David Bowie: Facts About The Man Behind the Myth

‘Bowie’ biographer Wendy Leigh shares some juicy revelations about the shape-shifting rock icon.
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‘Bowie’ biographer Wendy Leigh shares some juicy revelations about the shape-shifting rock icon.

David Bowie is one of the most enigmatic stars of our time. Over five decades he has conquered rock, stamped his unique style on a generation and created iconic personas – Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke – that will live forever.

My fascination with David Bowie began in the 70’s when I interviewed his first wife, Angela in their house in Oakley Street, Chelsea, London. And while researching my book, Bowie, I discovered even more interesting revelations about him – here are some of them:

Bowie’s Teenage Androgyny

When 16-year-old David dated 14-year-old singer Dana Gillespie, his look was already so androgynous that Dana’s father couldn’t tell if he was a man or a woman.

David Bowie Photo

Bowie and his teenage love Dana Gillepsie. (Photo: Getty Images, Courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

Sealing a Management Deal. . .in Bed?

In the summer of 1965, Ralph Horton, then managing 17-year-old Davie Jones, was broke. Desperate for financing, he searched for a business partner to help him manage Davie Jones and the Lower Third. Ralph invited rock manager Simon Napier-Bell for a meeting at his home/office, intending to offer him a 50-50 deal if he agreed to co-manage Davie Jones and the Lower Third.

David Bowie Photo

Before Bowie was Bowie, he was mop-topped Davie Jones, pictured here in 1965. The British pop star changed his name after the Monkees and their lead singer, the other Davy Jones, exploded on the music scene. (Photo by Potter/Express/Getty Images)

At the time, Napier-Bell, who managed the Yardbirds (and later Marc Bolan and Wham!), was a far more established manager than Ralph Horton. Napier-Bell still remembers every detail of what happened when he arrived at Horton’s rented basement apartment at 79A Warwick Square: “Davie sat demurely in a corner,” Simon remembered. Then, without so much as introducing Simon to David, Ralph took him aside and, according to Napier-Bell, put forward the following proposition to him: “[Horton] said that if I were to agree to come in on the management, he would allow me to have sex with his young protégé."

“I had no idea whether [David] was in on the proposition or not,” Napier-Bell said afterward.

The Bowie-Jagger Connection

David was so devastated about discovering that his manager Tony Defries had, in his opinion, cheated him that he turned to Mick Jagger for advice and Mick helped him. Mick and David came from similar backgrounds, grew up a fairly short distance from each other – David in Beckenham and Mick from Dartford – and both assumed an Oliver Twist cockney persona when, in fact, they came from middle class backgrounds.

David and Mick were so similar that they even liked the same type of women. David even dated Mick’s first wife, Bianca.

An Interest in Nazi History

When David was living in Berlin he wrote some of his legendary songs at the desk of a notorious Nazi, according to Winona Williams, his girlfriend who flew to Berlin at his invitation. “While I was there, he painted a great deal, and also had all this Nazi memorabilia around him, including German propaganda minister Dr. Goebbel’s old desk, which he had in his apartment. It didn’t mean that he had any Nazi inclinations, or was anti-Semitic-just that he was interested in Nazi history and style,” she said.

Before Iman, There Were Cougars

David Bowie Photo

Bowie with Elvis's ex Monique van Vooren. (Photo: Photofest, Courtesy Simon & Schuster)

“David wanted to take me out, but I was interested in someone else at the time,” Monique recalled. “But he still came over to my house on 66th Street for dinner, and he learned his lines for the play with me and rehearsed the various scenes with me, as well.

David Bowie Book Cover Photo

Bowie is a new biography by Wendy Leigh.

“I thought he had great style, but it wasn’t a romance, although he wanted it to be. He kept calling me, kept sending me little gifts — a blue-and-white floral silk scarf, a copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran – and sent me flowers, as well.

“. . .We kissed, and it was marvelous. But I was committed to someone elsewhere and couldn’t take it further. David was a bit surprised when I turned him down, but I suppose everyone fell for him. But I didn’t,” Monique said.

Wendy Leigh is the New York Times bestselling author whose books include Bowie, Prince Charming: The JFK Jr. Story; True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess; and Patrick Swayze: One Last Dance. She is the coauthor of the memoir Shirley Jones, and, with Christopher Ciccone, Life with My Sister Madonna.