David Bowie Diary Entry
I was introduced to David Bowie because of a Rolling Stone article about “Hunky Dory.” Yes, I was THAT pedestrian. But it seemed sort of “gay-ish” with that Lauren Bacall cover, and piqued our nascence stirring for an outrageous representative, and our perhaps too forgiving love of all things British. Atypically of the time, my friend Lance Loud had already schooled me in the fine art of shoplifting, and, being a completist, I drove down to Tower Records in L.A. and proceeded to steal everything in the current David Bowie catalogue, which included The Man Who Sold the World, Mad of Words, Man of Music, and a few British import 45s. It was love, and some befuddlement, at first listen.
Then the local record store on Coast Village Road, in Santa Barbara, from which I regularly sneaked out LPs under my faux Portabello Road Pepper-adjacent epauletted jacket, happened to have a whole cardboard box of Bowie’s ill-reviewed Deram 1rst LP, for 10 cents apiece! I actually think I paid for that. I was confused by the Newley mannerisms, and didn’t care for the lumpen “comedy” moments, but was intrigued enough that when “Images” was released, I easily fell profoundly in love with “In The Heat Of The Morning,” a song I have occasionally attempted to perform, with varying, but not altogether unpleasant results, ’til this very day.
It’s hard to imagine a time when I could make out a diary entry as specific as the one I have included here. By the time I moved to NYC in the 1970s, the bridge between the NY Dolls and the CBGBs/Max’s scene was so dizzying with daily incessant adventure and event that I could barely keep track.
But I thought I’d share with you an actual diary entry from 1970, when a fairly unsophisticated child trapped in the rusticating environs of Santa Barbara suburbancy had to share, if only with ‘Dear Diary” his fledgling experience of “La Bowie.”
Kristian Hoffman (ACTUAL) Diary Entry
March 7, 1973
Last night I went to see David Bowie at the Long Beach Arena with Michele and Delilah Loud, both sisters of my long time “best friend” Lance Loud. Both endearing little nippers in their own way; however I must confide in you I like Michele’s “own way” a trifle more than Delilah’s — I know comparison is odious – but if it’s unfair, that’s just fine, because it’s MY BOOK. It’s just that Michele really laughs when she sees old people fall down.
Anyway, Mr. Bowie (I will resist the temptation to make Mr., Mrs., Miss, and Ms. jokes, but won’t resist it very well) has been one of my very few self-indulgent, coveted, and clipped fave raves lately, and his concerts are “events,” or at least time markers in my life right now. And they are also nice fillers of comfortable small talk for letters to “friends” (still one of my favorite words, along with the meaningless “special”) which otherwise might have been embarrassingly short.
I can chat about him, express concern, delight, and even interest in his hair dressing methods, his clothes, and of course the latest albums, which I can play OVER AND OVER again — a real redeeming feature!
And besides, he’s just so great — he’s made his entire life into a great show, and if the “jams” are too long, the romantic interest makes up, as do the cute idiosyncrasies, so worthy of classic fan magazine write-ups.
On the way down to Long Beach in my fairly recently purchased Chevy Vega ($2,000.00 new, as I recall; I asked for it in silver because I thought that was Andy Warhol-esque), we had to stop for gas at a strange freeway turnoff near the venue, and some stranger who could be kindly described as rumpled, but less kindly described as “homeless” or “a bum” accosted the girls and asked, “Where are you going?” They kindly but a little trepidatiously replied, “To see David Bowie!” The apparently culturally attuned vagrant replied excitedly, “Jane Boo? I LOVE Jane Boo!” without further incident.
Anyway, Michele and I sat, rather conservatively dressed, next to a sparkling and glittering Delilah, whose whole-hearted commitment to a sort of strumpet/contempo prom queen attire is one of her best features, and exchanged turns with the binoculars while waiting with avid attempts at breathlessness for SOMETHING to happen.
It finally did – the lights went down, and as the communal oooh-aaah loosened itself free, a reluctant and somewhat washed-out crowd, a spotlight revealed that, NO! It wasn’t Mr. BOO-wee. It was just the hitherto unnamed “Supporting Act”, which turned out to be JUST THAT – a mediocre, if fashionably imported, ’50s revival band called Fumble with a pleasant lead vocal that failed to even whisper the rumor of competition to the obvious rival in the field, Sha Na Na.
I allowed myself a modicum of irateness because OF COURSE it was an insult to the negligible part of the crowd who had come to see Davey-Baby, and NOT just to make the scene. But even though it didn’t seem like it, Fumble was over soon enough.
Then the already familiar Clockwork Orange-ified Beethoven came on, with the same old familiar strobe, and David and band did “Hang Onto Yourself” with Mr. B in the first of FIVE costumes: a slick white tapestry (with culottes) suit and orange patent leather space boots.
Then a couple more quick rockers and a switch into gold lame, which was quivering and quavering on the edge of fashionability (DANGER! DANGER!) but still looked pretty keen. Mr. B had not brought the “show” that Lance had ranted and raved over, but had brought a quite nice horn section, and a mellotron, so “Space Oddity” didn’t sound quite so much like a rich kid’s home movie, and “Suffragette City” took on a pleasantly pregnant tone.
Then, in “Width of a Circle”, he changed during the ENDLESS GUITAR BREAK (evidently part of the ENDLESS things that showbiz has given us to ponder, and be endlessly ponderous) into the UGLIEST DRESS which Lance calls a “KAFTAN”, which was white satin with those green and orange sort of bird/rainbow deals on it that reminded me of a nice plastic bib to protect a loving but appearance-aware mother from baby’s messy strained pears, and he billowed about in that for a while before settling on an invisible chair to sing “My Death,” which was the FIRST song the crowd warmed up to, oddly enough.
I mean – I like that song – but in my automatically condescending frame of reference towards “THEM,” it never occurred to me that “THEY” would like it.
Then he stood up and these “mysterious” green-clad figures emerged from the shadowy sides of the stage, each grabbing a sleeve from Mr. B’s outstretched arms, and as they pulled back, the costume pulled off “LIKE MAGIC” to reveal the looniest outfit I had seen in a coon’s age.
It was this skin tight sort of double-knit pantsuit with a silly Penney’s stripes and squares pattern on it, completed with detached leggings and sleeves. The main part of it might have been a tank top, except that it extended up the middle of his chest with the sort of turtleneck collar. And of course his sometimes self-consciously posturing bare feet were a sight for sore eyes, or an eyesore, because I had always wondered if he was really THAT white all over.
So — ON with the fluffily light green feather boa, and a vamp with an ENDLESS cigarette holder (to add to that ENDLESS list) to the tune of a great new song called “Time,” during which the rest of the group re-emerged with a bare chested Mick Ronson, who, mere moments before, had sported a fetching black patent leather outfit, and a bass player ensconced in some sort of madcap bird costume – VERY SPACE AGE OF COURSE – with the stupid but fetching little growths curling out from his shoulders.
Oh dear, am I beginning to sound, heaven forbid, like Star Magazine’s fashion editor?
Well, at least I won’t have to bother to remember it all, because, you – dear diary – will remember it for me!
Anyway, B made his ultimate bid for Piaf-dom with that song “Time,” and then pranced around for a few more songs before ending with the aforementioned “Suffragette City,” only to come back for an encore of “Jean Genie” in a white satin jump suit and white iceberg clogs transparently appropriated from the New York Dolls’ Mercer Arts shows, which caused him some consternation and a very near fall. He kicked them off in the general direction of a pretty enthusiastic crowd. What a show!
But that crowd – they were too boring and wishy-washy to rush the stage, and although Delilah and I tried to fend off the brutish security guards and scramble down the aisle, we were thrown back into the backs of an already despairing audience who were heading towards the exits. What are floor seats floor if not to overcome security? So we sat there in our seats, soaking up energy with no release, and that was time enough to nervously ponder the prospects of just GETTING OUT OF THERE before we were trapped in a jumble of bumbling Long Beach-ites. Almost before the encore was over, Michele, Delilah and I rushed out to the parking lot, and, finding all the exits barricaded for some obscure reason, drove my trusty Vega right over the curb – where it teetered agonizingly for a moment next to the screaming “No Stopping At Any Time” sign, and headed back to Santa Barbara. Jane Boo!
Kristian Hoffman was the founder and main songwriter for Mumps, his CBGBs era punk/pop combo with Lance Loud of PBS’ “American Family,” also being a member of the Contortions, the Swinging Madisons, and Bleaker Street Incident. He went on to become musical director and songwriter for Klaus Nomi, musical director and songwriter for Ann Magnuson, musical director for Rufus Wainwright, and toured with the Kinks’ Dave Davies for five years.
He has since released four solo CDs, while playing keys, touring and/or songwriting with Congo Norvell, Abby Travis, El Vez, Jane Wiedlin, Prince Poppycock, Timur Bekbosunov, Lydia Lunch, and many more.