David Bowie walked among us

posted January 11, 2016

Sometime in 2006 or 2007 I worked the box office for a SummerStage show in Central Park. I don’t remember the headliner, but they must have been popular because the guest list was enormous and packed with celebrities. It was such an unusually large list that the promoter created a separate high-security area for them. It was large, had its own bar and bathrooms, and before showtime was packed with people.

Central Park was closed to cars for these events, so all the big names had to walk in with their entourages. It was crazy in the backstage area for those of us working the event, like a crowded subway. Security was usually great, but nobody stopped famous people if they wanted to wander around, which many of them did. I was not star-struck by anyone. I never had time to be because collectively the celebrities were a nuisance. I was shocked at how many of them behaved, spilling over into restricted areas as if they were entitled to be anywhere, being jerks to those of us trying to do our jobs.

Just after the concert began a NYC police car came driving up the park road behind the stage, lights going but no sirens. Trailing behind him was a limo. There was so much chaos that I don’t think anyone registered this arrival as especially important until the chauffeur opened the back door. Things didn’t go quiet exactly, but the mood immediately changed, and everything shifted towards the man who stepped out.

David Bowie.

Bowie was different than even the biggest names there. He was in a league all his own. He looked regal, smiled effortlessly, was a bright presence. He was simply elegant, more handsome than any man and more beautiful than any woman there. He had a gait that made it seem like his feet didn’t quite touch the ground.

In terms of entitlement, he was the worst offender by far. He had the police escort. He wasn’t on the guest list. He never asked for or received a ticket or backstage pass. No one, from the bands playing to the promoter to the city staffers, had a clue he was coming. I didn’t mind any of that. I was so grateful he’d shown up. I think even the biggest snobs backstage felt as honored to be there as I did.

He walked towards the VIP area with no entourage. His driver stayed by the limo. As he moved forward everyone got out of his way. Not just a few inches to let him pass. It was still packed to the gills backstage, but everyone gave him room like he was our gracious King. He spoke with a few people he recognized as he moved through the crowd, and broke the VIP area apart like the Red Sea when he reached it. In his wake people filled the space back in, but over the crammed heads you could always see his perfect hair apart from everyone else’s, as if even the celebrities were afraid to touch him.

There was never, and will never be, another like him. Thanks Mr. Bowie, for everything.

 

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