Corey duBrowa was a 16-year-old newly licensed driver from small-town Oregon the night he and three friends piled into his Honda Civic and drove up to Tacoma to hear David Bowie in concert.
It was the Tacoma Dome’s first rock concert: Aug. 11, 1983.
“We were all outsiders, huge Bowie freaks and had literally waited for the ‘Serious Moonlight’ tour to come anywhere near us for months,” DuBrowa recalled Monday, the day after news of Bowie’s death was reported. “And here was our hero.”
DuBrowa, who heads the communications team at Starbucks, remembers an audience full of Bowie worshippers, many of them dressed like one of their idol’s many stage personas.
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“There were Ziggy people, people trying to look like the Thin White Duke, people who were glammed up and some wearing that freakish clown suit from the ‘Scary Monsters’ album,” DuBrowa said. “You had an assortment of ‘Bowies’ in the room, boys and girls. And I remember thinking, ‘These are my people.’”
DuBrowa went on to form a band that, of course, covered “Ziggy Stardust.” Years later, as a reporter for The Oregonian, he interviewed Bowie by phone, remembering him as “open, kind and funny.”
“I wish I’d kept the tape,” he said. “But I have that memory.”
The Tacoma Dome would like to create a memorial to David Bowie, the first rock star to play the Dome in 1983.
Kim Bedier, who oversees the Dome for the City of Tacoma, said staff members are scouring their archives for photos or posters from the 1983 concert.
She said they would like to create a memorial to the concert and to Bowie in the Dome concourse. She, too, grew up with Bowie and was mourning his loss on Monday.
“I guess we are all getting older and it’s going to happen more and more with our idols and artists we grew up with in rock ’n’ roll,” she said.
The News Tribune was at the 1983 concert as well. Reporter Bill Ripple described fans with Bowielike pink and orange spiky hair — back when that sort of thing was a novelty.
Ripple reported a near-sellout crowd of more than 20,000 decked out in “outlandish hairstyles and makeup,” but behaving themselves as “a model of decorum throughout the loud evening.”
One cop described the Bowie fans as “older and well-behaved.”
Crowd behavior apparently was weighing heavily on the minds of civic leaders during the Dome’s first rock concert. The wood-domed arena was the newest jewel in Tacoma’s crown back then, having opened in April 1983.
At the Bowie concert, Ripple talked to police and Dome staff members, as well as paramedics who dealt with fans collapsing from heat exhaustion, too much alcohol and at least one who went to the emergency room tripping on LSD.
He puts his thin white hand on my shoulder and asks “Are you a’right, love?
One young fan, now a 40-something doula in California, recalled her brush with heat exhaustion and stardom which happened that night at the Dome.
Cheryl Murfin posted on Facebook about attending what was “only my second concert ever.” She was down front when the crowd surged from behind and pressed her against a stage barrier, impairing her breathing. A security guard pulled her over the barrier and onto the side of the stage.
That is when the star walked by and saw her sitting there, recovering. Murfin felt like she was hyperventilating.
“He puts his thin white hand on my shoulder and asks “Are you a’right, love?”
“He actually looked into my eyes with concern and smiled,” Murfin said. “Then I sat that through several more songs before I was escorted back.”
Today, she still knows all the lyrics to Bowie’s songs. Like fans all over the globe, she was mourning the loss of one of rock’s most inventive artists.
“Such a light has been snuffed out in the world — and my heart,” she said.