Tales of Rock – A Word on David Bowie, Lori Mattix, and the Speed of Information – Part 2

 

David Bowie, 1972

Another reason to raise an eyebrow at the claims regarding Bowie is not the lack of corroboration, or of photographic evidence in the notoriously paparazzi-prone Sunset Strip groupie scene, but Mattix’s own accounts. While this may not be every account she’s given, there is enough to be deeply concerning:

  1. For many years, she maintained that she had her first time with Jimmy Page during the Zeppelin 1972 tour. For instance, she stated in an in-depth 1985 interview with music journalist Stephen Davis that Page had her brought to his hotel room in 1972, that he insisted on keeping her locked up in his room when he first began seeing her, and that he would not “let me go anywhere because I was so underage.” She then explained that after about one year together, Page was willing to be seen in public with her: “After that first year, Jimmy took me along to all the shows. Sometimes they would dedicate a show to me! And if I wasn’t with him, he would call me every day from wherever he was. Especially at the time he was in his prime, ’73 to ’75, that was the prime of Zeppelin.” This, indeed, lines up with the fact that there are numerous pictures of them together beginning in 1973.
  2. She later started to claim that she had sex with David Bowie before becoming involved with Page. One significant issue with this claim is that Zeppelin’s ’72 tour took place over the summer of 1972, well before the first Ziggy Stardust tour (“Ziggy I”) came to California in late October 1972.
  3. The story was further muddied when Mattix gave an interview to Peter Gillman in 1986. In that interview, she said that she had been getting dinner at the Rainbow Bar in March 1973 (during the second Ziggy Stardust tour, or “Ziggy II”), and that Bowie — who also happened to be at the restaurant — first spotted her from across the room. According to her, he sent his bodyguard over to ask if she would like to join him in his suite that night. She said she accepted, and that fellow teenage groupie Sable Starr (who was sitting with her) insisted on joining them. Mattix then said that she had sex with Bowie that same night for “five or six hours,” that Starr was waiting jealously the whole time, and that Mattix — feeling guilty about leaving her friend in the sitting room — convinced a reluctant Bowie to have sex with Starr in order to humor her. She then said all three of them fell asleep, and that she and Starr frantically snuck out the next day, before Bowie’s wife Angie was set to arrive at the hotel.
  4. Mattix gave another interview (made available online in 2009) in which she said that she was a virgin when she met Page. This lines up with her first story listed here, but contradicts later accounts.
  5. Mattix also gave an interview to Paul Trynka with a completely different version of her encounter with Bowie. There, she said that she and Sable Starr actually made their way over to the Beverly Hilton in October 1972 (Ziggy I), found out which room Bowie was in, and snuck in. She said that when they managed to get into his room, he was “tired” and hesitant to have sex with them at first, but that they eventually convinced him before sneaking out of his room, unseen.
  6. Mattix later gave the account that’s being circulated in the Thrillist piece. There she claimed that she had actually been propositioned by Bowie back in October 1972, but rejected him; that he called her and took her to dinner when he was back in town in March 1973; that John Lennon and Yoko Ono joined them while they were sitting together prior to heading to Bowie’s suite at the Beverly Hilton; that she had a threesome with Bowie and Starr; and that Angie had actually walked in on them the next morning. In addition to contradicting her prior accounts in just about every particular, it is worth noting that this version contains at least one significant, confirmed factual error: Bowie and Lennon didn’t even meet until September 1974 — they were introduced by, of all people, Elizabeth Taylor at a party she was hosting.
    (Other errors — such as the fact that David Bowie stayed at the Hyatt in March of ’73 rather than the Hilton as Mattix insists, and the fact that he didn’t depilate his eyebrows until after the Ziggy I tour had left California, are less serious.)
  7. It’s also worth noting that, in that same Thrillist interview, Mattix claims to have attended a recording session in 1975 (now age 17) featuring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and several other musicians including Mick Jagger, and then had sex with Mick Jagger immediately after. There are two major factual issues here: (i) the only post-Beatles jam session between Lennon and McCartney happened a year earlier, in March 1974 (check out “A Toot and a Snore in ‘74”); and (ii) there’s nothing to suggest that Mick Jagger was anywhere near that recording session.
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust Tour, California, October 1972

None of this, of course, definitively disproves that something happened between Bowie and Mattix and/or Starr — or Mattix and Jagger, for that matter — but taken together, this all has to raise some doubts. Some inconsistencies are to be expected even in truthful accounts, but it’s the number and the seriousness of the errors and inconsistencies in this particular tale, in combination with the lack of corroboration, that make Mattix’s account at least somewhat questionable. There is a genuine issue of fact here, and it would be irresponsible to ignore it.

ETA: Since publishing this piece, it has come to my attention that Pamela Des Barres’ celebrated memoir, I’m With the Bandalso places Ms. Mattix in a relationship with Jimmy Page well before Mattix claims to have lost her virginity to Bowie.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly           Facebook: phicklephilly   twitter: @phicklephilly

Tales of Rock – A Word on David Bowie, Lori Mattix, (Lori Maddox) and the Speed of Information – Part 1

Four months ago, on January 10 of this year, music icon David Robert Jones — better known by his stage name, David Bowie — passed away at the age of 69 from cancer.

On January 11, the website Thrillist republished an interview with former rock groupie Lori Mattix (sometimes anglicized to Maddox or Madox). In that interview, she stated that she lost her virginity to David Bowie in 1973. At the age of fifteen.

Mattix claimed in that interview that it was a positive experience, but that in no way changes the fact that a 26 year old having sex with a 15 year old is statutory rape. He was an adult; she was barely a teenager. Whatever consent she may have given would be seriously, if not fatally, compromised by that simple fact.

In the wake of the global, public mourning of Bowie’s death, Mattix’s story went viral. This in turn launched countless thinkpieces on rape culture, drug culture, the rapidly-evolving sexual mores of the 70s, and the limits of consent in the face of massive power differentials. What it did not launch, however, was a factual examination of Mattix’s claim.

There are, of course, a number of very good reasons Mattix’s story was treated as credible, despite the fact that Thrillist — a self-described “leading men’s digital lifestyle brand, providing all that’s new, unknown or underappreciated in food, drink, entertainment, nightlife, gadgets and gear” — isn’t exactly a serious journalistic enterprise. In a society that so often assumes, without justification, that women are lying about their experiences with sex in general and sexual assault in particular, it is critically important to give women the benefit of the doubt unless and until there is a very good reason to do otherwise.

Moreover, the “baby groupie” scene was undoubtedly real, and there’s no question that, for instance, Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler and the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman repeatedly committed statutory rape with underage groupies. The fact that an underage Mattix had an ongoing relationship with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page is also undisputed; it is heavily corroborated and well-documented, and pictures of them together are widely available. Rock stars in the ’70s were notoriously shameless about their underage targets.

Jimmy Page with Lori Mattix, 1973

But the question is not whether classic rock had a statutory rape problem. That much is not in dispute, and the fact that we now by and large consider it unacceptable shows that, while we have a long way to go, changing the standards by which our culture operates can and does work. We don’t have any obligation to give powerful men impunity with respect to their personal lives on the basis of their artistic contributions; if anything, our cultural idols need to be held to a higher standard of behavior, not a lower one. The question here, though, is whether the claims about Bowie *in particular* withstand a fact-check.

One problem is that despite the fact that Mattix — who, in addition to Bowie and Page, claims to have had affairs with Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood, Mickey Finn, Angela Bowie, Keith Emerson, Carl Palmer, and Jimmy Bain —asserts that she encountered Bowie multiple times over a period spanning ten years, there appear to be neither photos of them together nor any contemporaneous materials corroborating a sexual encounter between them. That seems especially strange given that — in no small part due to his publicly proclaimed bisexuality — Bowie’s sex life was, if anything, subject to more scrutiny and intrigue than the average rocker’s, not less. Bowie would have had to go to far greater lengths than the average rock star to hide affairs with underage girls; meanwhile, same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults was also illegal in California at the time (and remained so until 1975), and he took no small amount of pride in openly flouting those laws.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly           Facebook: phicklephilly       Twitter: @phicklephilly

 

Tales of Rock – Lori Maddox – Part 2

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
COURTESY OF LORI MATTIX

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly Facebook: phicklephilly

Tales of Rock – Lori Maddox – Part 1

“I LOST MY VIRGINITY TO DAVID BOWIE”

IN THE EARLY 1970S, the Sunset Strip was a magnet for rock stars: Bowie, Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, The Who. They all hung out in the VIP rooms of louche LA nightclubs like E Club, the Rainbow, and Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. And with them, of course, came groupies. Scantily clad 14- and 15-year-olds like Sable Starr and Lynn “Queenie” Koenigsaecker sipped cherry cola, dropped pills, and evolved into pubescent dream girls for the platform-shoed rockers who could get anything and anyone they desired. 

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly                            Facebook: phicklephilly

Tales of Rock – David Bowie and the 15-Year-Old Girls

The surprise news of David Bowie passing Sunday night caught everyone off guard, and there has been a massive outpouring of emotion and support for a man whose music and art touched many (New Times has published two such pieces). Those tributes are well-deserved. Bowie leaves behind an incredibly diverse and impressive body of work, and he has inspired millions. David Bowie was many things — rock ‘n’ roll hero, queer icon, fashion superstar, a man unafraid to make daring artistic choices. He was also the type of man who, in his mid-20s, allegedly would sleep with two girls not old enough to drive themselves to his hotel.

Consider the story of Lori Maddox and her friend, Sable Starr.

In her teens, Maddox (often spelled “Mattix”) was known as Lori Lightning, a barely post-pubescent model who became known as a groupie in Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip nightclub scene. Raised by a single working mother with little time to care for Maddox, Maddox befriended a girl her own age, Sable Starr, and the two would eventually go on to party with just about every major rock star that came through LA. Most famously, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page kept Maddox as a hidden girlfriend for two years while she was underage.

But before Page, there was David Bowie.

Maddox has repeatedly said in interviews that she met Bowie as a young teen and he asked her up to his hotel room. She was 14, and Bowie was in his mid-20s. Afraid, she declined. But five months later Bowie again propositioned her, and she and Starr went to his room.

Maddox has since told the story several times, including once for a VH1 documentary that curiously omitted her age at the time, but she most succinctly told it to Thrillist just a few months ago.

Next time Bowie was in town, though, maybe five months later, I got a call at home from his bodyguard, a huge black guy named Stuey. He told me that David wanted to take me to dinner. Obviously, I had no homework that night. Fuck homework. I wasn’t spending a lot of time at school anyway. I said that I would like to go but that I wanted to bring my friend Sable. She was dying to fuck Bowie. I figured that she would sleep with him while I got to hang out and have fun.

So the two girls went to Bowie’s hotel, where, according to Maddox, she had sex with Bowie, which later turned into a threesome with Sable.

We got to the Beverly Hilton and all went up to Bowie’s enormous suite. I found myself more and more fascinated by him. He was beautiful and clever and poised. I was incredibly turned on. Bowie excused himself and left us in this big living room with white shag carpeting and floor-to-ceiling windows. Stuey brought out Champagne and hash. We were getting stoned when, all of a sudden, the bedroom door opens and there is Bowie in this fucking beautiful red and orange and yellow kimono.

He focused his famously two-colored eyes on me and said, “Lori, darling, can you come with me?” Sable looked like she wanted to murder me. He walked me through his bedroom and into the bathroom, where he dropped his kimono. He got into the tub, already filled with water, and asked me to wash him. Of course I did. Then he escorted me into the bedroom, gently took off my clothes, and de-virginized me.
Two hours later, I went to check on Sable. She was all fucked up in the living room, walking around, fogging up windows and writing, “I want to fuck David.” I told him what she was doing and that I felt so bad. Bowie said, “Well, darling, bring her in.” That night I lost my virginity and had my first threesome. The next morning, there was banging on the door and it was fucking [Bowie’s wife] Angie. I was terrified of her. David said not to worry about it. They were already at the point where they had separate rooms. She probably knew he’d be in there with girls… or boys. He was totally bisexual. I saw David many times after that, for the next 10 years, and it was always great.

So far as I could find, Bowie has neither confirmed nor denied Maddox’s account of that night, and there don’t seem to be any pictures of Bowie and Maddox. That said, Maddox’s relationship with Page, which — again — began when she was 15, is universally accepted as fact by now. Rolling Stone even confirmed it. Getty Images has archived photos in which Page drapes an arm around an obviously juvenile Maddox.

And to be fair, Maddox has not once indicated that she found the experience traumatic, though the encounter under today’s laws would be considered statutory rape. Quite the contrary, in interviews in the past few years, Maddox seems joyous retelling the story. Thrillist asked her point-blank if she saw any problem with how Bowie, a powerful older man supplying young teens with drugs and alcohol, slept with her that night.

“I was an innocent girl, but the way it happened was so beautiful,” she replied. “I remember him looking like God and having me over a table. Who wouldn’t want to lose their virginity to David Bowie?”

She later added, “I feel like I was very present. I saw the greatest music ever. I got to hang out with some of the most amazing, most beautiful, most charismatic men in the world. I went to concerts in limos with police escorts. Am I going to regret this? No.”

Of course, statutory rape laws are in place for a reason. And it’s up to Maddox to define whether her sexual encounter with Bowie was traumatic. Many have dismissed Page’s and Bowie’s actions as par for the course for famous rock stars, dirty misdeeds overshadowed by their contributions to the pop zeitgeist. Many are crediting Bowie’s being an androgynous role model with saving the lives of queer children worldwide. Statutory rape seems destined to be a footnote in Bowie’s legacy, because maybe that’s how we as a society evaluate our famous people: We don’t let singular acts overwhelm the legacy. We measure people’s value by what they contribute to society, and if a man happens to act unethically on the way to selling millions of records and being an overwhelmingly positive force in the lives of millions, so be it.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish Monday through Friday at 8am & 12pm EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly Facebook: phicklephilly

Tales of Rock – The remarkable story behind David Bowie’s most iconic feature

At the centre of it all, your eyes, your eyes …”

Many aspects of the life and incredible achievements of David Bowie will be considered in the weeks and months ahead following the news of his death. Yet the cryptic lyric above from the lead single on David Bowie’s new album is a reminder that the unusual appearance of his eyes was a key part of the singer’s star persona.

Indeed their iconic presence features in the advertising campaign for ★[Blackstar]. For many people it is that look – that the eyes formed a core part of – that will be an abiding memory of Bowie.

So, why were they apparently two different colours?

Complete heterochromia is a fairly rare condition (in humans) whereby each iris is a distinctly different colour, such as having one blue iris and the other brown.

But this isn’t why Bowie’s eyes looked different.

Instead, the unusual appearance of Bowie’s eyes were due to a condition called anisocoria. Anisocoria is a condition characterized by an unequal size in a person’s pupils. In Bowie’s case, his left pupil was permanently dilated.

This can create the illusion of having different coloured eyes because the fixed pupil does not respond to changes in light, while the right pupil does. So Bowie’s left eye often appeared to be quite dark, due to the blackness of his dilated pupil, when compared to the blue of his right iris.

The dilated pupil of his left eye was also potentially more prone to the effect of “red eye”. This sometimes adds to the appearance of a different color when contrasted to his right eye.

Red eye occurs when light reflects off of the fundus (the back of the eye), through an open pupil, and captures a red coloration by picking up tonality from the blood in the choroid lining of the eyeball.

This can clearly be seen in the Aladdin Sane – Eyes Open photograph by Brian Duffy (shot in 1973 but unpublished until 2011) that was used as the lead image on the posters for the V&A David Bowie is (2013) exhibition.

So what happened?

Anecdotally, the cause of Bowie’s anisocoria was attributed to the fallout from a lusty scrap in the spring of 1962. Bowie had come to blows with a friend, George Underwood, over a girl they were both hoping to date.

Both were just 15 at the time and their friendship seemingly remained intact. The two performed together in various bands before Underwood turned from music to painting and graphics. But Bowie’s left eye remained seriously damaged.

An impulsive punch had accidentally scratched the eyeball, resulting in paralysis of the muscles that contract the iris. From that day, Bowie’s left pupil remained in a fixed open position.

Over time, Bowie apparently thanked his friend for his notorious eye injury, telling Underwood that it gave him “a kind of mystique”. This mystique helped fuel some of Bowie’s greatest creations and enhance iconic images, such as the album cover for Heroes (1977).

His eyes could appear eerie and mismatched, producing a captivating or mesmeric gaze from on stage or through the lens of a camera. And the uncanny appearance of Bowie’s eyes was ideal for a performer who embraced ideas of the alien, the outsider, the otherworldly and the occult.

In an increasingly visual world seemingly preoccupied by perfection, Bowie’s damaged left pupil became an intrinsic and arresting part of his enigmatic identity.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am & 12pm EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly

Tales of Rock – David Bowie

David Robert Jones was born on 8 January 1947, in Brixton, south London, England. His mother, Margaret Mary “Peggy” (née Burns; 1913–2001),[3][4] was born in Kent, and had Irish ancestry;[5] she worked as a waitress.[6] His father, Haywood Stenton “John” Jones (1912–1969),[3][4] from Yorkshire,[7] was a promotions officer for the children’s charity Barnardo’s. The family lived at 40 Stansfield Road, near the border of the south London areas of Brixton and Stockwell. Bowie attended Stockwell Infants School until he was six years old, acquiring a reputation as a gifted and single-minded child—and a defiant brawler.[8]

In 1953, Bowie moved with his family to the suburb of Bromley, where, two years later, he started attending Burnt Ash Junior School. His voice was considered “adequate” by the school choir, and he demonstrated above-average abilities in playing the recorder.[9] At the age of nine, his dancing during the newly introduced music and movement classes was strikingly imaginative: teachers called his interpretations “vividly artistic” and his poise “astonishing” for a child.[9] The same year, his interest in music was further stimulated when his father brought home a collection of American 45s by artists including the Teenagers, the Platters, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and Little Richard.[10][11] Upon listening to Little Richard’s song “Tutti Frutti“, Bowie would later say, “I had heard God”.[12]

Presley’s impact on him was likewise emphatic: “I saw a cousin of mine dance to … ‘Hound Dog‘ and I had never seen her get up and be moved so much by anything. It really impressed me, the power of the music. I started getting records immediately after that.”[11] By the end of the following year he had taken up the ukulele and tea-chest bass, begun to participate in skiffle sessions with friends, and had started to play the piano; meanwhile his stage presentation of numbers by both Presley and Chuck Berry—complete with gyrations in tribute to the original artists—to his local Wolf Cub group was described as “mesmerizing … like someone from another planet.”[11] After taking his eleven-plus exam at the conclusion of his Burnt Ash Junior education, Bowie went to Bromley Technical High School.[13]

It was an unusual technical school, as biographer Christopher Sandford wrote:

Despite its status it was, by the time David arrived in 1958, as rich in arcane ritual as any [English] public school. There were houses, named after eighteenth-century statesmen like Pitt and Wilberforce. There was a uniform, and an elaborate system of rewards and punishments. There was also an accent on languages, science and particularly design, where a collegiate atmosphere flourished under the tutorship of Owen Frampton. In David’s account, Frampton led through force of personality, not intellect; his colleagues at Bromley Tech were famous for neither, and yielded the school’s most gifted pupils to the arts, a regime so liberal that Frampton actively encouraged his own son, Peter, to pursue a musical career with David, a partnership briefly intact thirty years later.[13]

Bowie studied art, music and design, including layout and typesetting. After Terry Burns, his half-brother, introduced him to modern jazz, his enthusiasm for players like Charles Mingus and John Coltrane led his mother to give him a plastic alto saxophone in 1961; he was soon receiving lessons from a local musician.[14] Bowie received a serious injury at school in 1962 when his friend George Underwood punched him in the left eye during a fight over a girl. After a series of operations during a four-month hospitalisation,[15] his doctors determined that the damage could not be fully repaired and Bowie was left with faulty depth perception and a permanently dilated pupil, which gave a false impression of a change in the iris’ colour.[16] Despite their altercation, Underwood and Bowie remained good friends, and Underwood went on to create the artwork for Bowie’s early albums.[17]

David Robert Jones was an English singer, songwriter and actor. He was a figure in popular music for over five decades, regarded by critics and musicians as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, his music and stagecraft significantly influencing popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million worldwide, made him one of the world’s best-selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded nine platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, releasing eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and seven gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Born in Brixton, South London, Bowie developed an interest in music as a child, eventually studying art, music and design before embarking on a professional career as a musician in 1963. “Space Oddity” became his first top-five entry on the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969. After a period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The character was spearheaded by the success of his single “Starman” and album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which won him widespread popularity. In 1975, Bowie’s style shifted radically towards a sound he characterised as “plastic soul“, initially alienating many of his UK devotees but garnering him his first major US crossover success with the number-one single “Fame” and the album Young Americans. In 1976, Bowie starred in the cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth and released Station to Station. The following year, he further confounded musical expectations with the electronic-inflected album Low (1977), the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno that would come to be known as the “Berlin Trilogy“. “Heroes” (1977) and Lodger (1979) followed; each album reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise.

After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single “Ashes to Ashes“, its parent album Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, and “Under Pressure“, a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached his commercial peak in 1983 with Let’s Dance, with its title track topping both UK and US charts. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including industrial and jungle. He also continued acting; his roles included Major Celliers in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth (1986), Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), among other film and television appearances and cameos. He stopped concert touring after 2004, and his last live performance was at a charity event in 2006. In 2013, Bowie returned from a decade-long recording hiatus with the release of The Next Day. He remained musically active until he died of liver cancer two days after the release of his final album, Blackstar (2016).

I love this song. That’s Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am & 12pm EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly