1975: New York
David Bowie spent the end of 1974 and early 1975 living in New York City. In January, in an attempt to limit his management company MainMan’s extraordinary hotel expenses, he was moved into a rented brownstone on West 20th Street, a couple of blocks away from his publicist Cherry Vanilla.
David liked my apartment on 20th Street, and he also liked [drug supplier] Norman Fisher’s coke, something for which he’d recently acquired an insatiable appetite and for which I had, of course, hooked him up. And since my days were winding down with MainMan, I guess David felt comfortable getting high with me and opening up about anything and everything that was on his mind.
Vanilla claimed to have facilitated Bowie’s cocaine addiction by becoming an early supplier.
When I first met him he didn’t take many drugs, maybe a diet pill every now and then and a glass of white wine to get himself tipsy. He didn’t really get high until he started getting into cocaine, which I actually helped him get into. He went into cocaine really fast, but then he came out of it quite quickly too. I helped him get the very best cocaine when he was doing it, but he only did it for eighteen months or two years tops. I think it was just cocaine, and was not aware of him doing anything else. He only really liked cocaine.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
Bowie had befriended John Lennon in September 1974, after being introduced at a party by Elizabeth Taylor. Their friendship grew in the coming months, and in January 1975 the pair collaborated on the ‘Fame’ and ‘Across The Universe’.
They met again at the 17th Grammy Awards on 1 March, where they were photographed with Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon, and Roberta Flack.
I was in a very serious state. You just have to look at some of the photographs of me, I cannot believe I actually survived it. You can see me at the Grammys, for instance, with Lennon, it terrifies me. It’s a skull. There’s not an ounce on me. I’m just a skeleton.
I have an addictive personality. I’m quite clear on that now. And it was easily obtainable and it kept me working, ’cos I didn’t use it for… I wasn’t really a recreational guy, I wasn’t really an out-on-the-town guy. I was much more ‘OK, let’s write ten different projects this week and make four or five sculptures.’ And I’d just stay up 24 hours a day until most of that was completed. I just liked doing stuff. I loved being involved in that creative moment. And I’d found a soul-mate in this drug, which helped perpetuate that creative moment.
Yes, cocaine. Well, speed as well, actually. The combination. And apparently a lot of elephant tranquilliser went in there too!
Mojo, July 2002
After the ceremony, Bowie, Lennon and Yoko Ono attended a Motown party held at Le Jardin nightclub on West 43rd Street.
David Bowie and John became engaged in deep conversation, then disappeared. Tony King… who was an old friend of John and Yoko said to me, ‘Yoko’s looking for John. Do you know where he is?’ I didn’t, but later I happened to be standing in the hallway when someone opened the door to the women’s bathroom. I noticed three pairs of cowboy boots – suspiciously under one stall. The boots were David Bowie’s, John’s and a limo driver’s. I can’t help but think of that night when I hear ‘Fame’ – ‘What you like is in the limo…’
John Lennon: The New York Years
Bowie was in the process of extricating himself from his contract with MainMan, and Lennon – who had had his own travails with Allen Klein – became a mentor and informal advisor.
John sorted me out all the way down the line. He took me to one side, sat me down and told me what it was all about. I realised that I was very naïve.
Melody Maker, 13 March 1976
In January 1975 Bowie enlisted a new manager, Michael Lippman, a Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer. Lippman opened legal proceedings against Tony Defries and MainMan, and seeking an end to their stake in his management, publishing and recording.
The following month Bowie met director Nicolas Roeg in New York. Roeg was seeking to cast the role of Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell To Earth after watching him in the BBC’s Cracked Actor.
Casting agent Maggie Abbott brought a script to Bowie’s home, and was taken aback by his “ghastly” appearance. Bowie, meanwhile, was tentatively interested in the script, and agreed to take the role.
I think one of the things that Nic identified with me is that I was definitely living in two separate worlds at the same time. My state of mind was quite fractured and fragmented but I didn’t really have much emotive force going for me so it was quite easy for me not to relate too well with those around me.
The Man Who Fell To Earth, Criterion commentary, 1993