Last June, Will Brooker, a professor of film and cultural studies at London’s Kingston University, decided to become one of his heroes, and not just for one day. In the process of writing a book about David Bowie, originally intended to coincide with the rock star’s 70th birthday in 2017, Brooker took up a year-long project to immerse himself in Bowie’s various phases via costumes, makeup, performances, and even dietary regimes (red peppers, milk, and energy drinks in the place of cocaine for the Thin White Duke period).
I spoke with Brooker on Thursday to get his thoughts on the life and death of his unusual study’s unusual subject.
Spencer Kornhaber: How’d you find out about Bowie’s death?
Will Brooker: Although I’m doing a chronology of Bowie's life and career, I still rely on contemporary technology, so I looked at my phone and saw it on Twitter. I was really in denial, I just thought, “It can't be true.” I actually had [just had] a dream about David Bowie, which I often do because I read so many books about him during the day. I’d felt during the night that I’d come to a great revelation, and I woke up to this.
Kornhaber: Do you remember anything about the dream?
Brooker: Yeah, I do, but I don’t really think it was the revelation I thought it was at the time. It was David Bowie in the early 1970s, very young and beautiful and pale, with Ziggy Stardust red hair, wearing a knitted jumpsuit. And I was standing with him above this empty theater and he was saying, “When you no longer shock and interest the people below, the audience, it's time to move on and find something new.” I suppose it does seem symbolic: David Bowie looking down at the people below saying, “It’s time to move on.”