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Monday, 9 September 2013

Hong Kong: Tiger Balm Garden/Mandarin Hotel.


In June 1977, John took Sean to Hong Kong, accompanied by a small retinue. The postcard above captures the location of the Tiger Balm Garden location, as visited by all concerned. The Gardens were a popular tourist spot, featuring, as they did, many gaudy statues, including the wedding ceremony of a pig and a rabbit, and a huge depiction of the 18 levels of hell from Taoist teachings. Inevitably, the whole lot was demolished a few years back in order to put up four skyscrapers, though some of the statuary was salvaged.
Whilst in HK, John, Sean plus all important small retinue stayed in the Mandarin hotel, where John happened to bump into David "Dave" Bowie one day.
Quoth the Dame: "Last time I saw John Lennon was in Hong Kong, we went to a Hong Kong market and there was a stall that sold old clothes and there was a Beatles jacket on the stall, and I did something that is not usually in my character—I asked him to put it on, so that I could take a photograph. I took a photograph, and I still got the photograph. The jacket doesn't fit properly, it looks like John has outgrown it.
Here's a pic, taken that day in the garden of the aforementioned Mandarin:


Bowie and Lennon were acquaintances in the mid-1970s, of course, and Dave has recounted a couple of amusing anecdotes, to wit:
“It's impossible for me to talk about popular music without mentioning probably my greatest mentor, John Lennon. I guess he defined for me, at any rate, how one could twist and turn the fabric of pop and imbue it with elements from other artforms, often producing something extremely beautiful, very powerful and imbued with strangeness. Also, uninvited, John would wax on endlessly about any topic under the sun and was over-endowed with opinions. I immediately felt empathy with that. Whenever the two of us got together it started to resemble Beavis and Butthead on "Crossfire."
The seductive thing about John was his sense of humor. Surrealistically enough, we were first introduced in about 1974 by Elizabeth Taylor. Miss Taylor had been trying to get me to make a movie with her. It involved going to Russia and wearing something red, gold and diaphanous. Not terribly encouraging, really. I can't remember what it was called -- it wasn'tOn the Waterfront, anyway, I know that.
We were in LA, and one night she had a party to which both John and I had been invited. I think we were polite with each other, in that kind of older-younger way. Although there were only a few years between us, in rock and roll that's a generation, you know? Oh boy, is it ever.
So John was sort of [in Liverpool accent] "Oh, here comes another new one." And I was sort of, "It's John Lennon! I don't know what to say. Don't mention the Beatles, you'll look really stupid."
And he said, "Hello, Dave." And I said, "I've got everything you've made -- except the Beatles."
A couple of nights later we found ourselves backstage at the Grammys where I had to present "the thing" to Aretha Franklin. Before the show I'd been telling John that I didn't think America really got what I did, that I was misunderstood. Remember that I was in my 20s and out of my head.
So the big moment came and I ripped open the envelope and announced, "The winner is Aretha Franklin." Aretha steps forward, and with not so much as a glance in my direction, snatches the trophy out of my hands and says, "Thank you everybody. I'm so happy I could even kiss David Bowie." Which she didn't! And she promptly spun around swanned off stage right. So I slunk off stage left.
And John bounds over and gives me a theatrical kiss and a hug and says "See, Dave. America loves ya."
We pretty much got on like a house on fire after that.
He once famously described glam rock as just rock and roll with lipstick on. He was wrong of course, but it was very funny.
Towards the end of the 70s, a group of us went off to Hong Kong on a holiday and John was in, sort of, house-husband mode and wanted to show Sean the world. And during one of our expeditions on the back streets a kid comes running up to him and says, "Are you John Lennon?" And he said, "No but I wish I had his money." Which I promptly stole for myself.
[imitating a fan] "Are you David Bowie?"
No, but I wish I had his money.
It's brilliant. It was such a wonderful thing to say. The kid said, "Oh, sorry. Of course you aren't," and ran off. I thought, "This is the most effective device I've heard."
I was back in New York a couple of months later in Soho, downtown, and a voice pipes up in my ear, "Are you David Bowie?" And I said, "No, but I wish I had his money."
"You lying bastard. You wish you had my money." It was John Lennon.”

Bowie has also said that he captured some footage of John in 1975, whilst filming test material for a proposed Diamond Dogs film:
"Every now and then the camera catches sight of [John Lennon] in the background, sitting there with his guitar playing hits of the day and saying, ‘What the bloody hell are you doing, Bowie? It’s so negative, all your shit, all this Diamond Dogs mutant crap!’
As far as I know, this delightful filmic exchange has yet to see daylight.


2 comments:

  1. very interesting, i had never read about this before.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Whenever I read Bowie's dismissal of John's assessment of glam rock, I think, "No, he was right! It IS just rock and roll with lipstick on." A true Lennonism—a bigger idea encapsulated in just a few choice words.

    ReplyDelete