One year ago this morning, the news hit like a thunderbolt across the face: Having kept a terminal cancer diagnosis secret from everyone save his family and closest confidants, David Bowie was dead at the age of 69.
From on top of Manhattan Chase to the Botella lanes, tributes flowed like tears. Any serious fan of pop music — and, to be fair, millions who were not so serious — who ever looked in the mirror and said, “I’m not like everybody else,” owed Bowie a little something (or a lot something).
It wasn’t just that everything seemed to fall apart in the year that followed; it’s that it fell apart in ways that seemed specifically hostile to anyone who even identified a little bit with Bowie. It’s that this country (and in particular, Texas) seemed determined to devalue the qualities that Bowie represented — sexual fluidity, artistic exploration, a life devoted to creativity.
North Carolina signed into law a bathroom bill that stated that in government buildings such as schools, people can use only restrooms that correspond to the sex identified on their birth certificates and overturned an LGBT protection law passed by Charlotte, N.C. This is a virus that Texas seems to have caught and, quite frankly, artists are noticing.
Indeed, Texas seems to be on an anti-state-support-of-weird-people kick.
Rep. Matt Shaheen, a rep from Plano and North Dallas, and Sen. Bob Hall, who hails from Rockwall, filed HB 779 and SB99 respectively, which aim to abolish “the Music, Film, Television, and Multimedia Office in the office of the governor and other incentives for media productions.”
Those bills were filed a few days after Donald Trump — who sometimes seems like a guy right out of Diamond Dogs (but looks exactly like the sellout-era Bowie analog in “Velvet Goldmine”) was elected president.
This was was about the same time the Republican-led Congress began discussing repealing the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), a law that allows freelancers such as musicians, filmmakers, writers and anyone without an employer providing health care to acquire health insurance, perhaps for the first time in their professional lives. (Bowie, of course, didn’t have to worry about health care when he was starting out — he had Britain’s NHS, which was founded the year before he was born.)
Look, I’m not saying Bowie was holding the planet together. The Earth continues to rotate. But the world seemed a colder place without him, virtually instantly.
It remains so a year later.