David Bowie was the consummate performer. Whether on stage, screen, or in the pages of Vogue, his chameleon-like ability to transform and reinvent himself made this private man a legend that was larger than life. Forever a champion of the underdog, Bowie implored listeners to “turn and face the strange.” His androgynous charm attracted admirers of all creeds, sexes and styles; his vast and undeniable talent won over the mainstream; and, freaks across the world identified with his outrageous vulnerability.
David Bowie first made his way into my heart and onto my bedroom walls in the 80s after I witnessed his performance as the beautifully tragic David Blaylock in The Hunger. It came as a great surprise to me then that he’d been a popular musician and even my own mom was familiar with this beautiful hunk of man. Wait, what? David Bowie was already a star? A rock star? Huh. I remember being very happy to know that I wasn’t the only one who saw the genius in him.
I then witnessed his portrayal as Major Jack Celliers in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, which to this day is by far my favorite performance, and I was suddenly a forever fan. I don’t remember much about my first viewing of the film The Man Who Fell to Earth. All I remember is that I was pretty bored until … David Bowie’s nekkid! Thanks to some teen posterzine, I learned that David Bowie actually starred on Broadway. Again, I was pleased to know that people understood he was a seriously talented actor. He then immortalized Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth. As far as I was concerned, David Bowie would always be an actor who sang on the side.
Call me crazy, but I’m only a lukewarm fan of his music. I have only a handful of songs that I know by heart and I only saw him perform once in concert during the Glass Spider tour. All I can say is that the man really knew how to put on a show. I was almost as fascinated by his audience as I was by him. I was with a group of screaming teens but we were surrounded by frightening and fabulous queens, aging hippies smoking pot, and a lot of very attractive and fashionable people. The dichotomy was staggering, but we were all just David Bowie fans hanging out enjoying the time of our lives.
If my children (who have grown up with a cinephilic mother watching Labyrinth, Zoolander, and The Prestige) and tumblr are any indication, David Bowie has an entire new generation of adoring followers. The Goblin King lives on.