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Monday, January 18, 2016

My own David Bowie story

The world is in extended mourning for David Bowie, rightly so, and many who knew him have been telling their stories. Sadly, I never met him, but over the last decade I have become good friends with his cousin Kristina Amadeus, an art expert and award-winning writer. She has kindly agreed to let me tell a story which demonstrates David's great generosity. Because a number of years ago, David did me a wonderful kindness: After reading my book, The Goddess and the Bull, about the archaeological excavations at Neolithic Catalhoyuk in Turkey and the origins of civilization, he allowed me to put a blurb on the paperback and Kindle editions.

The purpose of this story is not to sell books, so I am not including any links. But here's what happened.

Shortly after the book came out, in early 2005, Kristina contacted me out of the blue with a rave review of the book and some very kind words about how much she enjoyed it. Kristina had long been interested in Catalhoyuk--which is a sort of Mecca for Mother Goddess worshippers but also a very key site for understanding the origins of farming and settled, village life--because of a novel she has in progress which features the excavations. I didn't know who she was, but I thought her name very interesting, and so Googled her. I learned that she was David's cousin, and that she was a well-known fixture in the Ziggy Stardust tour because during it he had visited her in New York (where she was then living) and, of course, every step in that tour is now as sacred as the Stations of the Cross.

I asked Kristina if she thought David might be interested in reading the book, because I knew that he was very intellectual and read a lot. We arranged to get a copy to his New York office and he told her that he would put it on his summer reading list.

The following October, I believe it was, I asked Kristina if he had read it, and she sent him an email. It turned out that he had, and he said the following about it:

"I liked it very much. A little heavy on theory for my taste but exciting to read of what could have been the first town. I also approve of burying the dead under the floor. At least you'll remember where you put them."

The paperback edition of my book was about to come out, so I asked Kristina to ask David if I could put that very funny comment on the book. He wrote her back: "I have no problem with it."

Think about those six words for a moment. They are the words of someone for whom an act of great kindness and generosity is no big deal, just something you do in the course of the day. No thought of whether he should be selective in bestowing such kindness, just a matter of fact favor to his cousin and to his cousin's friend.

And, of course, the publisher of the paperback edition of the book--Mitch Allen of Left Coast Press, recently bought by Routledge--was thrilled that a famous rock star was saying in this amusing way how much theory was in the book, because Mitch was marketing it as an academic book to be used in archaeology classes. What might be a tad too much theory for David Bowie was just the right amount of theory for the undergraduate and graduate students who would be reading it.

Do you ever have a fantasy that you will meet a famous person one day, sit down with them as if they were just a normal person, have coffee, and talk matter of factly about the issues of the day? I did, and it was always about David Bowie. I always thought it might happen, but now of course it never will. But I have his music, his videos, his blurb proudly displayed on my book--and his cousin as my friend, with whom I can share all the pain and sorrow that the last week has brought.

Update: Kristina has just sent me the old email correspondence from when this all happened. After David said he liked the book, I suggested that he could do the rock opera version and that it would be okay if he left out most of the theory. His response to that was "LOL!" So I made David Bowie laugh one day long ago. That really makes my day today.

4 comments:

MiMi Aye said...

This is lovely. Thank you for sharing.

Kevin Macan-Lind said...

I concur. What a heart warming story - typical of the man. David's generosity of spirit and humour were well known by his friends, family and fellow artists.

Michal Rosa said...

Great story. I still miss David and it made me buy your book too!

Michael Balter said...

Thanks to all for your kind words, and to Michal for buying the book--enjoy!