Bowie's discreet time in Switzerland recalled
As the music world pays tribute to David Bowie, the British pop musician who has died at the age of 69, in Switzerland he is remembered for discreetly living in the country to escape taxes and the trappings of celebrity.
Bowie, who passed away on Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer, lived in the Lake Geneva area off and on for more than 20 years.
He first came to Switzerland after adopting the “Thin White Duke” persona following his first rise to fame as “Ziggy Stardust”.
Bowie moved to Blonay, a municipality near Montreux in the canton of Vaud in 1976, where he and his first wife Angie found a chalet.
Their son, Zowie, attended the Commonwealth American School in nearby Vevey, the 24heures newspaper reported.
“In Switzerland, they leave me alone,” Bowie was quoted as frequently saying, while avoiding questions about taxes.
Bowie, reportedly consumed by an addiction to cocaine at the time, spent a period alternating between Blonay and Berlin before his marriage broke up.
He partly recorded his 13th album, Lodger, at Mountain Studios in Montreux in 1978.
The recording studio, located inside the Montreux Casino, was owned at the time by the British rock band Queen.
In 1982, divorced, and apparently addiction-free, the UK musician acquired the Château du Signal, a 14-room mansion in Lausanne built in 1900 for a Russian prince.
The 24heures newspaper reported that Bowie kept a low profile, appearing occasionally at the local market or popping up on the slopes at Gstaad, the upscale mountain resort not far from his home.
In 1988, when he was accused of sexual assault in the US, he consulted a doctor from the Lausanne region to get an AIDS test to meet the demands of the complainant, the paper said.
He played the role of journalist to interview Swiss artist Balthus in 1994 and the following year he designed the poster for the Montreux Jazz Festival for his friend and festival director Claude Nobs, 24heures said.
Bowie's poster for the 1995 Montreux Jazz Festival
When people confronting him in the Lausanne area asked him for an autograph, he reportedly replied politely on several occasions: “I am not David Bowie.”
In private life, he took to using the name he was born with, David Jones.
In 1992, Bowie married the Somali-born model Iman at Lausanne’s city hall but the event was so low key that the news only emerged ten days later — in a Swiss German newspaper.
Only two witnesses and an interpreter were on hand for the private ceremony.
Apparently, Iman found life at the Swiss mansion too quiet and the chateau was put up for sale in 1997.
Listed for 4.3 million francs, it sold only three years later for four million francs, according to 24heures.
Bowie and his second wife later moved to New York but he returned to Switzerland to perform in concerts, including one at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2002.