When I checked my Facebook early Monday morning, I knew immediately it was going to be a sad, very long day. I thumb-swiped through statements of disbelief, heartfelt obituaries, costumes of Halloweens past and even one photo of a makeshift candle-lit vigil set up around a beaten-up copy of “Space Oddity” on vinyl.
As I work a full-time social media gig, I was at a loss about what, if any, content to post. It was almost as if posting anything unrelated to David Bowie would be not only pointless, but disrespectful.
Oddly enough, I’ll always associate David Bowie with film rather than music. Back in 2013, I enrolled in a film course while working on my bachelor’s degree at Ryerson University. A small group of students (no more than 10), we scattered ourselves among the first two rows of an otherwise large theatre room at AMC Yonge and Dundas. The focus of the course was to explore the relationship between human embodiment and cinematic practice. In other words: how our bodies corporeally engage with onscreen bodies by breaking down an invisible barrier.
This course made me appreciate film at a whole new level by tackling it from an academic POV. I learned how to interpret, analyze and relate to what I saw, instead of simply and absentmindedly watching rom coms. These techniques led me to become a more thoughtful and better writer overall. Of all the films we studied, the one that has resonated with me the most is Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring none other than our man Bowie. If you haven’t seen it: a woman falls desperately in love with an alien who she mistakes for a human named Tommy. Despite the fact that his “true” form includes snake eyes and a lack of male reproductive organs, it’s impossible for a female viewer like me not to identify with Mary-Lou and fall in love with Tommy, thanks to Bowie’s flawless performance. Obsessing over dissecting Bowie’s mannerisms in this film sparked the transformation that has turned me into the cinema geek I am today.
Seeing all the constant social media updates in the hours following his death has made me realize that Bowie was important to many people in their own unique way. For most, music. For me, film. For my friend Jenn, fashion. For another friend, gender-fluid inspiration. Terms like “icon” and “soul” dance through my feed as descriptors.
On my walk home from work last night, I stopped in at a high-end women’s clothing store, a tattoo parlour and a fruit market. And they were all blasting Bowie’s greatest hits at full volume. As diverse as we all are in this city, there’s one thing we can agree on: we’re all going to miss him.
In honour of his death, here’s my roundup of some of the ways Toronto has displayed its affection and respect for David Bowie in recent years.
- The AGO hosted David Bowie is on its first North American stop of a world tour in September 2013. The exhibition displayed more than 300 objects from Bowie’s personal archive, and closed with a “Bowie Bash, ” where over 425 guests attended in Bowie-inspired outfits and makeup.
- The Department of Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto published this.
- Astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded this.
- There’s an Airbnb rental near Queen and Ossington with an entire Bowie-themed room.
- Toronto bars have hosted tribute nights on a regular basis, including this one at The Piston; this one at Hugh’s Room; and this one at The Garrison.
- Life on Mars, a theatrical production that Blog TO described as “…two hours of classic Bowie music, uniquely arranged into a musical concert experience,ran exclusively at The Annex’s Randolph Theatre in 2015.