Mark Burchard, a former Motion Picture Costumer, was
inspired by the slaphappymoments in his 29th film,
“The Silence of the Lambs,” to try his hand at writing
comedy.He quickly moved on to include poetry, fiction,
and memoir. Now with over 90 pieces in print, Mark is
proud that his work has appeared in such diverse
publications as THE BATTERED SUITCASE,
WESTWARD QUARTERLY, AUDIENCE MAGAZINE,
LITTLE EPISODES, KEROUAC’S DOG,
DO HOOKERS KISS?,SKIVE MAGAZINE, and
THE STRAY BRANCH. Mark’s photographs were shown
at the launch of Little Episodes in London, and can be
seen on the covers as well as within the pages of many
of the magazines mentioned above.
His filmography can be found at IMDB.com
BOWIE AND I by Mark Burchard SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE December 15, 1979 THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD One critic called David Bowie’s performance of, The Man Who Sold the World on Saturday Night Live, "Among the most surreal television performances broadcast anywhere, ever.” While another called it, “An artistic ‘&$#@ you!’ to convention.” I was the Men’s Wardrobe Supervisor on SNL and having come to the show from the staid world of opera David Bowie’s performance was so strange to me that I left 30 Rock after the show rattled and unnerved. If that weren’t enough it was as close to a heart attack inducing moment as SNL and live TV ever threw my way. That said I have a little secret, it almost didn’t happen. I decided to make a stop at Bowie’s dressing room for last looks. After all we were on the air and according to the breakdown in my hand he was up next. David was already dressed in a costume he had designed with Mark Ravitz. Imagine if you will a tuxedo on steroids. The jacket was a patent leather, exaggerated Joan Crawford shoulder padded number with an oversized black and white striped bow tie. His trousers were a Conga Drum (Think Ricky Ricardo’s drum when he sang Babalu on I Love Lucy) slipcovered in black and grey striped fabric to look like morning pants. When it came to the shoes I quickly realized that something was amiss—there weren’t any. The drum had a solid bottom and of course there was no way that Bowie could walk to the stage on his own. “David, where’s your dresser?” I asked having calmly directed my query to David’s assistant. In one of the most bizarre arrangements I’ve ever experienced, the crew, and that included me, was not allowed to speak directly to Bowie. So this is how it worked: I would direct a question to his assistant who would repeat it to David exactly as I’d asked it. David would then direct his answer to the assistant and she would repeat it back to me. All this and the three of us were no more than a few feet away from each other! It was ridiculous and frustrating but it became absurd when a call came from the control room that added a dose of urgency to the conversation, “Mr. Bowie to the stage, please. Mr. Bowie to the stage.” “David how do you plan to get into the studio and onto the stage in that costume?” I asked. “Is there a plan? What did you do during dress rehearsal?” Of course my questions were directed to the assistant but before she was able to repeat them to David, he bent his head to the side as his eyes traveled up to the ceiling. Then his head bobbed slightly from side to side as if he were considering what he should say in response to my questions. And finally he looked at me with a blank stare and said nothing. “Got it!” I said as I ran out into the hallway and spied two hefty stagehands. I approached in a panic. "Bowie, On Stage, Now! HELP!" I ran back into the dressing room and they were right on my heels. They saw the problem and sprang into action. They picked Bowie up just as another call came from the control room, "Mr. Bowie to the studio. Mr. Bowie to the studio. Pleeeze." The tension was palatable. Our adrenaline soared. Out of the dressing room and into the hallway we went, David, his assistant and I, and those blessed stagehands! We crashed through the main doors of Studio 8H with a bang. People jumped. Some screamed at the sudden explosion of noise in the hushed studio. (Thank God we were on a commercial break and the noise didn’t interrupt a skit.) The stagehands lifted Bowie on to the stage as his back up singers, who I called, “The Choirboys From Hell,” (Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi) ran forward and grabbed the unwieldy drum, dragged it backward to the starting position just as the green light on the camera came on and we were…live! “Oh my gawd that was close!” I whispered to myself. I was hyperventilating. One hand was on my chest and the other was holding on to the side of the camera crane to keep myself steady. I never found out for sure but it’s my guess that it was someone from stage-management who dropped the ball on this one. That said did I ever get credit or a thank you for jumping into the fray and saving the day? Of course not! Would I have taken the fall if David hadn’t made it to the stage on time? Absolutely! Nuff said...
BASQUIAT SPRING-SUMMER 1995 BOWIE DOES WARHOL When I heard that our director Julian Schnabel had cast David Bowie as Andy Warhol my enthusiasm for the project waned. With a cast as large and as star-studded as Basquiat’s was shaping up to be, dealing with Bowie through his assistant could potentially take too much time and slow the department down to a crawl on talent-heavy days. I was about to mention my fears to our production manager-producer Randy Ostrow when I stopped myself. I mean, what was I thinking? My usual thought process had obviously taken a powder. Our encounter on SNL took place a full sixteen years earlier and I’d never heard or read anything that mentioned this kind of nonsense connected to Bowie. So I pulled back and I’m glad I did. From the moment Bowie showed up for work he proved to be a gentle gentleman who was remarkably available and kind to the cast and crew.
My favorite scene during principle photography and my favorite in the finished film—which is seldom the case because a scene can be completely reconfigured during the editing process—recreates the moment when Jean Michele Basquiat (Jeffery Wright) meets Andy Warhol, (David Bowie) and, Bruno Bischofberger, an art dealer, (Dennis Hopper) for the first time and sells them some ignorant art. Thanks to my partner on this venture, Barrett Hong and his exacting and loving hand, Bowie and Hopper were camera ready when they were called to the set for rehearsal. (FYI Bowie was wearing one of Warhol’s real wigs and clothing borrowed from the Warhol Museum in Pittsburg. Some said they were the items he died in.) When the official rehearsal was over Bowie and Hopper sat there and rehearsed together while the crew climbed all over them to light the scene. I knew from having worked with Hopper before that he would nail his performance from the first line. So it was Bowie who was the big question for me. Could he pull-off a respectful Warhol? As the camera crew prepared for the first take I found myself a spot from where I could watch the scene. From the start I was mesmerized. I watched as these two pros went beyond acting and become the characters. I had studied acting at the Goodman Theatre and at the Lee Strasberg Institute and I’ve watched a lot of actors do their shtick over the years but I’d never seen anything like this. It was a perfect example of an actor stepping aside and embracing a character. Bowie captured many of Warhol’s mannerisms and quirks with little dialogue and no discernible effort. If you are an actor or simply someone who appreciates great acting do yourself a favor and watch this film. The performances by the all-star cast will take your breath away. And yet its David Bowie’s performance that stands out in my mind. I’m sure if the film had a wider release Bowie would have received an Oscar nomination. RIP I’ve always found it difficult to deal with the passing of someone who was known not only for their talent but for their kindness as well. Thinking of David Bowie through the fog of time, I can’t remember a specific incident where he said or did something that would lead me to use the adjective Kind to describe him. Then it must have been something deep within his eyes or something that radiated from his soul that sustained the impression of kindness in my mind for all of these years. As it turned out I wasn’t alone in my feeling and observations about Bowie’s kindness. Many of the tributes to David Bowie alluded to the fact that the authors of those tributes were at once struck by both his innate kindness and his musical genius. Another tribute put it more succinctly when the author said that, and I paraphrase, Bowie’s kindness and musicality were one inseparable entity. Neither one could exist without the other. Artwork by Daniel de Culla