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A Very Special Man, My Friend David Bowie, is Gone.

Getty/Terry O'Neill

I knew David Bowie back in the early '70s. I never got a chance to tell him just how much I appreciated him and his friendship.

David Bowie’s death hit me hard. Of course I know I’m one of millions in feeling that. Up until now, I’ve refrained from writing about my reaction to his death, even though he and I were acquaintances back in the early '70s. I held back because I didn’t want to "use" his death to talk about my connection with him.

But earlier today, when news of Glenn Frey’s death broke, I was propelled backwards in time to the restaurant I created in 1970 (first called The Taming of the Stew and later changed to Lost on Larrabee) in West Hollywood, California.

Over the years, hundreds of famous musicians and movie and TV stars dined at my restaurant. I was friendly with all of them, but I knew to regard them as acquaintances, not real friends. However, I must admit it was really special to be hobnobbing with those folks on a nightly basis.  

There were exceptions – those who became friends, not just acquaintances. David Bowie was one of those special exceptions. I first met David when he dined at my restaurant and a mutual friend introduced us. After that he would occasionally wander in by himself for dinner. At some point he’d wave me over and ask me to sit with him while he dined or had an after-dinner drink – most often, Campari and soda. Part of our ability to chat stemmed from the fact that until a few years earlier, I had lived and worked in London, running restaurants there, so we had that city and scene in common.

I found David to be urbane, sophisticated, witty and also down to earth. A rare combination, in my opinion. Most of all I noticed that the David Bowie I chatted with was different than the personas of the characters he played in his bands. When he and I sat and talked, it was like we were just a couple of guys. My sense was that he enjoyed spending time just being normal; not “in character,” not having to be special or a star.

The Three Redheads: Although I can’t recall exactly how it came to be, David and I decided to have a private party in the downstairs dining room at my restaurant. We got Bette Midler to be the third of the three redheads. (Truth be told, back in the day, I was probably the only true redheaded in that group.)

I can’t remember everyone who was at the party, but George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd was there, as was Ringo and many other well-known musicians. It was a truly spectacular evening, one I’ll never forget. What’s interesting is that this was in the age before cell phones, so no one was snapping pictures of the others at the party and there were no publicists there with cameras. I’m sure it remains a fond memory for the others who were there, even though to the best of my knowledge, there are no photos of that party.

Not too long after, David left Los Angeles and went on in his amazing career. That party was the last time I saw him. I never did get a chance to say a proper goodbye, so the sad news of his death left me feeling unfinished. In addition to that missing goodbye, I realize that his friendship with me – the talks, and that party – meant a great deal to me, and I never got a chance to thank him and tell him just how much I appreciated him and his friendship.

In reading what has been written by people who knew him much better than I, it’s been wonderful to see that my impressions of David, the man, are very similar to what most others have been saying.

I am honored to say that David Bowie was a friend of mine and I am tremendously saddened by his death.

David, my friend: thank you, I love you, goodbye!

Russell Friedman is executive director of The Grief Recovery Institute.