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That time when David Bowie and Iggy Pop were caught in a marijuana drug bust

When looking through famous mugshots, the chances are you’ll have stumbled across David Bowie’s effortlessly stylish picture. It’s enough to make you think about a life in crime but trust us when we say this; nobody looks this good in prison.

While the legendary mugshot is a permanent fixture for music fans, in 2018 writer and director Matthew Ehlers unearthed a piece of rarely seen footage to add a little more meat to the bones of this story. Ehlers was given access to the WHEC basement archives and in the midst of his digging came across this 16mm clip of Bowie being interviewed following his appearance at Rochester City Court back in 1976.

The story goes that following Bowie’s performance at the Community War Memorial in Rochester, New York, on Saturday 20th March 1976, Bowie, along with Iggy Pop, threw a party at his suite at the Flagship Americana hotel. Perhaps even more naturally Bowie invited a few women he met in the hotel bar to come along.

In the early hours of the following morning, in what we imagine was a reveal that even The Thin White Duke would be proud of, the two women in question revealed themselves to be narcotics officers. Four vice-squad detectives burst through the door and charged Bowie, Iggy Pop, Bowie’s bodyguard Dwain Vaughns and a 20-year-old young woman on suspicion of possession of 6.4 ounces of marijuana.

At the time it was a class C felony, carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Something you probably wouldn’t have expected when you look at the cool demeanour Bowie exudes on his mugshot. To make matters worse, as the Police spied on Bowie following a cocaine tip-off, Bowie received a call that his young son was ill and his wife, Angela, was missing.

Bowie made frantic calls to try and figure out the situation and once he ascertained the original phone call had come for Florida he surmised that it was just a prank. It was at this point that the suite was raided and the group were apprehended. They spent a few hours in a jail cell but were released soon after. Bowie later remarked: “They were just doing their job.”

He later said: “Rest assured the stuff was not mine. I can’t say much more, but it did belong to the others in the room that were busted in. Bloody potheads. What a dreadful irony—me popped for grass. The stuff sickens me. I haven’t touched it in a decade.”

While it may have disappointed Bowie in the day, we’re all thrilled that this particularly drugs bust could go ahead. Some say it was a wake-up call for Bowie and part of the reason he began getting clean, which is obviously something we really enjoy. But the reason we’re actually thrilled is that mug shot. Honestly, have you ever seen anything smoother?

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