Glam Fab

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

The rest is Glitter Rock 101. After David changed his surname to avoid confusion with Monkee Davy Jones, the duo, who married in 1970, launched a full-tilt campaign to establish themselves as avatars of a hedonistic "anything goes" tomorrow.

At Angela's behest, her husband dyed his hair Popsicle orange, slathered his face with makeup and wore dresses onstage while wailing his arty anthems of androgyny run amok. Offstage, the couple held court in London's music-world fast track, with Angela taking copious mental notes as she witnessed--and frequently participated in--the most star-studded daisy chain in rock history.

If Bowie's marriage wasn't exactly made in heaven (prior to the nuptials, David told her he didn't love her), the union was forged in Press Agent Nirvana. Declaring themselves to be bisexual and/or gay (claims from which David, now married to supermodel Iman, would distance himself in years to come), the couple's scandalous antics were just what the gossip columnist ordered.

In her autobiography, Bowie claims that the pair had originally hoped for tag-team stardom, using David's emerging fame as a launching pad for her own career. But outside of a well-publicized, though futile, campaign for the Wonder Woman TV role ultimately played by Lynda Carter, Bowie's personal rocket to stardom overshot the moon. Frustrated by her ever-shrinking role in the Ziggy Stardust scenario, she became a jet-setting shopaholic; by one account, in a single year during the early '70s, she racked up $100,000 in airline tickets and limousine rentals alone. In another David Bowie bio, one source remembers Angela's Rodeo Drive shopping spree in which "no $300 pair of underpants was left unpurchased."

Currently living with an unemployed airplane mechanic some 15 years her junior, Angela Bowie looks back at those days of triple-digit lingerie with mixed emotions. "We were high-end, the Cadillac of glam," she proudly proclaims. But only a moment later, she sloughs off a question about the past with a theatrical grimace. "Let's not talk about that old crap, shall we?" she says. "It's so booooring."

That's pretty much her assessment of Velvet Goldmine, director Todd Haynes' recent glam-era movie that featured characters generally believed to be modeled on David Bowie and herself.

"Don't waste your money," snarls Bowie. "A dreadful film, just dreadful. There's no story, no script--it's like 20 music videos slung together." Asked about her onscreen counterpart, Bowie's eyes roll up in their sockets. "I was insulted. [Toni Collette] is a lovely actress, but they've written the part [as] someone totally vacuous, a moron."

Outlandish, outrageous, opinionated--call her what you will, but Angela Bowie is anything but vacuous.

"She's probably the ballsiest broad I've ever met in my life," says Chick Cashman, the Tucson musician who performs with Bowie during local club dates. "She can walk into a room and completely take it over. Get her pointed in the right direction and she's a fuckin' bulldozer."

Get her pointed in the wrong direction, and, well . . . get outta the way. Hired to appear at last month's opening of the Vintage Modern Gallery retro furniture in Phoenix, Bowie raised eyebrows when she not only didn't perform but spent most of the evening holed up in a back room. (Bowie explains that all the guests seemed to be having such a good time, she didn't want to interrupt them.)

But Bowie's brief run-in with members of Bloodhut, a Tucson-based feminist theater troupe, was reportedly far more sanguine. According to buzz in Tucson's theater community, some of the highest drama never made it to the stage.

"It was going to take them six months just to write the piece," explains Bowie. "Where I come from, you write satires in a week and put them on ASAP." Pause. "I'm a Libra, so everything has to be across-the-board excellent."

Bowie's outspoken quest for perfection has come with a price tag. Several years ago, negotiations for a nude Playboy spread fell through, reportedly because of demands that were far out of line with her marginal celebrity.

While living in Phoenix 15 years ago, she applied for a job as a New Times restaurant critic, but claimed it was unnecessary to submit samples of her writings because she'd personally planned elaborate dinner parties for rock stars.

And whatever cachet she might have had with the gay community was severely put to the test when, during the height of the AIDS epidemic, she blithely characterized the HIV virus as "some stupid fly-by-night disease that a vaccine is going to be found for."

Oddly, while all of Bowie's long-term (and, in the case of the L.A. art director she married in 1987, not-so-long-term) relationships have been with men, she still somehow sees herself as a gay-rights suffragette.

"You cannot say the 'g' word unless you are extremely talented," she insists. "That's what makes it work. For years, [gays] have said to me, 'Oh, we just really want to be equal.' Uh-uh--I say, 'If you want to be equal, stay straight.' Equal, we don't do. Mediocre, we don't do. That is not part of the program."

Switching conversational tracks ("This tangential thinking is sooo tiring," she moans, "but if you can't keep up with me, fuck you!"), Bowie returns to her own plans to catapult herself into pop orbit from her Tucson launching pad.

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