Pete Burns (born 5 August 1959) is an English singer-songwriter, author and television personality, who 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, receiving 13.6% of the final vote. He has since appeared on more television reality shows, including some presenting work.
Burns was born in Port Sunlight, Bebington, Merseyside. His mother, Eva (Quittner), was born in Heidelberg, Germany, of Jewish ancestry, and had fled to Vienna, Austria, to escape the anti-Semitic laws of the Nazis. It was in Vienna that she met Burns' father (who is English, with a Liverpudlian accent, and not Scottish as some sources claim), 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."
According to an interview, Burns dropped out of school at the age of 14 after being summoned to the headmaster's office because of his unusual style.
Dead or Alive:
Burns first became famous with the success of Dead or Alive's 1985 UK number one dance hit "You Spin Me Round", along with his strikingly individual, androgynous image. 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.
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.
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.
As of March 2014, Burns accepted the opportunity to become a spokes person for the non-for-profit charity organisation gAID. gAID focuses on domestic violence in homosexual relationships.
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.
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'.
Solo music career:
In 1994 Burns released a single with Glam called "Sex Drive".
In 2004 Burns released a Pet Shop Boys-produced song called "Jack & Jill Party".
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.
Burns has more recently worked with Pete Waterman, the first time since the 1987 Dead Or Alive album Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.
In 1978, Burns married hairdresser Lynne Corlett, with whom he remained married for 28 years, until 2006.
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. Burns split from Simpson 10 months after their marriage and said that he wanted to file for divorce. He stated that gay marriage does not work and that it is better to be married to a woman. However, since then, Burns has reunited with Simpson. Burns remains on good terms with his ex-wife.
Burns is known for his ever-changing, often androgynous appearance, which he freely admits has been greatly modified by cosmetic surgery. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Paparazzi followed Burns around following his arrest for assault in 2006 (the charges for which were later dropped) and his attempts to revive his career, in the documentary Pete Burns Unspun on Living TV.