‘I heard David laugh from the back and say, “I know, why don’t we all just follow Nino.” ‘But first things first: we needed to learn the song and David happily showed us the chords and arrangement. I remember a beautiful baby grand in the room that he used, along with the guitar, to quickly go over the song. It was a very simple chord structure, which Popeye and I made quick work of. Now came the moment I was dreading, the dance moves. But before we tackled that part we took a break. I recall “borrowing” a Marlboro or two, OK, MAYBE three, from the Man himself. He was so friendly and gracious and I recall being so at ease around him. I mean, here was Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke in the flesh. I cut my musical teeth on his repertoire. First having heard “Space Oddity” when I was 11, only to be weened on The Spiders From Mars and The Thin White Duke; later sustaining myself on his Berlin Trilogy. We talked about his eyes and how he got into a schoolyard fight as a child, injuring one eye so badly it was permanently dilated, putting to rest the notion he had one blue and one brown eye. We debated what he sat on during the song “Time” during the Diamond Dogs tour, him saying it was a hand. I recalled something else, only for him to laugh and tell me, “I think I should know.” Anyone who knows me can attest to my linear thinking at times. I’ve gotten better but if I thought something was a certain way, especially back then, it was hard to dissuade me. The fact that I was 15 and stoned out of my mind on pot brownies during the Diamond Dogs show didn’t help any. I’m still like that. It certainly is a flaw in my character and has led me to believe there is probably a smidgen of Asperger’s in there somewhere! LOL! But David was not offended and I apologized. He laughed and joked with us. He was the consummate host and the consummate professional. You knew he expected the best from you without one word being uttered nor any demands made. He made you want to be the best you could be; to not let him down. So it was with great trepidation that I fell in line for our dance lesson. The choreographer in front, Popeye next to me, and David in the back. As you will see from the video, the moves were nothing special, but for me you may as well have been asking me to do the Tango. I was so damn bad that at one point we stopped and I heard David laugh from the back and say, “I know, why don’t we all just follow Nino” to which I quickly turned, pointed at him and replied, “I WILL have this by tomorrow.” I doubt it eased his mind much but I think he understood. I wasn’t replaced and as you can see from the video the moves are there. How you ask? It was actually quite simple. I stayed up all night in my tiny rehearsal space, naked with a guitar strapped on, and practiced those stupid fucking dance moves all night. Why naked you ask? Simple, I slept in the nude and feeling woefully unprepared, I got up, put on a guitar and forced myself to learn the moves until exhaustion set in. When I arrived to the shoot the next day, I was nervous about how I would do, but made sure not to let them see me sweat. As with any performance, it was time to fish or cut bait, and I was damned certain I would not be the one cutting any bait that day. THE SHOOT So the big day had arrived! And while you might think I was a novice to acting, you would be wrong. Once in Santa Maria as a wee lad, I was given a small speaking line for a film being shot at a local high school. To this day I have no idea what the movie is called, but even at my tender young age I knew it was well below a B on the rating scale, so I never much bothered. My role? I tapped some kid on his shoulder and said, “Hey, get Marble.” That kid tapped someone else, who may have then tapped someone else, who then “got” Marble. Who was Marble? I haven’t a clue. He was just some actor playing a role in a pre-Porky’s comedy about troubled teens, which probably never got released. But if any of you recall seeing such a film, by all means please let me know. But other than that, I had never really been in front of a camera on a professional level. Sure, I’d done interviews, been filmed playing live, and was even on “Lil’ Art’s Poker Party” with the one and only Art Fein, but never before had I been involved at this level. I had no idea what to expect but I did know I was ready. Hell, I had better be since I had stayed up all night working on those damn dance moves! The building was this huge place in downtown Los Angeles. I have no recollection of where it was located or of parking, but do recall I drove myself there so my car must have been in working order by this time. When I walked inside I was greeted by a scene that could have been out of “Blade Runner.” Throngs of people, young and old, gathered in some makeshift Tent City, close to a stage which was built in front of the descending staircase you see in the video. Come to think of it, aren’t all Tent Cities makeshift? After greeting everyone, my first stop was makeup and wardrobe. I recall they wanted to put all these fake tattoos on me. Much to their dismay, the only way to accomplish that would have been to shave my chest: an undertaking not for the weak of heart, and that was just not going to happen. I think they had hoped to make me look a lot harder, as in just-released-from-prison hard (think De Niro in “Cape Fear”). So again the plan changed. I would wear a ripped up T-shirt and my County of Los Angeles issued orange coveralls. Once that was done it was off to the stage for direction and rehearsal. What you can’t see in the video — though I believe it has been in at least one version — is the treadmill built into the stage that we took turns riding on. Great. Not only do I have to play, dance, and sing, but now I have to be a fucking acrobat too? But as is my way, I leapt at the opportunity! Now, to be honest, I don’t remember much about the particulars of that day. It was long and we worked hard, but it was also fun and very rewarding. As far as David was concerned, we really didn’t see much of him when not filming. He was either on stage or in his trailer. But he was gracious and friendly and, of course, he had more people to be gracious and friendly with. There was a bit of banter between us all, some joking around, and a few laughs. But we were working and everyone was in top form this day. One extra bonus was that I did get to know Julian Temple a lot better. We actually exchanged numbers and spoke quite a few times on the phone. I recall we threatened to go out and get drunk together a few times but nothing ever came of it. More likely is that I threatened to take HIM out to get drunk with ME. I must say he was a very warm, nice, real, and interesting man and I’m sorry I lost touch with him as we had developed a bit of a friendship. He even threw some more work my way. One time as an extra in Neil Young’s “This Note’s For You” and another time in a Rod Stewart video that got canceled. That was nice because I got to hang out in a trailer for a few hours, got paid, and didn’t have to do a thing for it. I didn’t get fed, but they did bring me a couple bananas! As I recall, Rod had hooked up with a stewardess and, as they say, the rest was history.
‘For fuckssake, I couldn’t buy a drink in my hometown because I was now a certified “Rock Star.” ‘But I digress. I do have to admit it was nice to be pampered and treated like a star for the time I was on set filming “Day-In Day-Out.” Attractive makeup girls coming by to take off the shine, engage in small talk and flirt. Of course we were fed well and the best part was we all got paid. Was there stress? You bet. I did not want to go down as that “guy” who fucked up David Bowie’s video shoot. But in the end, it all went pretty smooth. I had my rent covered, food in the refrigerator, gas in the tank, money for drinks, and I made some new friends along the way. It was a rewarding experience and the best part was that I got to work with one of my childhood heroes and one of the greatest artists the world has ever known. I guess the best way to wrap this up is to remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and not only did I somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie, I got to work with him too. AFTERMATH As it happens, “Day In, Day-Out” was kind of a big deal. Bowie had not released anything in three years so it was news. And wouldn’t you know it, the clip used to promote the video had my big mug prominently displayed. I recall getting a phone call telling me I had been observed on “Entertainment Tonight.” Another time I was in Ensenada with a fellow bass player. We had gone to San Diego for a gig and afterwards, in a drunken mess, decided to go to Mexico on a whim. The bathroom in our shitty room had a lip on it and after a particularly intoxicating evening, he called out to say I was on the television. I stumbled out in a rush only to trip over the lip and fly, face down onto the bed with my pants around my ankles: leaving him forever scarred by the sight of me on the television juxtaposed with me face down and bare-assed in person! We had laughs about that for years. And while embarrassing, I have never been that guy who can’t laugh at himself and would be remiss if I were to not add that moment to this story. But it was not all grins and giggles. For fuckssake, I couldn’t buy a drink in my hometown because I was now a certified “Rock Star.” People were pulling me to one side and asking me to help their buddy “break into” the music business. The absurdity of it all was too much sometimes. It was surreal and I could only laugh about it with my friends so as to not lose it, often saying, “If they could only see where I lived!” But I was never one to lambast anyone for being inaccurate, unless I had imbibed a bit too much and then … well, sometimes I could be a real ass. But that is no excuse for bad behavior so allow me to formally apologize to anyone now who may have gotten a dose of my drunken stupidity. The real downside for me was that I had been in so many great, critically acclaimed, and groundbreaking bands up to that point: Puppies; Country Dick & the Snuggle Bunnies; The Lonesome Strangers; Snake Farm; a stint with Billy Bremner from Rockpile. So for all I had done as a musician, my praise, my legacy as it were, was from a fucking acting gig. The worst part is I was in the throes of alcohol and drug addiction at this time. I really was a mess. I recall a friend coming by my place at Sunset and Gordon to pay a 12-Step call on me. He is a prominent and talented drummer and though I didn’t know it at the time, he was trying to save my life and my career. Of course I was in a rather joyous mood, having made a trip to the downstairs liquor store that morning so his efforts were to no avail. He sat patiently laughing — I’m sure at me — as I jumped up and down on the my bed with a Schlitz “Tall Boy,” pontificating on the brilliance of Nelson Riddle’s arrangements while “Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely” played loudly. My situation was so bad, I made a drastic life change and moved to Washington state. I’d rather not go into the details of that as they are basically boring but I will say I was at my mother’s house for a short rest when I got a call. It was from David’s “people.” I was being invited to his Glass Spider Tour with backstage passes. So I sojourned to a room at the Sunset Marquis to pick them up. Of course, David was not there, but it was nice for him to remember me that way. It only deepened my appreciation for him as a person. The night of the concert is a tale in and of itself so please forgive me if I leave that for another time. I eventually cleaned myself up, moved back to Hollywood, and went on to play in a few more amazing, yet totally unknown bands: The Knights of the Living Dead; AntiProduct; The Black Tongued Bells. I also did some session work, got a degree from UCLA and eventually semi-retired from music and took up screenwriting — moving from one high-paying job to another! LOL! To this day I have a handful of people who feel I’m one of the best bass players they’ve ever known. I don’t see it. I never have. Further, while I appreciate their kind and supportive words, I never really cared. I’ve always considered myself a “band guy” and being a part of the greater whole is where I felt I shined the brightest. All I ever cared about was making the best and most honest music I could. And now, as I write this, I ponder my life and the choices I’ve made. Two failed marriages and two failed careers; failing health and a future that looks less than fulfilling. Anyone who knows me will attest that I never talk about this stuff, except to a few close friends, and then I usually find the humor in it all. But as a writer, I’m a firm believer in being honest. Perhaps now you can see why I was hesitant to tell this tale. For all the sparkle that accompanied working with David Bowie, there is an aftermath, and that too must be told. For if I left that out I would be but a liar and a fraud. When we pass, the only thing we can take with us is our credibility. I would like to feel mine remained intact. But I will not be around to determine that; only others will. I can only hope they will be honest, if not kind. As for David? Well, I did run into him one more time right before he formed Tin Machine. But he was surrounded by people, friends and fans alike, so we did not have a chance to talk. I doubt he remembered me but we shook hands and said hello nonetheless. And I actually did get to work with him again, though he never knew it. I helped build the sets for a movie he was in called “The Linguini Incident.” So there you have it; the good, the bad and the ugly. I hope you have enjoyed this tale and that it has helped shed some light on just what an amazing person he truly was. He never came off as a rock star and his generosity and exuberance had a profound impact on me. I only wish I had gotten to spend some time in the studio with him. Not to sound egotistical, but I honestly think he would have enjoyed it as much I would have. Related stories: Finally, a tune for unsung hero, tour manager Tom Ames. LINK Larger than life, Country Dick Montana has been gone 20 years. LINK David Bowie tribute Space Oddity lands in Tahoe. LINK