David Bowie - and his endless alter egos - was known for defining the rock glam era through his iconic music and style. Here's an inside look at the most bizarre and outrageous Bowie stories out there.
“Strange” Exchange With the Thin White Duke
It was well known that David Bowie had more than a few alter egos! In the mid-'70s, Bowie pursued his career as the "Thin White Duke," where he famously made very many appearances, including this one…
In 1975, Bowie gave a rather odd speech at the Grammys where he shared how great it was that John Lennon and Yoko Ono had found love - despite how noticeably uncomfortable the duo was while sitting in the audience.“Strange, strange, strange,” is how he later recalled the experience, also acknowledging he was not sober.
Ziggy Stardust & David Bowie Became One
His most famous alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust, came right before the Thin White Duke - and he was a character! Bowie became so intertwined with this character at one point, he had a tough time turning David on and Ziggy off. However, fans were crazy about it and later would credit Ziggy for starting a "cult of Bowie."
During Bowie's Stardust days, he was known for doing some pretty wild things on stage. He later said, "That [expletive Ziggy] wouldn't leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour… My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity."
An Advocate for Long-Haired Men
Before the young singer was an international superstar, he went by his birth name, David Jones! It wasn't until later on that he changed his last name to "Bowie" in order to distinguish himself from The Monkees' frontman, Davy Jones! Who knew?
The young teenage Bowie was the founder of the "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men." The singer told a London paper, "Anyone who has the courage to wear their hair down to his shoulders has to go through hell. It's time we were united and stood up for our curls."
Refrigerating Urine To Fend Off “Other Wizards”
The singer dawned the glam rock look with the emergence of Ziggy. And with that, he marked the birth of a new persona. In 1973 Bowie said, "Offstage, I'm a robot. Onstage I achieve emotion. It's probably why I prefer dressing up as Ziggy to being David." He rocked the character of Ziggy Stardust for over a year.
However, with this power came some pretty out there actions, on and off stage. One of the most unexpected moments was when he began to store his own urine in the refrigerator. David Buckley, Bowie's biographer, later explained he did that so "no other wizard could use it to enchant him."
The Berlin Trilogy, Explained
Post Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke personalities, Bowie lived in San Francisco in 1977. Although the photograph shows the Under Pressure singer on tour in the states, Bowie lived in Geneva, Switzerland, and in West Berlin during this time period!
It was said he was a heavy reader and that he even read a book a day! However, his substance abuse led him to move from Switzerland to Berlin, where he was influenced by the Berlin Wall to create The Berlin Trilogy. Although the studio albums were not highly acclaimed, they've been named "genius."
Ziggy's American Takeover
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released in 1972 and became regarded as the best Bowie album. In 1973, he then released Aladdin Sane, which was the first album he wrote under a new character - but still, he described it as "Ziggy goes to America."
One of his biographers would later detail that Bowie had an ongoing love-hate relationship with the U.S., saying, "[Bowie] was simultaneously appalled and fixated by America." The album, pronounced "A-lad-insane," was written by the star while he was touring in the states and is why there are several mentions of the country.
Alien or Bowie or Ziggy?
Bowie embraced so many different personalities during his time as a performer that it was almost considered "alienesque." Psychologist Carl Jung explored his persona further, saying, "There is no difference in principle between a fragmentary personality and a complex."
Later, in 1977, the artist admitted, "I think I put myself very dangerously near the line." He added, "Not in a physical sense, but definitely in a mental sense," referring to his early days as Ziggy. In the photo in early 1972, the artist was at the Aylesbury Friars on stage and perhaps looked a little unearthly with those eyes.
Bowie the Actor?
With an enormous amount of fame, it was only normal for people in the industry to approach the singer with loads of other potential projects! In 1985, Bowie was asked to play a role in A View To A Kill, the 14th installment of the James Bond series.
However, this just didn't fold in Bowie's wheelhouse whatsoever! The artist turned down the prestigious offering, and instead, Christopher Walken was cast to play the role of Max Zorin. "I didn't want to spend five months watching my stunt double fall off cliffs," he later said.
Bowie the Superhuman
As we can imagine, Bowie was constantly being shot for magazines. His style and personality were completely electric, and people were drawn to him. Here the artist was preparing for a photoshoot with Star magazine in 1973, and the girl next to him was a groupie.
Bowie once commented in the graphic novel Fas Ferox saying, "I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, [expletive] that. I want to be a superhuman." His many different characters gave him the ultimate superhuman powers.
In 1996, Bowie was in an electronic music phase and even chose to go on tour with Nine Inch Nails during his American tour that year. The artist's sound completely changed during this time, and Bowie's fans could hear it. But that stopped no one from going out to listen to him!
A few months after this photo was taken, the artist had a massive party at the one and only Madison Square Garden to celebrate his 50th birthday. Rockstars such as Dave Grohl, Billy Corgan, Lou Reed, and Robert Smith were all in attendance, as well as his wife of four years, supermodel Iman.
Another iconic phase of Bowie's was his "plastic-soul" era. The singer became widely remembered for rocking an eye patch that it was simply considered cool. The plastic soul phase is regarded as Bowie's own soulful and funky interpretation of the classic genre.
In a Conan O'Brien interview in 2003, Bowie once explained his desire to transform his personality into someone constantly. "I re-invented my image so many times, that I'm in denial that I was originally an overweight Korean woman," he once confessed.
"I Wasn't In Control"
It was well known that Bowie struggled with substance abuse. The singer once exposed himself to Blondie's lead singer, Debbie Harry, after she gave him exactly what he was looking for in a moment of need. In an interview with The Daily Mirror in 2002, Bowie opened up and said, "I wasn't in control of it at all."
The artist was vocal about his struggles with substances and revealed that during his Thin White Duke phase, things got out of control. As he revealed, he was living off of just "red peppers, [illegal substances], and milk." This sounds like an unusual and unhealthy combination.
The Man Who Sold the World
One of Bowie's most famous songs and the title of his third album, The Man Who Sold the World, was released in 1970. Years later, in 1993, the track was redone by Kurt Cobain and Nirvana during an MTV Unplugged in New York concert - but apparently, the singer was not too pleased.
Bowie told GQ of Nirvana fans, "They were such a young crowd, younger than most of my fans. I know that because, in America especially, when I do The Man Who Sold The World, the number of kids that come up afterward and say, 'It's cool you're doing a Nirvana song.' And I think, [expletive] you, you little tosser!"
Opening Up About His Sexuality
In 1972, Bowie revealed he was homosexual - but then four years later, he said something slightly differing. "It's true - I am a bisexual. But I can't deny that I've used that fact very well. I suppose it's the best thing that ever happened to me," he explained in an interview with Playboy.
His ex-wife later spoke out, claiming Bowie had relationships with Rolling Stone's lead singer, Mick Jagger, as well as a few more celebs. However, in 1983, the rockstar came out with a completely opposite story saying it was "the biggest mistake I ever made" and "I was always a closet heterosexual."
For all the die-hard Bowie fans, there are tons of available paraphernalia and collectible items available for purchase. Even for the not-so-die-hard fans, there is plenty of merchandise available online to purchase - from T-shirts to album covers, stickers, and posters.
One of the most fascinating Bowie pieces that have been up for sale was a lock of his hair. The lock of hair was taken from a wig maker in 1983 and sold in 2016 for a remarkable amount. The hair, which basically was equivalent to gold, started for $2,000 and was sold for $18,750.
Goodbye, Ziggy Stardust
At a certain point, Bowie decided it was time to retire his iconic character, Ziggy Stardust, because it was just consuming him to the point of no return. This was the last known photograph of Bowie dressed up as Ziggy, so he had to go all out in order to say goodbye forever.
On July 3, 1973, Bowie gave his last ever press conference as Ziggy and announced to the public he was "retiring" the character on stage at London's Hammersmith Odeon. Following the major news, Bowie celebrated his loved persona with friends such as Ringo Star and his first wife, Angie.
The Secret Mugshot
Ah, another celebrity mugshot: Bowie was arrested in 1976 in New York for having a half-a-pound of illegal substances on him. The celebrated artist spent the night in jail, but he was not alone. Iggy Pop and another musician were arrested at the same time. And they were all in it together.
Surprisingly, his mugshot was hidden from the public for over two decades. It was only when his estate was being settled in 2007 that the photo was found next to a garbage can! It was saved for obvious reasons and since then has been considered one of the most adored celebrity mugshots of all time.
Bowie was very famously known for his dynamic, stylish, and groundbreaking styles. His "woodland creatures" look was inspired by his love for kabuki theater and Japanese noh. His designer for these looks was Kansai Yamamoto, who took inspiration from different parts of Japanese culture, including the geisha.
At the Hammersmith Odeon in 1973, David Bowe rocked this iconic outfit. Before revealing to the audience the "woodland creatures" costume, Bowie rocked an oversized cape that he tore off. Exact translations vary, but apparently, the garment said "Fiery vomiting and venting in a menacing manner" in Japanese.
The Story Behind Bowie’s Eye
Bowie had so many outfit changes and character changes that it was almost hard to keep up - but people loved it and barely questioned it! However, people always wondered why his eyes were different colors. As it turned out, his right eye was permanently dilated, giving it a different hue.
So what happened? When Bowie was 15 years old, he got into a little tiff with his friend George Underwood. As it turned out, they both had a thing for the same girl, and Underwood dealt with the situation by decking Bowie in the face. The hit landed so hard that his eye became permanently dilated... but the two remained friends!
In early 1974, Bowie appeared on a TV show called Top Pop, the first regular dedicated pop music television series in the Netherlands region. Bowie could be seen rocking his eye patch and red jumpsuit while performing one of his greatest hits, Rebel, Rebel.
Rebel, Rebel came off of Bowie's eighth studio album, Diamond Dogs. On this soulful track, Bowie promoted his ideas of a post-apocalyptic or dystopian future which was evident in his lyrics. "They put you down, they say I'm wrong; You tacky thing, you put them on," he sang.
Apollo 11 Landing
Although Bowie may have started making his way into the biz during his Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men, it wasn't until later on that he became the success that he is today. The release of Space Oddity in July 1969 is what truly put him on the map.
The iconic Apollo 11 moon landing in July of 1969 was a huge moment for the world. And just nine days after Bowie's hit song, Space Oddity, was released, Apollo reached the moon! While BBC covered the legendary event, Bowie's song played over footage of the mission, and well, the rest was history.
Glam Rock King
Glam Rock and David Bowie are basically synonymous! Bowie invented the style and defined the look in the early 1970s. At the time, primarily British rock stars were stylishly stepping on stage in makeup, glitter, untraditional hairstyles, and colors and platforms!
In the 1960s, rockstars were the opposite of Bowie's era! The rockstar introduced glam rock to the world, and nothing was the same for all future rock-n-rollers. "You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world … it is," Bowie once said.
A Humbling Experience
Apparently, Bowie was a caring, respectful and kind rockstar to everyone he met. During the 1980s, Bowie commissioned The Beat to play alongside him at one of his shows. And the trombone player complained to Bowie that they were owed another Red Stripe beer.
The man must have had no idea who Bowie was, and immediately the rockstar nodded and said, "right," then left the room and came right back with two trays of Red Stripe beers. The Beat's Ranking Roger responded "Top Man" even though he had no idea who he was!
When electronic music came to the mainstream world in the early 1990s, David Bowie was quick to jump on the bandwagon, considering he was already so ahead of the time in the music world! Bowie spearheaded so many movements during his time on the main stage, and this was another!
Bowie released the first strictly for download song ever, Telling Lies, in 1996, which took 11 minutes. Not only did this make Bowie a patron of the internet, but in 1998 he released his own internet service provider, BowieNet. However, the service shut down in 2006 even with all the exclusive content available.
In the early 1980s, Bowie was invited to join the band Queen to sing back up on one of their songs. Queen was also at the height of their career! However, the rockstar was less than impressed with the performance that he asked the rock band to not include it in the album.
However, things changed quickly, and all the combinations of brilliant voices and minds came together to create one of the best songs of all time. But there still lies some questions and controversy about who was responsible for what between Freddie Mercury and Bowie!
Musician Turned Actor
In addition to his success with Queen, Bowie acted in the fantasy musical in 1986, Labyrinth - which became one of his most highly memorable roles! George Lucas, Jim Henson, and David Bowie came together for the iconic movie where he played the Goblin King.
"You remind me of the babe (what babe?) The babe with the power (what power?)." The film didn't do too well upon its release, but since then has gained a cult following due to its stacked cast. The musician went on to act in more films such as The Last Temptation of Christ and The Prestige.
Stars, they're just like us! Even though Bowie was one of the most influential and successful rockstars of all time, apparently, he was also extremely easygoing and participated in many "regular" activities! A friend of his, William Boyd, said, "he happily used cabs and subways."
However, Boyd was thrown off by one thing Bowie frequently did. Bowie had a smart tactic to throw people off and would carry around a Greek newspaper. "That's David Bowie, surely? Then they see the Greek newspaper – no, can't be, just some Greek guy who looks like him," Boyd revealed.
Los Angeles: A Disaster
In the mid-1970s, the superstar was on top of the world - but his substance abuse problems were at an all-time high. Here he is as his alter ego, the Thin White Duke, looking extremely thin after his mental health struggles were heavily affecting his overall health and being.
"I was out of my mind, totally crazed. The main thing I was functioning on was mythology… I'd discovered King Arthur." Blaming Los Angeles, he said, "The [expletive] place should be wiped off the face of the Earth. To be anything to do with rock and roll and go and live in Los Angeles is… just heading for disaster."
Mick Jagger & Bowie?
Bowie was easily one of the most multi-faceted and fascinating characters of all time. The musician worked with John Lennon, Cher, Queen, and so many more over his time. However, there were rumors surrounding Bowie's relationship with one particular musician…
Allegedly, Bowie's wife, Angie, caught Mick Jagger and her husband in bed together one time. However, there were also rumors that Jagger and Angie had a relationship, so perhaps we'll never know. When recalling the details of the event, she added that she left the room immediately after to make breakfast.
Unfortunately, the iconic rockstar passed away in January 2016 after suffering from liver cancer. And the news devastated fans worldwide. His last recorded song, Blackstar, was released one day following his death and was regarded as "maybe the oddest work yet from Bowie," according to critics.
Both the song and the album Lazarus give listeners a real look into Bowie's last experiences before he passed away. In true artist form, Bowie put his heart and soul into the album and thought he had a few more months. And while he died while making the follow-up album, his legacy will - no doubt - live on forever.