Flying Saucers, Hitler, and David Bowie

by Bruno Stein / Creem

February 1975

“Have you got any metal in your body” asked the flying saucer man.

“Yeah, I’ve got one pin,” said David Bowie.

Well, it turned out David was in luck then. If he went to a little town in Missouri at a certain time, he would be able to see in a seemingly empty field a fully equipped flying saucer repair shop at work.

It was one of those fascinating things you learn at a Bowie soiree. This evening the gathering was rather intimate. There was Corinne, David’s charming personal secretary, who ducked out early due to exhaustion (although another participant gossiped that she had someone interesting waiting for her in her hotel room).

There was a tired newspaper reporter trying to get a question in edgewise now and then. There was Ava Cherry, the effervescent, razor-thin, husky-voiced black singer and dancer with white bleached hair who was part of David’s backup vocal group on his “soul” tour. There were three more young black ladies, members of Ava’s “gang” when she was growing up, whom she invited over now that she was back in her hometown for a night.

There was a nice young roadie who had just resigned from David’s crew for some mysterious reason, which David wanted to find out about. The roadie had brought along two local friends, a guy and girl, and the guy was the flying saucer man, who had actually seen UFOs, both in flight and on the ground.

And, of course, there was Mr. Bowie himself, somewhat tired from the energetic performance he had given to a packed audience less than an hour before. He looked relaxed in a loose-fitting, uncolourful overall outfit, and although his eyes seemed weary and his voice was a bit hoarse, as the conversation twisted and turned among the subjects of music, extraterrestrials and political conspiracies, he gradually grew animated and energetic, jumping up to make a point, stalking around the hotel suite while listening to someone else, dancing while seated on a chair and singing along as he played tapes of his forthcoming soul album.

“I used to work for two guys who put out a UFO magazine in England,” he told the flying saucer man. “About six years ago. And I made sightings six, seven times a night for about a year when I was in the observatory. We had regular cruises that came over. We knew the 6.15 was coming in and would meet up with another one. And they would be stationary for about half an hour, and then after verifying what they’d been doing that day, they’d shoot off.

“But I mean, it’s what you do with the information. We never used to tell anybody. It was beautifully dissipated when it got to the media. Media control is still based in the main on cultural manipulation. It’s just so easy to do. When you set up one set of objectives toward the public and you’ve given them a certain definition for each code word, you hit them with the various code words and they’re not going to believe anything if you don’t want them to.

“That’s how the Mayans were ruling South America thousands of years ago. That’s what the media is. That’s how it works. The Mayan calendar: they could get the crowds to go out and crucify somebody merely by giving them a certain definition, two or third words, primed in terms such that they could tell what day the people would react and how they would react… I sound like a subversive.”

The reporter protested that he knew the media all too well and they weren’t organised enough to carry off any kind of conspiracy or manipulation.

“It’s seemingly disorganised,” replied David. “It’s not disorganised, because I’ve been in the media as well. I used to be a visualiser for an advertising agency, and I know exactly what – I mean the advertising agencies that sell us, they are killers, man. Those guys, they can sell anybody anything. And not just products. If you think agencies are just out to sell products, you’re naive. They’re powerful for other reasons. A lot of those agencies are responsible for a lot of things they shouldn’t be responsible for. They’re dealing with lives, those ad agencies.”

Somehow to make a point about how humans are all manipulated, David bought up Hitler’s Germany and said that Hitler, too, was controlled. He wasn’t really the man in charge. The reporter asked how as that possible when Hitler’s personal military mismanagement probably cost the Germans the war.

“Oh he was a terrible military strategist,” said David, “the world’s worst, but his overall objective was very good, and he was a marvellous morale booster. I mean, he was a perfect figurehead. And I’m sure that he was just part of it, that he was used… He was a nut and everybody knew he was a nut. They’re not gonna let him run the country.”

But what about losing the war, asked the reporter. Was that part of the plan too?

“No, that’s not what I said,” said David, exasperated. “I said I don’t believe that he was the dictatorial, omnipotent leader that he’s been taken for.”

At this point, the flying saucer man broke in to try and help put things in perspective. “I think that you have to look at it as the same thing as your band,” he said to David. “You’ll sing, out of a zillion notes, you’ll sing X amount. But you are the figurehead of the band. You’re the main man. Hitler was the main man of his entourage.”

David seemed somewhat taken aback at being put in the category as Hitler.

“Yes… well, I’m the leader, the apparent organiser and what-not, but the product which takes place is a contributed product, and responsibility lies with the whole lot, and the direction is on many shoulders.”

“The responsibility lies in you,” maintained the flying saucer man, sounding like a Nuremberg prosecutor.

“No it doesn’t,” David protested. “Once you get out there and start working actively, the responsibility’s on everybody’s shoulders.

“Yes, but with the public -” began the saucer man.

“Exactly!” interrupted David. “That’s what I’m saying, man. It works like Hitler but the actual effect was produced by a number of people, all working their own strategies of where it was going to go.”

At this point the tension suddenly broke. David and everyone in the room broke into laughter at the seriousness with which a rock and roll star and some acquaintances of one evening were presuming to figure out the way the world ran. Everyone lightened up, and David put on tapes of the new album on an elaborate studio tape deck that RCA had delivered to his suite. Ava Cherry sang her parts, and David sang his, along with the tape, which was full of exciting soul type music, taking David a step farther in the direction he started on the “David Live” album.

After listening to four numbers, Ava and her girlfriends persuaded David to leave with them. Ava knew a millionaire who lived not far away in a modernistic mansion full of strange delights. David gulped down another cup of coffee, with cream and sugar, put on a striking green coat – it looked like mohair – and followed them out of the suite.

It was 2.30 a.m., and the sluggish night crew of the small but elegant hotel barely looked up as the red-haired rock star and four giggling black girls made their way through the lobby to the waiting limousine.

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