by Angeliska on January 14, 2016
After my last sweet visitor had headed home the night of the 10th, after a perfect and beautiful birthday, full of friends and children and kindness and sweet medicine and pierogis, I sat alone at my kitchen table covered in sweet gifts and roses and flickering candles burning down low. A last glass of champagne, chuckling and weeping over heartfelt birthday messages from dear ones faraway, and then the news: The Thin White Duke had left the building. A shard of sorrow in my hands, turning it over and over like a piece of obsidian: but no shock, no disbelief. I had known, somehow, that we would all be saying goodbye soon. Of course. This day, that moment, it was his time. I could feel the deep peace of a life well lived, of a life’s work well done, and the release that follows as such a bright star breathes one last and then evaporates into everything.
DAVID BOWIE – JOHN, I’M ONLY DANCING (AGAIN) 12″ (1979) I started to write a caption for this image & it ended up becoming this. I used to dance to this 12-inch all the time, before I lost it (& all my other records) in Hurricane Katrina. Photo of the record by Mat Maitland.
Capricorn brother. I always felt an affinity, with his birthday two days before mine, and now his death coinciding with the anniversary of my birth. So I’ll never forget – as if I ever could fail to remember my admiration for that elegant elfin alien, such an otherworldly, brilliant being. So full of passion and incredible talent and preternatural grace. Him passing on my birthday felt like a very peculiar gift. I cried tears of love, gratitude and deep happiness for the gifts he shared, for every soul that he inspired. I see so many people I love struck deeply by this loss, bereft and adrift. Grief’s arrow can affix you to a moment, can paralyze you – or it can spurn you on and motivate you in powerful ways. When death strikes, I see some people get lost, sink down into themselves, get numb under blankets of apathy and depression. I see others fired up, fucking in the bathroom at the funeral, staying up all night writing songs, stories, poetry, love letters. When you beat a tomato plant or a rose bush with a stick, it will think its life is in danger. Faced with mortality, it will attempt to reproduce itself hurriedly – just in case there won’t be another opportunity. This could be it, you know? Animals do it, fish do it – and we do it. Biology and creativity – sex and death. I am hoping fervently that more of us will fall into that fevered excitement instead of a sorrowful haze.
I want to ask you to stay present with this one. Keep feeling it, keep your eyes and heart open. Let his death wake you up, make you remember what it felt like to discover that you weren’t alone, that there was an anthem for your strangeness, and a guide through the wilds of self-discovery to the cosmos within. Countless flocks of blossoming freaks found their sherpa in him: he led the way up the mountain ahead of everyone else, sure-footed, brave and indomitable, leaping from rock to rock and scaling impossibly sheer heights. He kept going, kept pushing – against all resistance, laughing in the face of fear. He made it irrelevant. Singing onstage in a mini-dress and thigh-high boots, coming out loud and proud because someone had to, goddamn it.
That man worked so, so hard. He pushed himself to the limits of his own psyche and beyond. He let himself be tempered, hammered into different shapes – constantly transforming, an alchemist of creativity. He survived the maw that consumed so many of his genius peers to become a wise old man, (but not too old). Instead, he sacrificed his alter-egos on the altar of fame, killed off the worn out personae, and continued to fashion new masks to protect the man inside, the one none of us ever met, or saw.
David Bowie was a true genius, and in true saturnine sea-goat fashion, he endured, persevered, always working, growing, manifesting — and he was richly rewarded for all his efforts, all his magic. He held the glory, he wasthe glory. So, how could he be just gone? No, not gone — but here, closer than ever. Now he’s everywhere, all around us, like embers floating on the wind — let his spark alight on your skin: let it burn you, mark you, scar you. Let his essence surround you, embrace you, and ignite in you that same drive, that same passion, the willingness to push off and fly. Now he is immortal. He gave you permission to be a beautiful weirdo, so don’t forget to honor him by continuing to stretch yourself past your own internal or external boundaries. Please keep doing the sacred work of connecting, keep sharing yourself with the world by doing your magic, whatever it is, with the same dedication, focus and verve that Bowie brought to the table for us to feast on. Step up into his shadow, into the hole his absence has torn in the fabric of our reality: get playful, look deep, transgress (and don’t apologize), wander far away from your comfort zone, discover those other archetypes within, and let every wild facet shine. Be willing to be uncomfortable, to be fabulous, to be both elastic and silvered steel. Do all this in thanks for the gifts he laid at our feet.
He came here to do his work, and he really fucking did it. With such great aplomb! We only have a lifetime, however long that is, to shine, to do our big work. That’s all any of of get. We are mortal. Our time here is brief. Do something righteous with what you were given: your brains and body, your imagination and your own singular perspective. Ars longa, vita brevis: art is long, and life is short. We will be listening to the songs of this poet forever. We get to keep them with us. He hasn’t truly left us at all. Feel how close he is? Do you hear the music? Sway with his spirit, dance for him.
And then get to work!
David Bowie interview on the Russell Harty Show, 1973
“What do you worship?”
“Life. I love life.”
David Bowie interview on the Russell Harty Show, 1975
Some thoughts on the subject by wise friends:
“I see we have already begun with the “art and music are officially dead” rhetoric. What an insult to Bowie’s memory and legacy to assume that the gift he gave us is finite. That the inspiration, example and beauty of his work won’t fuel and drive literally millions of artists who grew up with, discovered him later in life, and cherished him. Enough already. Stop looking backwards. Good art is not an exhaustible resource.”
– Fyodor A. Pavlov
“I know you are all upset about the passing of David Bowie. I am too indeed… But something you should know. He is totally at peace and went back to the stars hecame from. He is home now feeling totally complete, and fulfilled all his earthly duties. No regrets… He did that all and more. Muse city… Now utilize this knowing to motivate you to do the same. He would certainly approve of you mourning him in the glory of following your muse.”
– Marcella Kroll
I’ve been taking some time to listen and read, to watch interviews and find treasures and glean things I didn’t know. Looking forward to a really beautiful, well-written biography soon – or maybe there already is a definitive one someone could recommend?
“The image of that gingery boney pinky whitey person on the cover with the liquid mercury collar bone was – for one particular young moonage daydreamer – the image of planetary kin, of a close imaginary cousin and companion of choice
It’s taken me a long time to admit, even to myself, let alone you, that it was the vision and not yet the sound that
hooked me up – but if I can’t confess that here and now, then when and where?
We all have our own roots
To this room”
– Tilda Swinton
“Something happened on the day he died/ His spirit rose a meter and stepped aside/ Somebody else took his place and bravely cried, ‘I’m a black star,’” Bowie sings on “★”, his voice multiplied and filtered for the line’s last four words. “I’m not a pop star/ I’m a black star.” For what it’s worth: “Black star,” in physics, can refer to a black hole or a white dwarf that’s cooled down to the point that it stops emitting radiation. Both objects are theoretical.
“Sometimes I don’t feel as if I’m a person at all,” said Bowie to Ingenue Magazine in 1973. “Sometimes I’m just a collection of other people’s ideas.” That was more than 40 years ago, but one line on “★” carries a similar idea: “At the center of it all/ Your eyes,” repeats Bowie with particular menace. Like his best lyrics, it could mean anything, but it reverberates in a particular way against the backdrop of his disappearance, his continued enigma, his withdrawal from everywhere but the distant planet he now finds himself. The core of Bowie — or of everything — is not what he is, but how he’s seen. Or really, the two are one and the same. There is no David Bowie except the one you imagine, and it is always possible to imagine him.
“There is a singular energy that moves throughout each person, but it’s all fluid. It’s transmittable. It’s like a disease. You can give it to somebody,” says Fortune. “It doesn’t have to begin and end with your birth and death. It’s something that can be moved through time and space, if you can separate your individual essence from your intellectual ego and allow it to become this broader thing that can be shared and passed along. Reincarnation, occult practices, interdimensional travel, eternal life — all of these funny ideas that humanity has played with forever that Bowie has tapped into throughout the arc of his career, I think it all comes down to this one basic concept. This is me, this is mine. I manifested this. But you can have it too. It’s not singular unto me. It’s singular in the sense that I have carried it to this point, and now you can take it, too. That’s what I think he’s all about.”
– BY SASHA GEFFEN
I held off on watching Lazarus as long as I could, but when I finally did, it just socked me in the gut.
Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth…
Oh, mortality. Mortal gods, mortal man. It’s rough, man.
Still, we have these bright candles, and…
I was 13 years old dancing to Rebel, Rebel and Changes in my best friend’s bedroom. Jean Genie and Suffragette City and this whole flamboyant world that was unfurling before us. I think she had the Changesbowie cassette. It didn’t matter that we were late to the party. It didn’t occur to us that this music had had its moment and the scene was dead long before we came onto it. It was timeless, and it belonged to us. I am finding that this is still true – that teenagers everywhere dance in their rooms to this music and feel completely as if it were made just for them. These are the songs that woke us up, that turned us on. Your body and the world around you and with in you is going through so many ch-ch-changes. All you can do is turn, and face the strange.
I used to play Hunky Dory over and over again in the little one-room shack I lived in when I was 17. I had the album, and would just keep flipping the record and moving the needle – never tiring of the process. I wanted the music. I loved Kooks, and Andy Warhol. I remember my friend Kathie Pandora singing those lyrics to me in her raspy voice,
“Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wake up on the sea
He sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do”
I always think of her when I hear that song, or sing it myself. I still like to sing it. But The Bewlay Brothers will always be my favorite Bowie song, ever. It was, and is – so powerful. It was eldritch and mysterious, and it made me think of the beautiful, troubled men I thought of as my brothers back in the day. They were terrible and always doing dangerous, evil shit. I was worried constantly that they’d die. Two of them are dead to me now.
Now my Brother lays upon the Rocks
He could be dead, He could be not
He could be You
He’s Camelian, Comedian, Corinthian and Caricature
One remains, and he’s the brightest and best of them, anyway. Evan, who we always affectionately referred to as The Goblin Prince. He has always epitomized the Thin White Duke for me: effortlessly elegant and for a long time bleached white blond, with all the moves, the genius, the wicked grin. Dancing with a cigarette, drawing in the dark.
He wrote this, the other day:
“The star collapses, and when it has almost reached singularity,
when its influence becomes infinite and spacetime
cannot exist within it, it is transformed and
–despite its death– continues to release energy.
Goodnight, my oldest teacher, to you and your little white saxophone.
Goodnight, my Blackstar.”
I had a cassette tape of Low that I damn near wore out when I first moved to New Orleans. “A New Career in a New Town” became my personal soundtrack for leaving my hometown at the age of just barely 20, and strangely enough (I just realized this), it was then and there that I did embark upon what eventually did become my career: reading tarot. My first apartment there was in my beloved castle on Esplanade and Bourbon, in the tower room with the bay window on the third floor. I lived in there for a few months, until the much larger apartment I ended up staying in for many years became available. That time was very special to me: I was starting a new beginning, all by myself. The apartment was grand, only one room that was mostly the floor to ceiling bay windows overlooking the overgrown courtyard, with an odd little crooked kitchen. The big room was painted an ugly shade of blue that I never got around to repainting, but it made me think of the line in Sound and Vision:
Blue, blue, electric blue
That’s the colour of my room
Where I will live
My bedroom now is a much prettier shade of blue. I’m glad the song still applies…
David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King was my first human (sort of) crush. Before that, it was just anthropomorphic animals, like the hot fox in Disney’s Robin Hood, or Dangermouse (his eyepatch and British accent made the fact that he was a cartoon rodent easier to overlook.) I know I’m not alone in this, and it’s been a comfort, over the years to realize that the desires of so many young girls were awakened by that character. I had a poster from the movie that I would practice kissing on, until the paper his lips were printed on started to get faded.
I’ll paint you mornings of gold.
I’ll spin you Valentine evenings.
Though we’re strangers ’til now,
We’re choosing the path
Between the stars.
I’ll leave my love
Between the stars.
My friend Reiner insisted on buying me a cd of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) at a used record store on my first visit to New York. I think I was 18. It was wintertime, and snowing a lot. The hard edges and manic energy of those songs still bring back the feeling of exploring NYC, hunting for the lost ghosts of party animals of yore. I’d play the cd when I was getting ready to go out, doing my makeup and pinning things into my hair. We spent New Year’s Eve in a dilapidated concrete warehouse (or maybe it was a parking garage?). I was wearing my 1930′s cloth of gold dress, which was constructed of real metallic threads and thus conducted heat and cold. I was freezing and having my ear talked off by coked-up Russians. Reiner was really passionate about this album, and his love for it was passed on to me. I think he listened to it a lot when it came out, back when he lived in Berlin. Exciting times. My favorite track was Ashes to Ashes.
I’m happy. Hope you’re happy, too.
I’ve loved. All I’ve needed: love.
Sordid details following.
“There was a beautiful Art Deco house on six acres, an exquisite site property and a terrific value at just $300,000, but he took one look at a detail I hadn’t noticed, a hexagram painted on the floor of a circular room by the previous owner, Gypsy Rose Lee. ‘A great deal of codling and reassurance got us through that crisis, and I went and found the Doheny Drive house. Built in the late fifties or early sixties, it was a white cube surrounding an indoor swimming pool. David liked the place, but I thought it was too small to meet our needs for very long, and I wasn’t crazy about the pool. In my experience, indoor pools are always a problem. This one was no exception, albeit not in any of the usual ways. Its drawback was one I hadn’t encountered before and haven’t seen or heard of since: Satan lived in it. With his own eyes, David said, he’d seen HIM rising up out of the water one night.’ Feeling demonic forces moving in, David felt strongly that he needed an exorcism and asked that his new found friend white witch Walli Elmlark be called upon to lend her assistance to remove the evil from his surroundings. ‘A Greek Orthodox Church, in LA would have done it for us (there was a priest available for such a service, the people had told me) but David wouldn’t have it. No strangers allowed, he said. So there we stood, with just Walli’s instructions and a few hundred dollars’ worth of books, talismans, and assorted items from Hollywood’s comprehensive selection of fine occult emporia. There he (David Bowie) was, then, primed and ready. The proper books and doodads were arranged on a big old-fashioned lectern. The incantation began, and although I had no idea what was being said or what language it was being said in, I couldn’t stop a weird cold feeling rising up in me as David droned on and on. ‘There’s no easy or elegant way to say this, so I’ll just say it straight. At a certain point in the ritual, the pool began to bubble. It bubbled vigorously (perhaps ‘thrashed’ is a better term) in a manner inconsistent with any explanation involving air filters or the like.’ The rock and roll couple watched in amazement. Angie says she tried to be flippant – “Well, dear, aren’t you clever? It seems to be working. Something’s making a move, don’t you think?” – but I couldn’t keep it up. It was very, very strange; even after my recent experiences I was having trouble accepting what my eyes were seeing.’ Angie insists that she would peek through the glass doors which lead to the pool every so often and was dumb founded by what she saw. ‘On the bottom of the pool was a large shadow, or stain, which had not been there before the ritual began. It was in the shape of a beast of the underworld; it reminded me of those twisted, tormented gargoyles screaming silently from the spires of medieval cathedrals. It was ugly, shocking, malevolent; it frightened me. ‘I backed away from it feeling very strange, went through the doorway, and told David what I’d seen, trying to be nonchalant but not doing very well. He turned white but eventually became revived enough to spend the rest of the night doing coke. He wouldn’t go near the pool, though.’”
“Early in life, Bowie had established his interest in all matters extraterrestrial. As a Brit teenager, David had helped edit a flying saucer newsletter. He admitted to me that he loved science fiction and was fascinated with life in space and the possibility that quite a few cosmic visitors had ended up on our earthly shores.
During a conversation, Bowie had gone out on a limb revealing that he had once had a close encounter. In the book Laugh Gnostic, author Peter Koening paraphrases what Bowie said: ‘A friend and I were traveling in the English countryside when we both noticed a strange object hovering above a field. From then on I have come to take this phenomena seriously. I believe that what I saw was not the actual object, but a projection of my own mind trying to make sense of this quantum topological doorway into dimensions beyond our own. It’s as if our dimension is but one among an infinite number of others.’”
★ David Bowie: Closet Occultist!
Q: “So were you involved in actual devil worship?” A: “Not devil worship, no, it was pure straightforward, old-fashioned magic.” Q: “The Aleister Crowley variety?” A: “No, I always thought Crowley was a charlatan. But there was a guy called [Arthur] Edward Waite who was terribly important to me at the time. And another called Dion Fortune who wrote a book called ‘Psychic Self-Defense‘. You had to run around the room getting bits of string and old crayons and draw funny things on the wall, and I took it all most seriously, ha ha ha ! I drew gateways into different dimensions, and I’m quite sure that, for myself, I really walked into other worlds. I drew things on walls and just walked through them, and saw what was on the other side!”
David Bowie, interviewed in NME, 1997
★ Station To Station
“One of the many lies we tell children is that there’s no limit to the imagination. Of course there is. Even the most consuming and perceptive of minds reaches its borders and retreats. Expanding the mind is dog’s work, as grueling as it’s often fruitless; few attempt it, fewer succeed in it, and those who do often come out twisted and torn. In 1975, binging on cocaine, living in paranoid isolation and making a rock record, David Bowie succeeded.”
★ The Fall To Earth: David Bowie, Cocaine And The Occult:
Here are two extracts from Peter Doggett’s excellent new book The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie And The 1970s, covering the star’s all time low, 1975
★ Bowie in Berlin: David Bowie moved to Berlin in the mid-70s in the grip of a cocaine addiction. But the city purged his demons and pushed him to new creative heights. Rory MacLean remembers their nights in his Hauptstraße flat – and one wild night out with Iggy
“He dressed in baggy trousers and dowdy shirts, and enjoyed the Berliners’ disinterest in him. No one bothered him on the street, unlike in star-struck LA. One night on a whim, he climbed onto a cabaret stage to perform a few Frank Sinatra songs. The local audience shrugged and asked him to step down. They had come to see a different act. Away from the limelight, he composed, painted and, for the first time in years, ‘felt a joy of life and a great feeling of release and healing’, as he put it.”
Wild Is The Wind
“He’s got more sense than anybody I’ve ever known. It’s not human — David ain’t from here.” – Nina Simone
photograph from my friend Stephanya Tyler
★ Sign the petition to keep “David Bowie Street” in Austin – won’t you?