When David Bowie died in 2016, Dale K. Perry was overcome by all of his fans sharing stories about the musician online. Perry, who first discovered Bowie’s music when she was 12, loved reading all the comments about how the rock icon influenced their lives.
There was only one problem; The stories were scattered across multiple websites.
“I’m not a technology person,” said Perry, a 58-year-old Ewing native. “I couldn’t find the stories again. I thought, if these were all in a book, you could have them forever to read and read.”
In September, Perry published My Bowie Story, an anthology of 85 stories written by 60 Bowie fans from eight different countries. Perry worked with fellow Ewing resident Mark Falzini to compile and edit stories and layout photographs, all submitted by fans.
“This really is just the fans tribute to David Bowie, and this book is not like anything you’ve seen out there,” Perry said.
Each story describes how Bowie’s music, creativity, humanity and persona changed the lives of multiple generations of fans, Perry said. The stories range from tales of chance encounters with Bowie to smaller moments about how his music and attitude changed fans’ lives for the better.
When Perry first discovered Bowie in the ‘70s, she said he was outrageous, sporting red hair and platform shoes. “I liked his early stuff because he was sending a message that it was okay to be different,” she said.
Empowering others to be who they need to be was a theme that emerged as Perry began to compile the stories.
“He kept changing himself — his personas, his music — and it was just incredibly inspiring,” Perry said. “And he was so successful at it. He kind of gave you that permission, that you can do what you want to do and you will be successful.”
At first, Perry wasn’t sure if anyone would be willing to share their stories. She reached out to a few friends who are connected with Bowie’s fanbase and asked them to share her idea with other fans.
Perry soon had dozens of stories in her inbox. With so many stories written by people from across the world, one of the biggest challenges of compiling the book was ensuring writers’ voices weren’t lost during the editing process. Another lesson Perry learned was not to read the stories late at night.
“I’d be crying or laughing because they were very emotional, and then I’d never go to sleep,” she said.
While the book only focuses on Bowie, it also acts as an oral history of how the music industry has changed over time. The books spans Bowie’s entire career, and has decades-old stories about fans waiting in line for tickets to new fans discovering his music on the internet.
Perry is retired from the New Jersey State Division of Criminal Justice and currently works as the virtual office manager for Preservation New Jersey. She’s also one of the founding members of the 1867 Sanctuary. While she’s always been a consumer of the arts and history, she never before took on a project of this scale.
Perry worked with Falzini, a fellow Bowie fan, to help her layout images and design the book. Falzini recently published his own book last March, One Square Mile: A History of Trenton Junction, NJ.
Falzini and Perry self published the book, and any proceeds will be donated to Save The Children, one of Bowie’s favorite charities. The international nonprofit promotes children’s rights and helps support children in developing countries.
After a celebrity dies, Perry said there is always an influx of new books and merchandise made about their life and legacy. For this book, she didn’t want to capitalize on his death. She simply wanted to pay tribute to one of her idols.
“I will not make a penny on anyone’s death, especially David Bowie’s death,” Perry said.