Known for his theatrical performances and for pioneering the glam-rock genre, David Bowie taught several generations it’s ok to be weird. The rock and cultural icon's four-decade run in the music business came to a close when he died of cancer at the age of 69, just days after releasing his 25th studio album.
Many members of the Sacramento arts and culture scene looked to the Thin White Duke for guidance and inspiration.
“[He] paved the way for people who were trying to find themselves,” says interior designer and reality TV star Shasta Smith. “I always felt I followed so close behind him as he’s paving this way for people... when he died I thought to myself, ‘who’s going to pave my way?’”
Smith uses images of Bowie throughout all of her business plans and calls him her “spirit animal.”
“My influences are not designers. My influences are people. And David Bowie was always that number one person.”
Stand-up comedian Johnny Taylor says Bowie’s death came as a huge shock to him.
“I don’t know that I realized that he was mortal. I never once considered a world without David Bowie in it. I was shocked. I’ve had heroes of mine pass away before, and it wasn’t a huge surprise. With Bowie I just kind of thought he was always omnipresent.”
Taylor says he was practically raised by Bowie, from hearing his dad’s 8-track tapes to watching the movie “Labyrinth,” which starred Bowie. He says Bowie’s knack for misdirection in both interviews and music has influenced his approach to comedy.
“David Bowie was a hilarious character. If you watch his interviews spanning 40 years he was a master of misdirection. David Bowie would say exactly what you didn’t think he was going to say. I’ve always looked at that as such a great vehicle for getting jokes across. Lead ‘em one way and kick it back another way.”
For all that Bowie was: actor, performer, icon, Taylor says he’s going to miss the music the most.
“Regardless of how you feel about Bowie as a character or human being - you can’t deny the music.”
Artist Melissa Uroff was planning an art show inspired by Bowie’s song "Life On Mars" before Bowie died. The call for artists went out a couple weeks ago and filled within 12 hours. Each artist was assigned a Bowie lyric at random. Their paintings will be displayed in order at the Blue Lamp on Alhambra with an opening reception Feb. 9.
“[Originally] it was people just being inspired by Bowie. Now it’s turned into a celebration of life,” says Uroff. She says she wanted to do the show because Bowie inspires her work.
“Being an artist and seeing someone that’s so honest and true to themselves - it touches people,” she says. “I feel very connected to him. Whenever I paint I listen to the Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust religiously.”
Jarad Konopitski is participating in the Bowie art show at the Blue Lamp. His painting style is typified by bright colors and grotesque cutesy figures. Think Care Bears on an acid trip in a post-apocalyptic wasteland; bright beautiful neon nightmares.
"David Bowie has been an inspiration to me since the first time I saw him steal a child as the Goblin King. His weirdo style and his unique way of being, is something that can stand as a mentor for all creative weirdos. I found a mysterious painting I don't remember painting this morning. This painting shows someone rising from a group of folks and into the sky among the blue birds. Then I heard the lyrics of his new song “Lazarus”:
This way or no way
You know I'll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain't that just like me?
And I realize this mysterious painting from the past was somehow made to be his tribute of the now. Chills, I tell ya."
Sacramento resident Brad Warren had the opportunity to see Bowie in concert six times, including once in Sacramento at Cal Expo for Bowie’s 1990 Sound and Vision tour.
“He wore black pants, a white frilled shirt and a black vest and was the Thin White Duke that night. For the encore, he roughed up and started with Ziggy Stardust saying, "this is a song about a little girl with pink hair and no eyebrows," recalls Warren. “During the show someone threw an orange on stage which he caught, took a large theatrical bite from and then spewed back out into the crowd! I think for all the young artistic types back then we were all drawn towards him and his music. We felt a bit alien and he celebrated that.”
Bowie’s far-reaching influence on music, fashion and culture is undeniable. Beyond that, he gave the disenfranchised, the alien, the "weirdos" permission to be themselves.
“He made it ok to be a weirdo,” says Johnny Taylor. “If I liked something that wasn’t popular, I remember thinking ‘why should I care what anybody thinks - would David Bowie care what anybody thinks?’”
David Bowie Tribute Events
Jan. 14, 6-8 p.m. | The Starlite Lounge
Bowie’s music will play all night. They’ll listen to Bowie’s latest album Blackstar starting at 7 p.m.
Jan. 16, 9 p.m. | Old Ironsides
This monthly dance party courtesy of DJ Shaun Slaughter was originally slotted as a New Order / Joy Division tribute, but after news of Bowie’s death Slaughter changed the theme.
Jan. 16, 7-10 p.m. | Your radio or internet device
CapRadio’s own Nick Brunner is preparing three hours of David Bowie for his weekly music show.
Feb. 9, 7 p.m. | The Blue Lamp
An art show featuring 40 different pieces from 40 different artists, one for each line of the song “Life On Mars” of Bowie’s 1971 album Hunky Dory.
Mar. 19, 9 p.n. | The Starlight Lounge