I’m sure, if you’ve ever read this blog before, you can guess who was on my wall: Duran Duran, the cast of The Outsiders, more Duran Duran. But also Adam Ant, The Pet Shop Boys, and this funny British guy with crooked teeth.
I’d love to tell you that I admired Bowie because of his voice: so instantly recognizable, yet ever-changing; or his expansive talents—actor, artist, space alien. But I was a young, hormonal girl. Here’s what I loved: his hair, his eyes, and his teeth. He was hot.
His hair, because it always looked perfectly spikily coiffed, something that (despite my best efforts with Dep gel and Aqua Net) I could never achieve. His eyes, because they were not only two different colors, but one pupil was permanently dilated, and thus endlessly fascinating. And his teeth, because they weren’t perfect. (I had never been self-conscious about my teeth until a dentist suggested I have my front uppers and lowers capped to straighten them out. I didn’t do it—up until that very moment, I had never given their crookedness a second thought—but now I am painfully aware of my jack-’o-lantern smile.) Famous people with imperfect teeth hold a special place in my heart (Ethan Hawke, I salute you). If they don’t care about their haphazard grins, why should I?
My point is, as a teenager, I thought David Bowie was handsome and sexy and enigmatic.
Eventually, I got through puberty and grew up. And happily, as an adult, I found David Bowie to be brilliant and crazy and bizarre and beautiful.
David Bowie was always part of the backdrop as I aged. While I was agonizing over pimples and bad dates and bad marriages and a mortgage, he was singing and acting and reinventing himself over, and over, and over. And in every interview, every video, every movie he popped up in, I thought Hey, there’s my old friend, David Bowie! I love that guy! And once: Hey, what the—did he fix his teeth? How could he?
Waking up Monday morning to the news that David Bowie had left the proverbial building was saddening in a way I wasn’t prepared for. My old friend was gone. His absence was immediate and huge.
Except . . . it isn’t. I have a lot of Bowie on my iPhone, and played his music all week while driving or at my desk. I put on Basquiat Monday night and watched him play one of my other favorite artists, Andy Warhol. Social media and the online sites have been posting tributes all week to this amazing man. And even scrolling through some of my old blog posts, I found references to Bowie that I’d forgotten—my love of his duet with Bing Crosby, only because it’s David Bowie. My love of Labyrinth, even though, let’s be honest, it’s not the best movie in the world. References to “Space Oddity” and “Changes” occasionally made because I’d assumed everybody knew these songs and would get the reference.
I have one coworker that is as deep in mourning as I am over the loss of Ziggy Stardust. We started talking about how absolutely brilliant he was to release Blackstar so close to his death. His swan song has skyrocketed in sales this week, and there has been endless speculation and interpretation around the lyrics and videos he left us with.
“Typical Bowie,” my coworker said. “Leaving us all guessing and wanting more.”
This is true. Typical Bowie—in that he never did the typical or expected.
I’ll miss you, old friend.
I’m off to put on my red shoes and dance the blues.
This week from The Storyside:
Fabulous free fiction: "That Sounds Familiar" by Stacey Longo (hey, that's me!)
An overview of how to get your book written and published: "From Idea to Printed Page, Part 1" by Ursula Wong