Update, 2:30 p.m.: There’s now a change.org petition to make the name change from Bowie Street to David Bowie Street permanent. From the petition:
“I believe that, in the same vein of Willie Nelson Boulevard, Austin should rename Bowie Street to honor one of the most influential musicians of the last century.”
As previously reported, it’s safe to assume that the street’s proper name comes from Texas icon James Bowie (though the Austin History Center says that there’s no immediately available record confirming this is the case). Since news of the new sign first fell to Earth, many on social media have denounced the tribute to the “Starman” singer, saying it’s disrespectful to original Bowie.
Earlier: This might be our favorite Ziggy Stardust tribute yet. The name on the Bowie Street sign near Fifth Street has been altered to honor late British rock star David Bowie.
The sign is located near South By Southwest’s offices in Downtown Austin. No word yet on who’s responsible for this street oddity.
Although city officials have confirmed that the sign was not officially sanctioned, they released a statement assuring fans that it could stay up until next week:
“The Austin Transportation Department has been notified that someone got creative with the street sign at Bowie and 5th Streets, changing the sign to read “David Bowie” in memory of the musician and pop-culture icon. We appreciate Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World and recognize David Bowie for all he did for the music industry and more. To this end, we will leave the sign up until Tuesday, January 19, so our community can enjoy the makeshift memorial a few days longer. At that time we will have to replace it with the real street name sign.”
However, Austin police officer Chris Irwin said whoever was responsible could be charged with theft and criminal mischief. Both are misdemeanors. The level of charge depends on how much manpower would be involved with switching the sign back, as well as the cost, Irwin said.
Officials from SXSW claim no responsibility for the sign change. “It’s just a coincidence it’s across the street from our office at 400 (David) Bowie St.,” festival founder Roland Swenson said Wednesday morning.
As for the street’s proper name, it’s safe to assume Bowie Street was named for James Bowie, the 19th Century Kentucky-born pioneer who played a prominent role in the Texas Revolution and died at the Battle of the Alamo. But an initial search of Austin History Center records turned up records only dating back to 1905, none of which explicitly mention for whom the street is named, community archivist Amanda Jasso said.
Bowie died Sunday at 69 just days after the release of his latest album, “Blackstar.” Among the likely more legal tributes in Austin: Alamo Drafthouse quickly organized a series of singalongs Monday night that inspired a larger tribute planned for Saturday.
This isn’t the most creative Aladdin Sane honor, however clever it might be. On Bowie’s birthday Jan. 8, the Cincinnati Zoo welcomed a new baby penguin named after the “Modern Love” singer.