On a cold New York night some 35 years ago, David Bowie took the stage at the famed Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and exposed an erect, throbbing, bobbing male organ to the audience of Saturday Night Live. The reason this brazenly immodest act got by NBC’s Standards And Practices Department was that the potentially-offensive appendage belonged not to Bowie himself but rather to a puppet he had strapped to his body. That‘s the strange-but-true showbiz tale related by Sploid’s Jesus Diaz in an article bluntly titled “How Bowie flaunted a huge dick on Saturday Night Live and nobody noticed.” The article, timed to coincide with the Martin Sheen-hosted episode’s 35th anniversary (though it actually aired on December 15, 1979 and not January 5, 1980 as Diaz attests), lovingly describes the “surreal” events that transpired as the Thin White Duke performed “Boys Keep Swinging“ from his Lodger LP.
Flanked by an avant garde honor guard consisting of New York performance artist Joey Arias and German countertenor Klaus Nomi, Bowie donned a green-screen suit and had a headless, shirtless puppet body dangling beneath his chin throughout “Boys Keep Swinging,” the third of his three performances that night. Near the end of the song, Bowie proved beyond all doubt that his marionette friend was anatomically correct. Diaz speculates that this was a bit of sly sabotage by Bowie, who might have been miffed that a line from his song (“When you’re a boy, other boys check you out!”) was being muted by an overzealous censor. “We don’t know,” writes Diaz, “if it was a ‘fuck you’ because he knew of the censoring beforehand or if he had it planned from the beginning. It doesn’t matter. It was hilarious all the same.”