by Andrew Shelton / Sounds
7th June 1980
“IT’S TOO bad it was just for one day,” moaned Gilly Rath, a 22 year-old youth from Cologne, West Germany, who was among the thousand David Bowie fans who invaded Chicago’s O’Hara Kennedy Holiday Inn last month for a 13 hour extravaganza called “The 1980 Floor Show: Bowiecon I”.
Over 1,000 Bowie fans, some as far away as Australia, attended the first convention celebrating the career of English ‘entertainer’ David Bowie.
“I just had to come and be here,” said Australian Kim Amor, who took out a three year $3,000 personal loan to cover her expenses to fly to America.
The marathon multi-media presentation included showings of movies Bowie starred in, ten hours of video concerts, guest speakers, a Bowie lookalike costume contest and live bands.
Besides the day long fare of entertainment, Bowiecon I was a fundraiser for Operation Snowball, an organization run for the prevention of teenage alcoholism.
“We set up the convention to be a fundraiser for alcoholism because I thought such a twist would attract public notice and alert people about the problem of alcoholism. Besides, it’s about time a rock ‘n’ roll event benefited the same audience that supports Bowie and other rock stars,” said convention director Dr. David Jeffrey Fletcher, who is the author of the definitive American guide to Bowie’s recorded works David Bowie: The Discography Of A Generalist.
“For sure, David Bowie himself would be very proud that this event in his honour is benefiting the cause against alcoholism,” said Mr. Kenneth Pitt, David’s manager back in the late ’60s around the recording of ‘Space Oddity’.
“Few people know that David’s father died in 1969 from pneumonia because his resistance was so low because of the effects of alcoholism.” he said.
The Bowie lookalike competition had 13 very feeble entrants. Each one would come on and wriggle about to ‘Rebel Rebel’ for about 5 seconds. One man in a red plastic cape came on wearing roller skates and did an Evel Knievel bit by jumping four chairs on stage. What this had to do with Bowie remains a mystery. Another entrant was surely a stray from the weight watchers convention, a spectacular 12 stone number in a black shimmering dress. A girl nudged me in the audience and said: “Gee, that’s my next door neighbour. What the hell is she doing up there?” The winner won his $100 and was favourite from start to finish, but even he didn’t look a lot like the man himself.
The evening ended with Pitt auctioning various items of clothing: the boots he wore in the first Space Oddity film (gaily painted wellies) went for a mere $280 and the jock strap he wore in an early mime film, The Mask, went for $80.
A film crew was hired to capture all the convention’s highlights. “Someday soon it will make an outstanding documentary – it’s a piece of rock ‘n’ roll history,” claims Fletcher.