I didn’t know how I would feel going to New York. It was never a destination that was top of my list – in fact the only reason for considering it was the fact David Bowie lived there. Since 2016 that was sadly no longer true. But I cannot deny the influence of New York on our British culture. I lived for Friends and Sex and the City and many films I love had also been set there. When I heard that the last place for the Bowie Is exhibition would be New York, I quipped to my husband that that would be the only way to get me there – and he booked it. The trip would be his treat as long as I bought the exhibition tickets. Sounds like a good deal to me. So, despite my fear of flying (I’ve not flown for over two years and that was for a friend’s wedding) – I headed for Heathrow. The name of my plane flying me to New York was called ‘Lady Stardust’. It was a sign. This was meant to be. Still, I was grateful to land safely and get to our hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
As this week was also my husband’s birthday I had promised that the whole trip would not be about Bowie. (Those of you who know me are laughing right now) – but true to my word our first day was paying our respects to those who perished in the 911 terrorist attacks which was a reflective and moving experience. It was not until Wednesday, on his birthday and after we had been up the Empire State building that I tactfully suggested we visit Soho and Greenwich village area. I did not realise that Bleecker Street was so near to Lafayette and that as a dedication to David Bowie the whole station had been covered in posters of our mainman. I said we have to pay to go in – not to travel on the train – but to see the posters. So, my dear hubby spent his birthday taking photos of me with my Blackstar pink top on next to lots of Bowie pictures. Now that is love! I also asked about the Bowie metro cards but they only had two available at the time. I still bought them being grateful for any of them. I visited outside 285 Lafayette and had my photo taken there even though the people inside looked at me strangely. I didn’t care. It had to be done!
My next Bowie day would be Thursday which was my planned Bowie day. It was the day of the exhibition. We arrived at the Brooklyn Museum 45 minutes early as it doesn’t open 'til 11am. I started talking to Shannon, another big Bowie fan who understood. Her husband was also a reluctant participant, like mine.
It was hard to decide if we should go to the exhibition first or the downstairs shop. I opted for the exhibition and headed for the fifth floor. I noticed the Blackstar on the outside of the lift – sorry elevator – and told everyone in the lift about it. The lack of reaction told me they weren’t in the same category as me – Here I was with my Bowie tattoo and my Bowie dress on – no one else in that lift was looking excited or enthusiastic. I felt sad for them as Bowie gave so much joy and I couldn’t see it in any of them.
We queued at the entrance and I had my photo taken with a few big wall murals – then it was no more pictures as photos are not allowed inside. We were provided with headsets and I skipped the start as it was crowded and returned here later. I had already seen the original exhibition at the V&A in London in 2013 (three times) but this final show offered over 100 new items not seen before. The Elephant Man was a significant one as was the Lazarus script. I wandered around each exhibit drinking it all in – breathing and at times closing my eyes to hear his voice, his songs, and explanations about his work. I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster. I was singing, dancing and laughing to Starman – so happy when he points at me (I had to phone someone so I picked on youuuuu!) in one moment and sobbing hearing Sweet Thing (Candidate) at another. Since his passing certain songs trigger me and I still have not worked out why this song is one of them. I loved the books in the suitcase that Bowie had taken with him on tour – I didn’t remember that from 2013 either…but it has been a while. I was disappointed that more attention hadn’t been paid to relate the songs to the exhibits, for example the Diamond Dogs exhibits’ did not offer any tracks from the DD album. It could be easily rectified and it meant that at points during the exhibition I took off my headset to read the items without distraction.
The exhibition feels much larger than in 2013 – the way it has been laid out and I especially liked how they have now put the outfits next to the videos so I watched Ashes To Ashes and Blue Jean looking at the outfits to my left of the TV sets. Blue Jean is one of my favourite outfits and an under-rated video which I believe is outstanding. The full version demonstrates Bowie's sense of humour, talent for acting (playing two roles) and of course a great tune to boot. What I was not expecting was a video of Blackstar and it caught me unaware and I burst into tears. Others who don’t understand must think me mad – but I know there are those of you out there who understand and feel the same. I was grateful that Lazarus was not shown or I don’t know how I could have continued. The videos showed a good range of Bowie’s work including Look Back In Anger, Let’s Dance and Little Wonder.
Moving into the big sound room was wonderful. At the exhibition in 2013 I sang very loudly to Rock N Roll Suicide and in 2016 after that dreadful news I had my first and only tattoo which included the lyric ‘cause you’re wonderful – so to hear that once again felt like it had come full circle. It was bitter sweet but I always loved how positive that lyric is and sang it once again at the top of my voice and stretching my hands to the screen (Give me your hands). They also included a lot of outfits in this room and to see them so close up was amazing. The Reality outfit was very emotional for me as it was the last time I saw him live and to be this close to an outfit that has his DNA in it – well it brought back memories of an earlier time when I had never considered this would be the last time I would see him perform. Sadly, the real reality was that was the last time. A new extra is a soul room – not only Fame on a screen but lyrics to some of my absolute favourite lyrics, Win, Right and Fascination. These are, in my opinion, Bowie’s most sexy song-writing ever!
It was an emotional rollercoaster as I walked into the Blackstar exhibit towards the exit. The music of Blackstar sadly upset me as even two years on its still very raw. Seeing the Blackstar book and the lyrics made it a fitting end to the exhibition. I was a bit naughty and took a quick photo of my Blackstar tattoo with the Blackstar book. I’m a Blackstar after all.
I was disappointed in the shop – many items were vinyl’s and Tee-shirts. I’m not a Tee-shirt person so didn’t care too much for them. I wanted to see more small products. Pins, notebooks, magnets etc would be better but I could only see pencils. There was also no Bowie Lego figures! I enquired and found out all the notebooks had sold out. I had come all the way from the UK and this was my only visit to the exhibition so it was extremely disappointing to see the lack of things to buy. Of course, I did buy the limited edition coloured vinyl’s which are limited to two per customer.
(NB – some fans have experienced issues with toilet breaks during the exhibition – however I was issued with two re-entry cards for a half hour toilet break as I really needed that break. I had mentioned this before entering the exhibit and had no issue with the cards to re-enter the exhibition, so do ask about it before you enter the exhibition if you need to go).
After the exhibition we checked out the shop downstairs which did have some pin badges but not much Bowie besides the limited vinyl’s. Shannon found me and showed me the goodies she had got with her Let’s Dance ticket. She knew I would appreciate it more than her husband would. I had arranged to meet up with Brandon, a New Yorker who I knew through Bowie groups on FaceBook. We had never met before but he was kind enough to get me four of the metro cards – my purchase the day before completed the set so I was delighted. He then showed us around Brooklyn and we walked across the Brooklyn bridge. As a thank you in return, I gave him a small pin badge from England. I like to share the Bowie love.
Despite my reservations about New York I found the locals very friendly and loved my trip. I can now appreciate why David Bowie fell in love with it. It was truly a magical place and a fitting goodbye to my first love. He will always live on in my heart and he has given me the greatest gift of all – A Bowie family of wonderful people who understand me.