In the course of researching TNFTS, I was invited to a Saturday Night Live show by Ned Chase, Chevy’s father (Chevy had long since left the cast). Ned was an editor and a big supporter of the book, God bless him. Anyway, not only did he get me into the studio audience but he took me to the after-show party backstage.
Even though this was when SNL was in its mid-80s doldrums when Lorne Michaels wasn’t involved, it was still a pretty hot scene. Since I didn’t know anybody except Ned and was in any case there to observe, I lurked on the sidelines. The cast, of course, was the center of attention, all on the manic high of adrenaline and sheer relief that follows getting through a live show in one piece.
In the middle of the actors, commanding even more attention, was Madonna, then about 26 and still coming off the success of Like A Virgin. Far from wearing a something tight and revealing, she was dressed down in leggings and a gorgeous oversized leather baseball jacket that obviously still sticks in my mind. At her side was her new husband Sean Penn. But while Madonna was animatedly chatting to everyone else in the magic circle, Sean said not a word but just stared moonily at his bride, clearly totally smitten. Her, not so much.
But that was in the metaphorical roped-off section. However, also on the periphery with us non-celebs was a well-dressed thin man with reddish blond hair talking to a boy of about 12 who was in a wheelchair. The boy had some sort of neurological condition and the man was kneeling so his face was on the same level as the boy’s to make conversation easier. I had always rather suspected David Bowie was a mensch but this confirmed it, as he completely ignored all the self-congratulatory hobnobbing to speak with the boy (who I later discovered was the son of a crew member) for more than 20 minutes.
I wanted to meet Bowie for all the usual reasons, but also to to tell him I had crossed in his path–well, almost crossed his path–in an unusual capacity. While in college (or university in UK-speak) in England, I had made some money during the spring vacation by working for an agency called Universal Aunts, an agency that supplies highly responsible people to do whatever household tasks clients might need–dog-walking, silver polishing, baby-sitting, etc.
One morning myself and two other Aunts got a cleaning job for a client in Chelsea. We never saw him because it was the morning after the night before and he never emerged. In any case, even if the cigarette ash you’re vacuuming up out of the carpet was dropped at a rock legend’s party, it’s still not that exciting. But it paid off in the end. When Bowie finished the conversation with the boy I saw my chance and said, “Hello, David. I used to be your cleaning lady.”
As I thought, this was not an opening gambit he heard very often and he was intrigued enough to carry on the conversation. I could also see he found it pretty amusing, and, because he is primarily an artist (in the original sense as opposed to the X-Factor sense) who just happens to be world famous, being amused and intrigued is high on his list of priorities. Did we become besties? Alas, no, but neither was he looking for the exit. So he spent the majority of the party talking to two relative nonentities, merely because he found them interesting. Like I said, a mensch.
PS: This was the first and last time Ange and Dave used my clean-up services. We could be cleaners, just for one day.