David Bowie’s latest—and brilliant—music video for “The Next Day,” the title track off his critically acclaimed album released in early March, depicts a caliginous brothel of sorts run by members of the clergy, with scantily-clad women kissing their hands for cash. Various pale-faced men deliver lashes to their own backs. Gary Oldman plays a priest who revels in the proceedings, dancing provocatively with one of the supposed women of the night, played by a glammed-up Marion Cotillard. The Thin White Duke, dressed like Jesus, performs the song for the crowd and when he points at Cotillard, she experiences stigmata.
The Catholic League, as is their wont, is in a tizzy over the Floria Sigismondi-directed video. League President Bill Donahue went all fire and brimstone on Ziggy Stardust in a message posted on the organization’s site titled “Bowie’s ‘Jesus ‘ Video is a Mess.”
“David Bowie is back, but hopefully not for long,” wrote Donahue. “The switch-hitting, bisexual, senior citizen from London has resurfaced, this time playing a Jesus-like character who hangs out in a nightclub dump frequented by priests, cardinals and half-naked women.”
In addition to the jab at bisexuality by the Catholic League, which is grossly antiquated and myopic, Donahue is only six months younger than 66-year-old Bowie. But the Catholic League weren’t the only ones who took issue with the video. The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey told The Telegraph, “I doubt that Bowie would have the courage to use Islamic imagery—I very much doubt it,” adding, “Frankly, I don't get offended by such juvenilia—Christians should have the courage to rise above offensive language although I hope Bowie will recognize that he may be upsetting some people.”
YouTube temporarily pulled the video for its graphic content, but later said they had “mistakenly” done so and “made the wrong call,” according to BBC News. The video has since been reinstated with an adult content warning denoting explicit material.
Bowie’s sexuality, meanwhile, has always been a subject of great fascination among his fans and detractors. In a 1976 interview with Playboy, he famously remarked, “It's true—I am a bisexual. But I can't deny that I've used that fact very well. I suppose it's the best thing that ever happened to me.” He added, “When I was 14, sex suddenly became all-important to me. It didn't really matter who or what it was with, as long as it was a sexual experience. So it was some very pretty boy in class in some school or other that I took home and neatly fucked on my bed upstairs. And that was it. My first thought was, Well, if I ever get sent to prison, I'll know how to keep happy.”
He backpedaled from these statements a bit in a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone, saying he was “always a closet heterosexual” and that coming out as bisexual was “the biggest mistake I ever made.” Bowie further elaborated on his sexuality, and the “biggest mistake” comment, in a 2002 piece in Blender magazine.
“I don't think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America,” he said. “I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners or be a representative of any group of people. I knew what I wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer, and I felt that [bisexuality] became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do.”
Bowie has been married twice—to Mary Angela Barnett from 1970-1980, resulting in a son, Zowie Bowie (now Duncan Jones, the director of Moon)—and Iman, whom he has been married to since 1992. The couple has a twelve-year-old daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones.