Why “David Bowie is god”
As my site turns one year old today, which is also David Bowie’s birthday, I thought I’d try to begin to explain the importance David Bowie has in my personal life and the effect he had, continues to have, on my career.
My parents had fairly different musical tastes but the one major thing that overlapped was they were both David Bowie fans. My mom was also a Jim Henson fan so I grew up watching Labyrinth with her. I remember it was out of print for a long time and I was the only kid in the neighborhood with a copy that had been taped off of HBO.
As a kid I remember being in love with Jareth’s hair itself, asking Mom if I could make my hair do that one day. She replied “Sweetie, that’s a wig, not his real hair” and it was the dream-shattering equivalent of learning that there was no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy all rolled up into one.
As a goth teenager I really got into his freaky Ziggy era, finding the idea of being an alien heavily relatable. And when I discovered BowieNet when I was 17, to my surprise my parents agreed to pay my annual subscription...
It was $70.
I think most parents would be like “Your message board fanclub costs how much? HAH! No.”
I won’t go into grave detail of my BowieNet life here, because I could write an entire book, but I’ll summarize it. It began in 1996, and behind the pay wall was lots of exclusive bonus content, access to concert presales and bnet-only events, exclusive chatroom Q&As, and a very active message board. This was before Twitter, before Instagram, before Myspace, definitely before Facebook. David Bowie basically created social media as the everyday form we recognize today.
He didn’t post all the time but I would still consider him very active on the message board, for a busy top tier celebrity. His username was “sailor” although there were always whispers about his other secret accounts that he used for trolling. So he basically invented trolling, too.
The community itself was close, there were always local meetups and many members would travel internationally to see their closest bnet friends, eventually including myself. I joined this community when I was still in high school and 17 years later I am still close to the friends I made back then. These people are my family, and they vary from all nations, all walks of life, all classes, all ages...
The first time I met any of them was at my first ever Bowie concert and that itself was a bnet members-only show to launch the Reality tour, which was eventually known as his last tour. This pivotal moment in my life occurred on August 19th 2003 at the The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie NY. It was a small general admission venue, arguably a dive compared to the arenas he would play on the rest of the Reality tour. I was 18 years old and was in the process of moving to Chicago for art school. It was surreal to be seeing my first Bowie concert in a GA venue, and yet I knew 80% of the audience. David Bowie himself knew 100% of the audience, and you can hear him speaking to specific people in the bootlegs.
I knew more people in the audience than I knew in my high school of 60 kids.
A bunch of us were waiting at the venue early enough to catch him coming out to say hello while they were doing soundcheck. I didn’t get anything signed because all the members he knew by name were up in the very front of the group, as it should be. But I could still observe him from afar. He was dressed simply in a crisp white tshirt and white jeans, so the bright summer sunshine gave him a literally radiant, angelic glow. I’ll never forget his slinky catlike walk, and I’ve since never witnessed a creature with more grace.
Lessons I learned from Him
Freakflag began when my last salon closed, suddenly, due to #Austinproblems. As a fantasy color specialist, what I do is so specialized that not many places are going to do it well. The most stable environment for it, on short notice, is a mini salon.
As a hairstylist, this makes sense.
As an artist, this was (still is) terrifying.
I have literally painted myself into a corner where I am my own microcosm, a terrarium of rare creatures emerging covered in sunset locks and lavender hairdust...
None of this would have been possible without David Bowie.
I very sincerely celebrate him as a god of my profession.
For I am a witch and my profession is transformation magic.
In many ways it is the magic of one’s true form, their true Identity. For example, I have many transgender clients who visit me in the early stages of their personal transformation. Sometimes they know what they want but a lot of times they don’t. I accept this task with great reverence for the importance of what I’m being asked to do. If they are not completely comfortable with the hair I’ve given them, it’s more than “a bad haircut will grow out if you don’t like it” - it can shape their confidence and that shapes the way people treat them.
David Bowie is the Patron Saint of No Labels & Don’t Tell Me What To Do. The Patron Saint of the Gender Fluid & the Non-Binary. His iconic Ziggy Stardust mullet is the perfect example as to why I don’t attribute gender to my haircuts. Tell me, is a Ziggy mullet a men’s haircut or a women’s haircut?
The answer is Yes.
He taught me you can walk around with no eyebrows, a pale skeletal alien, and still feel your oats. It doesn’t matter if people “get it” because you “get it.” And you are the only person that really needs to “get it.” This is the lesson of aesthetic integrity.
He taught me the importance of artistic integrity. At times he was a starving artist that created beautiful, profound things that no one quite understood or appreciated. But eventually he had a period of being a sellout that pandered to the crowd; it made him so sick of China Girl that he didn’t play it live for years after. I think it’s the period after this, from the 90s onward, where he found his true creative power. He knew he could achieve either end of the spectrum and balanced on that line thereafter. Blackstar being his best achievement in this regard.
He taught me you can find your truest love later in life. Many goths say they aspire to a love like Morticia & Gomez, but I aspire to a love like Iman & David. Theirs is a real life love story that endured, and it didn’t happen overnight, she made him work for it!
This is the big one... He saved me from flirting with suicide. I could write a lot about this too but I won’t right now. Here are the broadest strokes: As a sensitive, emotionally neglected, eccentric teenager I listened to a lot of angry music; Punk, Goth, Industrial, etc. The summer of age 16 was a tough one, I had been kicked out of one parent’s house and the other one completely left me to my own devices... So when I began flirting with self harm, the only person that noticed and snapped me out of it was a close school friend whom I will always consider a brother. This was about the time I discovered Bowie’s glamorous Ziggy era and it was the first thing that showed me “Truth, Goodness & Beauty” in my darkest hour. He showed me that being a great artist took time to cultivate your skills and not only would suicide mean I was achieving nothing, but self harm was a weakness that would eventually fester and I had to nip it in the bud. Bowie’s brother suffered from schizophrenia and eventually committed suicide so many of his works touch on the theme of your own worst enemy coming from within. A lot of goth music discusses it too, warning against rather than encouraging, but no one can make something relatable quite like Bowie.
(For the record, a lot of that angry music is still my favorite! It has its place in the world)
A lot of rock stars drank and drugged their way into an early grave but David Bowie was the one that survived and still managed to stay artistically and culturally relevant in the end. This is the main reason I celebrate him as a role model and a god amongst men. If he survived the 70s, made a clear decision to sober up, and could maintain sobriety throughout the 80s, he could achieve anything.
“Just a mortal with the potential of a superman”
David Bowie, Quicksand
How I celebrate Him
For the last four years, I’ve been a DJ at Elysium’s New Year’s Eve party, a Labyrinth-themed Goblin King’s ball. And for the last three, I’ve co-hosted as Jareth himself... which means I’ve achieved my childhood dream of wanting to be Jareth with that fabulous hair and bedazzled tailcoat!
This prepares me perfectly for celebrating his life a week later. There are a few “Bowie Weekend” events here in town. Drinks Lounge always has a Bowie Birthday Bash and Elysium usually has an 80’s night tribute or some other event in his honor. Then on the day itself I will take the time to clean my Bowie Shrine and think about all the times he helped me get out of a bad place in my life.
Here you can see Instagram highlights of my Bowie Shrine.
A few months ago, I got to work on a truly special project that is still super secret. But I can say that it involved recreating a famous David Bowie image and it was a great honor to be asked to do the makeup and hairstyling for this. It took all day, longer than expected, and we got about 300 shots... This weekend we got together again to edit them and in the end only 3 shots were picked. I can only imagine the process for the original shoot! I thought I was just invited along to edit because I was a Bowie nerd that wanted to be there and was ridiculously stoked on this project. But I was grateful to witness us work together as group on this tribute in its entirety, the three of us are perfectionists and we all had high standards but we also had methods of editing our standards for the sake of being practical. Unlike the shoot itself, this time a lot of discussion was had on the different elements that composed the original image and all three of us paid great attention to those details in the recreation. None of us expect to profit from it, this was hours of work that we each volunteered out of love of the art form, and reverence for David Bowie himself. The role I played in this image is a minor one compared to the other two people involved, but I am so terribly proud of us. I think He would be, too.
Since I can’t post that image, I will instead leave you with my Aladdin Sane selfie tribute from this weekend: