☆ Steve Strange ☆
The impact Steve Strange had on London’s club scene can’t be underestimated, even if it is generally overshadowed by his music credentials with Visage. Unfortunately, his club ventures in the noughties seem to have only lasted 15 minutes. Neither Pcokz at Sway, in Covent Garden, or Chase The Dragon at Soho’s Opium, managed to survive even if they played host to some memorable parties. Likewise, he lost interest in running The Face and the revived Blitz of the 2010s, although their prospects looked quite promising.
Growing up in the family butcher shop in Wales wasn’t exactly the sort of existence Steve had in mind for himself. He soon gathered that a move to the bright-lights-big-city proved de rigueur. The dandy-like teenager got his first job cleaning the toilets at Roxy, Covent Garden’s legendary punk dive. It wasn’t as bad it sounds. Steve was already singing with The Moors Murderers, alongside then-NME writer Chrissie Hynde. He also had a foot in the door at The Rich Kids’ office, being friends with Rusty Egan, the band’s drummer. As it happens, the entrepreneurial Egan also promoted and DJ-ed at Billy’s, the electronic scene’s up-and-coming hotspot.
Things only started happening when the pair got together to launch a Tuesday club at a sad Covent Garden wine bar called The Blitz, which catered for the grey-suited local office crowd. In a nutshell, it looked like a dead horse until a bunch of freaks started flocking there. They really pushed the boat out working myriad pantomimic outfits and powdered period weaves so big they could hardly get through the front door. Some media hack called them The New Romantics and, hey presto, a youth sub-culture was born. In a stroke a genius and perfect timing, Steve and Rusty launched their new band Visage, on the back of the club’s popularity and the media hype. Alas, just like Taboo, five years down the line, The Blitz ended after an exemplary 18-month timespan. Only this time, the building burned down.
A first attempt to duplicate the winning Blitz formula with Club For Heroes at Baker Street’s Barracudas didn’t quite work out, but Steve’s ship came in again when he turned his attention to The Camden Palace. It was the place to be in 1983 but it soon met a sticky end when Mr Strange got caught red-handed snorting Charly by plain-clothed officers. That pretty much spelt the end of Steve’s club promotion career, as success mysteriously eluded him thereafter.
Steve resurrected The Blitz in September 2008, with Rusty at the decks. He subsequently founded The Face, which cropped up now and again at different venues. However, Steve soon got tired of promoting clubs, not to mention that he fell out and parted company with Rusty over royalty issues.
He then took part in the occasional ‘80s revival tour, gave PAs around the world and appeared on the odd reality TV show, such as Celebrity Scissorhands, which he incidentally walked out of in the second series of November 2008.
His health started deteriorating in the 2010s. I got really worried (while he was staying at my Soho flat) when he got up in the middle of the night to ask me to fetch him some pain killers from the 24-hour chemists.
He had just released his last Visage album, which kept him busy gigging until his untimely passing while taking a break in Egypt on 12 February 2015. He was 55.
Strange was a much-loved, era-defining icon and it’d be safe to say that he really was one in a million.
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