Saw this on the big screen in the chill-out room at the David Bowie Is exhibit on Friday, and Had a Moment:
A: Because he’s still David fucking Bowie, that’s why.
It was one year ago today that the news came over that David Robert Jones a/k/a Bowie had shuffled off this mortal coil. Many of us actually learned of it in the wee hours of the 11th — I for one found myself strangely sleepless, ambled downstairs about 3 in the morning, and saw a text informing me of the news. Groggy and unsure how to process such a momentous event, I poured and downed a good-sized vodka and went back to bed, tossing and turning half-conscious for a few hours before awakening for the first time to a Bowieless world.
In the aftermath, I was surprised and gratified by the worldwide outpouring of love and grief. Gratified because suddenly it seemed like everyone was a Bowie fan, and while there was a certain amount of obligatory blather and groupthink, the vast majority of it seemed to be sincere. Surprised because, while I knew that we Bowie cultists were many, I had no idea it ran so deep and so wide.
It made me realize that Bowie, patron saint of the Outsider, had a special meaning to anyone who’s ever felt different or weird or alienated or marginalized. Which, it turns out, is just about everyone. It’s just that many of us, by definition, are not joiners, so we end up spread out in our various little tribes. But when you put us all together, we are legion.
For a while there — and it still hasn’t entirely gone away — everywhere I turned, there he was: As a mannequin in a display in the local thrift shop; spraypainted on the sidewalk; blaring out of hidden speakers in some unexpected place. It was almost enough to give you hope for humanity.
And we need that, always, but especially now. Thank you David, and thank you Earth people. Maybe this could be a good year after all? Let’s give it a shot.
Or any day, really. But today especially.
1. The wonderful actor Alan Rickman had either the misfortune or the great good luck to die just a couple days after Bowie. I guess you have to say that dying is always a misfortune. But speaking strictly in terms of timing – on the one hand, his demise was completely overshadowed by DB’s; I only just learned he was dead a few days ago. On the other hand, he gets to go down in history as part of Bowie’s Celebrity Death Triad (the third, according to my calculations, is legendary soul singer Otis Clay, who died on Jan. 8). That’s quite an honor.
2. Earlier this week I came to the horrifying realization that, even as we speak, producers are pitching Bowie biopic projects to movie studios. There is only one, very specific way in which such a project could go right: an “I’m Not There”-style film where many different actors play many different Bowies, directed by someone who’s properly empathetic to the subject (perhaps Bowie’s son Duncan Jones). There are about a million ways it could go wrong, some of them obscene; imagine someone like, I don’t know, Justins Bieber or Timberlake being cast in the role. Any attempt at such a travesty will have to be stopped, by any means necessary.
As I’ve worked through the seven stages of Bowie grief this week I have been pondering how best to respond to the departure of the Great One from this bardo. (I may have done the stages out of order; I hit Depression earlier in the week, then Anger after listening to one too many shallow “tributes” from people who had no idea what they were talking about.) And today I think I finally reached the last stage, Hope/Acceptance, and found the right attitude, which goes something like this:
Yes, the singular human being we call Bowie is gone. But the spirit of Bowie will be with us always (not unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi). He was one of the most recorded, most photographed, most documented people in the history of the world. The art, the evidence, the inspiration is all still there. And more to the point, a little bit of Bowie lives on in every one of us who loved him.
So. It is our turn to be Bowie now. And it’s going to take all of us, because we can’t do it as well as he could – maybe not even a millionth as well – but if we all work together, we can at least take a shot at it. And that means, starting today, being the most creative, confident, generous, and glamorous version of yourself.
Start that project you’ve always wanted to do but been afraid of. Or think of a new one and get cracking. Give your self-doubt a rest, and when inevitably it rears its ugly head again, think of David – who always and above all else believed in himself. If ever you find you can’t believe in yourself, believe in the Bowie that lives inside you.
And when I say glamorous, I don’t mean wear glitter makeup – though by all means do that if you want to – I mean hold your head up, put your best face forward, and walk out proudly into the spotlight that is the world. Help others to do the same.
David would have wanted it that way.
In my logical mind, I knew that someday David Bowie was going to die. But in my heart, I believed that he would live forever – or at least find a way to outlive me, even though I’m 21 years younger.
Instead we are faced with the dreary prospect of a world without Bowie in it. That’s the bad news. The good news is that his music, image, and influence have pervaded the world so thoroughly that he will always be with us. Which is of course a cliche thing that gets said about every artist who dies, but in his case it is very true. Bowie is all around us, all the time; you just need the eyes to see.
When I walked into the coffee shop in Eureka this morning, “Space Oddity” was playing on the stereo. The one barista who’s always a little glammed-up was especially so, with bright pink hair and a colorful shirt and pants. As I walked in he was telling someone, “David Bowie taught me how to be myself.” Pointing to his plumage, he added, “He’s responsible for all this.”