Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A beautiful exit

I was 18 years old when I became a lifelong David Bowie fan. That summer, I did my leaving cert, and was counting down the days til I left my parents home. I saw it as an escape from a deeply unhappy household and childhood. It seemed like from the moment I could understand what she was saying, my mother wanted to re-enforce that life was a pile of shit, all attempts to succeed at anything or find love with anyone were doomed to fail, and it was best not to even try. Growing up in small town Ireland at the time with the widely held views that any sort of ambition was just getting notions above your station simply added to the unhappiness. So it's fair to say as I left with my mother's words of "You'll never amount to anything" ringing in my ears, I was in the market for other parental role models with more appealing messages. David Bowie, a seemingly reluctant star who critiqued and criticised his own fame, with his central message for outsiders (that no matter how much of an outsider or loser or weirdo you feel like at times, you do not have to conform to the restrictions and demands of others, and the only person you really have to answer to is yourself) seemed ideal. Most of the other fans I talked to after his death expressed surprise and even dismay at the depth of feeling his passing had engendered in them (Bowie fans tend to be cynics by nature: one even lamented "Good God, I feel like all those pathetic Princess Diana people"). The reason for this I think was Bowie was the guy who reached fans who never wanted to be "fans" of anyone in the first place. An icon for iconoclasts, an idol for people who were uncomfortable at the very notion of idolatry: this was Bowie's hardcore appeal. His unparalleled individualism attracted individuals who are naturally uncomfortable at any sort of supposed communal experience. He appealed to non conformists, oddities and outsiders.

Over the next ten years, Bowie was undoubtedly the biggest single influence on my thinking on practically everything. I avidly devoured all his interviews, everything written on him. By the mid 90s when the Internet started to be a thing, and most people started to think it could be a thing for porn or gambling, my first reaction was it could be a thing to share my passion for all things Bowie with other Bowie freaks. For roughly five years, my main pastime was my involvement in the online Bowie fan world that revolved around a Usenet group, a few fan websites, and a couple of mailing lists. The knowledge I had absorbed from ten years of obsessively reading everything related to Bowie meant I acquired a depth of superficial "knowledge" (from a purely fan perspective) that few others had. To my surprise, this meant other fans from all around the world started asking me questions, and I was seen as something of an authority. I wrote reviews, fan articles, lengthy posts. Much of my social life revolved around my interactions with Bowie fans.

Bowie himself was something of an Internet pioneer. He quickly saw what it was going to become at a time when people like Jeremy Paxman protested "but it's just another method of distribution". There were rumours backed up by pretty solid indicators that he spent a lot of time reading what his fans said and wrote about him. This was consistent with his stated self declaration that he was an artist who believed that the art was not complete until the audience had added its piece (he saw art not as something that ended when the artist delivered a piece but rather only started at that point, and was completed by the interpretations of the audience). This added an interesting dynamic to the Bowie online fan world, given that fans often believed their posts were read by the artist himself. One consequence of this was the rise of the impersonators: fans who got their jollies by pretending to be Bowie (or someone close to him, or even just other fans: I had a few impersonators of my own). The more transparent ones openly claimed it: the smarter ones just hinted at it enigmatically. Some were convincing enough to the point that some fans (myself included) believed it was possible it really was Bowie. At least one almost certainly actually was.

Some time in the late 90s, I started getting emails from someone I initially believed to be a very clever impersonator from the "enigmatic hints" camp. This person expressed themselves in a manner becoming of someone of Bowie's erudition, was well researched (no obvious factual errors), never posted at a time when Bowie clearly couldn't have. They never stated themselves to be Bowie but clearly spoke from his perspective, and the emails were always signed simply "db". All the emails were coming from an email address that started with the letters "bxqr": when I suggested to my correspondent suspiciously that those letters brought the words "Bowie, Ex Queer" to my mind, my correspondent simply responded "Mine too, but sadly not before I chose four seemingly random letters". I decided to keep an open mind that it might.....might....be Bowie. Even if it wasn't, the person was funny enough and interesting enough in themselves to be worth spending time corresponding with. The correspondence grew over time from a few short snappy emails a week to sometimes three or four quite long and in depth discussions a day. This initially left me less inclined to believe I really was corresponding with Bowie himself: after all, he really should have better things to be doing with his time than swapping emails with a fan, right? I kept trying to catch him out: either on facts, or with tricks like emailing him just as I knew he was going on stage in New York or wherever, hoping the impersonator would answer instantly thereby removing all doubt. I never caught him out. I ran searches on the email address to see what popped up (trolls who like to impersonate celebrities are generally not smart enough to use different email addresses). Nothing did. I decided to ask a friend who worked with him musically a favour: I asked him to confirm or deny that the email address was the same one Bowie used to correspond with him. My friend was understandably wary, given how guarded Bowie was about his privacy. In the end, we agreed on just four letters, and he confirmed that yes, the email address he dealt with also started with "bxqr". At this point, I decided that yes, it was David Bowie I was corresponding with, at least some of the time.

In late 2003, Bowie came to Dublin to perform two concerts at the Point Theatre. They were filmed for a concert video, which would turn out to be his last ever. I had made it a rule from the start that I would never ask my correspondent for a favour that Bowie could grant (even though this could have quickly cleared up whether it was really him or not). My other rule was I would never reveal to anyone anything he told me in confidence, something which goes against my natural blabbermouth tendencies and something he remarked on favourably a few times conspiratorially ("I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but I haven't seen you spill anything I told you before, so...."). Tickets were tough to come by but by now I was an old hand with a good network so I secured two tickets for both nights which sold out in minutes. My correspondent sent a message saying "I hear both concerts sold out instantly so I've put you plus one on the guest list". I withheld the information that I already had two tickets: this seemed like the chance to prove (or disprove) the notion that I was dealing with Bowie, and even if I was the victim of a ridiculously elaborate hoax and this was supposed to be the payoff (humiliation trying to get into a concert claiming to be on the guest list), well, I still had my two purchased tickets as backup.

In the run up to the concert, I was inundated by messages from fans desperate to get their hands on tickets. I initially just sympathised with their plight, but then started to feel bad at the thought that I might be able to get in without my tickets and then they would go unused. So I relented and told one guy who waxed at length how he had never seen Bowie live and feared he never would (there were already rumours this would be Bowie's last ever tour) and how it would be life changing for him and his boyfriend to see him in concert, that I might.....might....be able to help. I arranged to meet him in town before the concert, at a nearby pub, planning to shoot off at some point to find out if I was actually on the guest list, and return with the tickets if I was.

So about an hour before the concert, I present myself to the security representative, mumbling that I think I might....might....be on some sort of guestlist. The security man in question, a real salt of the earth built like a shit brickhouse type with an accent that strongly suggested at a life spent mostly in Tallaght, looked at me suspiciously.

"You might.....might be on the guestlist bud? What makes you think that?"

I mumbled very unsurely that I had been told I was.

"I didn't even know there was a guestlist".

I mumbled something that may have been "Oh I see".

He shouted "Bill! Bill! Is there a guestlist for tonight?"

I now found myself looking at an even bigger security man, also more than likely from Tallaght.

"Who wants to know, Ben?"

"This gentleman thinks there might be...and he might.....might....be on it".

Bill looked at me suspiciously.

"What's your name, pal?"

Showing admirable powers of recollection in the face of such pressure, I somehow managed to remember my own name.

Ben pulled out a one page list that looked like it had at most two lines printed on it. He looked at one of the lines, then looked at me.

"Yeah pal, your name is here, plus one. Where's your plus one?"

With that, I scooted off to the pub to collect plus one and give the two lads the spare tickets.

Earlier that day, I had swapped emails with my correspondent as we watched the rugby World Cup final between England and Australia. For those who don't remember, it was a thrillingly close encounter. In the last minute of the match, Australia kicked a penalty to level the match and send it to extra time. Two minutes into extra time, England kicked a penalty to take the lead, which they held until three minutes from the end, when an Australian penalty again levelled the scores. With 26 seconds remaining on the clock, Wilkinson scored a drop kick to win the World Cup for England.

As a patriotic Englishman, my correspondent was understandably delighted. He asked if he should mention the match on stage that evening, if Irish fans would be likely to share his delight. I suggested it might be wiser not to, not just because we have a long history of cheering for anyone but England, but also because I didn't feel many rugby fans were Bowie fans, and vice versa. I jokingly suggested if it was crowd pleasing banter he wanted, Tiocfaidh Ar La might do the job better (for those who don't know, this is a rather mischievous idea given that it was the IRA slogan at the time). He asked me for the phonetic pronunciation and I played along.

To my surprise, Bowie opened the concert with those three words.

That tour would prove to be his final one. It was curtailed the following year when he suffered a heart attack and was subsequently diagnosed with an acutely blocked artery that required an angioplasty procedure.

After his recovery, Bowie seemed to move into retirement comfortably and devote himself to being a devoted full time Dad to his young daughter Lexi. There were intermittent cameos but no more albums, and the retirement seemed permanent. Our correspondence tapered off and I was forced to find other pastimes. My running career took off unexpectedly when what was intended as a farewell appearance in the New York ultra marathon in Central Park ended in improbable victory. Earlier today, I went back through my old emails and found that incredibly in the week before I flew to New York, Bowie sent me some useful links on things to see and do in New York, and immediately after the race, he was one of the first to congratulate me. As my poker career took off, he feigned some interest or at least amusement at my latest improbable career twist. I joked that it was his fault: without any new Bowie albums to obsess over, I had to find some other outlet for my compulsions. This was intended as a joke but like many jokes has more than a grain of truth. Not only did I actually need to find another hobby to replace reading Bowie interviews, but without Bowie's influence on my mindset, his view that even if everything is not possible you should at least give it your all before giving up, I would not have been the sort of 42 year old who knew nothing about poker but would still look at an online poker landscape dominated by guys younger than my kids and think "Hey, maybe I could do that".

As poker took over my life, and with Bowie in apparent retirement, my social life no longer revolved around the Bowie fan world, and my correspondence with the man himself withered to a few messages a year, usually around birthdays or holidays. I guess the sad reality was that I wasn't really all that interested in the latest episode of Spongebob (a firm doting Daddy/daughter favourite it seems) and he had no interest in hearing my latest bad beat stories.

In the early hours of the 8th of January, 2013 (Bowie's 66th birthday), I was winding down my nightly online session on a final table, when I opened Twitter to find it had exploded with news that at midnight Bowie had released his first new single in almost a decade, with no pre publicity or fanfare. He'd simply put the new song up at his website, and the world went crazy. Within hours, "Where Are We Now?" had topped the Itunes charts. As I signed on to Gmail to send him a "Happy birthday but wtf?" message, I saw an email from an old familiar address that had sat unopened for days (I no longer check my email daily) that simply said "Something is coming".

That summer, I travelled back from Las Vegas with Daragh Davey at the end of the World Series of Poker. We had a few hours to kill in London en route, so I dragged Daragh into central London to the "David Bowie Is..." exhibition. As a general rule I like to keep my obsessions and my compulsions separate. I try not to bore runners and Bowie fans with bad beat stories, and I generally no more than hint at a previous life as a hardcore Bowie fan (much less a correspondent) to my poker buddies. So Daragh had no real idea why we were even going to such a thing.

He seemed suitably impressed though, and as I scanned the gift shop afterwards for merchandise I didn't already own, he thumbed through one of the many Bowie biographies, before his eyes widened and he exclaimed "Oh my God! You're mentioned in here!" It takes a lot to get young Daragh excited to the point of exclamation about anything, so that's right up there with as one of my favourite moments in poker.

My emails with David remained intermittent the last few years. When I wrote what many people think is my best ever blog about my son Oisin, I thought of him a lot and the advice he occasionally offered as one father to another. I ended that blog with a Philip Larkin poem which Bowie had told me was his favourite, on the difficulties of parenthood (one thing we shared was we were both products of unhappy homes with ill suited parents). Over the next couple of days I agonised over whether it was advisable to even publish a blog that had no relation to poker, so I sent it first to some close poker friends, and to David. This is another such blog, but one I sadly can't send him for his thumbs up or down.

In the early hours of January 10th, I was winding down after a long Sunday grind watching bad TV, when I chanced onto an RTE News segment waxing lyrical about Bowie's acclaimed latest album, Blackstar. I drifted off to sleep happily thinking about the beautiful new album, not yet realising it was a beautiful farewell note, and remembering that I hadn't sent my customary Happy Birthday email. It can wait til morning, I thought.

I woke up to a message from Sean, one of the many great friends I gained through Bowie, saying he felt absurd and mortified to be thinking this way, but he felt like he'd lost a close friend of 40 years. Like most hardcore Bowie fans, Sean is a hardened cynic by nature, and also has never allowed his fandom to obscure his ability to criticise and critique Bowie and his work when he felt it came up short. So I initially thought "Oh....he doesn't like the new album, and he's being overly dramatic". But then it suddenly hit me...it might....might.....and with a sinking heart I signed on to Twitter and saw Bowie was trending ahead of Justin Bieber by several million tweets. It couldn't just be reaction to the new album.

I spent the rest of the day feeling as sad and griefstricken as I ever have in my life, while simultaneously sharing Sean's mortification and sense of absurdity that I felt like this in a world where millions of Syrians are starving, over a celebrity I never even had a face to face conversation with. I still can't really explain it, other than to say Bowie was the single biggest influence on my life and how I have chosen to live it. He was an idol and an icon to people like me who scoff at such notions, he was the closest thing to a father figure I've had in my life, he was a thrillingly sharp bright and funny correspondent for several years, and he helped me with things as small as the best website for what's happening in New York to things as big as to how you should think about and live life on your own terms. It was never a relationship of anything even approaching equals yet he never lorded his exalted status over me (he was polite and solicitous to a fault). I got an insight into the sharpest smartest mind I've ever encountered: at worst all he got from me was pathetic devotion and at best perhaps a few interesting questions at times and the correct pronunciation of Tiocfaidh ar la.

Early in his life, Bowie mastered the perfect dramatic entrance, and he left us with the most graceful of exits. He leaves a beautiful farewell album and a touching final video, one I feel certain will go down as one of the most artful exits in history. All I have is this dreadfully inadequate blog which doesn't even scratch the surface of what this genius meant to millions of fans like me, or start to explain just how and why he meant so much to all of us. I can find no words other than goodbye David, it was a privilege to know you even a little.

Slan leat.


Tribute álainn. Combhrón leat Dara.

Great read Dara. As poker players, we really have no idea whats going on in peoples lives or where others have come from. We tend to base or views on what we see at the tables. Thanks for sharing this incredible experience.

How beautiful...this is my little tribut of a lifelong friend. I fell so lucky to sepend a lot of time with him: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.312061725582948.72016.311466542309133&type=3

I got lost in that blog Dara!! Amazing tribute.

One of your best blogs yet Dara, you were indeed privilaged to have had such a personal insight into the man, the genius that was (can't belive I'm writing 'was') David' Jones' Bowie.

Beautiful words Dara.
Friendship comes in many forms, and encompasses many depths. Yours truly was the real thing.
I am so sorry for your loss xxxxx

I immediately thought of you when I heard the news even though I didn’t know any of this, other than you were quite fond of him.

I didn’t get caught by Bowie until later on. I was always aware of him but my own musical journey saw me enthralled by the Scottish indie scene, then via them back to the Velvet Underground & Lou Reed & Iggy & the Stooges. I had no idea of the musical connections and that Bowie sang on and produced some of my favourite songs. So I’d been a fan of Bowie far longer than I realised.

Some of the cool kids I knew were full on Bowie fans. One of my friends worked as a chamber maid while at uni. Bowie was in Edinburgh and staying at her hotel in 1990 and she was ecstatic, and stalkerish. She waited till she knew he was out of his room and using her chamber maid master key went in to have her moment, to look around, touch his possessions, to smell them, feel his aura, a brief chance to have breathed the same air. She was so excited and wanted to share the moment so she left and went to get her friend, another crazy but cool indie girl who was also fanatical about Bowie and also worked in the hotel. Together they went back to his room, in they went, my friend saying how amazing it was, can you believe we’re actually in his room. A full minute of them in rapture before my friend noticed the lit cigarette sitting in the ashtray. PANIC… that wasn’t there before, they’re in Bowie’s room and SO IS DAVID BOWIE!!! And he knows they’re there because they’ve been talking and been indiscreet, fanatical, creepy stalkers and he hasn’t revealed himself (hiding in the bathroom was the best guess). They immediately ran out the room, but not before grabbing a souvenir, a pack of cigarettes sitting on the table, David Bowie’s cigarettes.

They fully expected to lose their jobs, and it would have been worth it, however he didn’t report it. Clearly he’d had to put up with things like that a lot over the years so he didn’t make a fuss about it.

That was my Bowie anecdote. Someone I once knew was once in the same room as David Bowie but he had the sense to hide from the crazy, stalker, teenage girls. I thought that was my closest connection to him until now.

Thank you for sharing your stories and memories and being even cooler than I thought you could possibly be.

I’m so sorry for your personal loss.

Simply amazing, not many people can catch my attention with the written word but I was engrossed from start to finish....truly a professor

Simply amazing, not many people can catch my attention with the written word but I was engrossed from start to finish....truly a professor

Beautiful tribute Dara! I remember reading so many things written by you way back on alt.fan.david-bowie .. thank you so much for expressing the awful pain and emptiness of the past 24 hours. Kati

What a great piece, remarkable read. Very touching and im sorry for your loss.

Very nice indeed. I remember well the pieces you would write, back in the 90s when I was running the Shadowman site. Those were great times, these are sad days. Christian.

This is a lovely read. If I sent an email to my idols would I be lucky enough to get an engaging response? I don't think so. What a gentleman.
Sorry for your loss x

This was amazing. I dearly hope you'll make some of the more suitable exchanges public; would love to hear some of your conversations on the artists' life, self-belief and family.

What a privilege!

Really engrossing stuff. Just beautiful. Such a wonderful tribute to an amazing artist. You were both so blessed to find each other

Really engrossing stuff. Just beautiful. Such a wonderful tribute to an amazing artist. You were both so blessed to find each other

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Thank you for all the kind comments

Very well written Dara. It's seems like the easiest things to write about are those closest to the heart.

Wow thanks for sharing very impressive.
I was one of the distant fans of his. I never owned an album of his, but like what I hear when my nonprofit station plays him. I too am beside myself in how he pulled this all off.

You've told an amazing story here Dara and thank you for sharing.

He really got this internet thing way before anyone else.


Amazing story!! thanks for sharing.
Maggie (Susan's friend) x

oh wow what an incredible story. thank you so much for sharing. brings the great man even closer to us and makes me want to cry all over again.

Thanks man. What a lovely story. I can see why he thought you worth staying in touch with.

Thanks again everyone and @Adam, I remember talking to him about "The Adam and Joe" show back in the day

Thanks Darragh, great read I always wondered who promoted Bowie to say those opening words that Sunday night in the point. And to think it was recorded on the DVD. Bowie still lives on through his music.


Thanks Darragh, great read I always wondered who promoted Bowie to say those opening words that Sunday night in the point. And to think it was recorded on the DVD. Bowie still lives on through his music.


Accidentally came across this blog. A beautiful tribute, thank you.


What a lovely read. Such a nice reflection. So cool that you corresponded with the great man himself.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful tribute.

This is fabulous. I've been on verge of tears for days but this finally broke the dam, so to speak. What a gracious, brilliant artist bowie was - and what a perfect tribute you've written. Thank you for sharing this.

A comforting read. Thanks for confirming my suspicions that he was what I hoped he was.

Absolutely wonderful blog that's been shared by several of my FB friends. I did meet Bowie face to face, both for an hour-long interview and for a performance to just 30 people at the recording of Jools Holland's Later, but certainly didn't know him as you did: your friendship, though virtual, sounds as deep as any. Incidentally -- the Venn diagram of rabid poker players and obsessive Bowie fans must be small, and we both share a place at the centre! Hope to run into you at some tournament and share a pint. My own DB memories plus interview here, fyi: http://bit.ly/1JFn7tN

Hello Darragh :)
Thankyou for this piece..beautifully written off the cuff so to eat ..and heartfelt.
You were blesses to connect with him so directly if virtually.
He was indeed a lovely human being
With his feet on the ground.
Even though he lived such a remarkable life.
I loved him to bits.
And resonated completely with his view on life the universe and everything! 🌠
I too am an artist and poet.An outsider and one who feels marginalised in the wider world of business and commerce.
He made me feel less of a freak.
And part of something truly significant.
It is a gift to be able to live the life you choose..no matter how difficult that life may sometimes be.
He has inspired and influenced me no end..and I am so grateful to have been around his music for most of my life.
I am 50. Half a century woman. :)
And loved him from the age of 7 yrs..crazy huh?
The day I received my copy of Blackstar - I was playing it in the kitchen to my youngest daughter who is 14 and has absorbed Bowie by osmosis through me all her life".and as I listened to it said that it sounded like his goodbye..this was two days before he died..prosaic?
Or just further evidence..that intuition is all?
It is a remarkable piece of work..extremely moving and elegiac.
Also very humble.
I am still fathoming the depths of it lyrically and so far feel that there are significant political undertones..and a message.
Once again..for your piece here.
It really moved me.

What a beautiful read, I'm so sorry for your loss. I haven't listened to nearly enough Bowie in my life other than his big hits, but I bought Blackstar the day it came out after loving the singles and now I can't wait to dive into the rest of his discography. Rest in Peace David Bowie

Thank you, Darragh, for sharing this, your precious account and thank you db for everything. X

I've this vague remembory as a 15 yr old discovering Bowes for the first time. I'm e call him Bowes, fer now. And perchansing upon the site you were actively wit to; Teenagewildlife.com, I believe it was and still is. And darning such a crush on you, and meanwhile you were most probably intact with the man hisself. And here I'm trying to find a way to simply email you, singular, cos that memory shines such a light on my childhood; and here are you, impossible to find. So screw it. Have a good life. Seems you're on a promising path to do so.

Hello Dara,
I never usually post comments as it is my 60th year, but David Bowie was very big when I was back in College. Being Welsh with an Irish g/f it's always good to see that music transcends the usual Irish hate English. The Welsh loved Bowie but the Welsh establishment refused to pay his fee of 100 pounds to appear in concert in the town of Carmarthen years ago (short arms in deep pockets). He will always be remembered. We come and we go and who and how we touch those who have contact with us feel and remember. An excellent post and condolences to all who are touched.

Thanks again everyone. Email is daraokearney@gmail.com

Wonderful blog post!

Ronnie Nestor

What a heartfelt story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Powerful, poignant & hilarious at the same time. Truly a unique human being. Thanks for sharing, read this post while watching on TV Bowie's Point gig and a friend of mine, another Bowie super fan, who was there at The Point that night, tweeted me your post to me .. I wondered who gave him Irish lessons, ha!

Dara, this is beautiful. I remember you from TW back in the day. Bowie fandom is a wonderful and engrossing place to inhabit - bt it did leave a corner for Dara fangirling a bit too!
These past few days I've been grieving more than I thought it possible to grieve for someone I've never met. It's been a nonstop cycle of worshiping at the alter of the back catalog in deepest gratitude, obsessively seeking out memorial testimonies and tributes, and just listening to old interviews, weeping at this great loss. I feel it was almost crel of db to release such a wonderful album so soon before he died? Did he have to remind us so acutely how flipping wonderful he was as an artist? But is probably just the third stage of grief speaking. I'll look forward to acceptance. Meanwhile, I'm grateful that I found this blog. Thankyou Dara. Slan leat.

Looked for you on TW over last few years Dara, good to find you at last.
What a desperately sad time. Utterly bereft. I remember meeting you before the Point show in 2003, you were along with your wife and son.
I bought ★ Saturday last and spent Sunday listening to it - bowled over. Such a masterpiece.
Woke up Monday and read the dreadful news. What a gift to leave us with though....
Stay in touch.

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Hi Dara
Wow your story is brilliant. Listening to all of his music in the last week made me realise that I am a bigger fan than I thought. David Bowie was just such a fantastic Artist and I feel a great loss this week. We won'the see his like again.

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I really enjoyed reading your post. It just highlights the fact that David was always inspirational on a human level. He was a positive force. It was nice that he was so curious. We can all take a leaf out of his book. All the best, Nicky

Thanks guys.

Brian: I remember that night like it was last week! :) Memory is an odd thing given there are things from last week I barely remember. Great times, and great to hear from you again.

Cathrine and Bethany: Who knew I had fangirls, even a little :) I'm honoured

Hi Dara, thanks for sharing that story. I did wonder what prompted him to say 'tiochfaidh ar la ( comes up too chafing in predictor. Lol). At least that's one mystery solved ✌️❤️

Hi Dara, thanks for sharing that story. I did wonder what prompted him to say 'tiochfaidh ar la ( comes up too chafing in predictor. Lol). At least that's one mystery solved ✌️❤️

What a wonderful piece Dara, fascinating and beautifully put. It goes a long way to helping me get my head round how i've been feeling for the past week since hearing the news. I've also been feeling the guilt of grieving for a human being who I had neither met nor who even knew I existed, but reading stories like your own and testaments from the other fans has helped enormously. There's something i've wondered about for the last 3 and a half years or so, maybe yourself or one of the readers could help clear it up? Around about August/September 2012 I heard a telephone interview with Tony Visconti for BBC6Music. Although interested in what he had to say due to his relationship with Bowie I wasn't engrossed due to work. It wasn't until near the end of the interview when asked what he was currently working on that for some reason I paid more attention. "I'm working on something very exciting at the moment" was his reply. When asked to elaborate on what that was he said, "I can't speak about it but all I'll say is it'll be out in January and it's going to make a lot of people very happy!" Immediately after hearing this I thought "New Bowie album". I had no doubts that's what he was implying, especially because I knew Bowie's birthday was in January, so I immediately texted my biggest Bowie fan friend. "Can't see it" he said. He was of the opinion that the fact he hadn't done anything in ten years pointed to the fact that he was finished with music. I then started scouring the internet to see if anyone had picked up on this but found nothing. So I put a reminder in my phone for Bowie's birthday and waited patiently but excitedly at the same time. When the news broke on that morning of his birthday I have to say the feeling of satisfaction (haha) was only eclipsed by the joy of new music from the main man. First person to contact me was my friend, "how could you possibly have known this" he said. To be honest I was and always have been more surprised that to my knowledge nobody else had made the connection after hearing the 'Visconti interview'. Anyway, after hearing Blackstar for the first time and watching the two videos I had no idea what he was 'really' trying to tell us and I can't imagine anybody outside his close circle did either. I obviously noticed the symbolism and sensed some finality about it but at the most thought that this was maybe a goodbye to a career, a bookend maybe. As I said at the start last Monday was tough and that feeling of embarrassment was real, but reading stories like yours and other fans has taught me that the simple fact that Bowie was so different means we the fans are allowed to feel different towards him. He made us happy after all!

Thanks Martin. It seems like most people are surprised by the depth of their own reaction, me included. Not sure why nobody picked up on the Visconti remarks: I guess by then we weren't paying close attention just assuming we'd heard the last from Bowie musically


Thank you for sharing your amazing experience. It makes me feel a little less weird for feeling such terrible grief this week. I've never felt this affected by the death of someone I did not actually know. I'm a musician/songwriter and count Bowie as a huge influence but as I read all the many tributes by those who knew him I fell in love with David Jones the Husband, Father and all around cool guy that everyone described him to be. And then the loss really seemed unbearable. Your tribute is really one of the best of all the many out there so thank you again for sharing your story.


Dara, I spent a lot of time on the alt.fan.david-bowie in the 90s, and remember you as a really vivid presence. After I woke up to about 12 texts from friends in earlier time zones telling me how sorry they were last Monday and had about an hour to absorb, I wondered how you were taking it.

I am having trouble working out how I could possibly manage a world in which there is no David Bowie working along at whatever he wants to, whether or not he chooses to tell us about it. Even all these days out, I feel crushed, and then I feel I should stop being all out of proportion. Not that it works.

Anyway, i just wanted to say how much I appreciated this post. It's good to know you're still out here.

~ Eva Crider Reffell

Go hiontach ar fad! I have always wondered how it came about that Bowie said "Tiocaidh ár lá" and it blewvme away reading your piece. Like so many others, I dreaded the day Bowie would die and didn't realise how huge an impact his death would have on me and on the world. I guess I always had a headphones-on-record-spinning-rich-inner-world relationship to his music. Like yourself, it was an escape from small town/small minded Ireland. Go raibh maith agat Data agus David Bowie.

Beautiful recollections Dara. You were a very faithful friend.

Excellent. Proof he was as I always knew, the Mainman

I've been a successful, professional journalist all my life and this was a beautiful, moving story. My best childhood friend was into Bowie well before me but I'll never forget seeing Starman on Top of the Pops for the first time. When Young Americans came out, I really began to take notice and worked backwards through the discography. As a soul fan, I was even more enamoured with Let's Dance and saw Bowie with my friend in the open air at the Milton Keynes Bowl for the Serious Moonlight tour. It was a magical night. I never saw Bowie again and I wouldn't describe myself as an obsessed fan, but his music was a soundtrack for my life. My childhood friend died tragically young 11 years ago but I visited his mother last Sunday. Without any prompting from me, she started talking about Bowie and how Mike loved his music. We reminisced about the teenage parties, where Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory and Aladdin Sane would always be playing. She also told me how Mike's daughter had felt so moved the day Bowie died because she knew how much he meant to her dad. The night before Bowie's death was announced I rang another friend, my best friend from college, because it was his birthday. As we were talking, I could hear music and asked him what it was. He said it was Blackstar and it was brilliant. We speculated that evening about whether Bowie would ever perform again. The following day I texted him to say I'd heard in the news that Bowie had died. We both felt we'd lost a friend we had never met. Bowie touched the lives of so many people, more than we will ever probably know. He has left us a brilliant legacy, not least his last creative masterpiece. We should all be grateful for that. Bob

Most "I met or glimpsed Bowie, once " tales are spun from much less interesting (and substantial) stuff. A really great read about your amazing luck!

Fantastic account and recollection of your relationship with David Bowie and thank you for sharing it with us.

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Hi Dara. Fabulous and interesting read on your ethereal relationship with David Bowie. I was a fan of his in the early seventies, not so much later in life. When you tweeted about all the offers of tv and film he turned down, and I replied I thought he would have been good in Dr Who! I would probably have kept my comment to myself if I had previously read your blog on him.
keep on blogging, Robert

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Hi Dara, came here via Adam Buxton's podcast (late to the party as usual). This was a great tribute but what struck me most was that you didn't ask to meet him. Reading this, it seems the thought didn't even cross your mind. He probably would've said yes if you'd asked for a meeting backstage. Then again, that would've probably been very hurried and not very satisfying. But ... I'm not the biggest Bowie fan but wasn't he living in New York? I think in your place, I would've asked about a meeting in a café or something when you were over there. Having said that, I understand where you're coming from. I can relate to your need to keep this a private thing, not talk to anybody about the things he was telling you and not broadcast around the fact that you were e-mailing David Fucking Bowie. Because this was special, it had to be protected even from him? Because a meeting in person changes things? I can relate to you not wanting that and also keeping the fan vs. idol status quo in place. I just thought it was curious to note.

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Removed comments spam.

@Morgenstern: You kinda nailed why I didn't want to meet him in person. I felt it would be forced and unsatisfactory and didn't really see what either of us would get from it that we weren't getting from the email exchanges. It was hard enough not to go all gushing fan over his words on a screen once I realised they were actually coming from him: I think I'd have found it near impossible in person.

As a twenty-something from Asia I only really got to know him around 2014, and it's such a strange feeling when I switched between his early works to his latest music video ("valentine's day" at that time) across the huge gap, the cracked actor and the old man in white shirt, so different but so strikingly alike, just like witness a magician doing the greatest tricks. One after another. A cynic myself I tried to be conscious not to evolve into a fangirl, but there are moments I couldn't stop tearing up about the thought that he is still alive, walking and breathing across the same world that I am in, and I possibly might maybe still able to meet him someday. Now that world is gone.

I was wondering if you ever went to the places Bowie recommended while in New York, for the possibility he was leaving hints about where to bump into him. By the end of the article I feel a bit sorry not to see you meet him face to face, although the correspondence and kinship between you two is enough to envy about. At least your existence crossed in his mind and his life in some form. I could imagine him beaming at your tentative emails and typing jollily back (like in his doc "Inspirations")...

Anyway, thank you for the heartwarming tribute. The more I get to know Bowie the more glad and proud I am to be his admirer.

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