People stared at the makeup on his face
Laughed at his long black hair, his animal grace
The boy in the bright blue jeans
Jumped up on the stage
And lady stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and disgrace
David Bowie, 1972
It's generally thought that David Bowie wrote the song, Lady Stardust, about Marc Bolan, lead singer of the band, T-Rex, and Bowie's glam rock contemporary. If the story is true, it's a beautiful and fitting tribute. But when I hear Lady Stardust, I always imagine a tall, beautiful drag queen, draped in blue velvet with lots of sparkling diamonds and glitter, performing in a smoky dance hall with a wistful air of dignified sadness around her. It's the kind of imagery and world only David Bowie could create.
I can't think of a time when David Bowie's music wasn't a part of my life, thanks to having young parents who loved his music, especially my father. I'll never forget listening to Space Oddity when I was little as it filled me with such an overwhelming sense of loneliness at the thought of floating away into the quiet, vast expanse of space. But the first time I remember seeing David Bowie perform was in the video for Modern Love - bleached blonde hair, yellow suit, swaggering confidence, microphone held casually in hand, and of course, those eyes... Even at that young age, my life-long love for this beautiful artist was irrevocably sealed.
Given my fondness of glitz and glam, it's no surprise I love David Bowie's glam rock era the most - the bombastic guitar and piano-driven music, the Japanese kubuki-inspired makeup and outre costumes, and of course, his androgynous beauty. In 1973, Bowie performed on the Russell Harty Plus show and the host described him as, "looking incredible, wearing glamorous clothes and perfectly applied makeup." And Bowie did look incredible - with red and yellow peep-toe platforms, his signature red rooster mullet, a full face of that perfectly applied makeup, and one chandelier earring to complete the look. David Bowie was elegant, mysterious, subversive, and was also creating music that rocked so hard, it could melt your face off. I still continue to love everything about it.
My glam rock obsession initially started with Bowie's seminal 1972 album, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I was 22 at the time and it was the soundtrack to the summer before my last year of college. When my dad, Pete, told me Lady Stardust was his favorite song from that album, little did he know the immense effect his confession would have on me; the memory remains close to my heart to this day.
My dad and I didn't always have the easiest relationship while I was growing up, but it got better as I got older and the one thing that helped was our mutual love of music. My dad simply loved to rock, so I doubt he was specifically thinking about Marc Bolan or drag queens when he listened to this song - my mom was his Lady Stardust - but knowing that my emotionally-reserved, rock & roll-loving father liked this beautiful, piano ballad most of all on an album full of amazing, guitar-driven rock songs was truly a revelation. I learned a lot about him that day without him having to say anything more about it.
When my father died very suddenly of a heart attack just about eight years later, at the young age of 49, it was the music we both loved that provided the comfort and solace I desperately needed as I attempted to deal with my grief and make sense of a world without him. And time and time again, I turned to David Bowie's music in the weeks, months, and now years that have followed. When I'm listening to Bowie, my dad is still here with me.
So when David Bowie released Black Star on the same day he turned 69, it confirmed my belief that somehow he was going to live forever; I would never live in a world where he wasn't actively sharing his musical and artistic vision with the world. But when I woke up on a cold, grey January morning to the news he was gone just a mere two days later, I had to put that very silly notion to rest. Even rock gods aren't immortal. It's been almost two weeks since Bowie's death and my heart remains so very heavy. Life continues on without him here, just like it did when my dad left this world, but it's not quite the same and never will be.
I've spent this past week obsessively scouring the internet and YouTube for all things Bowie. I'm comforted not only by the legacy of his music, but also 40 years worth of pictures and videos, and his preternatural beauty still continues to take my breath away. I'm also reminded of the power of makeup and fashion as transformation; they are truly art forms in their own right. It deepens my own love of creating beauty in the world and strengthens my desire to help others do the same.
And of course, every time I think of Bowie, I think of my dad, too; they are forever bound together in my heart. It's very bittersweet as there will never be two cooler dudes in the universe.
After Bowie died, @JeSuisDean posted on Twitter: "If you're ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie." I will be forever grateful my dad and I were able to exist in the time of Bowie together.
Yours in beauty,
Lady Bon Vivant
People stared at the makeup on his face