And the stars look very different today...
IN 2013 I was one of more than 300,000 people who went to the David Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum: a wonderful collection of costumes, posters, records and other memorabilia.
I wrote in this column how my headset, provided by the museum, responded to sensors which streamed, not only information about the exhibits, but also snippets of the great man’s music.
Much has been written about Bowie’s androgyny and alter egos, but he was more than just a showman. I was fascinated by him as a writer and loved seeing the self-editing on rough pages where he first scrawled numbers like Life on Mars.
In the 1970s when I was working as a primary teacher in Ealing borough I often used his record, Space Oddity in creative writing and drama lessons.
The pupils loved miming Major Tom’s story as I played the music: ‘take your protein pills and put your helmet on’; ‘engines on, check ignition/and may God’s love be with you’ – then the dramatic countdown to lift-off which we all chanted together.
The youngsters enjoyed playing the astronaut ‘floating in a tin can’, before leaving the capsule and finally being cut off from home – ‘planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do …’
Now, like Major Tom, Bowie has gone, but unlike many of today’s so-called celebrities who share intimate details of every personal problem, Bowie kept his terminal condition to himself.
Only a year ago he was working hard to record a new album which, with impeccable timing, was released two days before his death.
He was also co-writing Lazarus, a musical which premiered in New York in December – his last public appearance.
He clearly inspired incredible loyalty.
After his death the show’s director related how Bowie collapsed with exhaustion after coming off stage for the final curtain call, but nothing of his distress leaked out to the media.
His family will not be surprised by the glowing tributes and inevitable shrines, which are springing up as I write, as he has a huge fan base spanning 30 years.
Even those who are not fans must have been moved and impressed by the dignified manner of his exit.
But who would have thought the man who loved to shock and push boundaries would end up being such a great role model for all of us.