remembering bowie

Chuck Palahniuk Recalls David Bowie’s Hand in Selling Fight Club: He Was My Hero and Savior

Strand Book Store Hosts A Reading With Chuck Palahniuk & Amy Hempel
Chuck Palahniuk. Photo: Neilson Barnard/2009 Getty Images

In a tribute published via Rolling Stone on Tuesday, Chuck Palahniuk explained how David Bowie helped jump-start the author’s career. Intense fondness for the late rock idol’s work had reached new heights when, in the summer of 86, the writer heard Bowie doing sound checks for a tour stop in Portland, virtually right outside his apartment window. “He’d sing most of ‘Young Americans’ and stop. Then begin from the beginning. Over and over,” wrote Palahniuk, who, at the time, lived near Civic Stadium as a newly graduated, loan-plagued newspaper reporter. “All afternoon, my friends and I were in a music video, dancing on our perfect Hollywood backlot street, drinking beer and enjoying a concert none of us could afford to attend. The repetition of the song, the beer and the sunshine were hypnotic.” Palahniuk tapped that same blissful repetition a decade later to nab a meeting with the person who would eventually buy Fight Club:

A famous editor, Gerald Howard, was appearing at a writers conference in Everett, Washington. “Gerry’s boys” as they were called, were infamous. His stable had included Irvine Welsh, Bret Ellis, David Foster Wallace, Jim Carroll, and I wanted to join the band. I couldn’t afford to attend the conference, but I tracked him to a hotel bar where he was surrounded, three deep, by aspiring novelists. Some disclosure here: I was wearing a puffy pirate shirt leftover from my Adam Ant days, a shirt one nice older lady novelist called “a lovely blouse.” I couldn’t get near Gerry Howard so I asked the bartender for $10 in quarters, and I fed them into the jukebox and selected the same song to play forty times. It was “Young Americans,” a song I could listen to forever on a desert island. Most people were ticked off. Soon everyone left, and I had Gerry to myself. Eventually I sold him Fight Club and 15 more books. To this day, he doesn’t remember that song, playing over and over and the haters hating me as they abandoned the bar. … Thank you, Mr. Bowie. You were my role model and my hero and my savior. I will miss you very much.

Read Palahniuk’s full piece, which discusses more of his Bowie fandom, here. And peruse more of this week’s in memoriam messages here and here.

Palahniuk Recalls How Bowie Helped Fight Club