As the world mourns the passing of a true innovator and music legend, Annabel Giles recalls the time she lost her cool in front of the man who fell to earth.
It was just after Band Aid, and I came home from a modelling shoot late one afternoon, exhausted, with the grand plan of lying on the sofa watching The Young Ones and getting an Indian takeaway. My husband (Midge Ure) came into the sitting room and said, “Don’t get too comfortable; we’re going out tonight.”
Now I had a rule of not going out when I was working the next day, which he knew about, and so I reminded him of this, in no uncertain terms. “Oh that’s a shame,” he said, with an annoying smile, “because we’ve been invited to have dinner tonight with David Bowie.”
I sprang off that sofa and ran round the house screaming. “What?! How come? What? Are you kidding? What? WHAT?” I flung everything out of my wardrobe, shouting, “No, no, no, oh God, NO!!” Luckily, I hadn’t been bothered to take off my makeup, and so I still had the work of a top makeup artist on my face, and decided to leave it right there. My hair was huge, which was appropriate; it was 1984.
Midge followed me round the house as I ran from room to room shouting, looking for something, anything, just something and explained what had happened: David Bowie’s ‘people’ had contacted Midge’s ‘people’ to ask him and Bob out to dinner, by way of thanking them for Band Aid and all that they had done. (Let’s face it, he was Head Of Everything in music at the time, and so famous that they hadn’t even tried to ask if he would sing on the record.) He had specified that they should find a discreet venue, where he wouldn’t be mobbed, and where the press wouldn’t be alerted. They were to let him know the plan by 5pm.
“David Bowie had been my hero, our hero, the world’s hero, for ever. He gave us permission to be different, exciting, splendid.”
Needless to say, there had been a great deal of headless chickening throughout the day while I was at work. I mean, where on earth do you take David Bowie for dinner? We only ever went to two places, the Hiroko in Holland Park or the Ganges in Goldhawk Road. (Must write a book one day about the glamorous life of the rockstar/model combo.)
Midge’s manager had eventually come up with The Belfry, an exclusive members’ only club belonging to Anton Mosimann in Knightsbridge, which had a private room at the back. Everybody had had to join the club at great expense, which Bob wasn’t happy about as he didn’t have any money at the time.
I remember sitting in the cab (there would probably be no parking around there, and anyway, there was bound to be lots of rock star excess) wondering what was in store. I was wearing some brown loafers, some baggy brown trousers, a white silk blouse and a long paisley coat, which I hoped nobody else knew was supposed to be a dressing gown. Well what the hell, he’d worn some funny stuff in his time, hadn’t he?
David Bowie had been my hero, our hero, the world’s hero, for ever. Everyone at school was crazy for him, everyone still is. He was the first person to keep changing his image; his music was as good as his looks, he was an artist but we all understood. He gave us permission to be different, exciting, splendid. He kept us guessing, we never quite knew what he was going to come up with next, but each album was more thrilling than the one before. He was like a Doctor Who; you had your favourites, but all were brilliant in their own way.
And now I was about to sit down to dinner with him! We all got there early: me and Midge, Bob and Paula, Midge’s manager Chris Morrison and Mandy, his girlfriend at the time. The room was just right, I seem to remember there being stars on the navy blue ceiling, it was discreet and yet intimidating, absolutely perfect.
He arrived with his assistant Coco, a beautiful lady with short dark hair, French I think. I think I was expecting Ziggy Stardust to walk in the room, or at least the Thin White Duke, but no. In came a man who looked like a squaddie on weekend leave. He had short mousy brown hair, and a little moustache on his upper lip. Normal. He could obviously tell we were surprised, as he said, “This is my best disguise. I can walk down Oxford Street like this and nobody knows it’s me.” I’m not surprised, he looked… well, dull.
“You look fantastic!” I shrieked, unnecessarily, and resolved to keep quiet for the rest of the dinner.
He chose the topics of conversation, Chris Morrison chose the wine. (He was the only one of us who knew anything about it, and he chose well and expensively. Well, it’s not every day you choose wine for David Bowie, is it?) Bowie wasn’t drinking, so we all did. Lots.
“He was polite, charming, and would have been just like you and me if we had let him.”
He talked about his art. He was painting at the time, and described his work to us. Nobody said much, as nobody knew anything about art either. Except Bob, who knows lots about lots.
Paula, by the way, didn’t say one word from beginning to end. She just pouted, beautifully, the way she did. Much cleverer than me, I could only blurt stuff like “gosh!” and “how super!” from time to time, too loudly and too often. This happens to me when I’m nervous, it’s like a boarding school Tourette’s. Mind you, I wasn’t the only one, I’ve never seen grown men laugh so long and loud at anything, literally anything, another man said. (“I’ll have the souffle, please.” “Hilarious, so funny!”)
The food was delicious, but tiny (this was at the height of nouvelle cuisine) and Bowie left early, I think just after the main course. I know. We were all very disappointed (but too cool to say so, obviously) as we had had visions of getting very drunk with him while he told story after story. So we did it without him.
And that was my dinner with David Bowie. He was polite, charming, and would have been just like you and me if we had let him. I sensed a feeling of loneliness from him, but this is often the case with very famous people. I’m glad we never knew too much about him, as this is what makes a real star. I’m so sad he’s died, but he’s still alive in my heart and always will be. His body has gone, but his music is eternal.
One last thing: he didn’t pay the bill. But what price dinner with David Bowie?3134 Views
Annabel GIles is a mother and a doglover and a writer and a chatterbox and a tv presenter and a homeowner and a girlfriend and menopausal so all that’s probably in the wrong order but what of it so there.