Based on traffic and readership I may shift posts a bit this week. Just to see how it works. It could be a total fail but based on some data I’m going to try a couple of different release times. Please bear with me. Things could get better or worse. I’m just trying this.
I’m hoping it makes it easier for you all to view my content. Let me know if it’s easier/better!
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am & 12pm EST.
The surprise news of David Bowie passing Sunday night caught everyone off guard, and there has been a massive outpouring of emotion and support for a man whose music and art touched many (New Times has published two such pieces). Those tributes are well-deserved. Bowie leaves behind an incredibly diverse and impressive body of work, and he has inspired millions. David Bowie was many things — rock ‘n’ roll hero, queer icon, fashion superstar, a man unafraid to make daring artistic choices. He was also the type of man who, in his mid-20s, allegedly would sleep with two girls not old enough to drive themselves to his hotel.
Consider the story of Lori Maddox and her friend, Sable Starr.
In her teens, Maddox (often spelled “Mattix”) was known as Lori Lightning, a barely post-pubescent model who became known as a groupie in Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip nightclub scene. Raised by a single working mother with little time to care for Maddox, Maddox befriended a girl her own age, Sable Starr, and the two would eventually go on to party with just about every major rock star that came through LA. Most famously, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page kept Maddox as a hidden girlfriend for two years while she was underage.
But before Page, there was David Bowie.
Maddox has repeatedly said in interviews that she met Bowie as a young teen and he asked her up to his hotel room. She was 14, and Bowie was in his mid-20s. Afraid, she declined. But five months later Bowie again propositioned her, and she and Starr went to his room.
Maddox has since told the story several times, including once for a VH1 documentary that curiously omitted her age at the time, but she most succinctly told it to Thrillist just a few months ago.
Next time Bowie was in town, though, maybe five months later, I got a call at home from his bodyguard, a huge black guy named Stuey. He told me that David wanted to take me to dinner. Obviously, I had no homework that night. Fuck homework. I wasn’t spending a lot of time at school anyway. I said that I would like to go but that I wanted to bring my friend Sable. She was dying to fuck Bowie. I figured that she would sleep with him while I got to hang out and have fun.
So the two girls went to Bowie’s hotel, where, according to Maddox, she had sex with Bowie, which later turned into a threesome with Sable.
We got to the Beverly Hilton and all went up to Bowie’s enormous suite. I found myself more and more fascinated by him. He was beautiful and clever and poised. I was incredibly turned on. Bowie excused himself and left us in this big living room with white shag carpeting and floor-to-ceiling windows. Stuey brought out Champagne and hash. We were getting stoned when, all of a sudden, the bedroom door opens and there is Bowie in this fucking beautiful red and orange and yellow kimono.
He focused his famously two-colored eyes on me and said, “Lori, darling, can you come with me?” Sable looked like she wanted to murder me. He walked me through his bedroom and into the bathroom, where he dropped his kimono. He got into the tub, already filled with water, and asked me to wash him. Of course I did. Then he escorted me into the bedroom, gently took off my clothes, and de-virginized me.
Two hours later, I went to check on Sable. She was all fucked up in the living room, walking around, fogging up windows and writing, “I want to fuck David.” I told him what she was doing and that I felt so bad. Bowie said, “Well, darling, bring her in.” That night I lost my virginity and had my first threesome. The next morning, there was banging on the door and it was fucking [Bowie’s wife] Angie. I was terrified of her. David said not to worry about it. They were already at the point where they had separate rooms. She probably knew he’d be in there with girls… or boys. He was totally bisexual. I saw David many times after that, for the next 10 years, and it was always great.
So far as I could find, Bowie has neither confirmed nor denied Maddox’s account of that night, and there don’t seem to be any pictures of Bowie and Maddox. That said, Maddox’s relationship with Page, which — again — began when she was 15, is universally accepted as fact by now. Rolling Stone even confirmed it. Getty Images has archived photos in which Page drapes an arm around an obviously juvenile Maddox.
And to be fair, Maddox has not once indicated that she found the experience traumatic, though the encounter under today’s laws would be considered statutory rape. Quite the contrary, in interviews in the past few years, Maddox seems joyous retelling the story. Thrillist asked her point-blank if she saw any problem with how Bowie, a powerful older man supplying young teens with drugs and alcohol, slept with her that night.
“I was an innocent girl, but the way it happened was so beautiful,” she replied. “I remember him looking like God and having me over a table. Who wouldn’t want to lose their virginity to David Bowie?”
She later added, “I feel like I was very present. I saw the greatest music ever. I got to hang out with some of the most amazing, most beautiful, most charismatic men in the world. I went to concerts in limos with police escorts. Am I going to regret this? No.”
Of course, statutory rape laws are in place for a reason. And it’s up to Maddox to define whether her sexual encounter with Bowie was traumatic. Many have dismissed Page’s and Bowie’s actions as par for the course for famous rock stars, dirty misdeeds overshadowed by their contributions to the pop zeitgeist. Many are crediting Bowie’s being an androgynous role model with saving the lives of queer children worldwide. Statutory rape seems destined to be a footnote in Bowie’s legacy, because maybe that’s how we as a society evaluate our famous people: We don’t let singular acts overwhelm the legacy. We measure people’s value by what they contribute to society, and if a man happens to act unethically on the way to selling millions of records and being an overwhelmingly positive force in the lives of millions, so be it.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish Monday through Friday at 8am & 12pm EST.
hen my mother got angry or was displeased, she would act as though I wasn’t there. It was like I’d become invisible like a ghost or a pane of glass. When I was small—say six or seven—I would melt under the heat of her glare, crying and begging for her to say something but she wouldn’t. Of course, I tiptoed around her all during my childhood, afraid. You know, it was like being locked in an attic as a punishment but it was more confusing and subtle. I didn’t understand it as abusive until I was in my forties.
This woman is not alone; children who grow up around verbal and emotional abuse usually normalize it, believing wrongly that what goes on at their house goes on everywhere. Not altogether surprisingly, there’s a lot of cultural confusion about what exactly constitutes abusive behavior. While most people are quick to condemn physical abuse—the kind that leaves visible bruises or breaks bones—many don’t understand where the inability to manage emotions like losing your temper stops and abusive behavior begins. Is it intention that separates one from the other—the effort to control or manipulate another person—or is the victimizing effect that pushes it over the line? The short answer is both.
Contrary to the public muddle, research is very clear on what emotional and verbal abuse does to the child’s developing brain, literally changing its structure. These children grow up to be adults who mistrust their perceptions and have difficulty managing their emotions; they develop an insecure style of attachment which can make them detach from their feelings (avoidance style) or make them highly vulnerable and rejection sensitive (anxious style). Because they tend to normalize verbal abuse, they may end up in adult relationships with those who are abusive.
When most of us think about verbal abuse, we imagine screaming and yelling but the truth is that some of the most pernicious abuse is wordless and quiet; just re-read the story which begins this post and note that it’s the mother’s silence that is the weapon of choice.
Wordless abuse: What it is and how it damages
Here’s what Leah,38, wrote me about her first marriage:
I would become a pathetic creature, begging him to tell me he still loved me after a fight and he wouldn’t answer. I would beg some more, crying, and he would sit there on the couch, his face like stone. Then I would apologize even though he’d started the fight and I’d done nothing wrong. That’s how scared of his leaving I was. I didn’t recognize his behavior as abusive and controlling until I went into therapy at 35. I lived with this for 12 years and never once thought that this was not okay.
Leah’s story isn’t unusual in that she normalized her husband’s behavior for years. This kind of quiet abuse is relatively easy to rationalize or deny: “He didn’t feel like talking,” “She was actually trying to regroup,” “It’s not like he deliberately tried to hurt me” or “Maybe I am too sensitive just like she says.” As I explain in my book Daughter Detox: Recovering From an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life, children internalize not just the messages conveyed by the articulated kind of verbal abuse but also form their expectations and understanding of how people behave in relationships from the quiet kind.
Among the kinds of quiet abuse are stonewalling, ignoring, displaying contempt, and withholding. They all share the goal of marginalizing the person, making the person feel terrible about him or herself, and facilitating control.
Stonewalling or Demand/Withdraw
Widely recognized as one of the most toxic patterns of relationship, this behavior has been studied often enough that it is has its own acronym: DM/W. Stonewalling effectively ends the possibility of dialogue, and is meant disempower the person who initiated the conversation. When a parent does this to a child, he or she effectively communicates that the child’s thoughts and feelings are absolutely of no value or concern; since the child needs a parent’s love and support, he or she will absorb that lesson as a supposed truth about the self. When an adult intimate partner does it, it’s a power play pure and simple, but effectively sends the following message: What you want, what you think, what you feel don’t matter in this relationship.
The silent treatment or ignoring
Pretending that you neither see nor hear someone is especially poignant for children, especially if served up as a punishment. A young child may feel as though she’s been banished or abandoned; an older one may feel the pain of rejection but may also experience deep anger, as Ella explained:
My father would systematically stop talking to me whenever I disappointed him which was often. The infraction could be something like not getting a good grade on a test, missing a goal in field hockey, or just about anything. He was always saying things like ‘You need toughening up. You’re too sensitive and only the tough survive in this world.’ My mother went along with it too. By the time I was a teenager, I was angry with them but, of course, I also thought I was somehow to blame for disappointing him. I was an only child and had nothing to compare it to. Long story short, I fell apart when I went to college and luckily, a great therapist saved me.
Intimate partners also use the silent treatment to marginalize and demean, as well as to make his or her partner fearful or off-balance. It’s a way of making someone feel vulnerable, banishing them to an emotional Siberia, and is intended to make them more malleable and less resistant to control.
Contempt and derision
Laughing at someone, deriding him or her with facial gestures of disgust or eye-rolling, can also be tools of abuse, meant to marginalize and demean, and don’t require words. These gestures, alas, can easily be deflected or denied by the abuser who’s likely to say that you’re too sensitive or that you can’t take a joke or that you’re reading in.
Make no mistake: this is abusive behavior. You don’t need words to tell someone they’re stupid or worthless.
This is perhaps the most subtle form of abuse, especially when it involves a child: Deliberately withholding the words of support, love, and caring that a child needs in order to thrive. Of course, a child doesn’t know what he or she is missing, but recognizes the loneliness that fills the empty space in his or her heart. But it’s only slightly easier to see when you’re an adult in an intimate relationship because having your emotional needs denied only serves to make you even more needy and, sometimes, more dependent on that partner. It’s counterintuitive, but true. Withholding is the ultimate tool of people who crave power and control.
Abuse is abuse. If someone is using words or silence to make you feel powerless and worthless, that person is behaving abusively. Keep it simple.
Was this helpful? I’d love to hear your feedback on this piece!
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am & 12pm EST.