I only saw David Bowie perform once, and that was in September 2003 when he was on the Today Show.
I worked at night at the time, and got off of work at 7AM. The morning of the gig instead of heading to my apartment in Williamsburg from my job on the Upper West Side I headed to Rockefeller Plaza, to see David Bowie for free.
I got there around 7:30 and it was already packed. I was way in the back, but I still had a pretty good view of the stage.
I endured the usual antics of the Today Show cast, actually not being able to see what was going on in the open space in front of the stage where Katie Couric and the gang talked to people and read the weather and such. Eventually David Bowie was announced and he came on to the stage amid a lot of clapping and cheering. The crowd was excited.
He looked good, dressed very simply in a jean jacket. I don’t remember any of the band, I mean why would you when there’s David Bowie to look at? They played three or four songs, only one of which I recognized, Modern Love. I’d stopped keeping up with Bowie in 1980.
I first started listening to Bowie in 1972, when they started playing Ziggy Stardust on WNEW FM. But it wasn’t until after I’d seen the New York Dolls for the first time New Year’s Eve 1972 that I got into David Bowie. My discovery of glitter/glam rock was complete.
The first time I heard Jean Jeanie was in a friend’s room in the dorm at Pratt in early 1973. I’d gone to his room to see if he was interested in buying coke and he said he was. He wanted $10 worth.
“But I only have grams, it’s $100 for a gram.”
“So give me a tenth of it and I’ll give you ten bucks,” he said.
I had to lay it out on a piece of broken mirror he’d conveniently placed on a table and divide it into ten parts. He took his ten dollars worth and then produced a syringe, a spoon and a glass of water. But first, he put the 45rpm single of Jean Jeanie on the turntable and cranked it up. He mixed the cocaine with water in the spoon and drew it up through a cotton ball into the syringe. He shot it up.
“Give me another ten,” he said.
It went on like that until he’d spent the $100, and Jean Jeanie played at full blast incessantly, over and over again for probably an hour. I was fascinated by his shooting up and said I wanted to try it. He told me he didn’t have another syringe and wasn’t going to share his.
“Get one and I’ll show you how to do it.”
A few months later, sometime in late July we went to see The Stooges at Max’s Kansas City together. After the show there was an after party I wanted to crash, but my friend said he was tired and headed back to the dorm. I crashed the party, and learned to navigate a whole new world.
Upstairs at Max’s there was a raised platform set back where there were tables as opposed to the chairs in rows that were set up in front of the stage. This was where the rock royalty sat with a good view of the stage over the heads of the hoi poloi. And this is where I saw David Bowie in person for the first time. He sat at a table with Iggy Pop flanked by Lou Reed and Todd Rundgren. I knew about Todd from high school, when “We gotta get you a woman” was a big hit and was one of the singles I owned. Now Todd had dyed green hair.
Out of all the people at the table the only one I really wanted to talk to was my idol, Lou Reed. At a moment he was alone I walked over and sat across from his and just as I opened my mouth his personal bodyguard informed me “Mr. Reed doesn’t want to be disturbed.” I had to settle for following Iggy and Johnny Thunders around. They were up to some drug shenanigans in the bathroom.
Since I wasn’t so taken with David Bowie at the time, I didn’t invest a lot in stalking him. Alice Cooper was there as well, but he was always at Max’s, like he lived there. All of the New York Dolls were always hanging around as well, so they were nothing special to look at.
I did manage to get Alice Cooper to buy me a Heineken one night, though. I was a precocious kid at 18.
A couple of years later I was in CBGB’s one night watching The Dead Boys. The friend I was with nudged man and yelled into my ear “You’re standing next to David Bowie.” I turned to look at the man standing with his shoulder pressed against mine. He looked like David Bowie, but he was just wearing a t-shirt and a jean jacket, so he couldn’t be the flamboyant David Bowie. I yelled in his ear, “Hey man, what’s your name?”
“My name’s Frank,” he replied. But he couldn’t hide that accent.
So now Bowie’s gone, along with Lou Reed, Johnny, Jerry, so many others. I just read a Facebook post comment under a picture of Iggy with Johnny Thunders where the commenter wrote, “Iggy turned Johnny on to heroin. If I ever meet him I’d kick him in the balls.”
I wonder how Iggy feels about being one of the last kings at the table.
All of the photos were downloaded from the internet. Thanks, whomever you are.