40 Years After Being Arrested With David Bowie, Chi Wah Soo Tells Her Story
Getting picked up for possession happened often enough that it became something of a rite of passage for rock stars in the '60s and '70s, but it wasn't every day that a civilian went along for the ride — which is part of what makes it noteworthy that Chi Wah Soo, the Rochester, N.Y., woman who ended up in the clink with David Bowie in 1976, has finally broken her silence about the experience.
As the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports, the tale of Bowie's Rochester arrest for pot possession is in the process of making its way to the screen via filmmaker Matt Ehlers' upcoming documentary, Bowie Goes to Jail. Seeking Soo's participation, he sought her out at her salon in nearby Brighton — and kept coming back for 18 months of haircuts before she agreed.
"She’s a rock star," Ehlers told the paper. "The interview lasted more than two hours."
As Soo recalls, she had her first brush with Bowie during his March 21, 1976, show in Rochester, during which he handed her a bracelet after she caught his eye from the stage. Handed an invitation from Bowie after the show, she eagerly accepted, adjourning with Bowie and Iggy Pop to a nearby hotel. They were joined by two women who, unbeknown to them at the time, were undercover officers.
With police listening in from an adjoining room with stethoscopes, the party was first derailed by a prank call that briefly fooled Bowie into thinking his son had fallen ill and his wife was missing — and then came a knock at the door that was followed by the sudden raid that ended with the attendees in jail. Soo says she never spoke with Bowie again, although she did give him a Chinese wedding blanket at their arraignment — one she believes she saw turn up in the video for his "China Girl" single years later.
Stressing that the incident was merely a brief entanglement with the law — charges were later dropped — and calling Soo's life "a success story," Ehlers made it clear that after spending so much time putting the film together, he still sees the cinematic value in the story. As he laughingly told the paper, "It has to be one of the best parties in Rochester history."
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