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David Bowie - That Strange Glitter

by Barbara A. Staib - Ingenue (March 1973)

Rock music blares.  Lights Dim.  It's - gasp! Who is that man? Why, it must be - yes!  It is none other than Ziggy Stardust (alias David Bowie) and the Spiders From Mars, and holy cow!  What a show! Ziggy (an arachnid glitter to him) with gold and silver lurex sweaters swathing his narrow chest.   Knee-length jeans so tight that each slender muscle of his legs is clearly outlined.  Yellow argyle socks. Wowee!!

But that's not all of it.  Henna'd hair shines carrot-pink over a stark white face (rice powder, maybe?). One long black oriental earring swings gracefully.   He stands, arms folded on his chest, legs apart, like a model.  He reminds me of someone...but who?  Flash Gordon!

Question: Does everybody at this party watch him because he is a star, or is he the star because, from the moment he walked in, everybody has watched no one but him?  Good question.  But then, this is not the ordinary rock party with hardboiled rock writers and critics to impress.  it is a lunch hour bash, chivalrously (and thoughtfully) thrown by David Bowie - extraordinary English rock freak, for the secretaries, receptionists, and other etcetera people of RCA Records.  It is held in Studio C, whose high ceilings and soaring acoustic blocks made it look like a space-age cathedral.  There is food and drink for the guests, who may, if they wish, invite their bosses.  Many have.  They stream in at 12.30, nervous and hungry and immensely pleased at the thoughtfulness of David Bowie.

"This has never happened before," marvels Sally Friday, who handles the complicated travel arrangements for RCA artists and has never seen the famous ones for whom she rents planes, buys tickets and orders hotel rooms.  A gentle girl named Vina, with a puff hairdo and shining eyes, says "I'd really rather work here than someplace like IBM.  The other day John Denver was in the elevator!" An excited young advertising manager bursts past talking about smashing pictures of DB in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.  Rouge rock, mascara rock, transvestite hip drag acts like Lou Reed and Alice Cooper are Beautiful people lately, But -

"I just like wearing what I like to wear," David Bowie is saying in his soft, iron-stubborn way.  "I'm not a queen; I'm not into the scene of it....I've got this friend whose just beautiful, an exquisite sense of taste dress-wise, and when you meet him, you don't even question whether he's a boy or a girl...He's just a person called Freddie, who's very very nice to look at. That's what's important - to be an person, an individual."

Call it rouge rock or mascara rock - but some very strange acts are starting to dominate the music scene. 
Meet David Bowie - one of the strangest.

Vina and I watch as a photographer draws a bead on Bowie.  He has merely to tighten a muscle at the corner of his mouth, hood his eyes, and cantilever one hip to turn himself into the Compleat Sex Object.  Very very nice to look at.   "This is really nice," murmurs an older woman, watching Bowie pose.   "They should do this more often.  We do so much for them and we never get to really see them."

Bowie walks gracefully and menacingly around the room filled with awed, mascara'd city-girls.  Young bosses tell him he was great in Cleveland, but none of the girls goes up to talk to him.  "Don't you want to talk to him?" I ask Vina.  "Oh, no," she grins, embarrassed.  "Oh, No!"

Bowie is standing, stiff-legged, in a small pool of light.  I elbow into the group around The Star.  He's saying something about writing "lyrics that really mean something to a lot of people, not just to me. Often its not my point of view I'm putting across.  I'm like a focal point for ideas that are going around.   Sometimes I don't feel as if I'm a person at all..."  Light dances on his pink-auburn hair. "Sometimes I'm just a collection of other people's ideas."

Stewart, his young black bodyguard "from North of England like most of the lads," is clutching an envelope of ballet tickets for the group for Saturday night.  "And we'll go drink down on the Bowery, too as well as see the ballet," he grins. "Most tours are not arranged right. The bands stay in awful holes and travel too much and everyone gets depressed and irritable.  This tour," he says impressively, "is different." Stewart says that once he and Bowie, who Will Not Fly, took a yellow cab from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia." Just hopped right in and said, "Lets go to Philadelphia.""Stewart laughs.  A spaceman who won't fly???

Back to Bowie: "I think I'm to totally aware of changes, of how impermanent everything is.  I go from one extreme to the other.  I change all the time."  Oh, yes.  Each of his five albums presents a strikingly different Bowie, from the Garbo-blonde and pink-lipped Hunky Dory (RCA) to the silverclad spaceman of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (RCA).  The album covers are like shreddings of snakeskin, each one sparkingly different.  And then personally too - he is gay, genuinely, unabashedly homosexual in an age which has an unprecendented taste of sexuality.  But he is also married, lives and travel with his wife and child, both of whom he loves.

Is it the best of both worlds?  In a merry new universe?  Or is it rouge rock pervert?  Or maybe twentieth century Tiresias, man, woman and artist all rolled together into one glittering lurex personality?  Fragile, sexy and sexiness, Bowie offers a welcome richness of consciousness for old rock n roll.

The party breaks up slowly.  David Bowie and his bands of friends are the last to leave, lured off to another studio to hear some quadraphonic music.   "I don't know how much you'll like this," says an RCA man dubiously.   "Its - er- some John Philips Sousa marches."

"Sounds fine," says Bowie, and moves off in his languid, glittering style.  Then he is gone.

Was he ever really here?

---This page last modified: 30 Jun 2002---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)