Press of Atlantic City - December 4, 2003

Devoted to David:
Area women have spent 30 years catching attention of their idol Bowie

By Vincent Jackson

For some people, it was the Beatles, the Grateful Dead or Michael Jackson who inspired devotion. For Lenore Monroe and Marla Kanevsky it was - and still is - David Bowie.

The British rock star is coming to Atlantic City Saturday at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, and you can be sure the Event Center will be filled with longtime fans. But not many will have as much history with Bowie as Monroe and Kanevsky, who met the star when they were Philadelphia-area teenagers.

Monroe, who lives in Egg Harbor Township, was only 16 when she first noticed Bowie in 1972. In those days, Bowie was as big as any rock star in history, performing under the persona of Ziggy Stardust, an orange-haired, androgynous character, possibly from outer space, who had the hard rock guitar riffs of the late Mick Ronson, to bolster his out-of-this world appearance.

Bowie had a rabid following in Philadelphia, and he rewarded the city's devotion by playing five-night stints in the 3,000-seat Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, Pa., so his fans there could have a more intimate experience than in an arena. He also picked his 1974 shows at the Tower to use as the basis for his first live album and spent 12 days recording his "Young Americans" album in Philadelphia at a time when most pop albums were recorded in New York, Los Angeles or London.

It was all too exciting to ignore for Monroe, a Catholic high school teenager living under the roof of a strict policeman father. She was too young to disobey her parents who forbid her to see Bowie's 1972 and 1973 concerts, but when she turned 18 and graduated from high school in 1974, she was at the Tower for Bowie's five shows in July.

"Britney (Spears) had nothing on me," said Monroe, who spelled out Bowie in rhinestones on her blouse and wore a white feather boa to the events. "I went by myself. I was going to meet David Bowie."

Monroe, who was known as Lenni McFadden at the time, did meet Bowie later that night at the Holiday Inn where he was staying. For years after that, she showed up at the backstage doors of Bowie venues - getting free tickets to the show.

Kanevsky, who was known as Marla Feldstein at the time, couldn't get tickets to the first leg of Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" tour in 1972, but she saw him on the tour's second leg in 1973 at the Tower.

"I was in the 25th row. I rushed the stage and made eye contact with him," she said. After that, she got front-row tickets for all Bowie's 1974 Tower concerts. During one show, Bowie bent down and hugged her from the stage. She whispered her name into his ear. Another night, she came to his concert carrying a pillow with Bowie's face on it and gave it to him while he was on stage.

"I have never sat on my face before," Bowie said, before sitting on the pillow to sing "Rock 'n Roll Suicide."

The two women were ready when Bowie returned to Philadelphia one month later to record his "Young Americans" album, which had the No. 1 pop single "Fame." The album was to be recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, the studio where the "Philly soul" records were made by acts like the O'Jays and Teddy Pendergrass. Bowie intended to radically alter his sound from glam rock to blue-eyed soul and R&B.

"We would serenade the window (of the recording studio). Someone opened the window ... and said, 'We really appreciate it, but he is recording," recalled Kanevsky of Mays Landing.

The media picked up on the Bowie fans lingering on the sidewalk outside of the studio, calling them the "Sigma Kids." Monroe's picture with Bowie made the front page of the now defunct Philadelphia Bulletin under the headline "'Devotees' Pay Homage to Rock Star, A 'Camp In' for David Bowie."

After days of hanging out in front of the studio, Monroe, Kanevsky and about 10 other fans were told that if they came back on the last day of recording, they would be invited inside to hear the completed tracks - an unheard of invitation.

"We all sat around and listened. He seemed apprehensive. He didn't know if we would like it or not," Kanevsky said.

Monroe and Kanevsky remained Bowie fans over the decades through marriage and children. Kanevsky sees all Bowie's Philadelphia shows, and Kanevsky named her son, Zane, after a character in one of Bowie's early songs, "All the Madmen."

Followed him on tour

Monroe spent part of 1975 in New Mexico on the set watching Bowie film his starring role in the movie "The Man Who Fell To Earth," and she attended the Grammy Awards in New York that year because Bowie was a presenter.

She also followed Bowie around on his 1976 Europe tour, staying at the same hotel, going to the concert, visiting backstage and attending after-show parties. In 1978, she followed the singer around the U.S. and Canada, and did Europe and the U.S. when he toured again in 1983.

Bowie saw Monroe so much during the 1970s and 1980s that when he came in 1995 to the Tweeter Center in Camden, he mentioned her name from the stage.

"I would like to send my regards to my friend, Lenni. Lenni, are you there?" Bowie asked. Monroe, who was married and pregnant by then, stood up and waved.

"Len, this one's for you," Bowie said before breaking into a version of the "Young Americans."

Bowie also referred to Monroe from the stage when he performed last October at the Tower, saying "We are all lucky to be alive. Aren't we, Len?"

Kanevsky took Zane, who was 7 at the time, backstage to meet Bowie at the same 1995 concert Monroe attended.

"It was a blast. The highlight of that meeting was when Zane told Bowie, 'My mom got my name from one of your songs,'" Kanevsky said.

Bowie said he knew that. Then, he got down on one knee in front of Zane and sang, "Zane, Zane, Zane," just like he does on the old tune.

Kanevsky, 45, has tickets to Bowie's sold-out show Saturday at the Borgata and Dec. 10 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. Monroe didn't have tickets to the Borgata concert when she was interviewed last month, and said she was anxious, but hopeful. If she gets tickets, she'll get a babysitter for her children - Destinee, 9, and Paris, 7 - and go to the show with her husband.

"I'm praying that I get the right contact. It's only me," she said. "There will be no friends, just me. ...I'm selfish, just like 30 years ago. I'm hoping to just get one (ticket)," Monroe said.