Scottish Sunday Mail - 23rd November 2003

I missed my son growing up... I'm not going to make the same mistake with my daughter

Exclusive: Bowie on fatherhood, OOD, living forever and 9/11

By Billy Sloan

ROCK superstar David Bowie has it all a beautiful supermodel wife, a string of classic hits and a fortune in the bank.

But there's one thing the 56-year-old wants more than anything.

"I desperately want to live forever. You know what I want to still be around in another 40 or 50 years," said David.

Bowie's status as a rock legend has paled into insignificance against the thrill of being a father again. In August 2000, the singer and his stunning Somalian wife Iman had their first child, a beautiful daughter Alexandria Zahra.

She has inspired the songs on his latest chart-topping album Reality. When I spoke to Bowie last week, he revealed he gets as much pleasure taking Alexandria to his local park in New York as he does from wowing audiences on his sell-out world tour.

David, who lives in a plush apartment in the chic SoHo area of Manhattan, told me: "I just want to be there for Alexandria. She's so exciting and so lovely so I want to be around when she grows up. I think, 'When am I gonna let go of her? When she's 20?' Nah I wanna see her get married.

"When she's 30? Nah I wanna see what she's like as a mother.

"I don't want to let her go. If I didn't have my little three-year-old running around, I wouldn't be writing songs quite this way. Seeing in her eyes all the hope and joy and optimism of the future, I have to reflect that in what I'm doing."

Bowie has a son, Joe, 32, from his first marriage to Angela Barnet. But the singer missed seeing the boy whom the couple initially called Zowie grow up because he was always on tour.

So what did he discover about fatherhood second time around? "That being there for your child is a good idea," said David, laughing. "I missed so much of Joe's life.

"For Joe, it was just bad luck he had a dad who had to be out on the road for his own career ambitions. It's a shame. In a way, I've never forgiven myself for that.

"But on the other hand, that's life. Joe and I have long ago reconciled ourselves about that. We get on great.

"Now I love being with both my son and my daughter. It's just wonderful."

Supermodel wife. String of landmark hits including Space Oddity, Life On Mars, Ziggy Stardust and Heroes. A reputation as one of the most innovative figures in rock history. I remarked to David that he's a lucky bleeder.

He agreed: "I am, I am. It's like the story where the hotel waiter says to George Best, 'Where did it all go wrong?' In my case, it's, 'Where did it all go right?"' He's set to storm into Scotland on Friday for a show at the 8500-capacity SECC in Glasgow. On the Reality world tour, Bowie will perform to more than one million fans in 17 countries over seven months.

His SECC show is his first appearance in the city since his memorable gig at Barrowland in 1997. Despite his global fame, Bowie, Iman and Alexandria manage to live a normal life in the Big Apple.

The singer wanders around his neighbourhood virtually unrecognised in stark contrast to when he's in his native London, where paparazzi photographers dog his every step. Songs on the Reality album contain lyrical references to Manhattan landmarks such as Battery Park, Riverside and the Hudson River.

"I am anonymous in New York and it is one of the major attractions of living there," he said. "In Paris, Los Angeles or London it's never that easy to get around.

"What do I do on a normal day? Well, what do YOU do? I do that. I do some shopping, meet the wife for lunch or go to the park with Alexandria.

"Or else I might go do some recording in my studio or see a movie at the Angelica cinema in nearby Greenwich Village.

"It's easy to get about. Nobody looks at me twice. In New York, they don't feel they have possession of you. They let you get on with your life.

"Whereas in London, it's all, 'David, David, gimme your autograph'. And me saying, 'Oh, please, leave me alone. I've got three shopping bags, it's raining, I haven't got a coat and I'm trying to get home'.

"It's not like that in New York. It's more, 'Hi, Dave'. That's all you get. At the most.

"But it's exactly the same for Moby or Lou Reed, who live around my area. You see them all the time on the street. We're all just people who live around town."

So how did David feel when his adopted home came under terrorist attack on September 11, 2001? David and Iman's apartment in SoHo had a stunning view of the Twin Towers. That was one reason why they bought it.

He told me: "It was traumatic and very, very disturbing. What actually made it worse was that I was in Woodstock, upstate New York, recording my previous album Heathen.

"Iman and Alexandria were at home in the apartment. That was the most terrifying thing. After the attack, the phones all went dead. You couldn't get in or out of New York. We were cut off from each other.

"What I ended up seeing when I did manage to get back was a big hole in the sky where those buildings had been. There was a thin film of ash all over the house and the furniture."

David then relived the moment Iman described the Al-Qaeda attack on the second tower. "Iman was standing at our kitchen window we were on the phone to each other," he recalled.

"She said, 'You won't believe what's happening. A plane has gone into one of the towers'. Then she said, 'Oh, my God another plane has just gone into the second tower'. I shouted, 'Get out of there. Get the baby, get a pram and get out you're under attack'. I just knew immediately it was a terrorist act."

Bowie later performed in the fund-raising Concert For New York, alongside fellow superstars including Paul McCartney, The Who and Robert De Niro at Madison Square Garden.

Bowie seems to have a renewed appetite for performing again. He doesn't see age as being relevant. He said: "Why should it be? I'm a singer and a writer, so it's the songs I'm bringing to the stage. If I went through an 18-year-old's record collection I could pick out Mercury Rev or Grandaddy and say, 'Yeah, I like what these guys are doing'.

"If that kid was to look through mine he could pull out a Neil Young or a John Lennon or Madness and say, 'I dig these'."

Bowie can't wait to hit the SECC next Friday. He told me: "It's gonna be fantastic in Scotland. It's the last gig on our European tour. It's always great for me there."

Does he still enjoy it? He said: "I just get up there, determined to have a damned good time for two hours."