Waking up to the news today that David Bowie had just passed away brought a flood of emotions - moments from his massive, 50-year recorded history played through my head as well something more personal. That time when I attended a birthday party with him.
In 2002 I was doing guitar repairs in Hell’s Kitchen and one of our clients was the lovely Gail Ann Dorsey - bassist and vocalist for Bowie’s band since 1995. It was always a treat when Gail came into the shop, I used to enjoy talking with her about music and the multitude of projects she was always involved in. One day she told us that her 40th birthday was around the corner and that we were invited to the soirée! I was honored and thrilled to be invited, maybe some of his legendary backing band would be there. I laughed to myself about David himself being there, but surely that would not happen. The question still swam through my mind over the next few weeks, after all, he did live downtown in the same neighborhood as the club…
On the night of the party I got myself together the best I could, because if there was ever a night to look cool, this was it. While my friend and owner of the shop, was taking a very NYC approach to the evening and planned to be fashionably late, something told me to be right on time tonight.
The club was only a 2-3 block walk from my house but when I arrived at the correct block, I was unable to find the place! How can I possibly be lost in my own neighborhood? I was like one of those annoying tourist that I used to pass by as I cursed under my breath. Standing there incredulous, I saw four figures approaching. As they got closer, I happily realized the the figure leading was Gail herself. “Great, I will play it off that I just got here and saw her and was waiting to enter the club together!” As I greeted her she tells me that they are also looking for the club! Great, I fess up that I am clueless as to the location of this mystery club when she introduces me to her guests.
I meet the person standing next to Gail who I believe was drummer Sterling Campbell. My mind is fuzzy on that detail as it may have been someone else but I absolutely did talk to him later on at the party for sure. I was then introduced to a well-dressed woman named Coco, who I knew of instantly for if anyone has studied up on their Bowie history, than they surely know of his long-time personal assistant, Coco Schwab. I was very excited by this - a direct connection to Bowie! - but ended up completely gobsmacked when I turned to meet the previously unseen forth guest and found myself look straight at the impossibly dapper Mr. Bowie himself!
I've met a lot of my heroes, more than I could ever have imagined as a music-obsessed teen and I’ve always maintained that the musician I would be the most starstruck over would be David Bowie and I was right; I was staring at him like some fan-boy in the headlights. I actually got him to chuckle when we shook hands as I said, “No introductions needed here - I know your name and it's a pleasure to meet you!” Or something like that. I think. He did laugh though!
I’m still reeling in amazement as we all turn and start heading up the block looking for our elusive Soho haunt. We do eventually find the (unmarked) place and head downstairs into a very dark - yet totally NYC - club. For the few people that were in the club when we got there, just imagine their surprise when the door opens and in comes a small party with none other than the Thin White Duke in their charge! Of course, no one was more shocked and excited than I, trust me.
At this point, DB and Coco head to the back of the club where a private room was ready for them. Gail being such a gracious host would come chat with her guests and then make her way back to the VIP room in equal measure. After sometime - and I truly do not recall the exact amount of time - DB and Coco emerge from VIP, and walk out into the main part of the club clearly ready to make their exit. It was almost like one of those moments in the movies where the needle skips on the record player and the room is enveloped in silence - it was a magic moment; I literally felt the air get sucked out of the room.
But for me, the best part was just about to happen. When David walked past me, he slowed, put his hand on my shoulder, leaned in and in that most distinctive voice intoned “Have a great night”. I did say something as well, but I don’t remember what. I guess it doesn’t matter; I have my David Bowie story.