The ringleader was tall with short, preppy-looking peroxided hair, which in San Diego might have meant he was a surfer. But up close, he was no surfer: he wore eye-liner, on upper AND lower lids, something I didn't even do. I'd seen pics of David Bowie wearing eyeliner, but this kid was in fact the very first eye make-up-wearing male I ever actually talked to.
That alone "disrupted" my 80's gender-unimaginative stereotypes, because it was clear that this boy was going to become a real hunk (like Bowie), a fact appreciated not only by me but by the disrupter XXs in the class (the kind that today would admire Lena Dunham.) Today, I recalled that student and wondered whether he and all the 80's misfits like him were also trying to comprehend that David Bowie is really gone.
Bowie wasn't part of a legendary band, and because something about him seemed to transcend reality, he wasn't the object of an Elvis/Lennon/Dylan personality cult. Nor had he started showing up in lame "bands of yesteryear" shows, like many of his contemporaries. Instead, he was simply a very weird genius whose personas were outrageous enough to keep fans engaged for decades in something new. There are few like him. Maybe Neil Young.
Everyone is talking today about Bowie's music. But the outliers will miss his totally unapologetic individuality. His great gift was to assure us ordinary folks that is perfectly OK, whether you are 15 or 69, to put on your red shoes (and eyeliner) and dance out your fantasies.
In that way, Bowie seemed mysteriously "outside" of time. And way ahead of it.