Tag Archives: David Bowie

Voices of angels, feet of clay

Elvis Costello. Pic: Victor Diaz Lamich

Elvis Costello. Pic: Victor Diaz Lamich

Need advice to live a better life? Don’t approach a rock star.

At least don’t approach a young Elvis Costello. The songwriter devotes a significant part of his recently-published autobiography to explaining why for many years he could barely trust himself – let alone offer an honest face to others – such was his partying lifestyle on the road.

“I knew that I could become estranged from all that I held dear: vows I made, homes that had and would soon be broken, trust that I could betray, in hotel rooms in which I merely lodged,” he recalls.

Another rock star familiar with ‘the road’, albeit one which led to a gilded palace of sin and cash, was Glenn Frey. The Eagles member died this week, leaving behind a legacy of laid-back country-rock songs and some estranged friends.

Glenn Frey. Pic: Steve Alexander

Glenn Frey. Pic: Steve Alexander

His animosity towards founding Eagle Don Felder ran deep.”When this show is done, I’m going to kick your ass” he told him, on mic, in one of the band’s last performances. Three decades later, interviewed for the movie History of the Eagles, Frey barely managed to speak his old pal’s name. When he did it was a curt “Mr Felder”.

Was this the man who sang the placid 70s anthem Peaceful Easy Feeling? Was Costello the pleading songwriter who just wanted to fall into his partner’s Human Hands?

Yes and yes. All of which is no surprise, of course. But – in this Age of Hagiography – it’s a gentle reminder that those we admire can be just as base, greedy and mortal as everyone else.

That said, everyone else didn’t come up with Hotel California.

Don Felder did.

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A lad insane…for a good sandwich

David Bowie. Pic ArthurNYC

David Bowie. Pic ArthurNYC

Many words have been associated with David Bowie in recent days – among them ‘visionary’, ‘icon’ and – naturally enough – ‘starman’.

But not ‘prosciutto di Parma’ – unless you were the owner of Bowie’s local sandwich store, a man likely to feel his passing more than most, given that the star was a regular customer. (Insert gag about ‘the return of the thin white loaf’ here.)

Because Bowie – along with being Ziggy, Aladdin or just David Jones – was a sandwich man. Amidst the reams of coverage of his death this week I read a quote from an Irish caterer, who recounted how the star’s after-show snack-of-choice  in the 1980s was a cheese sandwich.

In latter days, according to Danilo Durante, owner of Bottega Falai in New York’s Soho, it was Parma ham, accompanied by a strawberry sfogliatella pastry (well, he was a rock star after all).

Ziggy had taste. When it comes to sandwiches the Italians – in the face of stiff competition from the Vietnamese (the glorious banh mi) and the Americans (the dripping Reuben) – do it best.

If I needed further evidence of this, apart from that provided by the late Mr Bowie’s dining habits, I encountered it on a visit to Santa Monica a fortnight ago. Braving the hordes of big, small or any-screen wannabes my brother-in-law and I hit Bay Cities Italian Deli – a staple in the area since 1925.

Bay Cities Italian Deli

Bay Cities Italian Deli

The place, and it’s ‘Godmother‘ sandwich, therefore have something of a reputation. A reputation which accounted for a three deep throng at the deli counter and a 20-plus minute wait for service.

The Starman himself would have been happy – there was prosciutto (and just about every other type of cured meat) aplenty. I, however, used my Italian sandwich acid test – order one with burrata.

My all-time favourite sandwich, Fiore Market Cafe’s roast chicken, features this soft cheese. The Bay Cities option was a burrata caprese – essentially a caprese salad in a roll, with the mozzarella subbed out for the softer cheese.

The purists may be sceptical, but it was perfect. The burrata was creamy cold and cut through with just enough sliced onion. The tomatoes and basil were as good as you’d expect in a 90-year old Italian deli. And the whole deal was served up on still-warm house bread. I didn’t want it to end.

All this is a long way from a 60-something David Bowie nipping out for a quick ham roll on his lunch break, of course.

That said, Bowie did play a famous show in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1972 – a venue just a few minutes stroll from Bay Cities Deli.

Did he pop in for a cheese sandwich? He should have.

The burrata caprese

The burrata caprese

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