Watch David Bowie, 17, Punk the BBC in His First PR Stunt

Founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men? Ha!

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One of the videos being shared today as the world remembers David Bowie is this grainy clip of his first television interview, as a teenager, when he went by Davie (or Davy) Jones. On a November 1964 broadcast of the BBC's "Tonight," he was introduced by host Cliff Michelmore as the 17-year-old founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men. He's surrounded by other long-hairs, and complains that "the last two years we've had comments like 'Darling!' and 'Can I carry your handbag?' thrown at us, and I think it just has to stop now." Many people don't seem to realize the appearance was a PR stunt; scroll down below the video for details.

At the time this BBC segment aired, Bowie was already on his third band, the Manish Boys (following the Konrads and the King Bees). As it happens, Bowie's father, John Jones, was a promotions officer for the children's charity Barnardo's.

As Wendy Leigh writes in "Bowie: The Biography":

He might have been part of the Manish Boys, but inside, David had always seen himself as a star who stood on his own. So he was heartened when his father came up with a masterstroke.... John Jones swung into action and, applying his well-honed PR skills, along with David's input, concocted a cause designed to thrust David into the limelight....

Consequently, in November 1964, at John Jones's behest, the ever-obliging Leslie Thomas [a music columnist and former Barnardo's boy who'd previously written about the King Bees, also at John Jones's behest] published an article in the Evening News titled "For Those Beyond the Fringe," announcing the formation of a new society, the International League for the Preservation of Animal Filament, whose founder and president was none other than David Jones.

That newspaper article prompted the BBC appearance, by which time, "in the interest of clarity," the Animal Filament bit was ditched and the name of the supposed advocacy group changed to "the much more media-friendly Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men."

The shaggy gents surrounding the future David Bowie in the BBC segment, by the way? They're members of the Manish Boys.

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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