➤ Steve Strange: deciphering the pen portraits of the man of masks

Toyah Willcox, Steve Strange

Click on image to view BBC vintage video from 1981: Toyah Willcox interviews Strange in Robin Hood guise

◼ ONE OF STEVE STRANGE’S TALENTS was persuading the press to believe in his latest wheeze, however fantastic. He had a way of convincing himself that a story was already written and a mission achieved before he had pressed the accelerator and set off. This irritated as many journalists as it amused and many were consequently very sceptical of his next big announcement – like saying he’d booked a big American star to do her first live promotional performance in Britain at his crowning glory, the Camden Palace, capacity 1,410. But in fact he had and she did, and in June 1983 the unknown Madonna was launched singing to backing tapes for half an hour.

The myths surrounding Steve were always the stuff of self-promotion. Today, he would say, I am Robin Hood, tomorrow Ruritanian Space Cadet, the next day Marionette with the mind of a toy. A compulsive man of masks presents a tricky subject for the scribblers obliged to capture that life once it is spent, so we must tiptoe through the obituaries like a minefield, and beware of tripping over Steve’s much-spun versions of history that were pure fantasy. Even national newspapers seemed to fall for many of the dreams he spouted, as well as the exceedingly vague memories committed to his 2002 book, Blitzed.

➢ Read extracts from the obituaries inside Shapersofthe80s: As the mainstream writers lead you through those New Romantic years, see if you can spot the porkies

BOY GEORGE’S OWN TRIBUTE TO HIS RIVAL

➢ At Shapersofthe80s: Original Blitz Kids say farewell to Steve Strange, their host, pivot, style icon, friend

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