the man who fell to earth

January 22, 2008

The picture and this article from the Guardian last November say it all. He is, undoubtedly, the coolest man ever to walk the earth.


Bowie shows how to look cool in custody

Lucy Mangan
Wednesday November 14, 2007
The Guardian

In case you were ever in any doubt that David Bowie is, was and always will be the hippest man ever to walk the earth, behold this 1976 mugshot, currently for sale on eBay, taken by the New York police department after his arrest for possession of marijuana in Rochester.

If you didn’t know it was a mugshot, you could easily mistake it for an album or magazine cover – a carefully contrived assemblage customarily requiring the efforts of dozens of modern artisans labouring under hot lights and cool attitudes, rather than a quick Polaroid snap by a desk sergeant with, presumably, much better things to do than process potheads, however androgynously beautiful they might be.

It flies in the face of all celebrity post-arrest pictorial traditions, whereby the great and good stand before us stripped of make-up, money and flattering lighting, suddenly revealed as mere mortals after all. Homeless mere mortals usually – Dennis Hopper looks like a belligerent down-and-out in his 1975 shot, taken after he was arrested for reckless driving in Mexico, and Nick Nolte in his 2002 version couldn’t look more dishevelled if he had asked the police to drag him through a variety of hedges backwards before taking the picture for their records. The Thin White Duke, by contrast, looks immaculate.

He has even avoided the pitfalls presented by the to-camera stare. Hugh Grant went for knowing ruefulness after he was picked up for fumbling with Divine Brown on Sunset Boulevard, which makes him look both guilty and crushed. Mel Gibson aimed at apologetic twinkling after being stopped on suspicion of drunk driving and disbursing an anti-semitic tirade against the arresting officer. He missed by a mile, ending up somewhere between fear and desperation. Both would have been better off following Bowie’s example – an unflappable level gaze that admits nothing, but with the hint of a smile that suggests all sorts of ongoing exotically depraved activities whose existence the authorities do not even suspect.


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