When I was in high school (in the eighties) I ran track and cross country. We traveled to meets almost every weekend and I always sat with my friend Sara on the long bus trips. She was one of my best friends and she was much cooler than I was–and I was aware of this even way back then. Anyway, we would wear our Walkmans filled with tapes of our favorite music. Mine was filled with the Scorpions, Van Halen and other metal bands, along with Led Zeppelin and a bit of pop. Sara’s was filled with a little U2 (I didn’t get into this band myself until college) and all David Bowie, all the time. I mean she was obsessed with David Bowie.
Sara’s Walkman had two headphone plugs and often I would plug mine into hers and listen to her music as well. I don’t remember why I would do this, whether my batteries ran out or mine wasn’t working, or if she just wanted me to hear a certain song or album that she liked (remember, this was before cellphones, before any kind of handheld video game. You listened to Walkmans or brought a book if you didn’t feel like talking). All I remember was that I did not enjoy David Bowie AT ALL and she REALLY wanted me to appreciate him the way that she did. It never really happened. I got to know the songs, and I got to a point where I could appreciate different ones more than other ones,but I never really became a fan.
Sara would go on and on about what a genius he was, how handsome he was. How he was the best looking man she’d ever seen in her life (remember that we were teenagers and he was in his mid to late thirties at the time. I couldn’t understand why she was so into this old man). The walls of her room were papered with posters of him and he just did nothing for me. Back then, I was into young, feminine looking men with big hair, spandex and makeup. I am not proud. My point is we were just WORLD’S apart. Testosterone vs angst and a point of view. With me, testosterone won out. …always.
One day we were walking down to a track somewhere and she was just going on and on about him until my eyes glazed over. She said, “You just don’t understand Karen, I want to meet him and marry him, but I would be just as happy if someone would just follow him around and film him all day from the time he woke up until he was asleep. Do that for a few days-in his regular life- and sell it. That’s the videotape I want to buy. If they made something like that, I would buy it.” I remember being appalled and saying something like, “You want to watch him sleep.” “Yes!” she exclaimed. “I want to watch him drinking coffee and eating cereal and reading the newspaper in the morning. It! would be almost like I actually knew him! Like we were friends. I want to buy this tape!”
Two things stick out to me about this conversation. First, we were so naive. Sara wanted to watch him eat his cereal, for heaven’s sake, when everyone knows he probably ate rats or bats or something (or maybe I’m thinking of Ozzy) and probably not alone. Second, she said this WAY before any kind of reality television was available. These days that kind of intimacy with celebrities is kind of taken for granted, but back then this was a totally foreign concept.
Sara and I drifted apart after high school, but whenever she does cross my mind I always wonder if Bowie ever made such a film and if she ever got a hold of it. I wonder if she’s still a mega-fan. My highschool track meets were such a big part of my life that whenever I smell Ben Gay (to this day) I am back there, nervous butterflies,about to race, and whenever I hear David Bowie, I think of good times with Sara on the bus.
As for me, I went on to love MTV’s Headbangers Ball until it made way for grunge. I still,to this day, think that Warren DiMartini was the best looking member of Ratt and I think that Jon Bon Jovi was a beautiful man. He still is,of course, but back then… dreamboat. I still unapologetically love a good hair band (my husband and I have this in common. It’s one of the things that brought us together. …I am not kidding). As for David Bowie, today I can appreciate that he is a genius, and I know a LOT of his songs and will find myself singing along with them on the radio– thanks Sara–but …eh. He’s no Klaus Meine. ;)