Rarely am I shocked when a public figure dies. They seem to go often these days, and I think of myself as kind of immune to it. But when I saw the news that David Bowie died yesterday morning I was in a cab on my way to JFK to catch a flight to London.
“Oh my God, David Bowie died!” I exclaimed out loud to the taxi driver.
See, I had a strange encounter with David Bowie when I went to see him in concert in Battery Park in NYC in 2002. It was something I never forgot.
Before the concert began, I had the fortune to go “behind the scenes” to the back area where refreshments and such were being offered. (The friend who took me had access to these kinds of things.)
Anyway, I was waiting around for him to come back with a beer, just standing there looking at the trees, when I turned to see my friend rushing towards me.
“Cady!” he said, “David Bowie was asking about you!”
“Yes! He wanted to know who the girl with the green hat was!”
I was wearing a little green hat, some kind of sweater, jeans, and platform boots. I had long blonde hair almost down to my waist at the time. I probably looked like some kind of character out of 1960’s London.
“What did you tell him?”
I think I was relegated to “some actress.” I wished he’d said I was a poet. Actors always get the bad rap. Still, I was pretty thrilled. David Bowie noticed me. I instantly turned into a groupie.
Just before the show started, we all gathered around David’s trailer. By this point I was ready to do whatever was necessary to make David happy, and I mean anything. He had noticed me! What else did a girl need? (Insert older Cady eye rolls here).
When he emerged from his trailer I noticed he was actually quite small. This was something that had never occurred to me before. That such a big star would be so petite.
As he came down the steps I was determined to make sure he knew that I was there. (Groupie mentality in full gear, as I mentioned. Who was I to get in the way of what Mr. Bowie wanted?) I waited until he was just about two feet away from me, right in my path, and I stepped in front of him.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hello,” he said.
Then something quick passed between us, or rather from him to me, that felt like this: “In another time, another place, I might ask you to wait for me after the show. But I’m a different man now. A married man, and I don’t do that anymore. So thank you, I’m flattered, but I have to pass.”
I felt all of that in just a moment. It was both gracious and clear. So I stepped aside and let him pass. I honestly don’t know where I got the nerve to get in his way in the first place, really. What cheek!
During the show my friend and I got to be in the orchestra section with all the “Very Famous People” and we acted like the big, stupid David Bowie fans that we both were: singing along with the songs, sitting on the wall between us and the crowd, waving our hands up in the air. I even noticed David glancing over at us once or twice as if he were wondering, “Are those two going to be a problem?” until he realized that we just loved the music so much. When he saw that, and I believe that he did and understood what we were really there for, I think it lifted him a little bit. Because I saw a tinge of the young Bowie come out. A “spark” that was clearly a part of his younger art and self. It was dazzling.
Where he’s looking and gesturing was right where we were sitting, up high on a wall. I know, I know… I sound like a crazy fan…. but we WERE!
This was just before he had heart surgery in 2004, so there’s a good chance his calmer demeanor was a reflection of the health issues he was dealing with, it’s possible is all I’m saying.
Of course it’s possible this was all in my mind, total projection, and I was just a fan and he was just a superstar. Of course, if he hadn’t ASKED about me, that’d be what it was. But he had asked. So it felt like a little something more.
But as someone who has walked around naked in my apartment to Bowie music blasting from cheap speakers, I like to think he appreciated the rock and roll gesture.
Meanwhile, I share with you one of the most gorgeous fan tribute videos ever made. It made me weep, it is so perfect and beautiful. What’s amazing is that it was made BEFORE Bowie died, so he got to see it, and called it:
“Perhaps the most poignant version of the song ever created.” ~ David Bowie.
Clearly, I’m not the only one who was touched by the man and his music.
Now I shift my younger instincts into something else, my work. I hope that I can be as risk-taking and redefining of my Self as he was: willing to let everything that once worked GO in order to experiment with the next thing that feels RIGHT.
Because we aren’t here forever, that’s a fact.
Safe travels, Spaceman. Hope I get to see you again somewhere.