I saw David Bowie give the keynote speech at CMJ in 1995. He wore a perfect white linen suit that glowed a little under the lights.
People started shrieking the second his first wingtip stepped onstage and it turned into the applause version of Queen at Wembley Stadium. We screamed and clapped and shouted and whistled and he just stood there eating it up and beaming it back at us through that smile like a mischievous pile of knives, as if to say:
“Thank you, you’re too kind, but really, I’m very used to this and it never gets old.”
He walked around the stage gesturing and waving and amping it up, and milked the room for all we had. And eventually, the applause died down – I think we all just got tired.
Once the room finally got quiet, he bowed, said “Thank you so much,” and then just walked off stage and disappeared.
Nobody could find him. He was gone for two minutes, then five, then ten. Worried stagehands with headsets and clipboards came onstage.
Everyone that had been applauding started saying, “What’s going on? Should we go? What’s happening?”
One of the stagehands said into the microphone, “Listen, everybody. We, uh, Mr. Bowie is supposed to be here, but, uh, nobody can find him.”
The confusion got even louder. And right as people were starting to put on their coats, David Bowie skipped out onstage again and said
“Ah, now that was a bit of fun.”
Everyone lost it, laughing, and the applause came right back, louder than the first time. Then he gave his speech, killed it, and got another standing ovation on the way out.
This icon of modern rock and roll whipped a crowd up into a frenzy and then went and hid in a coat closet without telling anybody for fifteen minutes just to prank several thousand people.
It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. And goddamn, is that masterful.
He took us all on this emotional roller coaster and turned one standing ovation into three. He knew exactly who he was to all of us, gave it to us, made us want him even more, then gave it to us and we loved him even more for doing it.
I hope he’s doing that again to all of us now.
David Bowie can’t be dead. He’s just hiding, and when he comes back, we’re all gonna go NUTS.
This post originally appeared on jeffsimmermon.com. Republished with permission.