In the 1980s, Pete Burns became a star as the lead singers in Dead Or Alive. Unfortunately, his life tragically ended in 2016 after he suffered a heart attack and passed away.
Besides being a well-respected musician, Burns also became known for his many beauty procedures. He once revealed that he had undergone more than 300 plastic surgeries, ultimately leaving him bankrupt.
So what really happened to Pete Burns? And why did he choose to undergo so many plastic surgeries? Here’s all you need to know about his life – and tragic ending.
Peter Burns was born in the small village of Port Sunlight near Liverpool, England on August 5, 1959. He was the only child of Evelina Maria Bettina Quittner von Hudec and her British soldier husband, Frank.
Burns’s childhood was, by all accounts, complicated. His mother had survived the holocaust and worked for the Russian Secret Police for a while. Eventually, she and Frank ended up in Port Sunlight, where Pete was born.
Pete Burns – early life
From his earliest beginnings, it was clear that Pete’s mother wanted him to pursue any dream he had. He was, in essence, allowed to be free spirit.
Initially, he had ambitions to become a doctor. At the same time, Burns described himself as an “incredible painter and cartoonist” at a young age. However, those weren’t “exactly qualifications necessary to enter a college and study medicine,” he stated.
“[My mother] had me when she was 51 years old, which was very unusual in 1959, Burns said in the book Europe’s Stars of ’80s Dance Pop: 32 International Music Legends Discuss Their Careers.
“I wasn’t put in school until I was seven year old because my mother thought it was more important to let me have freedom of expression (much against my father’s will) than to know when the Battle of Hastings took place or when Henry VIII married. She was very troubled, especially when she found out her father had been [killed].”
His mother’s declining mental health was very hard on Pete. At the same time, he drew inspiration from it, and his mother was always there to support him.
“I couldn’t possibly have wished for a better friend. She gave me the power to dream, the power to remove myself from where I might not be having any fun, and go inside my head and be somewhere else,” he wrote in his autobiography Freak Unique.
Worked in a record store
Pete Burns left school at just 14. He was fascinated by fashion and identities from a very early age, and when he started dying his hair and wearing makeup and earrings at school, he wasn’t welcome there anymore.
He enjoyed wearing heels, and wanted to let the world know how fun it was to dress up in “drag.” At the same time, Burns was very clear that he didn’t like putting labels on things.
“I have never had a reason to separate gender. I’ve had two very powerful people in my life, my ex-wife Lynn, and my husband Michael, and that’s it,” he wrote in The Guardian in 2007.
“Everyone’s in drag of some sorts, I don’t give a f**k about gender and drag. I’m not trying to be a girl by putting on a dress – gender is separated by fabric. I was brought up with an incredible amount of freedom and creativity. Society has put certain constraints on things.”
Pete first began working in a record store called Probe. Around the same time, he and his girlfriend Lynne Corlett – whom he married in 1980 and was together with for more than 20 years – hung out at a club called Eric’s.
There, the then-16-year-old Burns saw many bands perform, which inspired him to become an artist himself. He and Lynne had what they called a “small shop” in the back and, after a while, he recalled them being treated like VIPs, getting to stand either backstage or off to the side when bands performed. It was quite the coincidence that he even joined a band at all.
‘The Mystery Girls’ and founding of ‘Dead or Alive’
“The owner of the club, who had started to bring over bands like Blondie, Kraftwerk, and Johny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, suddenly told me I was barred from the club until I formed a band or started to sing. We thought he was joking,” Burns recalled.
“But he actually set me up with a band of musicians called The Mystery Girls, and my first gig was supporting a group called Sham 69. My audience was really shocked when they first saw me. It was really throwing a cat among the pigeons.”
Mystery Girls was founded in the late 1970s, but it didn’t last long. According to Burns, his appearance caused problems, and he didn’t want to be a singer in any case.
However, by that point, he had caught the attention of music magazines. They wanted to do interviews and features with him, thus elevating him to some level of fame.
He understood then that he needed a band. So, after releasing one song with his band Nightmares in Wax, he founded Dead Or Alive in 1980.
“I had this book about James Dean and other celebrities called Those Who Died Young,” Burns said, recalling the band’s earliest days.
“I thought that should be the name of the band. When we arrived at the session, the ex-gravedigger guitarist, Avery Mitchell, was his name, said there was no way he was going to play in a band called Those Who Died Young. He said we needed to be called ‘Dead or Alive or he wasn’t doing the session. So, okay, it didn’t matter to me as long as we had the money for the session.”
Pete Burns – songs, hits
Burns and his bandmates thought they would be doing one session only. However, quite the opposite turned out to be true. They began recording and ended up doing more and more sessions. Not long after, they started getting paid. Burns felt like he had “won the lottery,” and in 1984, Dead or Alive released their debut album, Sophisticated Boom Boom.
It quickly rose to the Top 30 in Britain, featuring the synth-dance version of the old disco classic That’s The Way (I Like It). It became quite the hit in the US, and the band started to get serious attention.
Today, the music business is fiercely competitive, but corporate record labels have always wanted their piece. For his part, Pete Burns never accepted that fact, and refused to make commercial music with the sole aim of becoming famous.
“I would never allow the record company people to come in on the recording of my music. That was a strict contractual term. No A&R people. Nobody from the company was allowed into the studio until the full completion of the album,” Burns said.
Dead Or Alive released their second album, Youthquake, in 1985. It included the monster hit You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), which achieved No. 1 in the British charts and a Top 20 spot in the US. Dead Or Alive were suddenly propelled to stardom, enjoying massive success in countries like Germany, Italy and the U.S., to name a few.
Pete Burns – plastic surgeries, beauty procedures
As Dead Or Alive reached fame worldwide, Pete realized that he was becoming a “visual entity.” He wanted to look good – and convinced himself that he needed cosmetic surgery to make it so.
“When you’re young, and you’re very self-conscious, and you stand in front of a camera if the photographer’s whispering, ‘Can we just turn his head to the left because he’s got a lump on his nose?’ you think, well, I’ll do something about it,” Burns recalled while appearing on the UK reality show Celebrity Botched Up Bodies.
The first procedure Burns had done was to fix a broken nose that occurred when he was head-butted during his “punk days.” After that, things spiraled out of control. Burns wasn’t happy with the initial result and decided to undergo a corrective procedure. It was the first of nearly 300 plastic surgeries.
“Four times at the nose, two sets of cheekbone implants, and the two out—lip augmentations,” he said in detailing some of the procedures.
Pete would continue to undergo various surgical procedures. Of course, they weren’t all successful. Repeated operations led to infections in his face and lips, which meant even more corrective procedures.
“What I’m trying to achieve with my surgery, is my own personal satisfaction. It’s narcissism,” Burns said.
He further explained to ABC that he saw himself only as clay which he was “remodeling.”
“I was unconscious and not breathing”
“What you see on the outside is a complete contradiction to something that’s on the inside,” he said.
After a lip augmentation that went wrong in 2000, he was rushed to the hospital and almost passed away.
He explained: “I was unconscious and not breathing, so they rushed me to hospital and said I had less than 2% chance of surviving, but they eventually revived me.”
After several albums and millions of albums sold, Pete finally left the music industry for good. Only, the plastic surgeries continued.
Repeated operations lead to infections in Burns’s face and lips and, ultimately, ever more corrective procedures. His long obsession with plastic surgery – which went on for decades – eventually led to bankruptcy, as he had to pay thousands and thousands of pounds for 18 months of corrective surgery in Italy.
He admitted that he was addicted to it. Burns said: “Changing my face is like buying a new sofa,” adding that there was “not a part of me, apart from the soles of my feet, which has not had work done. For me, plastic surgery is a matter of sanity, not vanity.”
Burns tried to revive his career by going solo, but his efforts never had any mainstream success. In 2010, his last single, Never Marry an Icon, was released.
Pete Burns – cause of death
On October 23, 2016, Burns passed away following a massive heart attack. It was later revealed it was caused by a pulmonary embolism, more simply a blood clot in the lungs. The world mourned the Dead Or Alive singer’s passing, and many friends sharing their best memories of him.
“He was the ace face in Liverpool. He was just so flamboyant and just right out there with his dress and that, he always looked absolutely amazing and it was a pleasure to work with him,” Joe Musker, a former Dead Or Alive drummer, said.
At the time of his passing, Pete was flat broke. Even though he successfully had won a lawsuit against a plastic surgeon – getting £450,000 in compensation – the singer had spent every penny he had on plastic surgery. Moreover, his friend George Galloway revealed that Pete had to borrow money in his last months of life.
“Pete was really hard up, I myself had to help him out of a jam or two,” Galloway said.
“He had a lot of difficulties in his life, no doubt. He had a very bad operation on his lips in Italy and bankrupted himself with the legal costs of suing for compensation for an operation that went wrong.”
Suffered from blood cloths
Pete Burns’s final interview aired on BBC just months after his passing. There, the singer revealed that all of his procedures played a part as to why he wasn’t doing well.
“As a result of all the anesthetics and antibiotics which do have side effects, I now suffer from pulmonary embolisms and blood clots in my heart, lungs, and legs,” he said.
Burns went into more detail about the previous occasion in which he was close to passing away, adding that he was desperate not to look old.
“It was a lovely feeling dying, I just remember being all wired up to tubes and wishing they removed them, it felt so nice, like a bath of velvet. everything felt so soft and floppy,” he added.
“I’m not comfortable with the idea of aging, I don’t want to look like a 65-year-old. I’m not the boy next door, I’m the boy next door but one. I hope that when I’m 80 I get to heaven and God doesn’t recognize me. “
Pete Burns was a true icon who passed away too early.
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