So, I don’t idol-worship people in the public eye. Musicians, authors, actors, athletes; let’s face it, they are indeed just like you and me. They just have a specific talent that is called for in limited demand, and work hard and have good fortune. For every Denzel Washington out there, there are 100s of actors of high quality and hard work who just don’t get the breaks. So while I respect their talent (one that I don’t have), I don’t feel they are superior to me. I have my own talents, and can do things these people can’t do; we are just cut from different cloth, right? My idols are usually ordinary people, doing remarkable things under extraordinary circumstances.
Having said that, there have been some celebrity deaths that have personally touched me, because the person themselves touched my soul. They may have been supremely talented. They may have seemed like really a wonderfully decent person, in spite of their talent. They may have made me laugh more, or cry more, or think more than some of their compatriots. The wonderful untapped talent of Amy Winehouse. The compassion and kindness of Princess Diana. (I leave the amazing Nelson Mandela out of the “celebrity” category, because he is indeed a true hero for me, someone so far above any categorization). There have been 3 celebrity deaths that I can think of which have truly emotionally impacted me on a deeper level. I still remember the stunned, shocked feeling I had when first hearing about the death of River Phoenix. The disbelief followed by tears upon hearing of the loss of Robin Williams. And now, the unthinkable phrase: David Bowie, dead at age 69. Yeah, nope. David Bowie isn’t supposed to die. Ever. (shut up, I can be irrational if I want to).
The fact that this death impacts me so much may surprise even some of the people closest to me. But if you think about what he represented, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me.
Forty years ago, this unique, brave man dared to be different. Bizarre. Strange. A public freak. And he didn’t give a shit, really, what people thought of him. He was talented, gifted, brilliant, beautiful, amazing. And by effectively giving conservative society who didn’t know what to think of him the finger, he gave permission for all weirdos, world over, to let their lights shine.
It has nothing to do with sexuality. It has nothing to do with political or theological ideology. It has to do with bleeding red. With being human. Whether you are gay or straight or something in between. Whether you identify yourself as cis- or transgender. Whether you are conservative or liberal. Whether you are the introverted wallflower, or the extroverted exhibitionist. It is about being YOU, and challenging the world around you to accept that.
Bowie was more than some public freakshow, the man who wore makeup and put out brilliantly weird music and defied labeling before others took up the same crusade. Before others made society look at them and say, oh, ok, yeah we can handle weird. Bowie was weird before weird was cool. I think that’s part of him being a lasting icon. His soul, his music, and his innate weirdness spoke to people. And told them, hey, you’re ok. Really.
Even right now, thinking about this amazing man being gone tightens my jaw and makes my eyes water. Because as a shy kid, as one of those introverts who preferred books and animals to people most of the time (still do!), as a kid who felt like she never fit in, and was too “weird” for the conventions of society, Bowie truly was an idol. A beacon of light saying “you’re ok, you don’t have to fit in, just be you”. A master of words that felt as kind and wise as anything from Gandhi or the ancient philosophers. A chameleon, an artist, a divine spirit, and a decent man. A great loss, no matter how you look at it.
Goodbye, Stardust. Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie. And the stars look very different, today.