Did they or didn’t they?
Rumors and myths have followed two of the world’s biggest stars everywhere they have gone for over forty years. None are more often told and more widely believed than Mick Jagger, front man of the world’s largest band the Rolling Stones, and David Bowie had a love affair during the hedonistic 1970s. But it seems that whilst it is usually treated as urban legend there is a scrap of truth to be explored if we are going to get to the bottom of it, so to speak. The source of the myth can be traced to the Joan Rivers Show episode of May 4th 1990. This was the year that the former Mrs Bowie, Angie, came to the end of a ten-year gag order that had been part of her divorce agreement with David Bowie in 1980. Eager to cash in the former Mrs Bowie promised the Rivers production team some salacious gossip for her show and that she was ready to “dish the dirt.” But with the cameras rolling Bowie lost her nerve and maintained she “never kissed and told.” Off camera Bowie was treated harshly by Rivers for her “cowardice” and was persuaded to return to the set, which, after rethinking her situation, she agreed to do. Once there the subject of her former marriage was raised and Bowie made the remark, “I caught him in bed with men several times. In fact the best time I caught him in bed was with Mick Jagger.”
Fellow guest, the shock jock Howard Stern, not one to miss an opportunity, asked if the two men had their clothes off and Bowie replied, “They certainly did.” The news that David Bowie, who had been open about his sexuality during the 1970s, was in this situation was no surprise or concern to anybody, but the idea that one of the world’s legendary ladies men Mick Jagger might be bisexual made headline news and urban legends about other such evidence sprang up all over the world. David Bowie’s lawyer quickly issued a public statement stating, “The implication that there was ever a gay affair between David Bowie and Mick Jagger is an absolute fabrication” and Jagger himself dismissed the whole thing as “complete rubbish.” Angie, it would appear, was trying to generate publicity for a forthcoming book about her life and within a week was backtracking.
On May 11th she appeared on another TV show claiming “I certainly didn’t catch anyone in the act. All I found were two people sleeping in my bed. They happened to be naked and they happened to be Mick Jagger and David Bowie and it’s not a big deal. It doesn’t mean necessarily that they had some sort of affair.” Soon afterwards she was dismissing it as “old news and the men had merely passed out in bed.” But the urban legends were by now in full swing and like all of these myths they appear to be more true the more often they are heard, even if it simply the same old urban legend going around and around. A few years later in her aforementioned book “Backstage Passes,” published in 1993, Mrs Bowie criticized the public for assuming something she had never confirmed, although it is clear she had been implying it over the years.
In the book she played down the event: “I went and opened the door and they were, indeed, in there together and were both asleep. I asked them if they wanted coffee and they said yes. That was that.” Later in the chapter she uses the ambiguity factor again by adding; “. . . . the fact that Mick had a perfectly good bed of his own just three hundred yards away from where he was passed out naked with David—it all added up inescapably in my head as well as my gut. I didn’t have to look around for open jars of K-Y jelly.”
David Bowie, to his credit, made only one jaded remark about his ex-wife’s revelations and was reported in US Magazine in 1995 as saying; “About 15 or 16 years ago I really got tired of fending off questions about what I used to do with my penis during the early 1970s. My suggestion for people with prurient interests is to go through the thirty or forty biographies on me and pick the rumor of their choice.”
But, in truth, it seems the relationship between Bowie and Jagger has never been anything more than a friendship, despite the former Mrs Bowie’s claim. I, for one, would never judge a man on the testimony of his ex-wife, whoever he is, as that is guaranteed to be unobjective. But the myth raised further questions at the time and fingers were pointed at Jagger’s hit song “Angie,” released in 1973 and lyrically about an unsatisfied love affair. Angie had assumed it was about her and so do many other observers. It might have been but others have concluded it was about David Bowie himself, although it is also claimed that Keith Richards wrote it for Anita Pallenberg and that it has nothing to do with Jagger or the Bowies at all.
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