Philly loves Bowie — the second time around

The second annual Philly Loves Bowie Week will feature a new book and documentary film.

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Fans spell out BOWIE with their bodies outside Sigma Sound Studios on 12th Street in 1974 while David Bowie was recording songs for the album

Fans spell out "BOWIE" with their bodies outside Sigma Sound Studios on 12th Street in 1974 while David Bowie was recording songs for the album "Young Americans." (Dagmar)

The second annual Philly Loves Bowie Week, set to begin Friday, offers 10 days of events related to David Bowie on the anniversary of his death, including juke box happy hours, karaoke nights, and an evening of Bowie covers performed by drag queens.

The Bowie fan festival will also feature a new book and a sneak peek of a documentary about the pop musician who died in 2016 at the age of 69.

“My Bowie Story” is a book of articles written by fans, describing Bowie’s impact. It was self-published by Dale Perry of Ewing, New Jersey, who compiled submissions from more than 60 people in eight countries.

Many of the short essays — most just a few pages long — not only gush about the celebrated icon, but nostalgically remember what it was like to be a rock fan in the 1970s: discovering new music by flipping through vinyl bins at downtown record stores or standing in long lines to buy concert tickets, all under the glare of disapproving adults.

To solicit material, Perry reached out through fan websites. In return, she received writings from doctors, business owners, and well-established professionals. Perry, who recently retired as an office manager for New Jersey’s Division of Criminal Justice, said most people don’t peg her as a lifelong Bowie fan.

“You look too conservative. You don’t look like a wild rock girl,” said Perry. “I’m a lot older now, too. But, I mean, some people who are not Bowie fans may have gotten stuck into the image of Bowie in the ’70s, with the outrageous outfits. They are not seeing the Bowie who was so inspirational — or so kind.”

Since releasing the book in October, she doesn’t yet have quarterly sales numbers. Whatever they are, Perry is not making a dime: proceeds from all sales are being donated to Save the Children, a fund devoted the children’s rights in developing countries, to which Bowie himself contributed.

Perry will be at a Jan. 11 happy hour at World Café in West Philadelphia; 100 percent of that evening’s book sales will be donated to cancer research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

CHOP is the beneficiary of the entire Philly Loves Bowie Week. Last year’s events raised $13,500, according to its website, more than doubling the goal.

Last year’s Bowie Week was propelled organically by Philadelphians’ grief and affection for Bowie on the first anniversary of his death. Robert Drake, a DJ at WXPN and a co-founder of Bowie Week, said that sustained affection coupled with charitable goals gives the celebration legs.

“I have a feeling because of those two things, that’s going to keep us going for a few years at least,” he said. “Philadelphia has a real soft spot for David Bowie in its heart, and I think that’s going to last for a while.”

Following the book event at World Café, a rough cut of “The Sigma Kids” will be screened. The nearly completed documentary film chronicles Bowie’s time at Sigma Sound Studio on North 12th Street in Philadelphia, where he recorded songs for his 1975 album, “Young Americans.”

His fans — dubbed “the Sigma Kids” — camped outside the studio for days, eager to catch a glimpse of their hero coming and going. They got friendly with Bowie’s band, in particular guitarist Carlos Alomar, whom they showed around town when he wasn’t working.

Eventually, Bowie asked the Sigma Kids to come inside the studio to be the first to listen to his new songs. He plied them with sandwiches and soda (or pizza, depending on the storyteller) and nervously gauged their reaction.

The Sigma Kids, naturally, loved the songs and immediately demanded a second playback, which, according the lore, turned into a spontaneous dance party with Bowie.

Filmmaker Anthony Crupi, who admits he is a “casual, at best” fan of Bowie’s music, was nevertheless drawn to that moment at Sigma Sound Studios.

“Knowing what we now know of David Bowie, and thinking of him as a young musician in the corner watching, not being sure if they are going to like it or not,” he said. “These are the stories that kept bringing me back to it.”

Crupi has been working on this Bowie documentary for about three years, since before Bowie died. Making a film about Bowie at Sigma Sound Studio allowed Crupi to tell the story of why Bowie came to Philadelphia in the first place — in order to tap into the soul of the famous “Philly sound” — and, once he got here, the bond the city would make with him.

Bowie ultimately recorded three LPs in Philadelphia and used performances at the now-departed Spectrum for the official “Modern Love” music video.

Crupi said he felt Bowie’s unguarded moment with the Sigma Kids says a lot about the city’s place in the history of rock.

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