Bowie by Land: On the Road in the USA

When Bowie wouldn’t fly at all in the early 1970s, or with reluctance, after September 11, 2001, he made his way across America by rail and on its highways.

Limos

In June 1974, Bowie, Coco, Stuey George, were driven by limousine chauffeur Jim James to Montreal, a 9-hour trip. Later that year, Tony Mascia (born Anthony DeMassi in the Bronx) was hired as Bowie’s bodyguard and driver. He drove the limo during Alan Yentob’s interviews with Bowie for the BBC Cracked Actor documentary. After seeing this footage, Nicholas Roeg decided to use both the car and Mascia in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Although Bowie rode the train to New Mexico, Mascia drove him back to LA at the end of shooting in that same limo.Tony Mascia is at the hood of the limo.

Tony and David Bowie became good friends, and Tony worked for him on the Serious Moonlight tour. One of Bowie’s first transatlantic flights once he began flying again was from to NYC in December 1977 to serve as best man at Tony’s wedding. Tony died in 1991. You can see more pictures (the one above appears there) and read about his life at Facebook on the Tony Mascia (DeMassi) Tribute page.

Buses and Cabs

During the early 1970s US tours, when he wasn’t on the train, Bowie rode a chartered Greyhound, for example, in September 1972, from NYC to Cleveland and again in October that year, from NYC to Chicago, via Eire, Pennsylvania and in 1973, from NYC to Philadelphia.

In at least one case missing the train proved expensive. On Nov. 29, 1972, manager Tony DeFries had booked Mott the Hoople to play in Philadelphia under the banner, “David Bowie Presents,” so Bowie’s presence was required. Bowie elected to travel 7 hours by cab from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, a $200 fare (or $875 in 2011).

Reality

After 9/11, Bowie avoided flying when possible, and during the Reality tour, the tour bus was his “preferred mode of travel.” There are some video clips of Bowie and band on this bus, which has sleeping bunks and a kitchen and lounge area, but I haven’t found yet any reports on how many of the band accompanied him on the bus how often. Perhaps spending long hours together not working is one of the reasons the Reality band  seemed like such a strong, cohesive, and cheerful unit.

Bowie’s favorite novel as a teen was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and so traveling cross country on the bus may have appealed to him as much for its own sake as for avoiding planes. Certainly he and the band saw much more of America than otherwise, and Bowie seems to like looking out the window, as a passage in this article suggests:

 “I’m somewhere between LA and Phoenix,” he offers in his distinctive tone. “We’re travelling alongside the Coachella Mountains. It’s quite spectacular and quite beautiful.”

Taking the bus also allowed the band a few unusual experiences, like shopping for zoot suits in Denver, Colorado, at the Suavecito Apparel Company, and doing battle with the quarter-eating, claw grab-a-stuffed-toy machine at a truck stop somewhere along I-15 in the vicinity of Shelby and Great Falls, Montana, aka the middle of nowhere. As the group is leaving, they discover a Tin Machine cassette in the sales rack. But no one has a cassette player, so there it stays. Next time you are driving between Shelby and Great Falls, stop off and see if it is still there.

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