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Steve Strange (born Steven John Harrington, 28 May 1959, Newbridgemarker, South Wales) is a Welsh pop singer, best known as the lead singer and frontman of the 1980s pop group Visage. Since the late 1970s, he has also been a prominent nightclub host and promoter.

Biography

Harrington was born in Wales but moved with his family to Aldershotmarker, where his father was serving in the army as a paratrooper. The family moved back to Wales and lived in Rhylmarker, where his parents bought a large guest house and opened sea front cafes. They then divorced, and he moved with his mother to Newbridgemarker in South Walesmarker, where he attended Newbridge Grammar School. It merged with a secondary school to form Newbridge Comprehensive School a year after he arrived there, and he subsequently lost interest in all subjects but arts.

Punk era

After seeing a Sex Pistols concert at the Stowaway Club in Newport in 1976, Harrington befriended the bass player Glen Matlock. He then arranged gigs for punk bands in his home town and befriended Jean-Jacques Burnel of the Stranglers, before leaving for Londonmarker where he worked for Malcolm McLaren and formed a punk band called The Moors Murderers with Sue Catwoman. Further members included future Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde, future Psychedelic Furs drummer Vince Ely, future Clash drummer Nicky Headon and the Kid (who was formerly in Adam and the Ants, as Mark Ryan). They recorded a song called "Free Hindley". After a number of gigs, the band split up around early 1978.

Later in 1978, Harrington briefly joined the punk/new wave band The Photons (originally from Liverpoolmarker) as vocalist and co-songwriter at the behest of David Littler (ex The Spitfire Boys). The band were managed by Punk impresario Andy Czezowski.

Harrington was also the subject of the song "Poseur" by fellow punk band Combat 84 in 1982.

Visage

Shortly after leaving The Photons and now using the alias "Steve Strange", Harrington formed Visage with then Rich Kids members Rusty Egan and Midge Ure. Intended as a studio-based project, they signed to the small label Radar Records and released their first single "Tar" in 1979. The single was not a success, but the following year, Strange appeared in the video for David Bowie's no.1 hit Ashes to Ashes, a song which helped to propel the burgeoning New Romantic movement into the mainstream (although Bowie himself was never associated with it). Later that year, Visage signed a new record deal with the major label Polydor and released their second single, "Fade to Grey". The single became a top 10 hit in the UK and topped the charts in several other countries. Being the public face of the band, Strange shot to stardom in Britainmarker and other parts of Europe, and Visage enjoyed a string of hit singles and two hit albums before later commercial disappointments led to their breakup in 1985.

After the dissolution of Visage, Strange formed the short-lived band Strange Cruise with Wendy Wu and Elite model Leza Cruz, although this outfit failed to recapture the level of success he had enjoyed in the early 1980s.

Club host

In the late 1970s, prior to their success with Visage, Strange and Visage partner Rusty Egan began to make a name for themselves as a nightclub host and DJ respectively at "Blitz" in London. Adhering to Strange's strict door policy of admitting only the weird and wonderful, the club took off and became an essential location in the rise of what would become the New Romantic movement. Following this, Strange and Egan then ran the Camden Palacemarker nightclub for two years, which became one of the most famous venues of the era, attracting major celebrities on a regular basis. However, after conflicts with the financial backers of the club, Strange and Egan left the Camden Palacemarker and moved on to a new club named "The Playground", but this venue was not as successful.

Later in the 1980s, Strange went to Ibizamarker, Spainmarker and became an integral part of the budding Trance club movement and hosting exotic parties for celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone. In the early 1990s he was the host at the Double Bass club.

Personal life

Strange has always been somewhat ambiguous about his sexuality, although he has made it known he has had relationships with both men and women.

For many years, Strange battled a heroin addiction. In later years he suffered a nervous breakdown and was also arrested for shoplifting. In court, he was found guilty and given a three month suspended sentence as the British media had a field day publicising the case of a pop star who had fallen on hard times. In many regards, his personal turmoil and public life closely mirrors that of the other main androgynous British pop star from the 1980s, Boy George, down to heroin abuse and mishaps with the law, to bulging up in weight and Ibiza wanderings.

Recent years

Strange's autobiography, Blitzed!, was published in 2002. In it, he speaks candidly about his heroin addiction and his nervous breakdown, his sexuality, and the ongoing attempts to get his life back together. Following this, Strange attempted to revive his music career and formed a new version of Visage (dubbed Visage mk II) with various musicians from modern electronic bands (none of the other original members were involved in this new project). With a plan to re-record some of the older, classic Visage tracks as well as produce some new material, the project never seemed to fully get off the ground despite some television appearances. The first Visage Mark II song was called "Diary of A Madman", which was made available for download in 2007 in return for a donation to the Children In Need appeal. Prior to this in 2006, Strange had collaborated with electronic music duo Punx Soundcheck for their 2006 album When Machines Rules The World, co-writing and performing on the track "In the Dark".

In 2005, Strange appeared in a Channel 4 documentary called Whatever Happened To The Gender Benders?, which reflected on the advent of the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s and the prominent roles that Strange, Boy George and Marilyn each played within it. In stark contrast to the relative glamour of the New Romantic era, interviews with all three stars in the present day highlighted the sheer devastation that fame, fortune and drug addiction had taken on each of them during the past 25 or so years, with Strange and Marilyn in particular being openly candid about the mental health problems they now try to cope with every day.

Taboo

Boy George reflected on the New Romantic scene of the early 1980s in his 2002 stage musical Taboo which featured actors playing Steve Strange, Marilyn, Leigh Bowery, and other peers from the era.

Celebrity Scissorhands

In November 2006, Strange took part in, and went on to win, the BBC reality series for Children in Need Celebrity Scissorhands (featuring top celebrity hairdresser Lee Stafford). He returned to the show for the subsequent two series (2007 and 2008) as Assistant Manager/Image Consultant. In that role, he was in charge of the catwalk, showing all of the best haircuts of the series and also people dressed in 80's style clothing and make-up.

Ashes to Ashes

Strange made a brief appearance in episode two of the 1980s-themed BBC TV series Ashes to Ashes, which was aired on 14 February 2008. He played himself performing the Visage song Fade to Grey at the "Blitz" nightclub in which he was once host.

References

  1. BBC - South East Wales Showbiz - Steve Strange - New Romantic pop star from Newbridge
  2. Punk77.co.uk
  3. Actionext.com
  4. Guardian | Strange but true
  5. Digitalspy.co.uk



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