You may have seen David Bowie’s list of 100 favorite books floating around today. But where did he go to buy them? In 2003, he told New York magazine that our own Strand Bookstore was one of his three favorite places in New York, along with Washington Square Park and Julian Schnabel’s house. (He was also known to sneak into movies at Angelika.)
Today, Whitney Hu, marketing director at Strand, polled some of the store’s longtime employees and told us that Bowie, who usually shopped incognito and alone, “managed to evade most of them” except for owner Fred Bass, who at 87 still works the buying desk. Bass told her that Bowie “always came in for the trendier, contemporary information and also made his way, a lot of the times, to the art section,” she said. But Bowie hadn’t been seen at Strand since the early 2000s. “If he’s been in recently — in the last four or five years — he kind of slipped by everyone,” Hu said.
One of the employees he slipped by is Kimberly Ann Southwick, a writer and editor who told us this story about her brush with Bowie.
I worked in the back lefthand corner of the main floor of Strand from 2007-2009 in what was the poetry and literary non-fiction sections then. Celebrities were always in and out of the store, and because the area I worked in was so specific and in the back, unless they were looking for something in or near my section, I didn’t notice many. One day towards the end of the day, after I got back from lunch, one of my coworkers came up to me, all excited, to ask if I’d seen David Bowie in the store earlier. I hadn’t. “Why didn’t you tell me he was here!” I said, which is what I usually said. I’d missed other celebs before, but this was David Bowie! Who knows why none of my co-workers thought to tell me he had been there when he was there, but I’d like to think it was out of respect.
Southwick admits hers is “literally nearly not even a story” compared to, say, the yarns about Bowie in ’70s New York. Still, she says: “There’s such a rich history of musicians and actors/actresses coming into the store, that to know, even if I didn’t see him, that he was in the same building as me briefly, that’s special enough to me.”