The Resurrection of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars
In the post apocalyptic wasteland of what could be mistaken for the present, a Leper Messiah lunges into the spotlight, ready and albeit a tad too willing to save humanity with merely the sacrifice of his soul. A shock of shocking shag cut red hair defies the laws of nature as the asymmetrically dilated wonder filled eyes defies the apathetically addled masses to ignore the impending termination of humanity as a whole. Is this the act of a sacrificial lamb? The crucifixion of yet another messianic messenger’s? Or might this be a rock and roll suicide set in C major? Whatever your interpretation, it is, unarguably, the final teachings from the Gospel of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
David Bowie has always been the master chameleon, being able to sense trends and incorporate upcoming styles into whatever persona he was projecting at the time that, even those that he aggressively borrowed from felt honored by the imaginative pilfering. From the vast catalogue of Bowie’s affected personas, Ziggy Stardust stands out as one of the most completely three dimensional characters that he has created and personified that glittering epoch, with Bowie’s colorful incarnation becoming the poster child for the glam era.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, for the uninitiated, is a concept album crafted by Bowie. The storyline, as such, is a convoluted array of perceptive sociology, religious icons wrapped snuggly in familiar parables all bound together in a roiling spiral of science fiction. The inspiration for the album/character itself is steeped in mythos, which includes such fringe personalities as The Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Vince Taylor, also known as the French Elvis who, after completely going off his nut, fired his band and went on stage draped in a sheet to inform the audience that he was the new messiah. Vince also had a penchant for carrying around maps of Europe to show anyone who stood still long enough where the UFOs would be landing. From these shards of broken soul, Ziggy was born.
Under Bowie’s skillful hands, the story emerges that the main character, Ziggy, takes on the role of a messianic messenger, filling the plundering youth with news of the world. In what turns out to be the Earth’s final five years of existence, the news happens to be quite bad but, from the whispered information that he is receiving through dreams from the black hole jumping Infinites, Ziggy is told of a savior: the Starman. The message is seized by the masses with a vigor that only the abjectly hopeless can muster. Riding on the wave of the Message, Ziggy is exulted up into new spiritual heights, but soon succumbs to his own Earlthy desires, living a reckless life that leaves him as a shell, a fractured liberator. When the Infinites arrive, they use their vessel to give themselves life, taking of their host Ziggy, until he dies a martyr’s death.
The documentary film by D.A. Pennebaker (Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars) chronicles the last concert Bowie performs as Ziggy. Filmed at the Hammersmith Odeon on July 3rd, 1973, this was Bowie’s last hurrah as he partially shelved the character of Ziggy. The impetuous for the premature retirement rested on several elements, one of which was that the character was threatening to outstrip the creator. The documentary itself dabbled very little behind the scenes, choosing instead to generate a full frontal assault of the ninety minute concert itself.
In this vein, local artist, entrepreneur and agent of rebellion Shelly “Gladgirl” Hulce became enamored with the concept, music and the film at an early age and she always kept this fantasy vision of it in the back of her mind…until now. “Back when I was a teenager, I was really into Bowie and really anything that was considered shocking. At the time, the most shocking thing was glam rock. I was raised in a very strict Baptist home. I mean to the point that we didn’t watch movies, wear pants, cut hair…” Gladgirl went on to detail some of the other elements of her upbringing before adding, “Rock and roll was just totally out of the question, so I would sneak and listen to it. I snuck a Bowie poster and hung it inside the closet where nobody could find it. We had these teen bonfires and many times I burnt the same records over and over. I would burn them at this church bonfire and then I would save up my lunch money and replace them.”
With Bowie’s body of work being arguably more theatrical than musically motivated, this mirrored some of Gladgirl’s interests within her own life. “For me, music, theater and comedy have all been synonymous. My worlds have always collided. I did improv comedy for two years, travelling with a troupe and I’ve played with a couple of bands. I’ve never gotten into acting, but I’ve always been writing. I have written a rock opera using all music from Queen. I haven’t done anything with that because it’s very extensive and I wouldn’t even know where to start with something like that. I guess I will work my way up. Some opportunity will present itself when the timing is right and so I can put it into the back of my brain until then.” Exposure to ETC (Encore Theater Company) brought Gladgirl face to face with fringe musicals like Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This chance encounter was the starting point to push her vision into reality.
“I went to see Hedwig last April and as soon as JJ (Parkey) came out and belted that first big song and I just turned to Juliet and said. ‘That’s Bowie! That’s my Bowie!’ I really didn’t even pay attention to the rest of the show. All I kept thinking was, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! I have to meet this guy! How do I pitch this idea? Who can I get for the band?’” Gladgirl ended the thought abashedly, “I was just terrible.”
Instead of immediately plunging into the pitch after the show ended, Gladgirl decided to show restraint only found in the best of stalker: she waited. Another opportunity presented itself a short time later.
“JJ and I were at a FilmDayton function together a few weeks later and I was like, ‘Hey! Let’s talk about David Bowie! What do you know about David Bowie and about Ziggy Stardust?’ and he was like, ‘What’s that?’” dejected but not dissuaded, Gladgirl took things into perspective. “I mean, he’s twenty-three years old at that point…he’s twenty-four now. So, after this, I’m just like, ‘Oh my gosh! Will you sit with me and watch a film and let me talk to you about an idea I have?’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, absolutely!’ We met up the next week and sat down and watched the documentary, which was the very last show that Bowie did in character as Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Well, they filmed that show on July 3rd, 1973 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London and what is so bizarre about this is that the night I had JJ up to watch the documentary was July 3rd. The opening credits came up and I was like, ‘Oh my God! That was July 3rd! It’s July 3rd!’”
Kismet and karma were not finished meddling with the vision of the production just yet…
“I was already, in the back of my mind, dreaming of doing a rock opera and thinking about who would be my dream team. There are so many good musicians in town that it’s just amazing.” The eventual line up of the band is a representation of the cream of Dayton’s music scene. “Oh, it’s stellar! I got everyone I wanted right off the bat. I went straight to the ones I wanted and I thought that I would have to work my way down, but every one of them were like, ‘Oh yeah! Definitely!”
There were even some inclusions that, on the face of it, seemed incongruous choices for a recreated glam band, such as local blues guitarist, Noah Wotherspoon. “Yeah, he’s such a blues guy, but he really loves it all. The cool thing is that he really has a vintage red Hagstrom guitar just like Bowie played during the Ziggy era!”
Some of the musicians were more obvious choices because of their own musical leanings. “Shrug, which is Tod Weidner’s band, were having a CD release party a few years ago at Canal Street and to surprise their fans, they came out and did the entire album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust. It totally shocked everybody and, of course, it stuck with me. Tod, being such a great singer, pulled it off vocally as Bowie and the band did the music perfectly. So, I had that in the back of my head, but with Tod traveling and doing the Pink Floyd tribute band (Set The Controls) around the nation…”
Gladgirl trailed off, indicating the slim chances of being able to have Tod as part of the band. “To know his stamina and to know his musical genius and being able to do anything that is put in front of him, I knew that there was no way that I could do this without Tod. Absolutely no way. So I called Tod and I said, ‘Look, I’ve got this guy and I have this idea and I know your schedule is crazy…I know you’re not going to have any time to do this, but I just had to ask you, is there any way that you could squeeze this in? What’s your schedule like in the Fall? Tod said, ‘Probably around Thanksgiving or maybe a little earlier than that.’ I said, ‘What about 11/11/11?’ and he’s like, “That’s pretty sweet! I’m in!’ It was just like the stars were aligning! I had my two pillars: JJ and Tod.
The other band members are bassist Chris Corn, drummer Ian Kaplan, keyboardist Ken Hall, percussionist Erich Reith, Marie Spohn and Gladgirl herself. With the band in place, the next hurdle would be the costumes.
“JJ and I have been making the costumes for this show from scratch since July. Well, with the exception of one piece, which I hired Tracy McElfresh to make. She’s a third generation dress maker and she’s killer. I told Tracy that I was going to buy this shirt and try to make this spaceman costume but that I didn’t think it was going to work and I asked her to help. She sent me off to the fabric store with a list and I bought the stuff and brought it back to her.”Gladgirl paused, reflecting on what her event has become. “That’s what this has all turned into. It’s just a collective. This whole event has just been a huge collaboration.”
One of the most interesting aspects of this passion play is that, at a time when Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar were espousing a reconceived image of Biblical prophesies and parables, Ziggy chose instead to cloak his message in a shimmering cloud of veiled innuendos.
“It was all Biblical, but he didn’t blatantly come out and say that this had a Biblical bend to it, but there are so many comparisons that you could make. The arc of the story is the same.” Gladgirl said before launching into the parallels. “The Starman messiah with a message of the world ending in five years and then he is betrayed by one of the Spiders From Mars and he’s crucified. John the Baptist is in there and Judas, Mary Magdalene, the Holy Trinity…Bowie is the Trinity at different points throughout the album and he is the Leper Messiah…the whole bit. Bowie even went as far as to match a lot of his costumes to whatever character he was in the Trinity. When he comes out, he comes down with the message for Five Years, he is wearing an all white kimono, so it’s like this pure deity kind of thing.”
While there are many fantastic tribute bands that abound in our area, Gladgirl wants to make the distinction that this is not merely a tribute featuring the music of David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust. This is a faithful recreation of the epic show that Bowie presented at the Hammersmith Odeon on July 3rd, 1973. “What I’m telling people is that this is not a tribute show like with people just showing up and doing Bowie’s music.” Gladgirl stated. “This is a passion play and it totally follows the whole arc that Bowie did as Ziggy. That’s why I titled this The Resurrection. I call it a ‘rock and roll rapture.’”
There are some added features to this show that were not in the original, such as a piece written by Gladgirl herself. “The way that I’m presenting this to the audience is Chris Shea from Free Shakespeare will be coming out before Noah’s band and Ziggy’s set and I’ve dubbed him The News Guy because, in one of the lyrics, it talks about being ‘baptized by the News Guy’s tears.’ I’ve also written what I call The Soul Love Greeting…Soul Love being one of the songs about the Holy Spirit.” Gladgirl went on to explain that, “…this is all to lead a person to think. There’s twenty-four songs and I listed lyrics from each song and made this list for Chris Shay to present to the audience. After that, the real fun begins!”
Space Oddity: The Resurrection of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars will be held at Gilly’s (132 S. Jefferson St.) on November 11th at 9:00pm. Tickets are only $10 and presale tickets are available at Omega, Record Gallery in the Oregon District, Toxic Beauty Records in Yellow Springs and Game Swap in Woodlane Plaza in Kettering. Chad Wells of Wells & Co. Tattoo and Cricketbows will be on hand to provide Liquid Skin Display – Glam Rock Face Painting before and during the show for anyone wanting the full glam experience. Another, as yet to be announced ‘mystery guest musician’ will also be present.