Angela Bowie, Backstage Passes



Angela Bowie, Backstage Passes – I didn’t have high expectations of this book, but thought it would be fun to see just how raunchy it might be. Turns out it’s not all that raunchy, although it did give a good glimpse into sexual experimentation in the 1970s with men and women and stage performers, while also offering a glimpse into David Bowie’s icy 1970s insanity, drug use and sexual excess.

Angela gives a bit of background to herself, not too much, and writes well (or her co-author Patrick Carr does). Some nice passages putting people in their place, and she had a lot of evil hanger-ons to deal with, not to mention show business leeches (Bowie was no different than the Stones, Black Sabbath, or any number of bands that got ripped off by management). She gives the impression that she indulged in sexual and drug excess only a small proportion of what her husband engaged in, and she hardly seems to know her son Zowie (the remarkably unattractive film maker Duncan Jones).

Born in Cyprus, but an American, she met Bowie in 1968 when she was 19, they married a year later, had a tumultuous 12-year personal and professional relationship, and divorced in 1980. The book covers up to 1980, hinting only slightly at the years that followed. The strangest thing about the book is Bowie’s descriptions of Michael Jackson – she knew him before Thriller and praised his normalcy. The book was published in 1993, my version is a 2006 reprint that doesn’t appear to be updated at all. She also recounts the famous episodes of the song “Angie” (not written about her at all – she came close to sleeping with Mick Jagger but never actually did), and also finding him naked in bed with her husband – she neither make assumptions about what went on nor confesses to spotting K-Y jelly in the vicinity.

It’s a great slice of life of London in the Swinging Sixties, and rock ‘n’ roll excess in the Seventies, although it was not exactly all like you’d think – just as she talks about avoiding Jagger’s bed, she also did the same with an offer from Jimi Hendrix. Horreur!!

The Round House was a revelatoipn, as was the crowd. So this was where all the peopo from Notting HIll and King’s Road, all the most advanced trendies on the circuit, came at night! It was like London’s Fillmore, a forum for the most fascinating artists and a place for the tuned-in to congregate, and you’d see them all there; long-haired blones and afroed brunettes in wispy see-through skirts with delicate Indian-print sashes binding their breasts; better-heeled types in bright velvet capes and wide-brimmed straw hats decorated with ribbons and wild-flowers, or top hats studded with badges and icons; and even then, in the pre-metal years, very pale figures dressed in black, carrying a charge of mystery, danger and eroticism. you knew those people knew how to fuck. They were like crows among birds of paradise. I noticed them; I always do.

The girl is full of ass about her enemies in the business:

Unlike David and his friends and associates, including the people in charge of managing and promoting him, I had nine-tenths of a degree in marketing and more than enough savvy to make up for the missing piece of paper. So all the little shits who have denigrated my role in the launch of La Bowie, and all the chauvinist oinkers of every sex and stripe who at one time or another have dismissed me as “the wife,” can kiss my highly-credentialed, much more than adequately competent ass and feel damned lucky I let ‘em. Okay? Do we have that straight?

Great anecdote of James Brown and George Clinton competing to see who can do the splits the most often. James did 27, George struggled to do 23. “You’re still the boss, James.” The menage-a-trois with a lovely dark-haired actress, Clare Shenstone, on the eve of their wedding, and other games. “Monogamy would’t have appealed to me in the first place; I myself was anything but a one-man-or-woman woman. As long as we held true to each other and respected the love between us, then David and I were perfectly free to romp and dally with whoever else might tickle our fancies.”

She discusses the “gay mafia”, indicating that about 75% of the middlemen of the industry were queens. She also, on page 108 and 109, hints at the sexual preference of Dolly Parton, George Michael (?!?!?), Freddie Mercury, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Barry Manilow, Pete Townsend, the Pet Shop Boys and Jimmy Sommerville of the Communards. It gets raunchy

God knows, Madonna ha been up-front about swinign g both ways. But what about the ‘rumours’ regarding a member of that famous seventies rock band? What about that legendary dark-haired, lithesome pop singer/actress? God knows, a lot of men have ben through her life, but why doesn’t anyone ask her about that certain woman in her life? And while we’re on the subject of swinging on both sides, don’t forget Mick Jagger. But more about him later.

She sums it up well by saying “I liked Mick in his place; but he was such a slut.” She hardly had sex with David, because he claimed he got a rash when he did it with her (weird to marry someone you’re allergic to). “Trying to have a relationship with a coke freak is like trying to eat an aircraft carrier.” Great anecdote about how she got seduced by Marianne Faithfull, who “got me stoned as a silly schoolgirl on pills and great big hash joints, then slipped up on me when I wasn’t looking. She’s wild, that woman. I love her and admire her.” She also gets quite funny when describing Bowie’s manager’s nose:

A peninsula of a nose, a protuberance of proportions beyond Cyrano, beyond compare; a lunar probe of a nose, a Graf Zeppelin of a nose! everything else about Tony receded into the background behind that one amazing asset. Not that, as assets go, it did much good; so much air-ntaking acreage, and still he was asthmatic.

Funny zeitgeist:

Put yourself in tour shoes, among the crowd at a typical 1969-1970 rock concert – in London, New york, San Francisco, a Kansas college town, wherever. For one thing, it smells. You have the basic grunge of the hall, which until recently (perhaps as recently as the afternoon before the show) may have ben functioning as a triple-X porn-movie house, attracting odors closer to the dead-fish than the fresh-popcorn end of the spectrum and inviting, most likely, a certain degree of flea infestation – ah, yes, little biters up your MOther Earth macroskirt what fun! Then too, the promoter probably hasn’t seen fit to have the bathrooms leaned before the show, so beneath the scent of stale semen you ahve an olfactory undertow of ancient urine, the odor sharpening as the show proceeds and legions of your stoned-senseless brethren migrate through the bathrooms, doing their business in every conceivable way but straight down or forward. Impaired flushing apparatuses, both mechanical and human, lead to increasingly severe and widespread toilet blockage, adding a richness one recalls with something very close to horror. At times a kind of sickening sympathetic resonance gets going…

Interesting – I didn’t read any of this stuff in Bill Grahams autobiography!!

She describes Bowie’s shows at the time, and is particularly descriptive about the Diamond Dogs tour:

Sometimes, when the coke was working for him, he was brilliant, almost as good as he could be when he ewas straight. Other times, when he wasn’t up enough, or he’d been up too long, or he was beyond up, into mania, he missed cues and forgot moves and botched things in all kinds of ways. But surprisingly, his voice stayed strong – I can’t conceive how that happened, what with the abuse from chemicals, cigarettes, and sleeplessness – and his cast stayed strong too (those people were great), and so the shows worked almost despite him. He’d done such a good job of creating and putting the whole production together that his personal performance on any given night could afford to be below par.

Interesting Michael Jackson quotes:

And speaking of aliens…

Michael Jackson comes up at this point in the story because, like Oz and the Wizard, he was at the end of the yellow brick road when teh Diamond Dogs show pulled into the western terminus of its tour, the City of the Angels.

Really, though, Michael’s no alien. He had a strange childhood and adolescence, but to my mind he’s turned out rather well. His heart’s certainly in the right place he’s into love and brotherhood – and that’s more than you can say for most people, child stars or not.

Nice anecdotes of hanging out with the Jacksons in their family homes, mama Jackson and the boys, not a daughter in sight.

But just imagine the warp in this boy brought up by Joseph Jackson, a star since he was a nipper, forbidden to date, who seeks teenage best-friendship with Diana Ross (and, a little later, Elizabeth Taylor). It really is a wonder, and a great achievement on his part, that Michael has grown into such a gentle soul. I think very fondly of him.

Weird how she loves Peter Grant, the horrible manager of Led Zeppelin who Bill Graham had so many problems with; nice anecdote of Angie helping John Bonham get his fix of morning bangers while on tour. Always trying to help out…

Angie comes clean on the rumour that David stored bodily fluids away from sight. She says… maybe he didn’t, maybe he did… seems like she didn’t know him that well after all…

Other strange stories in the book were the time that they had to exorcise a demon from the indoor swimming pool, and also the time that Rose Taylor (the wife of Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor) purportedly gave her a line of very strong heroin to snort, which she did, thinking that it was cocaine. Nearly killed her. Thanks, Rose…

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