In a recent BBC video, Michael Stipe detailed his first meeting with the late David Bowie at a dinner party in Switzerland. Stipe is a known Bowie superfan, performing at tribute shows since his death in early 2016.
Stipe recalls of the night that he was exhausted from travel at the time. He was spending an unexpectedly extended amount of time in Switzerland due to R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry’s hospitalization after suffering an aneurysm onstage. It’s worth noting that guitarist Peter Buck has repeatedly said that Switzerland is the best place to have a brain issue because of their advanced surgical procedures; Berry was back performing in just a month.
While the band was waiting for Berry’s recovery, Stipe was invited to a dinner at a friend’s house. He recalls having to take a nap prior to the dinner because his exhaustion was overtaking him: “It took three espressos for me to walk down the stairs and look David Bowie in the eye and say, ‘How do you do? It’s nice to meet you finally.’” Bowie didn’t arrive empty-handed: “He had a book with a bunch of his original artwork in it. He had miniatures of sculptures that he had been working on with him. He had a photograph of James Dean as a teenager, naked in a tree,” Stipe reminisces. “Everything you would expect from David Bowie times ten.”
The BBC videos also feature Stipe detailing beard care. He explains the origin of his beard, now about a foot long: “Three Halloweens ago, I went as a failed radical faerie … You have to have a lot of facial hair, put flowers in it. Way too much glitter. Way too much makeup. Overdo the eyebrows.” He notes that he keeps it trimmed on the sides to show off his “beautiful cheekbones.”
Watch the BBC videos here and listen to a 1983 performance of “Space Oddity” from the Paste Cloud below.