking of interesting duets, remember the Mick Jagger collaboration? “Dancing in the Street” was initially intended to raise funds for Live Aid. It was very successful at the time, but has since become a bit of a joke probably due to the outrageous music video. Regardless, I absolutely love it. Yes the video is incredibly ridiculous and self-indulgent, but so were the entire 1980s. The pair raised even more questions about the relationship between Bowie & Jagger. I love how they were always so coy about it. Maybe it was the coke, but I really enjoyed this fun and lively side of Bowie.

ALMOST FAMOUS is in my top 5 all-time films. David Bowie was originally intended to have a role in the films as a publicist. However, the role was cut from the final script. He still makes a sort of cameo (he's also on the soundtrack) during the Cleveland scene at Swingo’s Hotel. You’ll also recognize comedian Nick Swardson as the rabid fan who freaks out at a mere glimpse of him. It’s great to see the Bowie fandom portrayed in the 1970s.

I absolutely HATE Christmas music with a fiery passion. Anyone who’s ever had to work retail during the holidays knows that Christmas music becomes the bane of your existence. I still cringe at the thought of hearing “Last Christmas” by Wham! or Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” On the other hand, I don’t mind Bowie’s duet with Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy.” Bowie did the duet on Bing Crosby’s 1977 holiday special. He allegedly only made the appearance to appease his mother who was a big fan of Crosby. No matter what, it’s still a beautiful rendition of a shitty song.

I always wondered if Bowie would write his own memoirs. It seems like everyone is getting around to it these days (Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith). There are countless unauthorized Bowie biographies out there. I’ve read a few. I even read Angie Bowie’s autobiography many years ago. I would certainly take anything an embittered ex-wife says with a grain of salt. The book ended up being the basis of what became of the film VELVET GOLDMINE. I love this film even if it’s incredibly exaggerated. It paints an exciting portrait of the legend.

My all-time favorite Bowie song is “Golden Years.” According to Angie Bowie, David called her from tour and played the song over the phone for. I’m not sure how accurate that account is, but it sure adds some context to the lyrics. Initially, the song was written for Elvis Presley, but he rejected it. What a huge mistake. Bowie's performance on Soul Train is so iconic. As one of the first white artists on the show, he was allegedly so nervous about the appearance that he got incredibly drunk yet never skips a beat. Bowie’s soul era is definitely one of my favorite time periods in his catalog. He just brought so much panache and grandeur to the genre.

One of my favorite film montages (besides ROCKY IV) is from INGLOROUS BASTERDS. At the beginning of Chapter 5, we see Shosanna preparing herself for the film premiere of NATION’S PRIDE as David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” plays. When I saw this for the first time in the theater, it just sent chills up my spine. It’s probably one of my favorite scenes in film history. It’s just so brilliant and fateful at the same time. It’s just perfect.

Obviously we won’t be reading his memoirs now. It’s just as well, we should honor the mystery. After all, a magician should never reveal his secrets. I know I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been said. It’s just so heartbreaking to think about. David Bowie created a safe and exquisite place for people who were different. He made it cool to be yourself. He taught us that instead of being ordinary, you could be extraordinary. We are extremely fortunate to have been given one last album as a goodbye letter from an phenomenal being. David Bowie will be remembered for so many things from an amazing musician, fashion icon, actor, animal lover, and all around performer. Let’s also remember that while we mourn a hero, someone else is mourning a husband and father. Goodbye sweet prince; the world feels a lot less magical now.

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