Monday, January 11, 2016

On David Bowie

I knew a lot of people who loved the way he dressed, but it was at least 20 years since Ziggy Stardust, and no one really aspired to imitate him, his looks, or his elegance.  I knew a lot of people who thought his androgyny was kind of cool, people who also got off on fag jokes.  He was a dandy, of course, but to call him our Oscar Wilde doesn't make sense.  Oscar Wilde was never a deity.  Bowie was, but no one really listened to his message, which is the case with most deities.  He didn't change the way people lived their lives.  He gave the weirdos some comfort, but the homophobes liked him just as much.  CCR, Motown and John Lennon didn't stop the Vietnam War, and, according to the statistics, the world was just as uptight about sex and gender fluidity after Bowie's major breakthrough as it was before.  Things did change for the better, but not because of him.

Did he want to be a deity?  I don't think so.  You got the sense in his interviews that he was a "real person", well aware of the absurdity of celebrity, and his odd status, from his mid-30s on, as the glam-rock equivalent of the aging hippie.

In Velvet Goldmine, Christian Bale runs his hands sensually over a record by Johnathan Rhys Meyer's Bowie stand-in.  A few shots later, he's screaming.  "That's me, dad.  That's me."  That was never my experience with Bowie.  (I had that with Dylan and Johnny Cash.  I still love the former, but I outgrew my desire to be him.  My envy of the latter increases with age.)  It's sacrilege, but to me, Bowie will always be my Goblin King, an awesome, mysterious adult friend, who would say that he liked you, but claim that he didn't need you.  Whether he meant it or not, I didn't really care.  I loved that man.  

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