David Bowie: Invisible New Yorker

MASAYOSHI SUKITA, VIA MORRISON HOTEL GALLERY
By STEVEN KURUTZ
JANUARY 16, 2016

About 10 years ago, the playwright John Guare got a call asking if he wanted to meet David Bowie to discuss a theater project.

As Mr. Guare remembered it, Mr. Bowie was “in a very dark place” (it was shortly after he had had a heart attack onstage in Berlin), and a mutual friend, the English producer Robert Fox, was trying to coax him back to a creative life. Mr. Guare immediately said yes.

He and Mr. Bowie met at each other’s homes in New York to throw around ideas, and sometimes they went out. “We would take walks around the East Village,” Mr. Guare said. “And I was always praying somebody would run into us so I could say, ‘Do you know my friend David Bowie?’”

It never happened.

Mr. Guare was at first puzzled and then amazed at how Mr. Bowie — the stage creature, the persona, the guy he saw command an audience at Radio City Music Hall in 1973 with his spiky orange hair and snow-white tan — could walk the city streets unrecognized.

“He traveled with this cloak of invisibility — nobody saw him,” Mr. Guare said. “He just eradicated himself.”

People often forgot, but up until his death, on Sunday at age 69, Mr. Bowie was a New Yorker. He said so himself, emphatically. “I’m a New Yorker!” he declared to SOMA magazine in 2003, after he’d been here a decade.

He and his Somali-born wife, Iman, who is a model fluent in five languages, spent almost their entire marriage, more than 20 years, as residents of the city. Anyone will tell you they were one of New York’s most glamorous, graceful couples, made all the more so by the dignified and private way they lived.

And though Mr. Bowie was enormously wealthy, he wasn’t one of those rich guys who kept an apartment in the city, along with a portfolio of global real estate holdings, and flew in. Aside from a mountain retreat in Ulster County, N.Y., his Manhattan apartment was his only home.

You may not have considered all this because Mr. Bowie was an apparition in the city, rarely glimpsed. You heard it mentioned that he lived here. Somewhere downtown, someone thought. But seeing him out? Good luck.


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