From Beckenham to Stardom: My Journey with David Bowie

Last Updated: June 14, 2024By

 

It was a sunny Saturday morning back in ’71, and there I was, Suzi Ronson, slaving away at Evelyn Paget’s hair salon on Beckenham High Street. Suddenly, this odd pair strolled by—her in black jeans and a fuzzy jacket, him rocking a flowing gold dress. Everybody in the salon rushed out to gawk. “Who’s that?” we whispered, and then someone spilled the beans: “It’s David Bowie.”

Now, I’d vaguely heard of Bowie, mostly ’cause his Space Oddity was making waves locally, plus his mom was a client. But he was in this artsy circle, not my scene at all. Little did I know, I was about to dive headfirst into his world, becoming the lone working gal in his entourage, as spilled in my memoir, Me and Mr Jones.

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Angie, Bowie’s missus, had her hair done by yours truly, and that’s how I wound up at Haddon Hall, their crib in Beckenham. Walking in there felt like landing on Mars. I mean, I’d never met such a diverse bunch—gay dudes, a West Indian gal with a Cockney twang—just three miles from home, but it felt like a whole other planet.

And smack dab in the middle were the Bowies. Angie wanted a new look for David, so she roped me in. He showed me this snap of a model with fiery red spikes, and that was that. I whipped out some wild dye we had lying around, and bam, the Ziggy Stardust ‘do was born.

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Joining Bowie’s gang was surreal and thrilling. My own childhood wasn’t a picnic, so I was always itching for an escape. Bowie offered just that. Soon, I was on the payroll as the band’s hair guru. Angie was a force to be reckoned with, too—tall, cool, and bold as brass. She pushed to get me paid, even though it got a bit awkward since, well, I ended up in bed with Bowie. Scary as hell, let me tell you. He was quite the ladies’ man, and Angie didn’t seem to mind.

Touring with Bowie was a whirlwind. I wasn’t just doing hair—I was dyeing his jockstrap red and ironing sweat out of his stage gear. We’d be backstage, Mick jamming away on his guitar while I played dress-up with David.

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Stateside, Bowie’s fame skyrocketed, especially among the ladies. They’d trail us like lovesick puppies, even booking rooms in our hotels. It was my job to pick the prettiest ones for a meet-and-greet with the band. I remember this one time, a 16-year-old ended up in Bowie’s room, and her mom stormed in like a bull in a china shop.

Looking back, it’s all a bit of a madhouse. I mean, can you imagine if that had been my kid? I should’ve checked IDs, but she looked way older than she was.

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The Ziggy tour was a wild ride, spanning the UK, US, and Japan. But it all came crashing down at the Hammersmith Odeon. Bowie dropped the bombshell on stage: Ziggy was done. I knew, but the rest of the band was blindsided. It was a dick move, really.

Bowie’s treatment of the band was ruthless. Mick, my future hubby, was the brains behind Bowie’s success, yet he got peanuts in return. Mick was earning 50 quid a week, and here I was, pulling in 20 as the hairdresser. Unbelievable.

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After Ziggy, I joined Mick on Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour, rubbing shoulders with legends like Allen Ginsberg and Joni Mitchell. But that final gig in Hammersmith was the last time I saw Bowie.

Fast forward to ’77, I tied the knot with Mick. Since then, it’s been raising our daughter Lisa and bouncing around the music scene. Lisa doesn’t know about my Bowie fling yet—that’s gonna be a shocker.

Mick passed in ’93, but not before Bowie invited him to play on his album. Mick rocked it, but then he was gone.

I got the news of Bowie’s passing in 2016. Shortly after, I got a call from The Moth, asking if I wanted to share my story. And that’s how “The Girl from Beckenham” was born—a tale of rock ‘n’ roll, fame, and a man who changed my life. Bowie was a complex soul, but one thing’s for sure: he was out of this world, and you couldn’t tear your eyes away.

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