Pub toasts its famous visitor, Bowie

CANBERRA: Drinkers at a dusty Outback pub raised their beer glasses on January 12 to the pub’s most famous visitor, legendary English musician David Bowie.

More than three decades ago, the mercurial musician made the 650-kilometre (400-mile) drive from Sydney to the tiny outpost of Carinda in parched western New South Wales state to shoot the video for his 1983 hit Let’s Dance at Carinda’s only pub.

The pub’s current owner, Malcolm George, said the town of fewer than 200 people hadn’t known that Bowie was coming. And they have never been allowed to forget the visit, which took their rustic watering hole to a global audience.

“People still come in asking, ‘Is this is the pub where Bowie sang’?” George said.

George said that only one of the local extras who appeared in those smoky bar scenes still lives in the town. But news late on January 11 that Bowie had died immediately boosted business.

“It’s been nonstop,” George said. He said that when he bought the pub a year ago, it was in disrepair. Many of the brown and green tiles had fallen from the wall that had formed a blond Bowie’s backdrop as he sang and strummed his guitar. But George stripped tiles from elsewhere in the pub to restore that iconic surface.

Marie Draper, who works behind the bar, said a week rarely goes by without a tourist gravitating to that wall.

“We do get quite a few tourists who come through,” Draper said. “They ask where the spot is and stand in front of the tiles and get their photos taken.”

Draper has lived in Carinda all her life, but wasn’t around when Bowie visited. She couldn’t comment on local legend that Bowie paid the local extras by offering to pay for everyone in the bar’s drinks.

“It created a lot of excitement around here at the time,” Draper said.