Pete Burns

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Pete Burns
Pete Burns.jpg
Burns performing in 2008.
Background information
Birth name Peter Jozzeppi Burns
Born (1959-08-05)5 August 1959
Bebington, Wirral, England UK
Died 23 October 2016(2016-10-23) (aged 57)
Genres Pop, dance, new wave, Hi-NRG
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1977–2014
Labels Epic, Sony Japan, Cleopatra, Avex
Associated acts Dead or Alive, Nightmares in Wax

Peter Jozzeppi "Pete" Burns[1] (born 5 August 1959)[2] is an English singer-songwriter and television personality. He founded the band Dead or Alive in 1980, in which he was vocalist and songwriter, and which rose to mainstream success with their 1985 single "You Spin Me Round". He later rose to further celebrity status in the British media following his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother 2006, in which he finished in fifth place. He has since appeared on more television reality shows, including some presenting work.

Early life

Burns was born in Bebington, Cheshire.[2] His mother, Evelina Maria Bettina Quittner Von Hudec (1913–1987),[3] was born in Heidelberg, Germany. Her own father was Jewish, and so she left to Vienna to escape the anti-Semitic laws of the Nazis.[4][5] It was in Vienna that she met Burns' father Francis Burns (who is from Liverpool, not Scotland as some sources claim), then a British soldier, at a soldiers' tea dance.[6][7]

When talking about his late mother in an interview for television programme Psychic Therapy, Burns 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."

According to an interview, Burns dropped out of school at the age of 14 after being summoned to the headmaster's office because of actions that were not in line with the Catholic school's rules.[8]


Dead or Alive

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. After a minor hit in 1984 with a cover version of "That's the Way (I Like It)", the band had a number one hit in 1985 with "You Spin Me Round". The song went on to become a hit all over the world, even making the US Top 20. Burns, with his strikingly androgynous image, was the band's front man and appeared on the front cover of their records. Though the band's popularity waned throughout the rest of the 80s, they maintained significant success in Japan into the 1990s.

Media career

In December 2003, the BBC apologised[9] 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.[10][11] 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[12] 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.[13]

In November 2006, Burns recounted his and others' experiences with cosmetic surgery complications in a TV special entitled Pete Burns' Cosmetic Surgery Nightmares for the UK ITV network.

Burns' autobiography, Freak Unique, was released in May 2006.

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.

In September 2007 Burns appeared on Celebrity Wife Swap, in which he lived with Neil Ruddock for five days. Burns' partner Michael Simpson also took part in the programme.[14]

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 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)".

In 2011 Burns appeared in a celebrity edition of Come Dine with Me on Channel 4.

Burns often appeared on the panel of Big Brother's Bit on the Side, the sister-show of Big Brother UK, presented by Emma Willis on Channel 5 and 5* throughout 2011. He made appearances in 2012 but was no longer a regular panellist.

In 2013 Burns appeared on The Body Shocking Show, an E4 series that focuses on 'the outrageous, mind-boggling things people do to their bodies'.[15]

As of March 2014, Burns accepted the opportunity to become a spokesperson for the non-profit charity organisation gAID. gAID focuses on domestic violence in homosexual relationships.

Solo music career

In 1994 Burns released a single with Glam called "Sex Drive". Nearly twenty years later in November 2014, Burns released a remix album entitled "Sex Drive Remixes 2014" available on digital download websites.[citation needed]

In 2004 Burns released a Pet Shop Boys-produced song called "Jack & Jill Party".[citation needed]

On 7 September 2010 Burns' solo single "Never Marry an Icon", produced and co-written by the Dirty Disco, was released to the iTunes Store. The single was released by fellow Dead or Alive member Steve Coy's label, Bristar Records.[16]

Burns has more recently worked with Pete Waterman, the first time since the 1987 Dead Or Alive album Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.

Personal life


In 1978, Burns married hairdresser Lynne Corlett, with whom he remained married for 28 years, until 2006.[14]

On 9 February 2006, 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. Their civil partnership took place on 6 July.[14] Burns split from Simpson 10 months afterwards and said that he wanted to have the partnership dissolved. He stated that "gay marriage" does not work and that it is better to be married to a woman.[14] However, since then, Burns has reunited with Simpson. Burns remains on good terms with his ex-wife.


Burns was known for his ever-changing, often androgynous appearance, which he freely admitted had been greatly modified by cosmetic surgery.[6] Burns has had extensive polyacrylamide injections into his lips, cheek implants, several rhinoplasties and many tattoos. Burns at one time accused fellow pop star Boy George of appropriating his unique image.[6]

In early 2006, Burns revealed in an interview that he had spent most of his life savings on eighteen months of reconstructive surgery after a cosmetic procedure on his lips went horribly wrong.[6] In January 2007 Burns announced that he was planning to sue the cosmetic surgeon, Dr Maurizio Viel, who performed his faulty lip surgery, for £1 million.[17] In September 2009 Burns reached an out-of-court settlement for £450,000.[18]

In March 2009, Burns was admitted to a London hospital after collapsing from a kidney ailment. He was diagnosed with seven large kidney stones, which were removed with laser surgery.[19]

Legal issues

Paparazzi followed Burns around after his arrest for assault in 2006[20] (the charges for which were later dropped) and his attempts to revive his career premiered in the documentary Pete Burns Unspun on Living TV.

Burns was declared bankrupt on 10 December 2014.[21]

Eviction from home

In April 2015 Burns was evicted from the London flat which he was renting, after failing to pay over £30,000 in rent. The landlord claimed that the stress of the situation led to him suffering a mental breakdown.[22] Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, the landlord's legal representative which enforced the eviction, told the Daily Mirror:

This has been a complete nightmare for the landlord, he has lost over £34,000 in rent and has suffered a breakdown because of the stress caused by the tenants not paying him the rent and various incidents at the flat, where he’s received numerous complaints.[22]


Pete Burns died on October 23, 2016 at the age of 57 after a "massive cardiac arrest," according to on announcement on his verified Twitter account.[23]



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

Remix albums

Title Album details
Sex Drive 2014 Remixes
  • Release date: 2014
  • Label: Expanded Music s.r.l.
  • Formats: Digital download


  1. "The Early Years". Retrieved 19 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The changing face of Pete Burns". Now. Retrieved 16 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. The Inimitable Mr. Burns (archived at the Internet Archive)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Burns, Pete; Cranna, Ian (2007). Freak Unique (Paperback ed.). John Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84454-438-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Music,Pop and rock (Music genre),Culture". Guardian. London. 21 April 2003.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "BBC apology for Liquid swearing". BBC News. London: BBC. 18 December 2003. Retrieved 2 April 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Celebrity Big Brother 2006, Show 11 clip: Burns vs. Bingham (the beginning). Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  11. Celebrity Big Brother 2006, Show 11 clip: Burns vs. Bingham (at 3:30–7:30). Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  12. "Police take Brother 'gorilla' fur". BBC News. London. 19 January 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "No action over Burns' monkey coat". BBC News. London. 1 February 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "Gay marriage does not work – men are just too predatory, says Pete Burns". Daily Mail. London. 3 May 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "The Body Shocking Show". Retrieved 2015-12-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Pete Burns of Dead Or Alive Releases Solo Single". 8 September 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Pete Burns Sues Doctor Over Faulty Lip Surgery". Chart. 14 February 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Pete Burns wins £450k in damages for bungled cosmetic surgery". London: Daily Mirror. 4 September 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "kidneyfailure". Pete Burns – Collapses with Kidney Failure. Retrieved 15 April 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Pete Burns arrested after gay bar fight". "Pink News". Retrieved 24 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Report Requested For : PETER JOHN JOSEPH BURNS". The Insolvency Service. 2014-12-10. Retrieved 2015-12-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. 22.0 22.1 Strang, Fay. "Bankrupt Pete Burns is EVICTED from flat". Retrieved 2015-09-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Chart Stats – Pete Burns". Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links