Monday, May 2, 2016

40 Year Itch : Bowie's "Nazi Salute"

    On May 2, 1976 David Bowie stood up in his newly purchased open top Mercedes at Victoria Station in London and acknowledged the welcoming crowd with a straight-armed wave of his hand. The moment, caught in a fraction of a second by a photographer, looked to some like he was giving a Nazi salute. That shot appeared in New Musical Express with the headline "Heil and Farewell" and nearly ruined The Thin White Duke's career.

   Bowie's paranoid and drug fueled "cracked actor" phase, his penchant for outlandish quotes and his fascination with the life of Adolf Hitler set the unfortunate stage. In a 1975 interview with Playboy, Bowie called Hitler "one of the first rock stars":  

   Think about it. Look at some of his films and see how he moved. I think he was quite as good as Jagger. It’s astounding. And, boy, when he hit that stage, he worked an audience. Good God! He was no politician. He was a media artist himself. He used politics and theatrics and created this thing that governed and controlled the show for those 12 years. The world will never see his like. He staged a country. 

That was followed with rumors that Bowie had been photographed outside Hitler's bunker, that books about Albert Speer and Josef Goebbels has been confiscated by Soviet Guards at the Russian-Finnish border and a comment at a press conference in Sweden a week earlier  in which Bowie stated 

  "As I see it I am the only alternative for the premier in England. I believe Britain could benefit from a fascist leader. After all, fascism is really nationalism."

Now the press had its proof with the shot of Bowie, dressed in a black shirt like Oswald Mosley, raising his right arm in a salute. 

Or did they?

Bowie furiously denied the allegations, swearing to Allan Jones in a 1977 Melody Maker interview:

That didn't happened. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. I waved. I just WAVED. Believe me. On the life of my child, I waved. And the bastard caught me. In MID-WAVE, man. And, God, did that photo got some coverage… As if I'd be foolish enough to pull a stunt like that. I died when I saw the photo. And even the people who were with me said, "David! How could you?". The bastards. I didn't… GOD, I just don't believe in all that.

 The film footage shot below ( at 3:35)  supports Bowie's claim. It was bullshit. 

After two years in exiled from England, Bowie would leave his native country again, to spend more than a year secluded, in of all places, Berlin. 

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