Glam Fab

From glam rock to Sheetrock: Angela Bowie's long, strange odyssey to Tucson

Ask Angela Bowie which of her ex-husband's albums is her favorite and--assuming she answers--she'll probably name David Bowie's second disc, a 1970 effort titled The Man Who Sold the World.

But two decades after the couple parted, the Godmother of Glam isn't as much interested in peddling the planet as getting it up to speed--her speed. And if she happens to make a few bucks in the process? Well, so much the better, luv.

Sitting at an outdoor cafe near her home in central Tucson, Bowie, now 48, isn't immediately recognizable as the distaff half of the glittering couple whose scandalous exploits kept the rock press humming half a lifetime ago. Her sleek Marilyn Monroe-from-Mars hairstyle has long since transmuted into a tousle of gray-streaked auburn locks; meanwhile, her signature Designer Duds From Another Galaxy have been replaced with a bulky sweater over spandex leggings.

If not for her outre footwear--buckled bondage stilettos--it's hard to imagine that this is the same woman who helped orchestrate David Bowie's early '70s media blitz. Is this really the bisexual libertine who was once at the forefront of rock's glitziest moment, the flesh-and-blood inspiration for the Rolling Stones' 1973 hit "Angie"?

Shoes aside, any suspicion that Bowie is just another one of those suburban ladies-who-lunch is eradicated the moment the former Mrs. Ziggy Stardust opens her mouth. A larger-than-life presence who speaks as though she were playing to the last row of an English music hall, the Auntie Mame-like Bowie punctuates her conversation with more facial mugging than you'll see in a month of I Love Lucy reruns.

"The reason I can't have a face-lift," she explains in a booming rasp that commands the attention of all within earshot, "is that if I did, I'd forget everything I've learned!" Her boisterous laugh fills the air. "I rather fancy that line, don't you? I wrote it for the show I'm putting together."

That show--an in-the-works satirical revue called Krisis Kabaret--is one of the reasons the reclusive Bowie has finally broken her silence since first moving to the Old Pueblo in 1997. Her dishy dialogue with New Times is the first interview she's granted to a reporter in almost two years.

"Tucson is small, but upscale small," explains Bowie. "I have a really low comfort zone. I don't like six lanes on the freeway. I just like to poodle along."

And poodle she has. If her ex-spouse was The Man Who Fell to Earth, the once high-profile Bowie has been, in recent years, the woman who's virtually disappeared off the face of it. Living a largely nomadic existence for the past 15 years (since the '80s, she's ping-ponged between Atlanta, Los Angeles and Paradise Valley, where she briefly raised Arabian horses), the self-described "international bag lady" has supported herself by doing everything from phone sex to construction work. Eager to get back to her artistic roots, she moved to Tucson to get away from big-city distractions and concentrate on music, acting and writing.

"In an American capitalist society, you get so embarrassed when you don't have something to pitch," she explains. To prove the point, Bowie mentions seeing Penny Marshall on Rosie O'Donnell's show while channel surfing one recent afternoon. "Rosie asked her what she'd been doing, and Penny did this wonderful take, then said, 'Hell, not a goddamn thing!' I thought that was great!" Another guffaw echoes across the patio.

Bowie's cabaret act was originally scheduled to debut early this year at a Tucson dog racing track. When that venue fell through, she lined up an equally unlikely setting: a string of Canadian dinner theaters, where the show is scheduled to open in June prior to a possible stateside tour.

"I don't believe in allowing America to have anything firsthand," she explains. Americans, she believes, "just don't have the attention span to allow you to be something apart from what they've already decided they want you to be."

Covering all her bases, Bowie's polishing up a screenplay titled The Adventures of Lily Bounty, based on an "erotic serial" she developed while writing and recording scripts working for a 900-number phone-sex service. She's also gearing up for the spring reissue of her 1993 diss 'n' tell Backstage Passes. (Flip to page 240 for the book's most notorious nugget, wherein Bowie discovers her husband in bed with Mick Jagger. Although both men were asleep at the time, the authoress prefers to believe the worst.)

Despite Bowie's best efforts, the publishers took a pass on Bowie's offer to pen an update chapter or even a new foreword.

That decision is the readers' loss. Although her book ends shortly after with the couple's divorce in 1980 (Angela received a $750,000 settlement spread over 10 years; David retained custody of the son she hasn't heard from in years), Bowie's story since then has been anything but dull.

Not that Bowie's lurch through life was ever boring to begin with.

The daughter of an American mining engineer stationed in Cyprus, the glimmering globetrotter developed a taste of worldwide wanderlust at an early age. A precocious student, Bowie attended school in Switzerland, then, at 15, enrolled in a college in Connecticut. In 1966, she'd made her way to London at the cusp of swingin' music, threads, sex and all things groovy. Two years later, fate intervened when she crossed paths with an emaciated folk singer named David Jones.

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