Sunday, 24 March 2013

Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah!

According to Tilda Swinton in her "open letter to David Bowie", at the launch on Wednesday of the V&A's almost sold-out tribute exhibition David Bowie Is, David was "'tickled'... to knock Elvis – for once! – out of the headlines on [their] shared birthday this year."

And quite right too. This is the Year of David Bowie, or so it would seem. And to that end the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival - as always with its eye on the ball (ahem!) - hosted last night's gala We Love David Bowie.

Paul, Jim and I gathered among the hordes of delicious eccentrics parading in their "satin and tat" for the occasion, and settled in for the opening segment - an illustrated talk by that modern-day Ronald Firbank, the admirable Mr Rupert Smith.

Mr Smith has extensive first-hand insight into the enigma that is David Bowie, having met, interviewed and worked with such survivors of the hedonistic Warhol-esque art world that launched Bowie's career as Lindsay Kemp and Jayne County. However even he would not be unequivocal about the sexuality of the great man.

Instead, he took us on a fascinating journey into Bowie's constant toying with the idea - from his declaration that he was "gay, or at least bisexual" in an early interview while at the same time being married (to Angie) with a child, to the Ziggy Stardust era, when his cross-dressing androgyny and on-stage antics such as fellating Mick Ronson's guitar were guaranteed to outrage the establishment and ensured he was rarely out of the papers [a hilarious clip from an early edition of the very mainstream BBC magazine programme Nationwide emphasised this], to his later years, flirting with the ambisexual worlds of Romy Haag, Amanda Lear and Klaus Nomi.

It was this flirtatiousness with the idea of being a "queer icon", Mr Smith argued, which created the "Bowie phenomenon" that steam-rollered the boy from Brixton into a genuine world-dominating superstar, influencing everyone from Mick Jagger to Lou Reed to the New Romantics to today's "alternative" performers. Rupert summed up the huge significance of the man thus:
"Perhaps it was partly for show but ultimately I don't think it matters what he was doing in his private life. He's always been an actor. He clearly knew his way around gay culture in terms of its writing and music and visual art.

"More than anyone else, he blasted the closet-door off its hinges. At the very least in the '70s he was a pioneer of sexual openness in Britain."
And on that note, Rupert ushered in the second part of this extravaganza, a rare big-screen outing for the film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - the live concert footage from Hammersmith Odeon in 1973, after which he "killed the man". And here are just a few clips from this stunning performance:

Oh, how we wished we could have been there...

However, this was a celebration, and as with all good celebrations we had a party to attend! In the packed-to-the-brim sweat-box of the BFI's "Blue Room" we went on to dance the night away, as our DJs Jonathan Kemp (author of the award-winning London Triptych, no less) and Sadie Lee treated us to back-to-back non-stop Bowieness (all his hits, and others influenced by him) to a backdrop of moving slide images and video footage of the man projected on the walls.

It was an ecstatic experience, even if I feel a bit like "the man who fell to earth" this morning...

Among the many blogs I have done about Mr Bowie, read my tributes for his 65th birthday:
David Bowie website


  1. It was a great night - I'd never seen the clip from Scottish TV that Rupert included in the talk.
    Plus it was good to see the Ziggy final concert on a big screen with surround sound.

    It's a shame we didn't get to meet up on the night but prior to the event I was at the Snap Gallery, where I bumped into Marcus Reeves - the photographer Masayoshi Sukita was there in person and happy to sign brochures from his exhibition (for free).

    I would have liked to have gone to the after-party too (if only for the change to have my Aladdin Sane Thunderbolt painted on my face but the friend I was with had to get back to Luton so I took her as far as Kings Cross after the screening


    1. Ah yes, the eternal struggle - Luton vs Bowie...

      I was thinking of going to the Snap Gallery prior to the BFI gala, but it was such foul weather that I just caught the bus from home straight to Waterloo. Shame I didn't know you were definitely going otherwise I might have been tempted - especially as Masayoshi Sukita himself was there! I will go this Saturday instead.

      The whole three-part "We Love David Bowie" event was absolutely fabulous, though, and I have been buzzing with Bowie-ness ever since!



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