Otherworldly superstar's humility shone through in NZ

By Jimmy Ellingham

David Bowie hand-picked and offered advice to  Brooke Fraser. Photo / AP
David Bowie hand-picked and offered advice to Brooke Fraser. Photo / AP

To his fans he was an otherworldly superstar, but to the New Zealanders who met David Bowie during his four tours here, it was his genuine nature and humility that shone through.

A day after touching down in November 1983, Bowie visited Takapuwahia Marae in Porirua at his own behest. Resplendent in a suit and 1980s bottle-blond hair, Bowie stayed for four hours to sample a taste of Maori culture.

Marge Hammond, who was then the marae's secretary and treasurer, said he "just wanted to be incognito and have a meal - a hangi - all the things we normally do".


When the star arrived with his entourage he was welcomed with a powhiri, a haka, songs and of course, he was fed with kai cooked out the back over an open fire.

Bowie replied to the formal welcome with a one-off performance of a song of his own, called Waiata, in which he sang: "We're happy and honoured to be here with you. We thank you for sharing the way that you do."

The star mingled easily on the marae as the youngsters worked away in the kitchen.

"He was absolutely brilliant," Mrs Hammond said. "It was an education for him. He thought it was just wonderful. That's what he wanted."

He was determined to see where the food was cooked too, which was out the back in an area you could describe as rustic.


More than two decades later, Bowie was still the consummate gentleman.

Kiwi musician Brooke Fraser, writing on Instagram, recalled supporting Bowie during his 2004 Reality tour in New Zealand. After her soundcheck at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, Fraser said she was standing in the middle of the field when she sensed someone behind her.

"Turning, I saw David Bowie walking towards me. No minder, no entourage, just one of the great musical pioneers of our time approaching me with a warm, welcoming grin," Fraser wrote. "He introduced himself and proceeded to give me some really specific feedback and encouragement. I certainly didn't expect him to be aware of who his support act was, let alone to have hand-picked me himself, to have watched me in interviews and taken the time to listen to my record, and have nice things to say to me about it.

"Our interaction was brief, but so impacting for me. I arrived back in my dressing room to find flowers from him welcoming me to the tour.

"My impression of him was that he was an utter gentleman, genuine, humble, so kind, and as a young artist I was so blown away by this - if an artist of his status and influence had remained so down to earth and generous, then who of us could have any excuse for getting too big for our britches?"

- NZ Herald

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