You never know when your college friends may become useful professional contacts. One night 17 years ago, Lev Skwatzenschitz and I found ourselves stumbling down College Avenue at Rutgers, trading verses of “I’m a Little Bumblebee” and praying aloud for the grease truck with the good cheeseburgers to still be open at 3:00 in the morning. By 3:05, we were seated on the sidewalk, empty-handed, discussing our impending graduation and our dreams of life thereafter. Lev actually told me, “I’m gonna make my dreams come true, Smitty. I’ll be a star, and I’m going to take you along with me!”
Lev works in sanitation now, but his uncle, Donnie Skwatzenschitz, is some sort of representative for one or another music industry entity (he’s held a lot of jobs over the years). He hobnobs with the rich and famous and keeps trying to get Lev into “the family business.” As part of that effort, Uncle Donnie sends Lev copies of his correspondence with musicians, to inspire him, I suppose. Recently, Lev gave me a whole box of these things, with instructions to “do whatever you want with them.” Every couple weeks, I’ll share one of Uncle Donnie’s missives, in the hope that we may all be just slightly more inspired than Lev. —RS
TO: David Bowie
FROM: Don Skwatzenschitz
RE: Career advice
David, Mitzi and I are just back from a week in Vale, and I gotta tell you, I feel energized. Nothing like a couple days on the slopes to clear the mind. You should come out with us sometime. Bring your wife, Yvonne (or whatever) and see for yourself. Bundle up, though—thin white dukes can turn blue very easily out there. Ha!
I was thinking of you, though, while I was on the K-3. David, as you know, the music business sucks. Record companies suck. We missed out on so much by not getting the Feds to tax downloading. Fellas like you, who’ve been around the block a while but who might not necessarily be technologically savvy or business-smart, can get lost in the shuffle. I don’t want you and Yvonne to wind up selling off your possessions for beer money, you know? So I’m going to give you some advice:
- Bring back Ziggy. Ziggy Stardust at 62? LiveNation will cream themselves to get that. Put on the makeup and wig again (that was a wig, wasn’t it? Not that it matters), and you’re playing stadiums next summer, pal. You could bring the Dolls and Mott out as openers, too. Yeah, Mick Ronson’s been dead since ’93, but does he have any kids who are in the biz? Would you be cool with maybe bringing Frampton in again? Or, get this—Mitzi saw this Filipino kid in a Ziggy cover band … We’ll talk, if you’re interested.
- Reinvent that whole Tin Machine concept. You know me, David—I always thought T.M. was misunderstood. Here’s an idea—bring the band back, but this time with an all-star lineup. I know for a fact you can probably get that Grohl kid on drums. And Van Halen kicked out Michael Anthony (can you believe the kishkes on those guys?), so you can get him as a bass player. Maybe Frampton again on guitar. The kids’d love that.
- Two words: Reality TV. Better yet, you can reconstitute the Tin Machine thing through a season-long reality TV search! And if that doesn’t float your boat, consider lending your considerable brand to a different show—maybe a “Let’s Dance” celebrity dance competition, or a “Young Americans” Survivor-type show with all American kids doing weird shit. Or if NASA ever gets off their collective ass, maybe we can send you out into space, you oddity, you.
- Fake your death. Face it, Dave, you haven’t had a hit since Reagan was president. If people think you’re dead—just think it; you don’t have to actually die—I think I can help you make some money. We can re-release your last five records (from Outside to Reality) as new product, because, to be honest, I don’t think anyone knows they’re already out there (though Mitzi’s water aerobics class loved “Dead Man Walking,” from Earthling). Betcha we can also get a Bowie week on Idol, which typically pushes the back catalog. Meanwhile, you and Yvonne and your kid will be sipping drinks out in Vale, raking in the money and skiing every blessed day. I couldn’t wish any better for you, Davy.
All the best,