ANGIE BOWIE – BIOGRAPHY
Angie Bowie: style icon, author, performer, counselor, former wife of David Bowie and role model for outsiders everywhere was born on the island of Cyprus in 1949, the daughter of mining engineer Colonel GM Barnett and Helena Maria Galas. Angie had one brother who was 16 years older, so she grew up feeling like an only child. She remembers, “During my childhood in Cyprus, the British talked about the Cypriots as if the people of the island were outsiders in their own country. I didn’t buy into that colonial mind set -- I wanted freedom for the Cypriots and for myself. I was born in Cyprus, but my parents were American, which made me an outsider in the land of my birth.”
She was only five when she first realized she felt different to other people, but says: “I liked it and I think I adjusted to being an outsider more and more as the events that formed my life unfolded. My father also appeared to be an outsider, because he chose unconventional ways to deal with the effects of the economic depression that blighted his life as a young adult.”
As well as good looks, Angie is blessed with fierce intelligence. She is well read and well informed, independent and self-sufficient. The foundations of her cosmopolitan perspective were laid during her early life, particularly when, at the age of nine, she was sent to St George’s School in Switzerland. It is an international school, full of wealthy girls from the ruling elite. Angie learned how to survive and flourish, despite her significantly different socio-economic background. “First I had to learn French --then get used to being away from home and having only my own resources to support me. My sense of humor rescued me from extreme alienation, but we were all outsiders at St. George’s.”
Angie left Switzerland for America aged 16, armed with four ‘A’ Levels and a fervent desire to begin the adventure of her own life. She went to the Connecticut College for Women. Already sexually precocious, she began a lesbian relationship which resulted in an incident she has never forgotten; “The psychiatrist at the college grabbed my girlfriend and I and imprisoned us in the surgery. I had to convince a nurse to bring me my clothes, then I leapt from the second floor window and ran back to my dormitory. I packed and left for Cyprus within a few days. I was an outsider in my own country.”
Angie came to England in 1967 to study at Kingston Polytechnic, a college renowned over the years for producing figureheads of the avant-garde. “I believe the only place I truly felt at home was in England.” Although only on a student visa, Angie got caught up in swinging London and somehow contrived to stay. She met David Bowie in 1969, when she was 19 and he was a fledgling rock star in his Space Oddity phase. They fell in love, married in 1970 and had a son who they famously called Zowie (and who subsequently changed his name to Duncan Heywood Jones).
It is widely accepted that Angie and Tony DeFries, his manager, were the two most significant influences on David Bowie’s career. By this time Angie had evolved her own unique, uber glam rock look. She was the It Girl in London’s ‘In’ crowd and cultivated all that was weird and left-field. She introduced her husband to a variety of talented eccentrics who also contributed to David Bowie’s kaleidoscope of stage personas. These include his Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Thin White Duke periods – arguably his most fertile, innovative years. Angie and David Bowie looked uncannily alike and they came as a package. She has often been referred to as the power behind the meteoric success. The cultural impact of David and Angie Bowie in the 70s and beyond cannot be over-estimated. Angie has written evocatively about that heady time in her books ‘Free Spirit’ and ‘Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie’.
David and Angie separated in 1976 and subsequently divorced. It was not an amicable split. Since then David has tried to edit Angie out of his life and deny her contribution to his success. Her reaction is philosophical: “Famous men frequently do that when they feel threatened by a woman’s influence. They like to be thought of as the sole genius. God forbid that any woman helped them to get where they did. Picasso did the same thing to his women -- he tried to write them off as insane.”
Thankfully Lou Reed is more gracious than David Bowie. In a recent ITV documentary, he gave Angie full credit for creating his Transformer look.
On the subject of her former husband, Angie says “I try not to be negative. I have a full and happy life and he simply doesn’t interest me. You can chart the decline of his intelligence from the day he arrived at Victoria station in a Mercedes and stood up doing the Nazi salute. Now he’s an example of an outsider who craves to become a pillar of the establishment. That’s very sad.”
Following the divorce in 1980, Angie had her second child, daughter Stacia, with the punk musician Drew Blood. She settled in America, concentrated on bringing up Stacia, and was involved in a number of projects, including running her own horse ranch, being a celebrity editor for the notorious Larry Flynt – and writing.. She has two books published, ‘Bisexuality: A Pocket Guide’ and her autobiographical ‘Backstage Passes’. The latter is rumored to be the inspiration behind the film ‘Velvet Goldmine.’ She is currently living in Tucson, Arizona with her partner and is working on her third book, ‘Pop Sex’. She has released her first solo album ‘Moon Goddess’, which was picked up by Jude Rawlins of the Subterraneans, who persuaded Angie to record a version of The Rolling Stones’ The Last Time for his record label Electric. Angie is truly one of the great outsider icons of the present age.