People called me Mrs. David Bowie. I had my hair cut short just like his. I wore slinky pants, and platform shoes. I cross-dressed at gay bars in Chicago and Milwaukee. Was I a boy or a girl? He gave me a non-binary system of identity, and also poetry. And if he was from outer space, then so was I. Maybe there was hope for me after all. I copied everything he did. I filled a hard bound notebook with my poetry and his poetry, his pictures, and some of my own. I was his wife, and his husband, too. A total acolyte. One Halloween, I dressed as Ziggy Stardust in a 1950’s silver ball gown and silver wig, and the next year, I wore a tux and whiteface, slicked my hair back, as the Thin White Duke.
My girlfriend Cathy and I dropped acid and took a train to Chicago to see him in 1974 or 75. The second we got to the arena, we pushed our way down to the front rows, and grabbed two seats. When the usher tried to kick us out, we promised him a blow job after the show, from both of us. At the end of the concert, totally tripping our asses off, the usher showed up again, and we laughed in his face. When Ziggy Stardust came out, I bought a Lloyd Quadraphonic Stereo System. It was probably a piece of shit, but it had four speakers. I played the album at maximum volume, as directed by the liner notes, but I also put two of the speakers on the floor, at right angles, and stuck my head between them.
I talked my four year old brother into a photo shoot when Young Americans came out. I made up his face with blue eye shadow, mascara, blush and lipstick. I draped him in feather boas, and gave him my walking stick. He knew all the words to Rebel, Rebel, especially the line, “Hot tramp, I love you so.” I had an intellectual orgasm when Diamond Dogs came out with that infamous Guy Peellaert cover art and the connection to Orwell’s 1984. It wasn’t an album; it was a sexy, dystopian opera. He lost me at Hero and Scary Monsters, but Let’s Dance brought me back in the 1980’s. I played “Modern Love” every morning before work, maximum volume, so I could go out into the world and be a badass.
But before all of this, I bought an album with a cartoon cover, that included songs like “Please Mister Gravedigger,” “The Laughing Gnome,” “The Little Bombardier,” and “The Maid from Bond Street.” The music is odd, and quirky, very musical theater, and upon reflection, almost Brechtian. This was his first studio album, and I fell in love with the stories he told, long before the grand entrance of Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom. But most importantly, I saw that I could build my own identity; as fluid as I chose. I could be feminine and masculine. I could redefine female. I could be an artist and a poet, too.
Image via Tumblr
More from BUST
Lillian Ann Slugocki has been nominated for Best of the Web, a Pushcart Prize, and winner of the Gigantic Sequins prize for fiction. She's been published by Seal Press, Cleis Press, Heinemann Press, Spuyten Duyvil Press, as well as Bloom/The Millions, Salon, Beatrice, The The Daily Beast, The Nervous Breakdown , HYPERtext Magazine, Blue Fifth Review, Deep Water Literary Journal, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, The Manifest-Station, The Daily Beast, BUST Magazine. How to Travel with Your Demons, a novella, published by Spuyten Duyvil Press, December, 2015. Forthcoming work: The Forge Literary Magazine. Her reading series, BEDLAM: New Work by Women Writers, co-curated by Deborah Oster Pannell, next event is April 19th @KGB Lit Bar. Follow her on Twitter @laslugowski and view her portfolio here.