The Bowie / Rickman Coaching Encounters
Amid all of the fully understandable grief being expressed over the death of two of our finest British contemporary artists this week, and amid much exclamation that they should die at the same age of 69, there has been no suggestion that they ever met or worked together. While they died in the same week and at the same age, and held many common interests, no claims are made that they ever collaborated. All of this puts me in somewhat of quandary as I know for a fact that not only did they meet, but that I was an agent in their coming together. I have tried wrestled long and hard with my ethics code as an Executive Coach (Mastery level) as to whether to hold back on this revelation or not; but have decided that on balance perhaps the world needs to know of my intervention. Perhaps too soon I know, but i must act as I so often tell me clients to do and ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission.’
Bowie I had been seeing each other on and off as client and coach for years and years. All of those bust-ups with managers that he had over the years do not come without a cost, and I was always there to help David mop up the mess.Rickman I met when commissioning some graphic art work from his Company Graphiti in Notting Hill, for a poster for the re-launch of Life magazine in 1972. As he fiddled with the silk screen he mused some about wanting to become an actor, uttered in a voice so compelling that it was immediately clear to me the direction he must take, despite the risks involved in making such a career leap. I employed all of my best empathic listening techniques to persuade him of the need for this career volte face, to the extent that he dropped the poster on the floor to enlist with RADA directly. It was one of those coaching ‘critical moments’ that make this work so worthwhile, though the unsolicited invoice remains unpaid.
Alan never forgot this debt of gratitude however, and so it was in 1997 that he called me to ask for some guidance once more, as his career was somewhat in the doldrums and he was seeking fresh direction. I explained to him that my practice had moved on some from one-on- one coaching to my innovative ‘Compatible Celebrity Co- Coaching’ (CCCC) approach,where i pair up somewhat compatible clients then leverage some profound common ground to reveal a necessary point of difference that each client must exploit in their own way. he said he had no idea what I was on about but that he would give it a go.
Needless to say David – always the innovator – was most enthusiastic to try out CCCC, as was delighted to hear that Rickman would be his CCCC pair, though he was puzzled as to the common chemistry, beyond a passion for art and design. I spelled out to him that the common ground lay in the fact that they were both born within ten weeks of each other, of humble family origins, in unremarkable suburbs of London. Both of these esteemed clients were then taken by this explanation, and before too long. with the fee structure settled, we were sat in a black cab doing a psychogeography of their respective childhood haunts, by way of evoking Freudian transferences and Jungian syncrhonicities. I have to tell you that is was like “How Do You Think You Are?’ with Bow bells on.
There were many tears spilled but there was also good humoured banter. With the ice well and truly broken and egos set aside we headed back to my basement consulting rooms in Earls Court to get down to the meat and potatoes of CCCC.
And so came the moment when each of them, comfortable in their overstuffed armchairs, faced each other to admit where they were currently stuck, and to work towards a fresh impetus. Continuing the banter from the suburban road trip, Alan quipped that Bowie ‘needed no lectures from him on ‘changes’, so chameleon like had been his career.’
‘You are a fine one to talk’ retorted Bowie, ‘ when you whole career launchpad is based on the ghost of a cellist making comeback after comeback to scare the bejesus out of poor Juliette.’ Soon enough however the conversation moved into a more serious exploration of things that were currently troubling them. Rickman talked of Michael Collins. He was left feeling so unhappy at the Hollywood ending of this film, one that he felt sure would have caused De Valera to turn in his grave. He really did not want to spending any more time distorting the political truth in this way in the pursuit of his art. He would rather do fantasy than besmirch noble history. Bowie for his part was restless to move on musically despite the successes of Outside and Earthlings.
I felt a need at that point to insert my non – directive Rogerian wisdom into this pleasantly reflective but ultimately non- generative CCCC. ‘Look David’ I said, in my best 1997 Blairite voice,’You need to push the commercial envelope and be an innovator in other ways. I suggest you sell your entire back-catalogue and issue some bonds – I know call then Bowie Bonds! – then you can leverage capital to put into new projects that take your fancy.’ “Great lets do it’ said David, ‘You just make it happen for me’, so I did. I asked Alan once more what was the height of his ambition. He said to play opposite Helen Mirren.
Bowie immediately chipped into to say that was his ambition too. I pointed out that this was every red – blooded British males’ ambition but there was only one of her to go around. My non directive advice to him was to go directly into Science Fiction, and stop protesting his birthright which was clearly to play sarcastic, sneering sci fi villains, and perhaps do some TV voice overs for the burgeoning financial services industry too, perhaps channelling a snake or a crocodile. He looked perplexed but thrilled at these prospects, and David was most supportive of this change. Mind you he would have been supportive of any change suggested to another.
We three met again to review progress in 1999, following the same format of nostalgic cab trip then back to the basement. Alan revealed that while many things had occurred since our last seance, the most notable had been playing opposite Helen Mirren. Bowie’s jaw dropped as a small gasp emitted from the normally unflappably cool white duke. Despite his best intentions Alan had found himself involved in two sic-fi films Megatron and Galaxy Quest, and had even signed up to voice- over “Help! I’m a Fish. ‘ His thanks to me for my advice on change of direction were profuse.
Once again they were not much use to each other on the advice front so i had to tell David to build on the $55 million he netted on the Bowie Bonds (minus my well deserved 15%) and go into online banking through the launch of – ‘oh i know the BowieBanc’ where customers have bank cards with his face on. He mumbled something about wanting to make a new album but I told him in no uncertain terms that this bank project was priority. As for Alan i told him that he needed to stop playing adult villains and start to become a children’s villain. Mystified at this, I threw a copy of the first Harry Potter masterpiece towards him. Disdainful at first, as only Alan can do disdain, he said he would follow my advice and after a short collusive phone call to Robbie Coltrane the rest is well documented history.
We never did meet again we three though i believe that the two of them did keep somewhat in touch, though i cannot be sure. Not even their families knew of these encounters. Perhaps it best after all that the deep secrets that are divulged in the executive coaches room remain buried for eternity.