HOW THE RULES OF 80s NIGHTCLUBBING
WERE REWRITTEN BY STRANGE & EGAN
RUSTY EGAN REMEMBERS HIS CLUBBING PARTNER
About this week’s Mi-soul radio show, Rusty said: “I’m very, very sad and down tonight because I’ve lost an old friend. We had our disagreements but we did have a decade of the best times that anybody could ever have wished for. We made some amazing music, some amazing parties, clubs and fun and friends. Underneath it all he was a good soul. Steve, I’m so sorry I didn’t get a chance to say I still love you.
Tonight we say Hello and Wave Goodbye to my friend and foe Steve Strange AKA Steve Harrington who convinced me to let him crash at my place for one night. We were flatmates for five years and never had a night in… friends for 25 years and foes for less than five years. Music says everything I could ever want to say… Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, David Ball, Midge Ure, Lou Reed, John Foxx and The Maths, Joy Division say everything I could want to say + EMT, The Magickal, Jeff Appleton, Visage, The Distant Minds. The good times outweigh the bad.
CHRIS SULLIVAN, WHO RAN
SOHO’S WAG CLUB
I first met Steve Strange (né Harrington) when I was 14. We were both into Northern Soul and used to meet in Blackwood, South Wales, just a mile or two from his council house home. Then it was funk, Bowie and Roxy. Subsequently, punk, bondage and notoriety. We’d travel to London, Bristol, wherever to satiate our need for nightlife. Thus, London was the only place for Steve so he moved up to work for Vivienne Westwood in 1977. He was 18. I was 17. He became a punk “face” while I finished my A-levels and then went off to San Francisco in search of the Beatnik life (but couldn’t find it) and lost touch with Steve.
Then in October 1978, I bumped into him in Oxford Circus and he invited me to his new Bowie night at Billy’s. Since then we have been inextricably linked. We ran the club Hell together, then he did Club For Heroes and me Le Kilt. He then opened the Camden Palace and me the Wag.
We were both flamboyant club-running Welsh dandies but were never rivals. Steve had too much dignity for that. We were friends and remained so for the rest of his life. And I can say that Steve, despite quite a few hard years, never lost that that spark, humour or joie de vivre, was forever stylish and was always a pleasure to see.
extends heartfelt thanks to these key Blitz Kids (as were) for taking the time to contribute these wonderful appreciations of Steve Strange who died yesterday aged 55. We are all in varying degrees of shock, yet it is remarkable how their tributes readily identify the distinct qualities that made Steve a beacon for others to rally round. We hope these words will stand as both epitaph and historic record
I will miss reminiscing about us getting caught shoplifting together, our ferry to Calais as that got stuck in a hurricane going back and forth unable to dock for 13 hours; then hanging out with Grace Jones, Iman and Gaultier and getting spat at by a Parisian old lady who thought we were Nazis (we both had coincidentally brought our leather German trench coats); doing LSD at the Notting Hill Carnival, ecstasy in Ibiza in 1983 and getting lost in New York’s gang infested Alphabet City York at 5am after a night out in 1985 and walking in complete circles till it was light. Adventure after misadventure after misdemeanour. Two working-class Welsh chaps who could not believe their luck sucking the lemon dry.
I spoke to him a lot over his last few years and realised that he, coming from nothing, just threw down the gauntlet and created this being, “Steve Strange”, who was his “art” and, rather like Quentin Crisp and Leigh Bowery, was famous for purely being himself – a rather unique individual, one of a kind and a true maverick who never once towed the party line and always kept you guessing from Telly Tubbies Toys to TV shows. Indeed, our lives ran in tandem for decades and, I can honestly say, that I am proud to have been a friend and associate for 40 years of this great British character. I doubt we will see the likes of him again. Today my melancholia was lifted by one thought. He would have also loved this massive media attention regarding his demise. He would have said “See, I told you I was making a comeback!”
The world is a smaller place without Steve.
PRINCESS JULIA, WRITER AND DEEJAY
We piled into his clubs from the late 70s onwards and made things happen. Steve Strange’s notoriety filtered into the mainstream making him a household name, much to his delight. Getting dressed up, going out and getting noticed… Steve was head of a subculture the likes of which perhaps we will never see again. He rode the decades, suffered ups and downs but always retained a vision of creativity, his own and those around him. Encouraging people to follow their dreams, the Blitz was a melting pot of creativity, its ethos a cornerstone to generation after generation who aspired and are aspiring to cast their nets wider.
When I met Steve his style was fearless. He became an entrepreneur in clubland perhaps unwittingly and genuinely enjoyed the ritual of clubbing. On other fronts Visage, initially a studio project, rapidly gained cult status, and he never abandoned performing right up to the present. He had a wicked sense of humour and was ready to tackle challenges even though his decadent years had taken their toll on his health… The stories I could tell you, perhaps I’ll leave that to your imagination!
STEPHEN JONES, MILLINER
Steve Strange was a live wire. He made things happen, joined the dots between people. And he was my first customer. I went to his Bowie nights at Billy’s club and then the Blitz as a student at St Martin’s and he asked me to make him a hat out of gold braid. It took me about three weeks and he paid £75, a fortune in those days. Then, he was working at a fashion store called PX in Covent Garden. They had an empty basement, and he asked me if I wanted to set up store in there. So that was my first shop. I owe my start to Steve.
There was a vacuum after punk had gone. Suddenly there were all these kids dressing up in these eclectic, historical, top-to-toe looks we made ourselves from thrift stores. With Steve, it had to be a total look, whether he was wearing a dress, or a slick Antony Price suit. And every look needed a hat.
KIM BOWEN, STYLIST,
ONETIME QUEEN OF THE BLITZ
The hustle, the bustle, the make-up, the clothes, “Julia and I think you should put pencil on that mole of yours, it looks like a spot otherwise” to “I like your hat, do you think Stephen Jones will make one for me?” Rushing enthusiasm, involving everyone, creating insane parties going round and round on the Circle Line. Some truly bad outfits (his not mine.) Shockingly, “Kim, will you be my official girlfriend?” My boyfriend Jeremy Healy was rather outraged at that, sensing a great and grievous social impropriety.
“I know some weird private club in Wandsworth, Lord Longleat will be there, he’s fun, let’s go” . . . “God, look at Mick Jagger, he looks like an axolotl, doesn’t he? – Still, let’s go talk to him” . . . Cramming into the flat on King’s Road that he and Rusty and Julia shared, the height of sophistication as we polished off bottles of Blue Nun.
“ You were the epicentre of a most
particular time and place,
and you did create the stage
on which we all appeared ”
– Kim Bowen, Queen of the Blitz Club
“Will you run a nightclub with me?” became screaming up the stairs at Club For Heroes: “Why are you letting those horrible people in?!” Parties here, parties there, a club here, there and everywhere, places to sit bored and rude, blame him and his shit club, hate the music, be a little bitch, stick your nose up in the air Kim Bowen, and to always, always be asked, to be introduced to David Bailey who photographed me for Ritz magazine, to be implored to be in Bowie’s Ashes video and to refuse, to always be asked to anything fun, anything interesting, daring, mad, silly, stylish by this kind, generous, privately soft and rather vulnerable, funny Welsh guy, who always laughed, until he didn’t and things went dark.
And then they got better again. And then this abrupt goodbye. What a shock. You were the epicentre of a most particular time and place, and you did create the stage on which we all appeared, flourishing our lace cuffs and sharpening our profiles to the footlights. Thank you for that. Because we just came to your clubs, you created them Steve, you and Rusty.
Above: King and queen of the Blitz: Steve Strange wearing PX and Kim Bowen crowned by Stephen Jones titfer in 1980. Photograph © by Letac / Shapersofthe80s archive
SHAPERS OF THE 80S
Peter Ashworth, Ninotchka Bee Bee, Helen Carey, Eve Ferret, Judith Frankland, Boy George, Francesca Von Habsburg Thyssen, Billy Idol, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Simon Le Bon, Stephen Linard, Franceska Luther King, Glen Matlock, Mark Moore, Christos Tolera, John Maybury, Steve Norman, Milly Parkinson, Andy Polaris, Stephane Raynor, Graham Smith, Graham K Smith, Midge Ure, Iain R Webb and Mike Leigh, Steve’s agent