Inside David Bowie's Complicated Relationship With His First Wife, Angie

Any stripe of show business can be hard on a marriage, and the rock 'n' roll stripe particularly so. But some performers lead unconventional lifestyles that extend into the realm of weddings and marriages. All seem to have been true for David Bowie and his first wife, Mary Angela Barnett, popularly known as Angie.

Angie told "Loose Women" (via the Daily Mail) that she and Bowie first met in 1969, when he was a rising musician and she was trying to get work at a record company. In Bowie's account to Playboy, they were connected in another way — they were both involved with the same man at the time. Angie had other boyfriends besides their mutual one, and one of them was a talent scout for Mercury Records who took her to a show Bowie was performing in. "He hated me," Bowie told Playboy. "She thought I was great. Ultimately, she threatened to leave him if he didn't sign me. So he signed me."

Their early courtship wasn't the most romantic. Angie wrote in her autobiography (excerpted in the Mirror) that Bowie was "a rotten boyfriend at first ... he [had] the instincts of a bisexual alleycat." But he gradually opened up to her, and Angie recognized that he was more than a run-of-the-mill pop star. They married in 1970. As for the boyfriend they had shared, Bowie told Playboy, "I married Angela and we both continued to see him."

Theirs was an open marriage

Sharing a boyfriend after tying the knot isn't the way many would enter a marriage. But Angie Bowie told The Times (via that one of their first conversations was about how they were both bisexual — and exploiting that fact was a conscious choice to develop Bowie's image. She also claimed not to mind that Bowie carried on affairs with other women "as long as they realized I was the queen." According to Paul Trynka's "Starman: David Bowie: The Definitive Biography," Angie had affairs of her own during their open marriage.

For Bowie's part, he was famously ambiguous in regard to his sexuality. In 1972, shortly before he became Ziggy Stardust, he told Melody Maker (via The Guardian) that he was gay, and he later told Playboy that he was bisexual. Even within that interview, he admitted to using comments on his sexuality to toy with the media, and women who were involved with him at the time insisted he was straight. A decade later, in a 1983 Rolling Stone interview, Bowie chalked his earlier remarks up to youthful experimenting. At least one acquaintance anonymously told the Evening Standard that Bowie's androgynous, bisexual image was Angie's handiwork.

In later years, the ex-spouses didn't always agree on the affairs that complemented their marriage. Angie claimed that one of Bowie's lovers was Mick Jagger (per the Standard). When Blender touched on that by asking Bowie if the Rolling Stones frontman was a good kisser, he laughed the question off. "You'd have to ask someone else," he replied.

Was it a marriage of convenience?

In the excerpt of her memoir printed in the Mirror, Angie Bowie wrote about falling in love with David Bowie early in their relationship. But in several interviews, she maintained that theirs wasn't a very romantic partnership. "'I wouldn't have gotten involved if it hadn't been a lifelong commitment to making him an international phenomenon," she told "Loose Women" (via the Daily Mail), casting the entire relationship as an effort on behalf of her marketing career. Angie told the Evening Standard that she and Bowie only married so she could get a work permit, that she never expected the marriage to last, and that Bowie told her before the wedding that he didn't love her.

Bowie said as much publicly while he was still married to Angie. "Never have been in love, to speak of," he told Playboy, excepting a youthful experience that left him drained and embittered toward the very idea of love. He said that he married Angie because she was able to take the stress of living with him. "There's nobody more demanding than me," he said. "Not physically, necessarily, but mentally. ... I scare away most people I've lived with."

But the marriage might not have been as transactional as the Bowies claimed. Per Paul Trynka's "Starman: David Bowie: The Definitive Biography," the people who were close to the couple during their marriage felt there was sincere affection between the two. Even Ava Cherry and Scott Richardson — Bowie and Angie's respective lovers during the marriage — were convinced that they loved each other despite keeping the door open to other relationships.

Their divorce left Angie estranged from their son

By Angie Bowie's account, things turned sour for her and David Bowie when his career took off. "He was so good ... it was fabulous," she told the Evening Standard. "And he just pissed it away being a j******." She elaborated in her memoir (via the Chicago Tribune), suggesting that Bowie became consumed with his drug habits and cut himself off from his wife in a long fit of paranoia. For his part, Bowie claimed that living with Angie was "like living with a blowtorch," per Paul Trynka's "Starman: David Bowie: The Definitive Biography." According to Trynka, Bowie almost never mentioned her after their divorce.

Early on in their marriage, the Bowies had a son, Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones. Per Christopher Sandford's "Bowie: Loving the Alien," Angie took off for a holiday as soon as Jones was born, infuriating Bowie and planting a seed of resentment. When Angie filed for divorce in 1977, Jones stayed with his father, who slowly became a more active parent after years of distance. A judge granted Bowie full custody when the divorce was finalized in 1980, partially on account of salacious photos of Angie with a female lover she had inadvertently leaked. But she has since insisted that she didn't fight for custody because she felt fatherhood would help Bowie settle down.

Angie and Bowie avoided each other for the rest of his life, and Jones chose to disown his mother in the 1980s. They've remained estranged, something Angie claims she isn't sad about. Jones explained his stance to "WTF with Marc Maron," describing his mother as "corrosive."