“Remember me, but forget my fate,” sang Klaus Nomi. One would hope this would have applied to Dead or Alive singer Pete Burns, who yesterday died of cardiac arrest, aged 57. However, we live in tabloid times, thus why show a picture of him young and pretty when you can show him bloated, ill and deformed after 20 years worth poisonous plastic surgery?
Pete Burns was a “National Treasure” for people who wouldn’t dream of ever using the term. A member of the Edith Sitwell, Quentin Crisp school of eccentrics. A sensitive soul with a waspish, unforgiving tongue.Burns was one third spiteful John Lennon, one third prom queen and one third charming street urchin. Birthed by Bowie and fed by punk. Old world working class to the core .
Peter Jozeppi Burns was born to a Liverpudlian father, Francis Burns, and Evelina Maria Bettina, his German mother. His parents met in Vienna, where his mother fled in order to escape anti-semitism . Pete loved his mother very much and was thankful not just for her motherly love but also for her friendship. He would often state that she was his best friend and instilled in him the ability to form his own world; to dream and to create. However, his mother suffered severe depression and alcoholism and tried to commit suicide several times.
Pete said of his childhood with his mother, “As far as parental skills go in the conventional, normal world, she certainly wasn’t a mother, but she’s the best human being that I’ve ever had the privilege of being in the company of, and I know that she had a special plan for me. She called me ‘Star Baby’ and she knew that there was something special in me.”
Pete started to walk the plank of individuality at a young age. His chosen space was one of outright refusal to conform. When at 14 years old Burns went to school sans eyebrows (a nod to David Bowie) and harmony-red hair, with a gigantic hooped earring, he was expelled, instantly. In British schools in the 1970s, macho bullying and fighting could be forgiven. Self-expression never could.
Although moving down his own path, Pete was never a loner. He found kinship at Eric’s and other Liverpool hangouts mixing with future pop movers Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Ian Broudie (The Lightning Seeds), Jayne Casey (Pink Machine) and Pete Wiley.
One of Pete’s Jobs before fame arrived was at a record shop, where he would dish out his views on the customer’s choices, wanted or not.
Burns formed his band Dead Or Alive in 1980. Five years later they were number one in British Charts with You Spin Me Round. The single went on to be a hit all over the world, reaching the Top 20 in the USA. It was during this period that Pete first became addicted to plastic surgery.
Pete Burns lost count of how many operations he endured, but he guessed around 200. He may not have had to have so many operations if not for at least two that went drastically wrong. The worst mistake was a procedure on his lips which went so badly that he had to seek a number of treatments in Italy. The expense meant Burns had to make money quickly and for this he fell into “Reality TV.” He was the “Eccentric go to” for shows like Come Dine With Me, Celebrity Big Brother, etc.
Then in 2006, Pete left his wife of 28 years, Lynne Corlett, whom he remained close friends with, and in 2007 he married Michael Simpson. The Career rebirth was cut short when Pete had to have surgery on his throat, meaning he couldn’t sing. Understandably, Pete was devastated, but he kept himself occupied with love and hobbies.
It transpired that when Burns died he had no money, not even enough for his funeral. His pretend enemy and real friend, Boy George, stepped in and offered to pay for everything Just another example of how much Pete Burns meant to people.
“We were soldiers together when we were young. Fought in the trenches side by side. He was only 15 when we first met and he was the bravest, wittiest, most beautiful 15 year old that had ever walked the earth. Good times. God bless ya lad. Sending all the love in my heart to his wife.” Jayne Casey
“I’m very sad to hear the terrible news about my old friend Pete Burns. He was a one-off. A true free spirit.” Ian Broudie