Monday, June 03, 2002

David Bowie Top Of The Pops Taping

For a number of years I was a paying member of BowieNet, the online David Bowie fan club. At the website, Bowie is known as "sailor." As a member of the fan club I sometimes had access to tickets for special events, like a taping of David Bowie on Top Of The Pops:

I have had terrible luck with contests in my life, and I rarely enter them.

I mean, contests are never interesting, like: "Win A Date With Rex Ray" or "A Shopping Spree With Iman, Paid For By Sailor" or "Win a Drink With Kelmar666" or "Take Home A New Daddy: TotalBlamBlam Is Yers For Keeps"; you know what I mean, right?!?!?! Contests are usually for a record I already own, or a ticket I will purchase anyhow, so I am not a big contests guy (I never win contests anyhow).

The first BowieNet contest I entered was last Summer in London to win tix for 'Darkness & Disgrace' at the Rosemary Branch Theatre. I had seen D&D with my wife earlier that year and met my first two BowieNetters (Susans and Blammo) and they had been very friendly and nice to us. I did not get my hopes up about winning these tickets (because I don't win contests) and I did not win D&D tickets (because I don't win contests), but I decided to attend anyhow because I liked the show and Blammo promised there would be a bevy of BowieNetters there I should meet. I had been a member of BowieNet for some time, but I was not a chatter or a poster, so I had never met any
of you. Mrs. Mac did not attend this showing of D&D; but, my life was changed that night. Seriously! I met a gang of crazy people, some of whom I count among my friends today.

When the taping of Top Of The Pops and its related contest for attendance were announced, I embraced my American-Irish-Catholic-Red Sox-fan fatalism, and convinced myself that I would never win a spot so I shouldn't even enter (I never win contests anyway). As the day bore on, I became more and more excited about the notion of attending the taping and I became keenly attuned
to the notion that I could not purchase a ticket for this event, I could ONLY attend by winning the contest (I never win contests).

So, I clicked the link and entered my name and waited and waited and waited and waited and I did not win. I was really sad. I had never in my life been disappointed by losing a contest (I never win contests) and I was embarrassed by the sorrow I was feeling about missing this event happening
somewhere near my home. I mean, this was humiliating! How could I be having such strong feelings of disappointment about missing a show or losing a contest (I never win contests anyhow)? This was too weird!

Wait a minute! I DID WIN! I received a Super Secret Info e-Mail instructing me to tell no one anything, or my Judy Garland club card would be retroactively expired, my Bowie CDs would be erased, the ink on my Roseland tix would disappear, my wife would leave me for Marc Anthony Thompson, and Buckingham Palace would burn. BUT I DIDN'T TELL ANYONE, REALLY, I DIDN'T: I had nothing to do with the fire at the palace, really!

I was a bit miffed that there were no dress code requirements on the email. Sadly, Americans rarely know how to dress for events and we need Europeans (and Brits, too) to guide us back onto the path of appropriate attire. So you want to wear jeans and t-shirts for a walk in the park or the such:
that's perfect! But most of us look really bad in jeans and t-shirts, and it is a poor choice of outfits for appearing on television (unless you are a strapping, handsome twenty-something who looks great in anything)! Really, guys: we need you to provide dress codes for BowieNet events, we haven't a clue how to dress!

I go to Queens to find airports and baseball games. Once I went to a demonstration in Queens: I marched in a big circle in a major intersection to protest the murder of a queen in Queens (it was a very sad story and the police had totally botched the investigation). Queens is not someplace I like to go, so I don't go there often. I had never heard of television studios in Queens.

Eeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwww: Queens! How would I get there? The phone calls with other BowieNetters began: Do I call the driver? Do we hire a car? Do we take a cab? Do we take the subway? UGH! Irrespective, we made it safe and sound.

My favorite part of the complex where the taping would take place is the plaque on the corner of the building declaring it The Diana Ross Building! Can you believe it? Now, Louis Armstrong lived in this part of Queens, why not name it the Louis Armstrong Building? I would love to know the story behind this dedication!

We were herded into a green room to anticipate the show and meet each other. Every time I meet BowieNetters, I am pleasantly surprised! You lot are weirder than me; and that takes some doing! I am a fan of mental illness, as my BowieNet friends will tell you, and being part of this community is like being a drag queen trapped at Chanel! You guys are great!

After drinking water and nibbling chips (crisps) and following the smokers in and out of the building, we got a pep-talk and were eventually told to line-up (queue). You guys clearly did not attend Catholic school, because that was HARDLY a line!

After getting the obligatory lecture from the producer (who was from Suberland, spaceface) and a string of anti-royalist jokes (sorry mate, I didn't like the Mambo shirt), the band entered the set and the fun began.

I don't remember any of the songs or clothes or events or anything, I just wanted to type . . . Oh, wait, here's a list and some notes. Now I remember!

Sailor looked great in a brown three-piece Paul Smith number. Earl Slick was in his black uniform and black Cons and has anyone told him he looks better now that he ever has? Mark Plati wore his bandana and sunglasses (I am told he is a great guy). Cat Russell looked fab, smiles all the time, and has wonderful hair. Mike Garson sat behind the keyboards wearing sunglasses that only he could get away with (may I please repeat how happy I am that he is back in the band?) He has wonderful hair, too. Sterling Campbell was as cute and smiley as ever behind the drum kit. Gail Ann Dorsey (who supplanted Tina Weymouth as my fave girl bass player some time ago) looked stunning in a grey dress accessorized with a parachute harness. (Really!) And my fave new band member: Gerry Leonard looked all Irish and humble in standard spooky ghost attire replete with soft pointy shoes.

The show started with the 'single-schmingle-fingle' 'Slow Burn.' Who cares about singles anymore anyhow!?!?!?! And the band was very tight. I love the way Bowie sings this song. All soulful.

Charles' 'Cactus' was next followed by my new fave cut from Heathen, 'Gemini Spacecraft'! I suspect that the live performance of this song will take on a life of its own and morph over time, the way 'Hallo Spaceboy' seems to.

This first set ended with 'Everybody Says Hi.' The singer seemed to have most fun singing this song. The previous three numbers were really fun to watch, but the band was 'at work' during the performance. 'Hi' seemed more relaxed and sailor was more playful.

We had a break, and a bunch of reasonably attractive twenty-somethings who seemed to know little (if anything) about Bowie songs were moved to the front of the crowd.

I realize that the show is a production and there are decisions to make about presentation, but this seems totally backwards. Why put the pretty things in front for the oldies when they know little about the catalogue? Doesn't it make sense to put the know-nothings in front for the new stuff so there are bored, pretty, fresh faces for presentation of new material, and the old-timers up front for the old stuff? I dunno! They did little to obstruct my view, but it all seemed like a very odd and self-defeating exercise in production futility. What do I know? These guys are producing the BBC's top two rated telly shows and I hump computers for lawyers, so please take my observation with the grain of salt it so richly deserves.

Sailor returned in a tight green suit and pointy-toed shoes. (Was that suit comfortable, sailor? It didn't look comfortable. Loved the shoes!) The band played a brilliant version of 'Sound & Vision' and I am excited about the notion of hearing it performed this Summer. 'Ashes to Ashes' followed and I noticed that I was not the only one singing along. (The pretty young man installed in front of me was a bit aghast that I was singing. I don't know if it was because my voice was so bad or because I wasn't supposed to be singing along on a live set.) 'Fame' was wonderful! Halfway through the song, the monitor/power pack/homing device sailor was wearing on the back waistband of his trousers fell off. Sailor was fiddling with it and attempting to get it hooked back on his trousers during the song and eventually shoved it in his pocket with a smile like so many balls and jacks!

'Fame' was to be the final song of the TOTP tapings. However, the loss of a follow-spotlight and sailor's incident with his uncooperative electronic device required a review of the tapes to make certain the editors had enough footage with which to create a television performance.

Sailor told a joke: "Dopey fucked a penguin!"

So, the band put their heads together to come up with a way to pass fifteen minutes. Sailor appeared with a list of songs and they decided they would perform a song they've been rehearsing but couldn't promise they would remember all the words, because it wasn't yet in the magic book. Then they burst into 'Absolute Beginners' for which sailor and Gail Anne sang a duet! It was beautiful. The band was very tight and the singers were beautiful together! This is ten times better than their 'Under Pressure' duets! Wait til you see this!

Another take of 'Slow Burn' was required and I saw no disappointed faces as we 'suffered' through another rendition of the schmingle-fingle-single.

When all was done, sailor told us to remain if we wanted things signed and stuff. He thanked us all and we pushed forward.

Is there a rock god so accessible, sincere, humble, and gracious as sailor? He was so nice to everybody, so warm and generous. We are very lucky.

Some of the band remained. Gail Ann signed my invitation. She is certainly a star cut from the same cloth as sailor: warm, accessible, friendly. I am not much of a star-fucker (maybe because they haven't offered and I rarely approach), so I have nominal personal contact with the famous. When I saw Gail Ann across the lobby of Carnegie Hall at Tibet and we made incidental eye-contact, I nodded, she nodded, we smiled. It was so nice and simple and friendly. When I met her briefly at the dinner that evening she was just charming! I am a big fan. Thank you, sailor, for bringing her into my life!

Upon leaving The Diana Ross Building, a group of us milled-about and I met more of you. Time passed and I realized I was doing something I'd never done: I would probably be on the sidewalk when 'elivs left the building'! This always seemed like such an intrusion to a star's personal time, that I never pursued doing this. Today, however, it just kind of happened. When he exited the building with Coco, he was all smiles and greetings. He was so nice to everyone. Shaking hands and accepting introductions, taking pictures and signing autographs.

Dick Mac & Sailor

Dick Mac & Sailor

Coco was really patient about the whole thing (God bless her to put up with all of us). Sailor, charming as ever, asked aloud for one particular member: 'Is Tess here? Where is Tess?' It was soooooooo nice!

I had a great day! I got in a car with a group and headed away from The Diana Ross Building and back towards the Empire State Building. Four of us had drinks, headed down to Bowery Ballroom and watched a Chocolate Genius show, found another pub, walked miles and miles of Manhattan, then called it a night.

See you next Tuesday!

Peace and love.