Working with Bowie on Labyrinth, Boston man’s memories

Mr Showler with a Labyrinth goblin.
Mr Showler with a Labyrinth goblin.

A Boston-born man who forged a career in puppetry has spoken of his memories working with the late David Bowie on the cult film Labyrinth.

Dave Showler, 63, was hired as a puppeteer for the 1986 fantasy favourite, directed by Muppets maestro Jim Henson.

It was Mr Showler’s first film and on his first day he found himself face to face with its star, music legend David Bowie, for the recording of the Magic Dance sequence.

On one side of the set, he remembers was Bowie - an artist he had loved since the early 70s - while on the other side was Jim Henson, the man who had inspired him to pursue a career in puppetry.

“Can you imagine it?” he said.

Mr Showler would spend days working on The Magic Dance sequence (playing something like eight or 10 goblins) and weeks on the film.

Seventies era Bowie.

Seventies era Bowie.

Of Bowie, he said: “I expected him to be quite airy-fairy, but he wasn’t - he was really down to earth.”

Bowie, who played Jareth the Goblin King, stayed on the set ‘most of the time’, Mr Showler said, rather than disappearing to a trailer.

He said: “He stayed with us, chatted about general stuff, then he would nip out and have a quick cigarette.”

He added: “He was just a regular guy. He had his Jareth outfit on and what he called his ‘Tina Turner wig’.”

He was just a regular guy. He had his Jareth outfit on and what he called his ‘Tina Turner wig’

Mr Showler also noticed an uncanny ability in Bowie to direct one of the live animals featured in the Magic Dance sequence.

The bird was ‘a vulture or something like that’, Mr Showler remembers, and was named by Bowie as ‘Vince’.

“The trainer couldn’t do a thing with it,” Mr Showler said. “David would walk up to it, point a finger at it, tell it what it would need to do, and it would do it. It was astonishing. He had got this thing over this animal.”

Mr Showler, who today, a father-of-two, lives in Bromley, would go on to work on Little Shop Of Horrors and The Muppet Christmas Carol as part of a career in puppetry.

He got his first meeting with Jim Henson after sending a clipping of himself from The Standard about his abilities as a puppeteer.

He said: “I needed some printed publicity to send to Jim Henson as I wanted to work for The Muppets, so the late great Bob Neish wrote a piece for the Standard and a photographer came round for a photo. When it was printed, I sent the clipping to Jim and eventually it got me work with Henson’s Labyrinth.”

To read a report of how Bowie played The Gliderdrome, in Boston, before he found stardom as a teenager and then almost return with The Spiders Of Mars in the 1970s click here.