This is Part Four of the original interview that Legs & Gillian did with Angela Bowie for Please Kill Me.
G-Gillian McCain L- Legs McNeil A- Angela Bowie
L – Hi Angela, my collaborator’s here today, Gillian McCain.
A – Oh, okay.
L – I guess what we wanted to start with today was Main Man– unless you have something else to start with.
A – No, not that I can think of, I, it’s your book, baby, point me in a direction and I’ll begin.
L – Main Man, Tony Defries.
A – What was the title of the book again?
L – Please Kill Me.
A – Please Kill Me; well, there you have it, ha ha ha, that’s pretty much sums him, ha ha ha. He’s always thought he was God and Tony enjoys playing God and he plays God very successfully with Iggy. He took Iggy in to see Clive Davis at CBS and I’m sure you’ve heard the story so I’m not trying…
L – No, no, tell us.
A – He said to Iggy that this was gonna be the make or break about getting a real “recording contract” and so Iggy jumped up on the desk and sang “My Funny Valentine” to Clive Davis and I’m sure that he probably prompted Iggy to be aware that Clive would be how shall I say, receptive to a good looking young entertainer jumping up on his desk singing “My…
Miles Davis (l), Clive Davis (r)
G – So when did you first meet Tony Defries?
A – Well, I went to find Tony Defries because David had a manager called Ted Kitt and it was a bit hard for David to actually verbalise the fact that he was over him, but the record company was verbalizing it. And Ted had this scheme, I mean, if I take the piss out of it and make fun of it I shouldn’t because to be able to accomplish anything as an artist is hard enough, you know what I mean, and you look at all the things that people accomplish, I mean David Cassidy and whatsherface are now doing some the show Blood Brothers, who would ever have thought Petulia Clark and this dreaded David Cassidy [would be] performing on Broadway, you never know. Well Ted Kitt is the same, he believed that David was very well set to be a lounge singer in working men’s clubs in the North of England or whatever it was David felt was the flavour of the week. But as David started to get more and more involved in a real recording contract with Mercury and then that became Phillips, it was different for Ted when he was just looking at it as Mercury Records, some record company over in the United States. All of a sudden Ted Kitt realised that Phillips Phonogram was right there at Marble Arch on his doorstep, a big, powerful company and that they really wanted to go ahead and push this kid. So then Ted had to weigh how much his opinion was worth and there was a power play of him just bumping and trying to see how much he could get them to realise that he was the manager and of course judging from the outcome, didn’t have a lot of effect. And so the thing about it was that David didn’t know how to get rid of him; he thought he had an airtight contract. So I had been [gone to] a local college here in the States… and I had done contract law and I looked at the contract and I thought, “Well, I don’t know how to break it but I know a good lawyer could.” So I went to Phillips Phonogram and I went up to see this the head or A & R, said, “Go see [unintelligable] he’s bound to know someone, especially if it’s to get rid of Ted Kitt, you know, we’ll be happy to help if that’s what it’s for. And I said, “Yes, that is what it’s for.” So I went to him and he called Tony Defries, he’s not accredited in the bar but he’s a trouble shooter for a lawyer, go and see him. He’s bound to be able to break the contract, I said, “Ok good.” So I called Tony Defries and said I got a problem with this contract that’s started, can you straighten it out. He said, “Ah, I do divorce.” I said, “Well, if you do divorce then you must be able to straighten this out you know what I mean?” And he said, “Ok, alright, bring this person and the contract and yourself and we’ll see what we can do.” And literally I would say after that meeting it took about ten days and he was firmly involved in the management of David.
G – How did he squeeze into that?
A – He made David an ideal [unintelligable] and I guess I wasn’t that nerve racked, I guess David was nerve racked but being an actor, I sensed… what I mean, it made me nerve racked. Because his father had just died, his mother was really whining on the phone, she’s fine now but at that time when someone’s grieving, anything that you did or said was an excuse to call up and wine. So she was laying the guilt trip on him. Ted Kitt was laying the thrown to one side as manager/queen/advisor/brother whatever, and David suddenly realized he had a real shot at doing something. See Mercury to him wasn’t a real place but when you walked into Phillips Phonogram, which was right in London, you suddenly understood that you had it made to go ahead and really do something that was really impressive and… this is not talking about punk, I feel guilty. Reign me in babes, I feel Catholic.
L – So Tony Defries moved in and did you start fighting with him right away?
A – No, no, no, no, no, no…
G – Did he have any experience managing acts?
A – No, that was his great, great advantage. Oh we can tell him how it should be done, that’s what I did, which was basically to forget everything… forgive me, now I’m starting to get Catholic, I don’t want to feel that that’s like a whole conversation designed to make me look great, that’s not it at all, problem is in all the books that’ve been written, depending on the intuitivness of the person who’s reading it, or their knowledge of the music industry, people come away and realize exactly what it was between David, Tony Defries and myself. I was the person who could interpret what David wanted to become and I could change what Tony… the way he went about doing something and say to David, “See how well this is going to work for your life, for your career?” So from that point of view of being the mediator, yes, I managed David’s career. I couldn’t possibly have done it without Tony Defries and I never pretended I could.
L – Sounds like the truth.
A – Well, it is the truth and so forgive me because sometimes when I say it people look at me like, “Well, are you trying to take responsibility for being so clever?” No I’m not, it’s just when you are in love with someone and especially at that age, I was gonna make a success of it no matter what and I went ahead and did my damnest.
G – You did a great job.
A – Well, thanks. So the reason I’m explaining all of that is because the problem with Tony wasn’t until much later; we were a really dynamic team really for a long time.
L – How long was it before Iggy enters the picture?
A – Probably about a year and a half to two years. Tony was really feeling his own, Tony took a year and a half to do the RCA deal, it was probably longer, probably two and a half years, to get away from Mercury. In the meantime we had Mott the Hoople, Dana Gillespie; we had a lot of shit going on with Tony so by the time Iggy came on the scene Tony was very comfortable as a rock & roll manager. I mean, he had the look, he had the feeling, he had the charisma, he had a lot of style and the biggest nose on the planet earth, you know what I mean, which had to be impressive, people saw that beak coming into the room before he even started doing a deal.
L – Did Tony like Iggy?
A – Yes, he was just enchanted. He looked at him and saw money.
L – He did?
A – Sorry, did you ask me a question?
L – No.
A – I’m sorry, I shut up, I was eating a Cheeto. I thought, maybe I’ll give them a break and shut up for a minute.
L – So he thought Iggy could be a real rock star.
A – A lot more than that; he saw a lot of stuff. Tony was good, I really liked him, and that was my big, big problem, I didn’t understand how cut throat Tony was, I was very emotional and loyal and basically, not understanding. I mean, it’s okay for me to go to meetings and pick up fifty thousand dollars … and be a real pain in the butt, be a terrorist, but when it came to someone like Tony Defries who actually had no use for me whatsoever and who used me to get everything that no one else could accomplish. And the reason for that is– don’t misunderstand me– is because I have a great education, I had been to St. Georges in Switzerland for seven years. There were people I knew all over the world whose fathers and mothers ran governments and that was shit that I could do that no one else could do and Tony Defries wasn’t stupid, he knew that for as long as he needed me, he had to keep me happy. And then as as he thought he didn’t need me he gathered all of the Main Man people together, all of the executives David and I had found and hired out of the cast of Pork and all of their friends in New York, and he said to them, “Find a way to make David divorce her, get rid of her.”
Andy Warhol and the cast of Pork
G – What made him think that he had no use for you any more?
A- I’ve no idea. I don’t know, he probably had gotten to a point where… I don’t know, I can’t even make an assumption.
L – It was your idea to hire Leee Childers and put together the Main Man staff?
A – Not just mine, David’s and mine. David was brilliant. When Tony first asked for some people in New York, he had been there trying to negotiate the RCA deal and suddenly realised that you could make a fortune and live like a king in New York by managing rock & roll acts, primarily David Bowie. And I suggested Tony Zanetta because I reckoned that Tony Zanetta was brilliant, he was smart, he was an actor, he’d played Andy Warhol in Pork and I knew how bright he was and he had a degree in journalism and he eventually became president of Main Man. I knew he was executive material and David agreed, and then, as Tony wanted more people, all the other people that we’d met in New York as a result of that friendship we’d had was all them, Leee Black Childers, Cherry Vanilla, Jamie Andrews, all of them came about as a result of David’s intervention and mine in helping Tony with the staff.
Mick Jagger, Cherry Vanilla and David Bowie
L – Was it a fun staff?
A – Absolutely fabulous. I mean, can you imagine, all these people being sat down at a meeting and said, “Now, get rid of Angela?”
G – So how did they all react?
A – Well, Tony [DeFreeze] is a creep. Looked at him and thought “Oh great, what’s he thought up now.”
L – Was Tony [DeFreeze] always coming up with very grandiose ideas?
A – Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. In fact the only person who came up with better ideas was me, because I kept thinking… when you’re at that period of your life… I mean, I met David when I was seventeen and a half and I got married when I was nineteen, or something like that. I mean, I’d been to college for three years,
I was done with that, I had to make a career for myself. And you know that enthusiasm, and that you never lack for ideas and the belief that you could make anything happen; change anything. And, the boyfriend that had been before David was the president of the student union. And I got very involved in politics, at King’s College. Because it was the time of the sit in and so we marched on London and we did all of that, and to be quite honest with you, if I hadn’t gone off on a thing… I probably would have ended up… being a poltician’s wife. And so I looked at everything very politically as a way of selling something. I couldn’t believe that anyone would be interested in music without meaningful lyrics, you know what I’m saying?
L – Right.
A – And with David that was the first thing that shocked me. It shocked me that he could write such intelligent lyrics and so it was very much in the same mode of what we talked about when we spoke last time about Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, you know, they wrote intelligent lyrics. Now, you could laugh and say, “Now I wanna be your dog” is an intelligent lyric? Yes it is! Those lyrics that conjure an image in your mind that quickly– the reason I say all of this is because of what we were talking about–grandiose ideas. Yes, there were grandiose ideas but I had this design in my mind, that whatever it was I was gonna do it was going to be big.
L – Did you have a strategy for Iggy?
A – No. I was totally disinterested in him.
L – Really?
A – Yeah. When I saw him live in London I became interested.
L – Can you tell us about that?
A – Yeah. He came to play, he and David remained friends but David had left MainMan and, uh, Iggy came to London and, uh, I don’t know who . .
L – What year was this?
A – Ah, ha, who knows? Of course if you’ve got the chronology of where they toured in England it’ll probably become much more apparent [to me]. But I went to see him play at [intelligable] and he was really disgusting. It was one of those where he peed all over the fucking audience, all over the girls in front, they were standing there with their mouths open, so fucking gross, I have never seen anything so gross in my life. He went behind the speakers and spewed into a bucket, puking like a dog.
A – That was the first time I ever thought to myself–because I am really sensitive about what goes on on stage, you know what I mean? But in 1974 the Turks invaded my country and my sensibilities changed. I lost my home, and I watched as America stood by and let those so-called allies invade my country and I changed a lot after that invasion. And suddenly a lot of the stuff that Iggy did, that I had found so disgusting and repulsive suddenly meant something personally. And I . . .
L – That expression of rage?
A – Yeah, I think so. I think it made me think, “Well, you dumb bitches, if you’re going to stand there with your mouths open, piss all over ’em.” And I don’t mean that in a gender way, I mean that sometimes people are stupid enough to surrender, then fuck you, just fuck you. So yes, then I became very excited and interested in Iggy which didn’t do me any good because by that time David was really involved in producing with him and they were already in a real brotherly bonding type of situation so I wouldn’t have been much help contributing, but in answer to your question, that’s when I became intrigued.
L – Forgive me if I’m wrong, but was it the Ziggy Stardust tour when Tony Defries calls Leee Childers to get Iggy outta the house on Torrenson?
A – No one ever told me anything. No, really, because the Main Man policy– it was like I was head of covert operations/mop up. So whatever was going on, they knew not to say anything to me. One, if it upset David I’d go into a rage, two, if it had anything to do with Tony Defries I would stand back and say, “He must have had a reason.” See, I wouldn’t take sides. I would say, “Well, he must have had a reason.” And then wait and go and talk to him so they really realized a long time, that as far as gossiping or discussing what was going on, I was the most boring person in the world to talk to. One, David was always right and two, Tony must always have had a reason, so when he started that thing about trying to get rid of me, none of them dared tell me for months.
L – How come?
A – Because they thought, “Oh god, she’s not going believe and think we’re lying.”
G – How did you find out about it?
Tony Zanetta as Andy Warhol in Pork
A – I don’t know. I think Tony Zanetta must’ve said something because Tony Zanetta and I were we are real best friends, I think was just sick of it, and we’re having lunch and he just said, “I don’t know why you’re standing up for him, he’s ben plotting to get rid of you for months now, we had a meeting about it months ago. And I looked at him and I was crushed. And he said, “Well, it’s better that you hear it from me.” And I turned around and when I got back to the hotel I said to David, “Well, this is fucking interesting…