Friday, May 20, 2016

Black Light: Loren Rhoads, David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust.

I didn’t begin this story alone. In 1983, Loren Rhoads was my best friend. She still is, though we’re separated now by the width of the country. But back then our world was MTV. It was Adam Ant and the Police. It was used records from Saturday trips to Ann Arbor. And most of all it was David Bowie. It was the year of “Let’s Dance.”

With his bleached white hair, asymmetrical smile and deceptively bouncy pop music, this was a vastly different Bowie than I’d met years before in the middle of the night. That shrill and jagged Bowie that had been there no one else was. Still, since I was aspiring punk rocker, I might have given Let’s Dance a pass. But it was inescapable, spilling out of every car window that passed my open bedroom window that summer. And what it did for both Loren and I was lead us to the past. I remember that Loren bought albums. She bought all the Bowie she could.  We listened to Diamond Dogs on her stereo in her bedroom, puzzled over the lyrics, let the imagery color our imaginations. For Loren, Diamond Dogs was a starting point for short stories. For me, it was farther back. For me it was Ziggy. “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”. Trace, Asia, Weird and Tommy were all born from that album. But the story, Trace and Asia’s story, began with one song.

In the words of “Lady Stardust," I saw Asia, standing in that sweaty, hungry crowd, listening. I watched him feel what he could never say aloud, and I felt him lose the chance to ever speak up. Asia became the unnamed character in Bowie’s story for me. And then it became a different story. The membes of Black Light are from Michigan, because we were from Michigan, they are from the ‘80’s because so were we. Asia became a place to hold all my feelings of Midwestern repression. Ziggy became Trace; beautiful, and human, but completely unattainable. Even now when I listen to the Ziggy Stardust album it's full of energy and bravado, still a candle against the night.

Eventually, Loren's writing and mine took different paths. She has gone on to write more than anyone I know, and you can check out her blog here: httpp//  
In fact, go look at her newest novel, Lost Angels, co-written with Brian Thomas:  It's an amazing book, and you need a copy, believe me. 
She's still the only person in the world who I can spend five hour in the same room with, just writing....with occasional tea breaks. And I don't think I'll ever be able to thank her enough for that first copy of Ziggy..... 

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