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Pete Burns - Biography

Pete Burns (born 5 August 1959) is an English singer-songwriter, author and television personality who founded the band Dead or Alive in 1980, for which he acted as the vocalist and songwriter, and which rose to mainstream success with their 1985 single "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)". He later rose to further celebrity status in the British media following his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother 2006 and his own television show, Pete's PA in 2007.


Early life

Peter Burns was born in Port Sunlight, Bebington, Wirral, to an English father and a German mother. His mother Eva was Jewish and born in Heidelberg, Germany. She had fled to Vienna, Austria to escape the anti-Semitic laws of the Nazis. It was in Vienna that she met Burns' father, then a British soldier, at a soldiers' tea dance.

When talking about his late mother in an interview for television programme Psychic Therapy, he said "as far as parental skills go in the conventional, normal world, she certainly wasn't a mother, but she's the best human being that I've ever had the privilege of being in the company of, and I know that she had a special plan for me. She called me Star Baby and she knew that there was something special in me. Just an incredible German woman; tiny, five-foot-one, but she could move a fucking wardrobe, she could lift a wardrobe." Burns also told that for the first five years of his life, he and his mother spoke to one another in German. "I grew up until I was five speaking German and a bit of French. There was no English spoken in my house. My father spoke to my mother in French, she spoke to me in German."


Dead or Alive

Burns first became famous with the success of Dead or Alive's number one dance hit "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)", along with his strikingly individual, androgynous image. Originally labeled as gay, due to his gender atypical appearance and sexual relations with men, Burns is reportedly bisexual and was married to Lynne Corlett. While building his career, Burns worked at a Liverpool record shop, Probe Records, which became a meeting-place for local musicians. Burns first performed as a member of the short-lived Mystery Girls, and then Nightmares in Wax, a proto-Goth group that formed in Liverpool in 1979. Nightmares in Wax released a 12" single, "Black Leather", and a 7" single, "Birth of a Nation", each containing the same three songs, but never produced an album. In 1980, after replacing several members, Burns changed their name to Dead or Alive. Burns has accused fellow pop star Boy George of appropriating his unique image.

Expressing an overtly sexual and flamboyant style, Burns shocked audiences in the late 1970s with his androgynous clothing and hair styles, make-up, high heels, long fingernails and trademark black eyepatch. Almost as much as his career with Dead or Alive, Burns is known for his ever-changing appearance, which he freely admits has been greatly modified by cosmetic surgery.

Celebrity Big Brother and aftermath

In December 2003, the BBC apologised to its viewers after Burns swore repeatedly on its pre-9pm watershed Liquid News show when asked about his views on the Michael Jackson trial.

In January 2006, Burns appeared on Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother 2006, eventually reaching fifth on the show's final episode. The show featured Burns' scathing verbal attacks on other housemates, most notably former page three girl Jodie Marsh and former Baywatch star Traci Bingham. It was also on this show that he declared that one of his coats was made out of gorilla fur – this caused outrage amongst animal rights' activists because unlicensed gorilla fur is illegal in the United Kingdom. Police subsequently confiscated the coat and tests were performed on it that revealed that it was not in fact gorilla, but was made out of the fur of colobus monkeys. Colobus monkeys are also an endangered species whose fur requires a licence, although experts believed that the fur had in fact been imported in the 1930s or 40s, before it became illegal to import colobus fur in 1975.

Burns has had extensive polyacrylamide injections into his lips, cheek implants, several rhinoplasties and many tattoos. In early 2006 he revealed in an interview that he had spent most of his life savings on eighteen months of reconstructive surgery after a procedure on his lips went horribly wrong.

Burns' autobiography, Freak Unique, was released in May 2006. In it he writes about his life and reveals that he was raped at a young age by a man who was never prosecuted. He also writes about chronic depression and several suicide attempts.

After his stint on Celebrity Big Brother he appeared as a guest presenter for the Big Brother spin off show, Big Brother's Big Mouth, on four shows, in August 2007.

Burns was involved in Pete's PA, a UK Reality TV series on Living TV in which contestants competed to become his personal assistant (PA). The series takes place over ten weeks as potential PAs were pitted against each other in a series of challenges. Pete's PA began airing on 8 October 2007. Burns was assisted by Donna Coulling (described as a "celebrity personal assistant"), and business psychologist Dr. Rob Yeung. The winner of the contest was former criminal psychologist Nicky.

In 2010, Burns appeared in the special Davina's Big Send Off before the end of Ultimate Big Brother, where he performed "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)".

Solo career

After much delay, Burns' solo single "Never Marry an Icon" was released to the iTunes Store on 7 September 2010. The single was produced and co-written by The Dirty Disco. The single was released by fellow Dead or Alive member Steve Coy's label, Bristar Records.

On 13 September 2010, Steve Coy of Bristar Records posted a statement on the Dead or Alive Official Network, announcing the cancellation of all future digital releases by Pete Burns due to postings of Burns's single "Never Marry an Icon" on YouTube. Days later, he reconsidered his decision.

Personal life

In 1978 Burns married hairdresser Lynne Corlett, with whom he remained married for 28 years, until 2006. That year, on 9 February, he announced his engagement to his partner, Michael Simpson, on Channel 4's daytime television show Richard & Judy, where he displayed their matching engagement rings designed by Vivienne Westwood. The following day, Simpson called off the engagement citing that he was finding it difficult to deal with the newfound fame, although their engagement was soon back on and their civil partnership took place on 6 July. Burns appeared on Celebrity Wife Swap, which aired on 30 September 2007, where he lived with Neil Ruddock for five days. Simpson also took part in the programme. The couple separated in May 2008. Burns made a statement saying that gay marriage does not work and that it is better to be married to a woman.

In November 2006, Burns recounted his and others' experiences with complications of cosmetic surgery in a TV special entitled Pete Burns' Cosmetic Surgery Nightmares for the UK ITV network. Paparazzi followed Burns around following his arrest, and his attempts to revive his career, in the documentary Pete Burns Unspun on Living TV. In January 2007 Burns announced that he was planning to sue the cosmetic surgeon, Dr Maurizio Viel, who performed his lip surgery, for £1 million. In September 2009 Burns reached an out-of-court settlement for £450,000.

In March 2009, Burns was admitted to a London hospital after collapsing, due to kidney failure. He was diagnosed with seven large kidney stones, which were removed with laser surgery.



Year Single Peak positions Album
2004 "Jack and Jill Party" 75 Non-album song
2010 "Never Marry an Icon"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

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