“What am I supposed to do? Kiss your ass?”: did Bowie really completely drag one of his own fans on a messageboard?

David Bowie live in California
(Image credit: Photo by J. Shearer/WireImage)

There is a famous David Bowie interview with Jeremy Paxman from 1999 where the Starman waxes lyrical about the possibilities of the internet to a sceptical Paxman. But Bowie is adamant. “The idea of a duality in the way that we live—there were always two, three, four, five sides to every question,” he theorises. “That the singularity disappeared and that I believe has produced such a medium as the internet, which absolutely establishes and shows us that we are living in total fragmentation.”

But really, what Bowie could’ve added at the end is, “And also the internet will give me the opportunity to monumentally troll my own fans on what will come to be known as ‘messageboards’.” Because if you believe a famous viral Bowie-related post on the internet, that’s exactly Bowie was getting up to at the dawn of the millennium. It’s certainly true that Bowie used to post on his own official forum BowieNet, telling fans about what new records and bands he loved (Arcade Fire, Secret Machines, Battles) or to dispel any ridiculous rumours about himself.

But there’s one exchange that has become more famous than all of the others. It’s a reply to a post from a fan complaining that back in 1978, Bowie had sat next to them on a park bench whilst taking a break from jogging. The hardcore fan could barely contain themselves, they said, writing:

After the longest two minutes of my life I manage a nervous “Hello David, I’m a trainee chef at the Dorchester” [Bowie was staying at the Dorchester hotel at that time].

Your reply without even looking at me: “That’s nice.” Then you got up and proceeded with your jogging. You got a couple of hundred yards away, probably out of earshot, and I shouted, “C**T!”.”

The ‘fan’ went on to lambast Bowie for his 80s output, repeat the C word taunt and, whether it was being called a ‘c**t” or having a decade’s worth of music ridiculed, someone purporting to be Bowie put on his Sailor suit and piped up. The reply is classic:

“So what am I supposed to do, kiss your ass or something?

Okay, here: I’m sorry I didn’t lavish you with attention on a fucking park bench. But “trainee chef” doesn’t exactly raise any eyebrows. Besides, I train in very time-specific intervals. Any more time on that bench would have ruined my pump.

I did hear you yell that at me. As a matter of fact, my entire creative output in the 80s was in response to that. I knew that you couldn’t stay mad at me. I knew that you would get people into my music. But I also knew, as I jogged away, that I would have my revenge on you by making you feel stupid as I realised three albums – each one worse than the one before it. I decided to humiliate you in your circle of friends. As a matter of fact, I began composing Glass Spider in my head as I jogged.

I was going to let this information remain a secret, since you have already suffered a great deal of embarrassment. But now that you have decided to pull your stunt again, I’ll tell all your dorky internet friends about it so that they know who’s really to blame for my 80s work. I think some people with a real sharp eye might even catch a few subliminal flashes of the phrases “this is for you, trainee bench boy” or “a cunt am I?” during the video for Dancing In The Street.

Don’t cross me.”

Here’s the full exchange:

Bowie messageboard

(Image credit: Twitter)

Unfortunately, it’s probably not true, Bowie diehards pointing out that the writing style is wrong (Bowie was more to the point and terse) and that he only ever posted on his official forum, not on this one, which was called Teenage Wildlife. Oh well, it’s still a very entertaining exchange.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.