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Arts & Life

Remember That One Time David Bowie Played The Budweiser Events Center?

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Courtesy of Rick Hontz
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An autographed photo of David Bowie from his 2004 tour stop at the Budweiser Events Center hangs in BEC General Manager Rick Hontz's office.

It might sound surprising but yes, Ziggy Stardust did in fact travel up I-25 and stop in Loveland, Colorado on April 25, 2004.

When the 69-year-old icon died of cancer, it left fans throughout the world grieving and celebrating his life and music. Locally, those who worked the show 12 years ago recalled a star who they called not only a consummate performer, but a genuinely nice person.

"It was a great show for this area," Budweiser Events Center General Manager Rick Hontz recalled. "I mean, what a name to have right in our first year."

The show also was a major coup. Bowie was the first major act to play the then-brand new, 7,200-seat arena, paving the way for other big draws like Rod Stewart and Mötely Crüe.

"It showed agents and promoters that our building was for real. That this building and this market, that we can handle big events," Hontz said. "A lot of agents will ask, 'So, who've you had there? They want to make sure that if they're going to bring their artist here, that we have handled that type of artist in the past. Certainly we've used that (name) many times. And we talk to artists and agents and promoters, saying 'yeah, we've hosted Bowie.'"

Hontz was able to keep his cool, but said it was exciting when he went backstage to present the star with the small gift they offer to artists performing at the venue.

"I don't recall what we gave him, but we said hello and thanked him for coming," he said. "He was the ultimate professional. You know, you meet a lot of people in this industry and you meet some that are very blah and get it over with and say hello and get out of there. He was very cordial to us and very grateful that we would host him here."

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Credit Courtesy of Budweiser Events Center
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David Bowie made two Colorado stops on his Reality Tour in 2004, playing the Fillmore Auditorium and Loveland's Budweiser Events Center.

A member of the local stagehand's union 229, Fort Collins resident Todd Hoven worked a "follow spot" at the show that night, keeping Bowie in the spotlight as he moved around the stage.

"I was maybe 20 feet away and he never stopped performing – even when he was facing upstage – he was on," Hoven said.

While not a hardcore Bowie fan, Hoven said it was an entertaining show and while it was a big event for the new venue, the feeling backstage was pretty similar to any other show.

Hoven said the singer stayed in his dressing room for most of the time before the show, but he did have a brief run-in with him later on.

"After the encore… I was gathering my gear and getting ready to leave backstage and he came back out of the dressing room and I kind of bumped into him as I was going around the corner and he smiled at me."

Although brief, it was a moment that immediately came back to him in the shock of hearing Bowie had died.

"He's such a legend," he said. "It was kind of cool even to just bump into him."

There was one eerie part to his story, Hoven said. Two weeks following that 2004 show, during the tour stop in Miami, a local stagehand working the show fell from the very rig Hoven had used in Loveland and died.

"I felt lucky," he said. "(This job) can be a dangerous thing."

Michael Gorgan, also from Fort Collins, worked as a deckhand backstage at the show and got a little more time with the artist.

Handing Bowie his guitar during a changeover, Gorgan said his guitar strap got tangled and Gorgan was able to help him straighten it out.

A major Bowie fan, Gorgan said it was amazing to be so close to the star but that, as a professional stagehand, he knew better than to geek out too much.

"We interact with artists all the time and so we kinda know you don't really strike up social conversations in the middle of a performance," he said. "It's always exciting, but it's also a job and we take it seriously. So you don't really dwell on who the artist is as much as that the show goes well."

That doesn't mean he wasn't still a little dumbstruck.

"It was like 'wow, here he is,'" Gorgan said. "We're the same height."

Other than that, Gorgan said Bowie came across as a very kind and thoughtful person who despite being a larger-than-life rock star, took time to thank the stagehands for their help

Upon hearing of his passing, Gorgan said he felt the same shock and sadness that fans around the world did. He took to Facebook and shared his memory of that show, noting in his post: "I'll never forget handing David Bowie his guitar. Budweiser Events Center all those years ago. I talked to him for 10 seconds but still remember the impression he made in person."

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