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By Andrea Peyser
January 15, 2016
He made the world a better place for rebels, oddballs and misfits like me — who lacked the coordination or temperament to master disco dancing or blow-dry stubborn hair into Farrah Fawcett-style wings.
Listening to David Bowie's records alone in my room, it seemed possible that even an alienated kid from Queens — pressured by my peers into lock-step conformity, supertight jeans and Saturday-night binge-drinking — might dare grow up into a defiantly unhip adult.
Bowie made it OK.
Bowie dabbled in androgyny, heavy makeup, homosexuality, bisexuality and gender-bending before Caitlyn Jenner and Elton John made these things necessary for any artist worth his recording contract. Then he reinvented himself as a straight man at a time when public displays of sexual experimentation were de rigueur.
With his left pupil permanently dilated after a teenage fight, making him appear as if he had one blue eye, one black, he was as strange and outrageous as he was normal. He gave us permission to be ourselves.
That's why I'll always treasure Bowie, who died Sunday at age 69 of liver cancer, which he'd kept secret from all but those closest to him in his last 18 months of life.
For the icon's death represents the final nail in the coffin of rock-'n'-roll music.
In the early 1970s, Bowie, born in England as David Jones, dressed as a sequin-wearing drag queen while performing as his alien alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. He said in interviews that he metAmerican model/actress Mary Angela Barnett, now 66, whom he married in 1970, when "we were both f–king the same bloke."
Now, it all seems like a ploy to sell records while reaching confused youths.
He told Rolling Stone magazine in 1983, "I always was a closet heterosexual."
Divorced in 1980 from Angie, the mother of his son, Duncan, 44, he married Somali-born supermodel, actress and entrepreneur Iman Abdulmajid, now 60, in 1992 and they had a daughter, Alexandra Zahara Jones, 15. And so, Bowie made the world a better place for ordinary guys and gals.
But by the time of his death, the music of my youth was unrecognizable.
The American art form of rock 'n' roll was born in the 1950s, and entered into a death spiral with the premature losses of some of the greats — from Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison to John Lennon and Amy Winehouse. But the ultimate death rattle came with the rise of pop twit Justin Bieber, and pimply-faced boy bands such as One Direction, created not in basements, but studios.
Years after I saved up my lunch money to catch Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden, or "grubbed" a free Bowie ticket at Radio City Music Hall, how could I foresee the arrival of online ticket-scalping services such as StubHub?
Who knew that people would plunk down hundreds — even thousands — of dollars for the chance to see no-talent shrimps?
The most sought-after music venues today are no longer clubs, theaters or arenas. In Austin, Texas, a city whose leaders bear ambitions of making the place a destination for culture vultures, concerts are held at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
Adding cosmic insult to injury, CBGB, the now-closed punk-rock club on Manhattan's Bowery where I squandered many a brain cell during my misspent youth, was reopened last month as CBGB L.A.B. — lounge and bar — at Newark Liberty International Airport! I was determined to sample its $9 deviled eggs, $42 prime rib and $9 "disco fries" (ordered via iPad), but was crushed to learn that the eatery is located on the far side of security, making it necessary to buy a plane ticket before stomping on the corpses of rock legends past.
CBGB followed the late punk singer Joey Ramone, who is also buried in New Jersey.
Bowie, who lived much of his life in New York City, said goodbye to his fans and loved ones with his final album, "Blackstar," released on his 69th birthday, Jan. 8, just two days before he left the world.
Family members posted a message online informing the world that a private memorial ceremony in the legend's honor is to be held. Don't send flowers, cards or grieving stones. Listen to a David Bowie album.
May rock 'n' roll rest in peace.