I was on my way home after dinner with a friend, when I heard of David Bowie’s death. We had eaten Vietnamese and drank a bottle of passable Riesling. On the tram I opened Twitter for something to do and there they were, the constant stream of Tweets on Bowie’s life, death and art. His music had been woven through my teenage days. We had sung to it, danced to it, made out to it. Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust were as familiar as our school friends. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago when I really appreciated the artistry of Bowie. To say I was surprised to hear of his death was an understatement. I have nothing but admiration for the man, who despite his celebrity status, chose to keep his battle with illness private and succeeded.
I’ve been trying to think of where I was when other celebrities died. When Princess Diana died I was at work. I had just climbed the precarious stairs to the bio box of the theatre where I worked in order to talk to the technician when he told me the news. Although I’d never been a fan as such, I had followed her life – it was hard not to when every facet of her life was constantly reported in the media. I was shocked at her death.
You would think I could remember where I was when John Lennon died, but I can’t. I was twenty and probably more concerned about myself than anything else. I remember watching the news stories. I remember we all felt stunned at his untimely passing, but I have no idea where I was standing or what I was doing.
My only other clear memory of the death of celebrity is the assassination of JFK. I was three years old. I remember sitting on the floor in front of my grandparent’s black and white television watching President Kennedy being shot over and over again. It must have been my grandparent’s television because I’m certain we didn’t have one.
I was nearly nine when Dwight D Eisenhower died and, although I don’t remember where I was, I do remember writing to his widow. I have no idea why I wanted to express my sympathy, but I can guess my parent’s politics influenced me at the time. I received a lovely thank you card from her. I think I threw it out a decade ago or so.
When my mother died I was at home with my boys. My father phoned with the news. He tried to control his tears. I didn’t attempt to control mine. Even though her battle with Alzheimer’s meant she had long been lost to me, her death put a finality on it which was devastating. With any form of disease there is always some small hope the sufferer will recover.
I was in the hairdressers, with my colour setting, when I found out my father was dying. By the time I made it to the car he was gone. We lived on different sides of the country and, without being able to fly like Superman, I was never going to get there in time.