LEGEND OF LEIGH BOWERY, THENR
In the '80s there were major party animals, and then there was Leigh Bowery. He became famous for merely going out, by virtue of the incredible costumes he created, which transformed him into the most flamboyant, towering, genderless unidentified living object. Born in 1961 in Australia, the cherub-faced, strapping lad came to London just as the New Romantic movement was breaking and quickly became one of its seminal figures. He dabbled in fashion design and costuming (for Michael Clark's dance company) and, in 1985, opened Taboo, the legendary nightclub which is being celebrated in the Broadway show of the same name. Performance art became his mtier, which led him to painter Lucian Freud, who immortalized his massive bulk in a monumental series of works regarded among his finest. Bowery then went on to his final metamorphosis, as a musician with his band Minty, before suddenly dying of AIDS complications on New Year's Eve 1994. He had kept his HIV status a secret, known only to one of his friends.
Charles Atlas, a close friend of Bowery's, has documented his unique life in a mesmerizing, beautifully made documentary, The Legend of Leigh Bowery. All of Bowery's myriad looks are here, including his often stomach-turning performances, as well as his voracious sexual appetite. He'd cruise every "cottage" (public toilet) in London in his daytime drag, which made him resemble a serial killer (albeit sporting very obvious wigs). Atlas doesn't stint, either, from showing Bowery's famed perversity and "evil" side. (His idea of a good time was throwing a dinner party for six people who hated each other's guts.) Indeed, it was after seeing this film that Rosie O'Donnell became seriously interested in bringing his life to the public as producer of Taboo, with Boy George as Bowery, a show which indeed captures much of his world.
The film is documentary work of the highest quality, with handsomely shot interviews and silky-smooth editing of countless clips and images. And the interviewees themselves are an amazing group of eccentrics, representative of a singular, flamboyant era in which creativity took precedence over commercialism: Bella Freud (Lucien's designer daughter), designer Rifat Ozbek, Damien Hirst, Clark, Boy George, legendary corsetiere Mr. Pearl, and Bowery's widow, Nicola.