i-D Magazine once described Transformer as “beauty beyond the call of duty”. Out of drag, Burnel – as he was named – proved to be unassuming and retiring to a fault, certainly a world apart from his club freak alter ego. The tall and handsome misfit from Norfolk, an ex-chemical engineer, originally came to London hoping to live out his fantasies. He did. Once he’d put on the slap and the gigantic creations he’d dreamt up, he literally became the life of the party.
His stage management background helped him create panto-like outfits that were awash with witty cultural allusions. Many spring to mind, such as the Princess Di/Candle Up Yr Bum tribute dress, the twisted Botticelli/Birth Of Venus outfit and the Blue Britannia number, complete with a toilet roll codpiece and flashing nipples. Incidentally, Bridget Jones, of all people, raved about his Joan of Arc incarnation in her diary.
Transformer first made his presence felt at Kinky Gerlinky, at the dawn of the ’90s. Promoters soon flocked to get him to host their club nights. Unsuspecting punters had the privilege to witness his outrageous antics at The Mud Club, God’s Kitchen, The Sex Maniac’s Ball and Gatecrasher. Miss Moneypenny went one step further by making him their mascot, even sponsoring him to stand against Neil Hamilton at the general election.
As well as regular club PAs here and abroad, he also cropped up in many a pop video. His most fondly remembered club moment proved to be Bedsit, the lounge he ran weekly from 1999 within Heaven’s arches. He would painstakingly turn the cafeteria area into a “bedsitting room hell”, complete with a huge scallop shell-mounted bed, a well-stacked dressing-up box and the obligatory B&Q garden pool fountain. Clubbing had never been such a scream.
Besides entertaining people, he liked nothing better than shock and cabaret was an ideal platform for him. One of his acts involved prancing about as a pink cloud, urinating on the audience, while making his anus lip-synch to ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’.
He told me once that he saw the light when he wore his mum’s stilettos at the age of three. Burnel was a close friend of mine up until his untimely death in August 2002. I miss him a lot and so does the club scene at large.
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