“Success demands singleness of purpose.” – Vince Lombardi
Good morning peeps, meditation done.
Quote for the Day:
“Success demands singleness of purpose”
I was devastated to hear of the sudden death of Pete Burns on Monday from a heart attack at the age of 57.
I had so much to thank him for and I learnt a lot from him including how to train to be physically fit enough and look great for touring and all the mayhem that goes with it.
Pete became infamous for his bizarre physical appearance on Celebrity Big Brother but I will remember him as a very generous, funny and talented man.
He was a real 80’s pop and fashion Icon, one of a kind.
And the power in his voice coming from such a slender effeminate man was incredible.
The first time I was in rehearsals at Dance Attic near Putney Bridge where it was in those days, and Pete let out that enormous baritone voice without a microphone I was amazed and nearly fell over from the power of the huge sound he created.
My first major pop tour as a dancer was with Dead or Alive, for whom Pete was the lead singer.
We had 6 weeks rehearsals for four dancers, which was an unheard of amount of time for that few dancers in England, but Pete was obsessed with vogueing and Madonna and wanted to create a fabulous show.
I was the shortest dancer at just under 6 foot and two of the guys were models as opposed to dancers. Annie Shout was the choreographer and we also had a personal trainer, which again was unheard of in England in the late Eighties, I think it was ‘89.
We would rehearse from 10 to 6 and have a 2-hour workout at Noon everyday, all our food was paid for, plus gym membership and protein shakes.
Pete wanted us to be buff and wanted to buck the Madonna trend and have all very obviously straight dancers.
I loved having a personal trainer all though I felt the trainer who was a short almost dumpy girl felt quite intimidated by my fitness and knowledge of training. She would take us on runs, but would be struggling to keep up, she was great in the gym though and I learnt a lot from her.
One thing I used to hate when I was a dancer was when choreographers asked you to come up with 4-8’s of steps, I understand asking you to come up with some tricks and some lifts and the odd step here and there, that is part of the creative process. A bit like an actor working with a director and ad libbing or throwing in their own interpretations, but for me when a choreographer gets the dancer’s to choreograph the steps, that’s just being lazy and is in fact fraudulent, if you are the named choreographer of a production you should have come up with the steps.
There are many, well known choreographers who get all the recognition and financial reward for being the named choreographer, but have hardly come up with a step and hire teams of assistants who do the majority of the work and some of them don’t even turn up for rehearsals. Anyway Annie ended up in tears and I was called into see management because I was being difficult. I saw management and saw Pete and explained what was going on.
I was just telling the truth, the trouble is many people can’t take the truth so I got in trouble for telling it how it is. I guess nothing has really changed there then, I still get in trouble nowadays for telling the truth.
Pete came into rehearsals saw what was going on and didn’t particularly like what he was getting for his money. He decided to become more involved in creating his vision. We kept the numbers of Annie’s he liked and then we started hanging round his house watching videos and getting ideas of what he wanted.
When we got to rehearsing with the live band that is when things really came together, it was less about dancing and steps more about a vibe and creating scenes that went with the songs and brought the individual characters of the four dancers out.
James Hyde an American Model flew in and was part of the band although I am sure he could not play an instrument, but he had the look. He was one of the most ruggedly handsome men I have ever met. Women would literally swoon when they looked into his piercing blue eyes; he was an ex-marine, tattooed with almost Neanderthal features, who was not afraid to fight his way out of trouble. A man after my own heart, we hit it off immediately.
We finished rehearsing and then Pete took us shopping we went straight to Vivienne Westwood’s headquarters where Pete got one of her signature corsets and we got a few bits and pieces, he then gave us £1,500 each to go and buy clothes and accessories, jewellery etc to wear on tour, with a rock pirate sort of theme. We then did one night out with the band, which involved heavy drinking, they told us we would have never experienced anything like what we were about to participate on when commencing the ‘Dead or Alive’ tour it was about Rock n Roll and we must not forget that.
With rehearsals in London finished, outfits sorted and massive hangovers, it was time to fly to Tokyo. We were flying first class on BA and were going via Moscow. We all met up at the airport and bought duty free including alcohol. We began drinking and then got on the plane, there was 21 of us in the party. The band were power drinking or basically downing brandy straight form the bottle, I could drink but this was crazy, they had finished all the duty free by the time we had taken off it was mayhem. One of Pete’s friends whose role I was not sure of stood up dropped his trousers, tucked his bits away and revealed a manjina as he paraded up and down the aisle. The air stewards were struggling to keep control; we were then informed that the whole party would be thrown off the plane at Moscow. Everyone calmed down and we touched down in Japan.
Pete Burns had told us that ‘Dead or Alive’ were BIG in Japan, but we were not prepared for how BIG. In the UK I knew they had had one hit the eighties classic, “You spin me right round like a record player” years ago but that was about it.
When we stepped off the plane there were thousands of screaming Japanese girls with banners and posters. They were everywhere we went, airports, hotel lobby’s shopping malls, and rehearsals everywhere. I realised, why we had been picked and the amount spent on building us up and outfits, the wild antics, it was all part of the marketing image, which was completely the opposite of Japanese traditional culture, but the youth could not get enough, the more outrageous the bands behaviour the better.
We were picked up in limos; we had one limo per three of us. We got to the hotel it was fabulous after wading through the screaming girls we checked into our rooms, I was on the 41st floor. I had never seen anything like it when I looked out of my window. It was full of skyscrapers and neon lights and reminded me of the Ridley Scott film “Blade runner”.
We were told to drop our bags off and meet in Pete’s room. Pete had the penthouse suite it was amazing. The next day we went out in the streets where we were mobbed. Japan was like another planet, the Tokyo streets were like Oxford Street at Christmas, but every street was like that everyday, people as far as you can see everywhere.
The people were so short, that even though it was so packed you could see right the way along the street to the other end over the top of everybody’s heads. I could see now why Pete had chosen tall dancers, his friend then pulled out a bottle of poppers which we all were encouraged to sniff, for 30 secs to a minute we got a rush which made us scream with laughter and act crazy it was marketing genius.
We visited Electric Avenue which was as the name implies full of electrical goods, this was Japan in the late 80’s and they were miles ahead, I bought an amazing top of the range chrome recording Walkman and a CD Player both of which I used for years and never dated back home.
We then went to the Tokyo Dome to sound check and rehearse. The Tokyo Dome was an indoor baseball stadium and could hold 45,000 people. It was state of the art and was like nothing I had ever seen. We sound checked everything ran smoothly and then Kylie Minogue came in with her dancers Venol, who I went to dance school with and Richard who I did Charles class just as we were finishing. I was really pleased to see them all, it is really warming to bump into people you know well at a venue like that on the other side of the world. We all hugged and agreed to meet up later for a night out in Rapongee, which we did and it was great to dance the night away with my London friends in a Tokyo night club.
The next day was show day, because “Dead or Alive” was a live band with a full PA and backdrop they had to go on stage first because of the set up time. In the changing room the atmosphere was electric, everyone looked great in their outfits, I had done my usual dancers warm-up, but now I was a commercial dancer I had added doing press-ups.
I would do 10 wide, 10 shoulder width and 10 close together, 10 one armed press ups on the right arm and 10 one armed press ups on the left arm and 50 sit- ups and 50 triceps dips on a chair. We then had a few swigs of brandy, and then I went out in the corridor and threw punches in quick session like a boxer preparing for a fight. I did this before every show in my career as I found it really got the blood flowing, adrenaline going and heart pumping to make sure I came out on stage flying from the first beat of the music.
We then got into a huddle screamed a few obscenities and walked on stage. The curtain was down but you can really hear the crowd and feel the excitement as you walk on stage the people at the front to the sides often catch a glimpse of the performers and scream louder which triggers everybody else off. Standing behind that curtain waiting for it to go up is one of the best, most scariest exciting feelings you can ever experience, I love it when the drummer hits his drum to check it’s working, it nearly makes me want to pee myself with excitement. Many people crumble at this point, nerves hit them and they get stage fright, no matter how nervous I am as soon as the curtain goes up I am away.
There is only one time in my career when I nearly suffered stage fright. I was performing at Wembley Stadium with Cliff Richard, it was the first time I had performed at Wembley Stadium which growing up as a huge football fan meant it had always been a dream of mine to play at Wembley, although never in my wildest dreams as a child would I have imagined dancing on stage at Wembley Stadium and definitely not with Sir Cliff Richards as I was never a fan of his music.
For a concert the capacity was 72,000. The other dancers I think it was actually Stacey Haynes had asked me, “Have you looked out the front of stage?”
I said, “No why?
They said, “You should do it’s quite intimidating”
I replied, “Don’t worry I will be fine”
I left it and then about 10-15 mins before we were due to go on, I thought oh maybe I will have a little peep to see what it was like. I walked backstage and moved forward to behind the speakers that were covered by gauze and looked out at the crowd. The mass of people took my breath away and my legs went wobbly at the knees. It really did shock me the effect looking out had had on me, I went backstage and tried to carry on warming up and go through the routine, but I could not remember the steps I kept blanking. I was panicking the performance was getting closer and closer, what was I going to do?
Even as the curtain started lifting I still couldn’t remember the routine, it was a terrifying feeling. Then the music started and I was fine and my body just automatically did all the steps. I was very lucky if I had not had that little peep, I would have frozen and it would have taken a bit of time to refocus. It was an important lesson to learn and emphasises the importance of preparing and focusing the mind and the body thoroughly for a performance, whether it is dance, sport or any other activity.
Back to Tokyo the curtain raised the music started Pete hit one of his big notes I jumped off the block I was standing on, screaming out loudly and ran towards the audience and began the routine at the front of stage. The show was a blur, the noise of 45,000 indoors under a stadium roof is incredible, and the buzz you get is indescribable. When you come off stage you are on such a high and you do not want to come down, that’s why so many artists turn to drugs trying to maintain and replicate the incredible buzz they get from performing on stage.
The next day we all went shopping and were again mobbed. We went to the Yohji Yammamoto shop and I was admiring a cashmere coat for £1,500 Pete said it looked great and I should buy it, I said I would think about it but it was a lot of money. We went to some other shops and headed back to the hotel. Later we were up in Pete’s room and he said thank you to us all for a fabulous show and working so hard, he pulled out a bag and there was my coat and he had bought James a video camera, whatever the public perception of Pete Burns was I really liked him and found him to be very talented and generous in equal measures.
When a performer retires it is very difficult to replace the buzz and adulation they get from performing in front of thousands of screaming adoring fans. I think this may have contributed to Pete’s obsession with plastic surgery in later life. He reportedly had over 300 plastic surgery procedures, which must have put his body and heart under incredible strain and may ultimately have caused the heart attack that ended his life so suddenly and prematurely.
I will remember Pete Burns as a beautiful man both inside out, who was kind and generous and loved celebrating his individuality and doing crazy things and not afraid to say what he thinks with quick wit and humour.
Pete the world is definitely a duller place without you, thanks for the great memories and my coat RIP.
Have a wonderful Wednesday peeps.
Breathe, Believe and Achieve
Be Happy, Healthy and Wise
Keep on Winning Smiling and Living the Dream