The Thin White Duke. Ziggy Stardust. The Goblin King. Davy Jones. He had a knack for personas, did Bowie. Something that Baz shares a common ground with. Yes, welcome to another Spotlight – and it’s another doozy in Bowie (do nothing by halves, us lot) So just bear with us as we attempt to explain his influence and importance in some way no-one else has managed to. We might be here a while.
It’s fair to start with the idea that if you have nothing you have nothing to lose – in a time when it was scandalous to even have long hair as dictated by the war-torn generation that came before it, soldiers’ children were finding new avenues to express themselves, and luckily for them, Ziggy was waiting in the wings. It’s hard for us Baz-istas to comprehend what a massive splash he made in ’73 – someone (“She’s Not Sure if You’re a Boy or a Girl”) appearing on Top of The Pops one evening in a cat suit, full stage make-up and orange hair. Put you off your tea. But intrinsically to his appeal, and especially to Baz, he totally did not break the rules of how to dress, behave, even make music, it’s like he had no clue what they even were. He had nothing, so he had nothing to lose. Zeitgeist, meet Ziggy.
Though it eventually became clear what gender Bowie was, (petition to start one simply called ‘Bowie’) there was, even then, a hovering doubt. Rumours of outrageous behaviour and fluid sexuality maintain to this day that all add to the image that became so important to us as a society and to him as a cultural keystone – image, and performance. Larger than life, fully in character, (though he denies even that description voraciously, amazing, but throw us a bone, Davy) like Richard Burbage taking on Hamlet, Othello and Richard II - a ton of amazing characters under his belt, and utterly loyal to them, until the time came to move on.
Baz's idea of gender is long held in the 'doesn't matter' column and that's why Bowie's importance to Baz is simple: he was a true performer with no time for labels or societal pressures. In our 2013 production of Prophesy, we switched up our casts as we wished: Helen of Troy could be played by a tall man in his early thirties, Paris, the noble prince, set on capturing Helen’s heart? A young woman in her late twenties- why not? As long as bold choices are told with authenticity – something Bowie did naturally - he was an artist in the truest sense of the word, and Baz is inspired. And it's not just us - far from being covered by artists ranging across the board and genre (how can we forget Astronaut Chris Hadfield's, seminal, gravity-less cover) he's inspired art, fashion, and with The Michael Clark Company, stunning dance. It seems as if the artistic community will carry on his legacy and rightly so.
We can maintain his legacy, but he self-curated his death - he honours his legacy much as he did his different personas – effortlessly. It’s sad that his impending death was the force that brought out an international bestseller at the V&A of his costumes, a new album, and most recently and surprisingly of all – a musical, Lazarus opening in New York late last year: (http://www.davidbowie.com/news/nytw-announces-world-premiere-lazarus-54311) but with the ever-present possibility of new treats being revealed in months to come, it’s almost as if you could brush over the ‘death’ part. As ever, he keeps us guessing, this impossible dude who simply made good music, dressed well and changed the game – bonus points for being the only musician-turned-actor to survive making a movie (sorry Cher, J-Lo and Madonna) and retain his musical credit. Most importantly, though, he never conformed. Baz has something in common with that too.
If we may: Lorde’s stunning performance with Bowie’s band at the Brit Awards earlier this year recaptured a bit of the presence with a bit of herself thrown in - in deference to a true tribute, this is how it’s done. The future is looking bright. Seriously, we can't stop watching it.
You like dancing and you look divine,