The title of Angela Bowie’s vibrant new book is titillating enough, but what exactly does it mean? According to the author herself, “’Lipstick Legends’ are people who pushed the envelope, and helped redefine sexual mores in the 1970‘s. Their story is a little bit beautiful, a whole lot brassy!” In the book’s prologue, “Gender Trickery”, she summarizes about how music and fashion in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s changed the pathway of human sexuality… and when, for the first time ever, it was suddenly “chic” to be gay or bisexual or to explore androgyny in many circles. This was largely thanks to the renegade styles of male rock stars who started wearing makeup, colorful unisex clothes, and long hair… along with the parallel phenomena of the freer hippie lifestyle and the newly burgeoning gay and women’s lib. Ms. Bowie was watching all of this with her own absorbent eyes, and she now shares it all in “Lipstick Legends”.
Throughout her life, the 62-year old Ms. Bowie (born Mary Angela Barnett) has dabbled in singing, acting, modeling, and writing… yet most people will still identify her “the ex-wife of David Bowie“ or the rumored inspiration of the Rolling Stones‘ 1973 hit “Angie“. The fact that she’s still most widely known as David’s ex is a low down dirty shame. Indeed, Angela does dedicate a chapter of the book (“Rebel Rebel: The Marketing of David Bowie”) to her wild and crazy time with the pop music chameleon. She personally takes credit for David’s exploration of androgyny, which apparently was a ripening phenomenon in music in that particular era… and, subsequently, a catalyst for changing cultural and sexual mores in the UK and the States. And, before you ask, she does also re-tell the infamous, oft-repeated story about how she came home from a trip and found her hubby-to-be David in bed with Mick Jagger: “I ran upstairs and sure enough it was Mick. Oh well, ’boys will be boys.’ In my voix de Stentor tone of speaking I said, ’Anyone for coffee, breakfast, orange juice?’… ’Oh yes please,’ came the response, ’I’m a little hung over Ange.’ It was not a cause of drama, between David and I. It was just another day.” Soon afterward, they married and had a child, film director Duncan Jones. They divorced in 1980.
However, marriage to the man who’d be known as Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust aside, this is a woman who has indeed made a name for herself in her own right, perhaps most successfully as a writer. As a author/journalist, Angela Bowie has written articles for “Vogue” and “Harper’s Bazaar”, and also wrote three books, one of which was named “The Pocket Guide to Bisexuality“ (Ms. Bowie proudly identifies herself as bisexual.). With “Lipstick Legends”, the author indeed shares her story about her own unique life (including her own unapologetic sexuality, and her journey to find herself in the entertainment biz), peppered with her own liberated views on sex, drugs, fashion, politics, etc. But in writing about her own experiences, she also establishes herself as one of our experts on pop culture. I might add, this was pop culture at its most exciting and defiant. Loaded with priceless anecdotes, statistic, and facts, Bowie paints a portrait of another, just as turbulent and colorful marriage: The marriage between pop culture (fashion and music) and modern societal mores and attitudes. It is a long-term relationship that continues to this day, with the pendulum constantly swinging from left to right based on the political landscape. “Lipstick Legends” features Bowie’s often fascinating interviews/and or discussions with a wide range of movers and shakers, from shock rocker Alice Cooper and legendary actress/feminist icon Mae West (whom she interviewed in the ‘70’s) to such unsung heroes of the music and showbiz scene, such as Cherry Vanilla, Jayne (formerly Wayne) County, Chris Robison of The New York Dolls, Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, Chick Cashman, Kim Fowley (Who she lovingly refers to as “the world’s oldest rent boy and its most prolific music producer!“), and MANY more. She also devotes a great deal of book space to conversations with celebrity biographer Mark Bego, himself a bona fide expert on pop culture. Writer interviewing writer? How about THAT?! Bowie also pays ample homage to other icons who “broke the roles“ in various ways, including Elton John, Cher, The Village People, Boy George, and many others.
At her book party, I told Angie Bowie that in some ways she has her work cut out for her: Any book with the word “lipstick” in the title is bound to be a hit with the gay guys. What’s her message to the gay boys? “It’s been so much fun having all of you here. You guys are the life of the party! I send you all lots of love… and I’ll see you on the dance floor!” FYI, the rumor that “Angie” was based on Ms. Bowie was debunked by Mr. Jagger himself, although Angela was indeed the subject of two of David’s songs. But after reading “Lipstick Legends“, I may just write my own love song to Angela Bowie!
“Lipstick Legends” is now available in hardcover.