Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

David Bowie's visit to New Zealand: An Englishman with a penchant for raw fish

David Bowie singing to a crowd at Western Springs Stadium during his visit in 1987.
David Bowie singing to a crowd at Western Springs Stadium during his visit in 1987.

A wafer-like Englishman with a penchant for raw fish and a cultish legion of fans - that's how the Kiwi press reported David Bowie's historic visits to New Zealand.

In 1978, journalist Susan Maxwell noted that Bowie arrived in "jungle like" Christchurch with four bodyguards - one who was rumoured to be one of Australia's highest graded karate experts.

"Not that there is anything about David Bowie's body that provokes attack. He is a pale wafer of an Englishman who would not stand out in the lift, let alone a crowd,"she wrote ahead of his Isolar II New Zealand shows.

But, she noted Bowie's following was "cultish", and fans had flown from Auckland to stay in the same Christchurch hotel as him.

David Bowie greeted a rapturous crowd of 48,000 at Western Springs in 1978.
David Bowie greeted a rapturous crowd of 48,000 at Western Springs in 1978.

After his South Island concert, the "thin white duke" arrived in Auckland, and greeted a rapturous crowd of 48,000 at Western Springs, "dressed in green trousers a green and yellow shirt and white sandshoes", by launching into his song Warszawa, from the album Low.

A Herald reporter noted, however, that the concert ended on a "discordant note" when Bowie was hit by a flour bomb.

"At that, he walked off and the show ended."

The following day, Auckland Magistrates Court was reported to be filled with naughty concert goers caught in possession of cannabis, alcohol, and even "an offensive weapon" (a knife). A Western Springs resident likened post-concert scene to the Pikes Pt rubbish dump.

"Hundreds of beer cans and thousands of scraps littered the stadium and carpark ... The nearby lake was also littered with floating beer bottles and cans and some dead ducks -- apparently the victims of bottle throwing."


Upon Bowie's return to this country in 1983, he again hit headlines -- this time for demanding raw fish.

"The singing-acting superstar has picked up a taste for Japanese raw fish," wrote the Dominion's Tracey Strange.

Promoters also reportedly provided three meals a day for up to 110 people -- consisting of "a quality entree, assorted vegetables, salad, dessert ... and a truckload of drinks."

This included tonic and mineral waters, juice, French red and white wines, Beck's and Kronenberg beer, Dr Pepper's, scotch, vodka and Remy Martin.

After the Serious Moonlight tour's Wellington concert (tickets for which cost $18.50 each), residents of Newtown complained that concertgoers had vomited and urinated in gardens, kicked down letterboxes and left broken bottles and cans around the suburb.

After the Auckland show, police were pleased to have arrested only 45 members of the crowd.

However, the council and Ministry of Transport were not best pleased after drunk drivers, illegally parked cars and "thoughtless pedestrians" marred the evening.

One reckless motorcyclist hit a pedestrian leaving him with head injuries, while another person was seriously injured after running across the Northwestern Motorway on their way home. A fence surrounding Western Springs stadium was stormed by more than 100 people, hundreds of parking tickets were issued, and 43 cars were towed.

Bowie returned in 1987 - for the Glass Spider tour -- and after his November 28 concert at Western Springs, 12 people were taken to hospital, including a woman who went into labour.

More than a decade later, on the eve of Y2K, Bowie was booked to return to New Zealand to welcome in the new millennium at a Gisborne concert alongside Split Enz. But in October 1999, MTV reported he pulled out of the concert, saying the promoters of the festival did not have the ability to run it successfully, and Y2K did not destroy the world.

- NZ Herald

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