Tilda Swinton Honors David Bowie With Moving Speech: 'The Freak Becomes the Great Unifier'
The actress writes an 840-word tribute to the legendary singer, which she delivers at the opening of the "David Bowie Is" exhibit at London's Victoria and Albert Museum. Read the text in its entirety.
Tilda Swinton delivered a beautiful and moving speech to open the "David Bowie Is" exhibit at London's Victoria and Albert Museum on March 20.
The actress appears in the video to Bowie's latest single, "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," from his just-released album The Next Day. And while she doesn't play his Doppelganger in the clip (that role is handled by Norwegian model Iselin Steiro), she revealed at the tribute that earlier in her life, she was regarded as "a freak who even looked a little like you." Bowie was not in attendance.
Swinton noted that the museum had wanted a Bowie fan to speak, adding, "They could have thrown a paper napkin and hit a hundred. I'm the lucky one." The only instructions she received from the singer: that she include the word "testicular" in her address -- which she did expertly.
Read the text of her speech in its entirety below:
When I asked you if you wanted me to say anything here tonight
You said 'Only three words, one of them testicular'
So I'll pass that on
Here I am at surely the most eclectic of all the London branches of Bowie Anonymous
All the nicest possible freaks are here
We're in the Victoria and Albert Museum preparing to rifle through your drawers
It's truly an amazing thing
This was my favourite playground as a child Medieval armour : my fantasy space wear
And, alongside, when I was 12 -- and a square sort of kid in a Round Pond sort of childhood, not far from here -- I carried a copy of Aladdin Sane around with me -- a full 2 years before i had the wherewithal to play it
The image of that gingery boney pinky whitey person on the cover with the liquid mercury collar bone was -- for one particular young moon-age daydreamer -- the image of planetary kin, of a close imaginary cousin and companion of choice
It's taken me a long time to admit, even to myself, let alone you, that it was the vision and not yet the sound that hooked me up -- but if i can't confess that here and now, then when and where?
We all have our own roots
To this room
Some of us -- the enviable -- found the fellowship early in the funfests of Billy's Bowie Nights or equivalent lodges from San Francisco to Aukland to Heidelberg and all points in between
For others, it was a more lonesome affair, paced out in a sort of private Morse Code like following bread crumbs through a forest
I'm not saying that if you hadn't pitched up I would have worn a pie crust collar and pearls like some of those I went to school with
I'm not saying that if you hadn't weighed in, Princess Julia would have been less inventive with the pink blusher
Simply that, you provided the sideways like us with such rare and out-there company
You pulled us in and left your arm dangling over our necks
And kept us warm -- as you have for -- isn't it ? -- centuries now
One of us
And you have remained the reliable mortal in amongst all the immortal shapes you have thrown
Nothing more certain than changes
Always with a weather eye out
Always awake and clocking the fallout
Those Mayans must have known something when they set their calendar down before
Because, of course, now all bets are off
I know, because you told me, how tickled you were to knock Elvis -- for once! -- out of the headlines on your shared birthday this year
There's so much for all of us to be happy about since then
Yet, I think the thing I'm loving the most about the last few weeks is how clear it now is -- how undeniable -- that the freak becomes the great unifier
The alien is the best company after all
For so many more than the few
They wanted a Bowie fan to speak tonight. They could have thrown a paper napkin and hit a hundred.
I'm the lucky one, standing up to speak for all my fellow freaks anxious to win the pub quiz and claim their number one most super-fan T-shirt
I want to give thanks to the Victoria and Albert Museum for indulging us so
For laying on our dream show
For showing us -- look at their advance ticket sales -- that, as is
written along the bottom of this month's Q magazine,
'Why we all live in David's world now'
To Gucci and Sennheiser for putting up the cash, laying on the sound and vision
To Geoffrey and Victoria for curating an entire universe so beautifully, on behalf of us all
When I think of what it used to feel like once
To be a freak who liked you
To feel like a freak like you
-- a freak who even looked a little like you
And then I think of the countless people of every size and feather who are going to walk through this trace of your journey here and pick up the bread crumbs
in the great hub of this mothership over these spring and summer months
And how familiar and stamped you are into ALL of our our collective DNA
I'm just plain proud
Where are we now?
I know you aren't here tonight, but
Somehow, no matter
We are -
And you brought us out of the wainscotting like so many
Freaky old bastards
Like so many fan boys and girls
Like so many loners and pretty things and dandies and dudes and dukes and duckies and testicular types
And pulled us together
Our not so absent, not so invisible, friend
Every alien's favourite cousin
We have a nice life
GENIUS LOST: ROBIN WILLIAMS
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