David Bowie Moved the Stars for… Me

Since the inception of SlumberPartyMovies.com, we’ve had to say goodbye a few times. Harold Ramis got me choked up. Roger Ebert hurt a lot. I shed a few tears with him.

Losing David Bowie breaks my heart.

Typing that sentence, in fact, led to a torrent that required me to shut down this document, go to my work bathroom to compose myself, then head back out with my head down and my hair in my face. That’s happened a few times today.

None of us knew he was sick. He never seemed old. To the contrary, David Bowie always felt eternal. Yes, yes, his art is eternal, yadda yadda, but we all knew he’d never go, right? He would look distinguished and wise and beautiful, and then he would open that wide mouth and laugh like he could swallow the world, and look like joy. And that would go on forever.

David Bowie wasn’t some rock god in the way people think of all the men who fell around him back in the early 70s. He was a rock saint. He knew the power of music, and he understood the importance of his talent. He understood that the experience of great music isn’t just the words, the notes, the arrangement, the staging, the story, the voice, the instruments; it’s all of it, and the whole of that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

He knew he had a gift, and he was a responsible steward of his gift: he became a craftsman, too, experimenting and writing, always seeking perfection. David Bowie gave, and gave, and gave to us, knowing that anything less than perfection in all those aspects of rock music would be unfair to us, and unfair to his own capacity for greatness.

David Bowie knew his music could touch and help people, and I really believe that’s why he kept doing what he did: because doing anything less would be cheating us and himself. The proof of that was in his last act for his fans: a final farewell album and video that was autobiographical, even though we didn’t know it. He told us he was dying, but we wouldn’t believe it.

My personal story of David Bowie is one that’s still evolving. My parents listened to Motown and the Beach Boys, so David Bowie (beyond Blue Jean and China Girl) weren’t in my house regularly. I’ve only really been pursuing his work in the last 15 years; Hunky Dory is still my favorite, but I’m slowly growing a collection of all his work. I’m grateful I came to him this late in life, because I can spend the next 40 years making up for lost time.

Here’s one of my favorites from Hunky Dory, the sweetest lullabye ever written:

Except… yes, you knew this was coming. I wasn’t familiar with his music as a kid. Not until he found another creative genius who gave his own perfect gift compulsively and teamed up to make Labyrinth.

I’ve already done some posts on Labyrinth, of course. I also posted about My Very Bowie birthday over at my own blog. But let’s take a moment to talk more about Jareth. Like most girls my age (especially those of us who loved Muppets and fantasy and were pretty sure that there MUST be some other world just over the hill, if we said the right words, we’d make it there, and we’d escape this boring life, really we would!), Jareth marked my early sexual awakening. I was 11 when Labyrinth came out, and puberty was still two years away. I wasn’t conscious of I felt the first time Jareth shows up in Sarah’s parent’s bedroom, other than a confusing blend of yearning and fear. He was threatening, and I liked it.

Oh, you didn't?

Oh, you didn’t?

Jareth was domineering. He was a terrible person. He was bored and carried a riding crop like most people carry… well, no, no one carries anything like he carries a riding crop. He was supremely confident, and he seemed to really, really desire… Sarah? Her orders? To rule her? Seven minutes in the masquerade? He’s overbearing and bossy and generally would make a horrible boyfriend in any context. But some part of me knew, 30 years ago, that he’d have been a wildcat in the sack.

Is it any wonder Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey took off? Even so, that Grey guy has nothing on Jareth. Does he sing? I haven’t read the books, so I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sing. I know Edward doesn’t sing. He’s stalkery, like Jareth, sure, but I’m also pretty sure he never shows up in a bitch-ass cloak made out of snowy owl feathers, so suck on that, Edward. TEAM JARETH.

Jareth pretty well embodies all that’s safe and scary and alluring about sex when you’re on the brink of puberty: it’s adult, it’s threatening, it has massive consequences. On the flip side, you’re the only thing an intense, confident man desires; he’ll be your slave (if you’ll be his) and he’s MAGIC. Like, an actual magic person. Who is also a king. And horribly manipulative, and man, are you gonna regret it in the morning…

… but there’s an escape clause. And that escape clause is not ever, ever, ever, giving a man like that any power over you. No matter how sexy and convincing is his argument, no matter how good he looks in tights: ultimately, you have the power. You get to say yes or no. And you should use that power.

And so she does. And she’s safe, at home, with all the best parts of him, and none of the scary ones. Lesson learned: fantasy is best when it’s dangerous. Reality should be safe, and good.

I grew up to marry a guy who looks great in eyeliner (although I wish he’d wear it, like, all the time, instead of only when my friends ask him to be in a video), but who is the direct opposite of Jareth. In fact, any time I’ve ever dated a guy who showed any Jareth-like qualities, I dropped a Sarah right quick, no-powered them, and they blew off like Hedwig on an express delivery.

That said: most fantasy romances I enjoy (and I read a LOT of them) have Jareths. For instance:

  • Black Dagger Brotherhood: ultra-stud vampires who are possessive macho men, but ultimately bow to every command of their mates.
  • A Discovery of Witches, featuring another ultra-possessive, domineering vampire in love with a kick-ass witch who doesn’t let him push her around.
  • My favorite romantic lead on Buffy? Spike, of course. With his blond hair and eyeliner and British accent, his morals were so screwed, he tried to rape her once.
  • The new Sherlock, who’s a self-described sociopath and an asshole to just about anyone who looks his way.
  • Howl’s Moving Castle, which I don’t even have to explain; I’ll just show you a pic of the petulant wizard who lives in Baba Yaga’s walking castle.
My 5-yr-old daughter noticed the resemblance, too.

My 5-yr-old daughter noticed the resemblance, too.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

In closing… well, back to tears, now. There would be no Jareth without David Bowie. There would be no Labyrinth without David Bowie. For me, Jareth is David Bowie, and David Bowie is Jareth, and now, some part of me knows I’ll never have that chance to follow the Labyrinth past the Goblin City, to see his lined, perfect face, begging me to stay.

I feel as though a piece of my heart is gone. And I know you do, too.

David Bowie of the 80s and Jazzin’ for Blue Jean, the Longform Video

In my 9th grade art class, I learned two things: how to draw a portrait using a grid, and that I sucked at art. I drew two portraits, one of Paul McCartney and one of David Bowie. I hated the McCartney one because I’d made one eye bigger than the other (a horrible premonition of my first passport photo?), but when I made a mistake on the Bowie one, I just just added a bunch of colorful abstract squiggles a la his Blue Jean makeup, and it came out looking cool. So cool I put it on my wall and kept it there until I felt silly for having one of my drawings up on the wall despite my suckiness as an artist.

When I first found out that David Bowie was not immortal, I thought of two things. The first was that drawing and the second was an article I’d read about the critical atmosphere around Bowie in the 80s. I can’t find the article, as it’s lost to the ephemera of the Internet, but the gist is as follows: In the 80s, music critics had accused, either outright or by insinuation,  Bowie of being a sell-out, sold to the shallow materialism of the decade: his lemon-haired, slick-suited Modern Love persona held up as proof. However, the writer (whose name, publication and/or serial number is also lost to the ephemera) claimed that with hindsight, it could be said that the 80s hadn’t claimed Bowie; Bowie had claimed the 80s. He wasn’t changed by the decade; he had become the decade and thus changed it.

bowie 4

Now, thinking about the bizarre, deft way in which Bowie lived his entire life, including his untimely death, as both a life both well-lived and as one long piece of performance art, I get it. Bowie was, and still is art. Bowie the artist, Bowie the man, even Bowie the skewed image drawn by a 14 year old girl with public-school issued pencils and craypas: all of it IS art. And while I sympathize with critics of the 80s who were so ready to write Bowie off as a washed-up sell-out, I think they should have been more hip to the art he had become while critiquing the artist he was.

bowie2

Take Jazzin’ for Blue Jean, the longform version of Bowie’s Blue Jean. It begins with Working-Class Bowie standing high above the street, putting up a poster of his alter-ego, Screamin Lord Byron, and ends inside a metal-screened elevator, rising ever higher above a broken-fourth-wall scene: higher and higher, but still caged, like Bowie’s career, caged in by the 80s even as it rose above it. Watch the video for yourself and pay close attention to the part where lovable loser, Working Class Bowie tries on a series of 80s fashions before finally settling on borrowing a slick suit from his well-dressed flatmate.

Happy Roy Batty Incept Day!

Lerlines!

It’s Roy Batty’s incept day. You know what that means?

You remembered? I'm so happy I could headbutt you.

You remembered? I’m so happy I could headbutt you.

Well, yes, we all thought we’d have flying cars and eyeball salesmen by now, but we don’t do we? Let’s move on. No. Roy’s Incept Day means that it’s the perfect time to watch the Tears in Rain speech.  Not to take anything away from January 8th, 2016, but there are many other perfect times to watch Batty’s Tears in Rain speech. Here are a few just of them off the top of my head: When some jerk fries your replicant. ( Those things aren’t cheap. ), when you nearly choke on a Coco Puff and are forced to contemplate your mortality. When your best friend nearly dies from Fireball poisoning and you’re forced to contemplate her mortality. When some random skin job gets hit by a bus, and it hits you: replicants don’t live forever. When you’re chilling at the Tannhauser Gate and you catch sight of a few rather sparkly C-Beams, and you think, “Oh! That’s what Roy was talking about.” Or just a regular day, when you’ve already drank all the spicy bourbon, and you’re looking for something to do before the paramedics arrive.

roy

But today, we’re watching it for Roy. He’s at that big fiery, attack ship in the sky now.

Not Lemmy. Not Lemmy!

Lemmy from Down and Out With the Dolls

You’re my Lemmy in the closet, baby.

I mean, like. We all knew Lemmy, despite his amazingness, was a living thing, and therefore would one day cease to live. But it was still a shock to read of his death today — almost as much of a shock to read that he was 70. And while of course his main legacy is Motörhead, his muppet-like appearance and gruff voice made him an absolute treasure as a personality.

The Lemmy I’ll always remember is the Lemmy from Down and Out with the Dolls (2003 in the U.S.), a scrappy movie about a messy band that lived together in one big house and basically screwed up everything ever. But it wasn’t just the four women living there; the lead singer had a lodger living in her closet.

That lodger, of course, was Lemmy — er, Joe, a sort of mountaintop guru of rambling wisdom. As the boyfriend dude says in the trailer, “I like your advice, but I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

To which Joe/Lemmy replied, “Well, that’s your problem, innit, chief?”

But yeah: “Don’t forget us. Our name is Motörhead. We play rock ‘n’ roll.”

 

Amanda Peterson RIP

TMZ is reporting that Amanda Peterson died at the age of 43 of health problems (including sleep apnea and pneumonia) possibly caused by mold in her house. MOLD! Oh HELL NO, Lerlines. Cindy freaking Mancini did not go out like this. Did she? You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.

Cindy F#$king Mancini

Cindy F#$king Mancini

Can we all just stop what we’re doing, put on some lace tights and dance…please? Dance, you zombies, dance!

RIP Anne Meara.

Goodbye, Ms. Sherwood. Don’t take any of Leroy’s crap when you see him*.

*Gene Anthony Ray died in 2003 (three letters took him to his final resting place)…which just adds to the sadness of this post.

The worst movie ever made!

Thanks to my husband falling asleep with the TV on while the DVR was recording two things, I have been subjected to the shittiest movie I have ever seen: An American Hippie in Israel (1972).

This movie is worse than either time I had elbow surgery. It’s worse than when I broke my finger and still had to take an algebra test. It’s worse than the time I lost feeling in both legs and had to have an emergency MRI (which turned up nothing). It made me want to punch the 1970s in the face.

I have seen PSAs with more subtlety. I’ve seen school plays with better acting. I’ve heard better music at Gymboree. If you hate America, Israel, music, joy, veterans, women, and lambs, you might like this scummed-over puddle of loose excrement. Otherwise, seriously, just go watch Russ Meyer or something.