(CNN) — American teenager Brad Miele spent the summer of 1984 exploring Europe by train with his Sony Walkman in his ears.
Days rummaging through Parisian record stores and evenings sampling Berlin nightlife were accompanied by Miele’s favorite albums.
Miele’s mother also traveled around Europe that summer, but while she opted for five-star hotels and visits to famous city landmarks, Miele and her brother stayed in hostels and spent their days wandering the side streets, looking for places where their favorite artists have made tracks. .
For Miele, who grew up in New Jersey, the pinnacle of music was David Bowie, the cult British singer. Its walls were lined with Bowie posters. He took style cues from the man sometimes known as Ziggy Stardust. Bowie was Miele’s hero – and being in Europe only made Bowie’s music resonate even more.
One evening while in the UK, Miele and her brother met her mother for dinner. She was staying at the luxurious Savoy Hotel on the Strand, a bustling thoroughfare in London lined with theaters and bars.
Miele was in Bowie fashion that evening: a wide-brimmed gray hat complementing a double-breasted blazer, baggy pants, suspenders and a bow tie. On his feet he wore a smart pair of red Oxfords, in honor of the lyrics to Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”: “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.”
“I was definitely looking for that David Bowie, London vibe,” says Miele.
After dinner, Miele left alone into the night. His attention was immediately drawn to an alley nearby the Savoy, where a group of people had gathered.
Mielle says it’s weird for him to remember now, but he remembers thinking, “That’s clearly David Bowie over there.”
He walked down the street, towards the Victorian Savoy Theatre.
“It almost manifested for me as it happened,” Miele says now. “It couldn’t have been anything else. And then suddenly I see David Bowie climbing up a drainpipe, above the crowd of people.”
It was as if Miele had traveled the length and breadth of Europe with the tunes of Bowie in his ears. Now the man behind the music was only a few feet ahead of him.
Enter the frame
Bowie was filming a music video, “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean,” a 21-minute long film featuring the upcoming single, “Blue Jean.” In it, Bowie plays two characters: Vic Gawky, who is trying to impress a girl, and Screaming Lord Byron, a Bowie-style rock star.
Miele recalls there were a few barricades set up to keep passers-by from entering the shot, but the dozen or so people watching the shoot were allowed to do so, as long as they didn’t cause any disturbance.
In “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean”, there is a moment when Bowie, as Vic, climbs into a gutter, trying to break into a nightclub.
“I stumbled across the set of this particular scene, which they did over and over again with [Bowie’s] twice,” says Miele.
From time to time, the director would trade the real Bowie. Miele watched in disbelief.
Things got even more surreal when one of the crew approached Miele and asked if he wanted to be an extra for the rest of the shoot.
“I almost died,” wrote a teenage Miele in his diary the next day.
“I think I was the only one out of the crowd that they grabbed and dragged and picked,” Miele says today.
He attributes this to his clothes, suggesting his Bowie-esque style was a perfect fit for the film’s aesthetic.
Miele was there for several hours, filming, observing and glancing at his music idol.
meet a hero
At the end of “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean”, the fourth wall is broken. The viewer can see the film crew, and Bowie breaks character, questioning the film’s ending.
Miele doesn’t recall seeing this discussion unfold, so he wonders if he was there on the penultimate night of filming, rather than the last day. The last scenes he saw were inside the Savoy Theatre, which replaced the fictional Bosphrous Rooms, where Bowie’s Screaming Lord Byron character performs in the video.
When filming for that night wrapped, the cast and crew opened beers and chatted. It was then that Miele found the courage to talk to Bowie.
“I probably could have done it sooner, but obviously I was a bit in shock,” he says now. “I think I said maybe 20 words to him.”
Miele reckons some of those words could have been about Bowie’s 1977 album “Low,” which was one of Miele’s favorites, but the timing remains a bit unclear.
Miele also remembers receiving Bowie’s autograph, but he lost track of it for nearly four decades.
Miele returned to his inn at 6:30 a.m. Later that day, with cloudy eyes, he wrote about his encounter with his idol in his diary.
“He’s like a normal guy,” Miele wrote.
“He was a nice person in the interactions that I saw of him,” Miele says today. “And he was nice to me, and I think that was great.”
“I think it definitely showed me the side of him that you don’t just see in musicians, right? Just to see someone interact with the world for six or seven hours. That’s an interesting prospect.”
Later that year, the video “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” premiered on MTV. Miele’s European adventure was long over and he saw the film for the first time at his best friend’s house in New Jersey. Later, he bought the video on Betamax, a type of old video format, so he could watch it whenever he wanted.
In 1985, “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” won a Grammy for Best Music Video.
Enter the unknown
Today, Miele remains a Bowie fan, even though he stopped dressing like him decades ago.
When Bowie passed away in 2016, Miele was surprised at how moved he was when he heard the news.
“I really felt it,” he says.
Immediately after Bowie’s death and in the years since, Miele has found himself reflecting on his European adventure, meeting his idol and everything that has happened in his life since.
For Miele, history symbolizes the importance of occasionally stepping into the unknown on your travels and in everyday life, because you never know what lies ahead.
“A lot of people don’t do that, and kind of hold their head up, look forward, or whatever,” he says. “But if you don’t get into space, you’ll never have this stuff.”