For our HERS issue, we sat down with Glam Rock icon Angie Bowie – bestselling author, journalist, model, musician… and of course, first wife of the late David Bowie. In this exclusive interview, Angie talks to Honeysuckle about exploring her bisexuality, the historical struggle for women’s empowerment, the importance of being an all-around creative, and those wild years of stardust.
My driving goal is to be respected for the work. My work is writing and storytelling, the publishing of books, contriving plays, poetry and lyrics—and then the added pleasure of staging, performing/acting, directing and scripting shows for theater and stage. I love to promote my gifted colleagues. That is the external work we undertake to polish up our profile on this grand stage of life.
We have eight books published so far: Free Spirit; Backstage Passes; Bisexuality, an essay; The Cyprus Essays; POP.SEX – Popular Sexuality; Lipstick Legends; Testimony of a Trophy Model; and Cat-Astrophe with illustrations by Rick Hunt. He’s a New Hampshire Abenaki artist who has produced the largest artwork in the state so far, according to our publisher friend Rick Broussard. Then there’s my poetry and lyrics anthology Fancy Footwork. There are six more books due in the next three years.
Creatives thrive when we cluster. It takes so much “alone” time to produce art; a gathering of artists is a fanfare to creativity, an immediate fiesta—a time to appreciate the community of creative thought and the processes through which art is delivered. One of the most rewarding convocations of public interest are the street fairs and art festivals that have become more prolific and impressive after a couple of millennia of existence.
We crave the time to chat, exchange adventures and describe our processes and what inspires us to spend all that time alone and often having a fit trying to perfect our vision of songs, of writing, of painting, of performance.
Our genetic memory craves the market place and its dynamic appeal with colors, fruit, vegetables, art performance, and dancing. We are lifted from the familiarity of our routine by the unexpected pleasures of the market place, and this excitement has been transferred to social media on the Internet. The marketplace is accessible through your very own portal, phone or computer. These technological advances mean, for artists: One day you are in the Dark Ages and the next day the Renaissance begins.
So much art goes beyond pleasure and enjoyment to present another slant on an issue with which we are familiar or have an opinion. Creativity is a template for the happiness and well-being of the talented multi-taskers, delicate and fragile, sturdy and yet challenged personalities. These folks medicate their souls by creatively examining the shadow areas of the brain. They unravel the chaos that our fast-moving, data-rich environment offers.
Q: Do you feel life has changed significantly for women in America since the glam rock age?
Life may have changed for women from fifty years ago, but certain long-standing problems faced by women have yet to be solved. The condition of women’s health and welfare (education and employment opportunities, the freedom to marry without permission from male family members) has not improved at the speed and by the numbers as well as it should have. The fate of women around the world is mirrored in the same problems of women in Europe and the United States. The displacement of women from countries enduring the upheavals of war—Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Sudan, Somalia—and the influx of immigrants has been brought home to us in the West through testimonials of the folks with eyewitness accounts, enhanced by the Internet and social sites that give us a window into news as it is happening. The abuse of women changes its form, and its modus operandi —but what never changes is the motivation. That motivation is greed, viewing women as a business resource or “property.” Many young women without education lack empowerment, and are often desperate to eat. They are, understandably, open to being exploited.
Sexual trafficking has not diminished. No matter how many wars are declared on abuse and gangsters, the sex trade and nail salons and hairdressers are kept in servile detention until their travel expenses, grossly inflated of course, have been paid off.
Facts are more important than the decade classifications. The Glam Rock Age occurred within the 1970s, prepped by the 1960s. After the 1970s, the Christian Coalition of America and British Conservatives tried to subjugate women into obedience by the 1980s, after all the progress that had been made in the twenty years since the end of the 1950s, including the demobbing of military forces after World War II.The backlash against women’s empowerment during the time of war is another reason one must weigh women’s progress with skepticism. Misogyny runs rampant in the devolution of “alert activity,” which meant running the munitions factories and guarding the homelands in the olden days. Now women have the privilege of losing limbs and being killed because our planet has still not yet established a reasonable and happy balance for peaceful enjoyment of our spaceship earth.
For women in industrialized societies, the glass ceiling has not been broken for equal compensation in industry and only some fields of endeavor compensate women fairly and equally to their male counterparts. The United States of America has still not elected a female president; still does not support a multi-genre healthcare system within the purview and as a right owed us by a government that collects taxes to protect the sovereignty of the country. But what about safeguarding the welfare of its people with baseline healthcare, available and free to all? And education up to and including college, work and study free to all?
The future life span of humans has not been added into the educational mix, nor do we anticipate that folks will be returning to college as our life expansion reaches in to 80 and 90 even 100 years of age. We must be prepared to enjoy and stimulate our brains as the time we are alive lengthens. We need more prep, to attack life with vigor! With this progressive and futuristic mind-set, education is especially important for women. We can learn a great deal about how to help improve conditions for women around the world.
Also, we have to share the benefits of education when there is an issue, an interest, a field you need to study. With our extended life span we have the joy and the pleasure of attending college every twenty years or so, we can check out what’s going on, see how they are re-writing history and crank up the new ideas that enrich art and science politics and marketing.
So while there’s lots of possibility, I’d still say: No. Things hardly ever change for women, and those who have been disempowered through centuries of neglect. Robbing folks’ pride and dignity are the easiest strategies for power-seekers in both the domestic and commercial spheres of our lives.
Q: When you had your first bisexual experience, bisexuality was hardly spoken of in our culture. How did you process it? Where did you turn for understanding of it? How would you advise bisexual women today?
Bisexuality is an enormous subject, as per the essay on my website. I am glad you narrowed it down! Well, I am very fact-oriented, so when my father and I agreed that I wouldn’t have sex with a dude until I was 18 (when I could be relied upon to take proper birth control measures), I wasn’t upset. I thought women were just as attractive as their male counterparts. So there were no issues there. But the “anti-gay officials” at Connecticut College for Women decided that we should be punished by forced psychiatric care, which they inflicted on my girlfriend. I decided they could spit in the wind and I returned to Cyprus, where I was born. American university was not what I had in mind. I was a very serious student who had studied arts, languages, and academic for years at St. George’s in Switzerland.
When I returned to Cyprus and my parents, I tried to rustle up some sympathy. I mentioned that I was appalled at the American educational system, which at that time was very hypocritical—as many teachers and professors were gay, but they wanted to keep that privilege to themselves due to the problems they had within the workplace regarding their sexuality; they could not be totally open.
My father was incredulous at my naivete. I had no idea sex was so frowned upon in the United States in the 1960s! He told me I should pray that the British college that had refused me because I was too young in 1966 would still have a place for me in 1967. He made it clear that I was not to sit in Cyprus, attracting scandal, seeking boyfriends and fouling up his professional reputation. I totally understood. My father was a colonel, a war hero, and a mining engineer. I didn’t argue with him.
But I had to carry this load and this burden. My mission was to unveil the benefits of treating folks of all gender preference in the same way as everyone else. I was without a country; I was born in Cyprus to American parents, and now unable to live there. I was accepted to college in England, where my dad kept me in line.
We believed we could change the world forever. I had to carve a niche for myself. I wondered what would happen…
In our youth we need that type of discrimination and marginalization so that we have something about which to spit thunder and carry the flag to the top of the hill. That is what being a youngster and a student is all about. Young adults work so hard to mature, become enlightened, learn what’s important to them. They discern which tracts of society’s rules they will espouse and which they will sweep under the carpet out of sight. As young adults we search for a love, a life, a job, and the approval of our family and friends. Achieving those goals does not come easily, or without pissing half the population off!
Q: Why do you love vintage clothes? What kind of vintage piece do you consider to be real finds?
I love clothes—vintage or retail makes no odds to me. I am a fashion hound. I love to see men and women DECKED! But vintage clothes do hold a particular appeal. Role-playing requires costumes and as we try on the various personas we are going to emulate, as we create our own personalities, we costume them with details that evoke our deepest efforts to become more. We want to be better, visionary, in the Now, and impactful—to solidify the message around which we will build our motivation.
Real finds are only of importance to me when I realize twenty years have passed and I am still wearing them. That impresses me. Chuckle! Hahahahaha!
Q: You do so many creative things. How do you find the time and the focus for it all?
I don’t! I wish I did. It takes staff, and staff have to be friends. Staff requires payment and so I accumulate some capital and that provides the fuel to move on with various projects. I was spoiled during the 1970s because the promotional budgets (which were available through the 1990s) for film, music, and books allowed me to finance my creativity and achieve success for my partner and husband, David Jones.
For links to books and more information on Angie Bowie’s work, please visit www.angiebowie.net.
**A version of this article appeared in print in Honeysuckle Magazine’s HERS issue, summer 2017 edition.