Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

This is the story behind that Bowie mugshot (and what happened next)

1.jpg

Criminally good looking.

Among the great tidal wave of cool iconography shared around social media following David Bowie’s passing last week, one image was quickly shared more than any other: his 1976 mugshot.

Ignoring normal procedure that decrees celebrities arrested for crimes must look a little unhinged, sleepless or that an evil strand of hair made them do it (see Mel Gibson) – Bowie looked quite the opposite. Sharply dressed, serene, impossibly cool, Andy Warhol behind the lens.

But in actual fact it was quite a troubling time for the young singer; and in case you don't know how the mugshot came to be, allow us to fill you in:

The date was 22 March 1976. Bowie, then 28, was in a suite at New York’s Americana Rochester Hotel with three friends, one which being Iggy Pop. At around 2.25am, four vice squad detectives and a state investigator bust in and arrested them over possession of half a pound of marijuana – a felony known to carry up to 15 years in prison as punishment at the time.

1

After being held at Monroe County Jail for several hours, all four were freed on bond, with Bowie footing the bill. His Lawyer, Thomas G. Presutti, then told officials that due to his client’s fear of flying they had to leave early to drive to a concert in Springfield, so would only be able to make the court appearance four days later.

Silently marching into Rochester City Court on 26 March, Bowie, Iggy Pop and the other arrestees were welcomed by a scrum of journalists, fans and 200 law officials, swiftly ushered into a side corridor by police to manage safety. However, Bowie’s biggest greeting, according to a local paper, “were the screams of about a half-dozen suspected prostitutes awaiting arraignment in the rear of the corridor outside the court room”.

Ignoring most of the hysteria unfolding, Bowie only stopped to acknowledge one onlooker, giving an autograph to a young fan as he stepped off an escalator.

Describing Bowie as “stood demurely in front of the bench with his attorneys”, a court report from newspaper Democrat and Chronicle added that he wore a grey three-piece leisure suit, a pale brown shirt and that he was holding a matching hat. 

Asked for a plea by City Court Judge Aphonse Cassetti to the charge of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, Bowie, who’d previously given his last name as Jones and listed his address as 89 Oakley St, London, said “not guilty, sir”. His co-defendants pleaded the same.

1

Managing to slip out unnoticed from the court, Bowie and his entourage then headed to Time Square and the offices of his Rochester lawyer Anthony F Leonardo to break his silence with an interview about the arrest.

Ever the gent, he claimed the police were “very courteous and very gentle - they've been just super”, adding that he felt “flattered” by those who turned up in support. Navigating a labyrinth (ahem) of elevators and stairwells to get back outside and onto the next leg of his tour, 30 of those fans were present to give their hero a fond farewell.

That night, Bowie played the final show of his US tour at Madison Square Garden - a venue he’d later play for a benefit concert in the wake of 9/11, wowing the crowd with his stripped back rendition of a Simon and Garfunkel classic America – and eventually the grand jury decided not to take up the case.

But we’ll always have that mugshot.

Related

Bowie.jpg

People are petitioning God to bring Bowie back from the dead

bowie1.jpg

This 1967 letter from Bowie to a fan is excellent

bowie1.jpg

How Bowie predicted the future of music in 2002

Comments

More

This baffling tune about pineapples in pens is a legitimate banger

You need these fifty seconds of pure joy in your life

27 Sep 2016

All the clues that suggest 2017 will be the year of Daft Punk

We live in hope by Paddy Maddison

26 Sep 2016

Album cover models: where are they now?

From Nirvana's iconic Nevermind baby to Blink's Enema nurse by Paddy Maddison

26 Sep 2016

We went all the way to Ibiza to find the person having the most fun

A quest to find the person having it largest in Europe's club capital

21 Sep 2016

DJ Shadow's Endtroducing is the greatest album you’ve never heard of

Endtroducing..... celebrates a landmark birthday & it's as good as ever by Dave Fawbert

20 Sep 2016

Bros are coming back & here's why we should be celebrating

The hidden genius of their biggest hit by Dave Fawbert

19 Sep 2016

After Skepta, here are the next five grime acts you need to know about

Get these on your playlists right now by Dave Fawbert

16 Sep 2016

This is why, as they reunite, Aqua deserve to be celebrated

The story of one of pop music's great lost songs by Dave Fawbert

15 Sep 2016

11 times Kanye proved he's the most ridiculous guy on Twitter

Twitter was basically made for Kanye. Well, that's probably what he thinks anyway by Paddy Maddison

15 Sep 2016

Where are they now? Forgotten Mercury winners of times gone by

Speech Debelle anyone? by Dave Fawbert

15 Sep 2016