Belfast Telegraph

Stars pay tribute to Steve Strange

New Romantic pioneer Steve Strange was given a flamboyant send-off with 80s pop stars Boy George and Spandau Ballet brothers Martin and Gary Kemp pallbearers for the late Visage singer.

Other celebrities attending a packed out service at seaside town Porthcawl, south Wales, included Spandau's Tony Hadley and bandmate Steve Norman as well as hairdresser Nicky Clarke.

Strange's coffin - which was adorned with photographs of him looking his lavish best - was led up to the church by a marching jazz band before Visage's biggest hit Fade To Grey boomed out of a PA system.

There was a mixture of sadness and celebration as family, friends and fans recalled the life and times of the 55-year-old - who died last month while on holiday in Egypt.

Spandau Ballet saxophone player Norman told mourners Strange had taken him and bandmate Martin Kemp under his wing during the 1970s.

He said: "He was a generous and caring human being with a massive heart.

"A lot of great stuff has been said about Steve since his passing - about how he shaped the 1980s - and it is very much deserved. I just wish a few more people had told that to him when he was around....he was a sensitive soul who needed that affirmation from people."

Mr Norman recalled the last time he had spoken to Strange just before Christmas and took comfort in telling his long-time friend how much he loved him.

The service also include a passionate tribute from Boy George, who said: "Goodbye Steve - punk rocker, new Romantic, old romantic, first class show off, fellow freak, beautiful gay man, seminal pop star, wrecking ball, futurist fashionista."

Mourners also heard a rousing performance of the Welsh hymn Myfanwy from Bridgend Male Voice Choir and a biblical verse from 1 Corinthians.

Among the floral tributes was one which describe Strange as "the quintessential peacock".

As his coffin was loaded into the hearse, crowds - a mixture of fans and curious locals - burst into spontaneous applause.

The Welsh singer - whose real name was Stephen John Harrington - founded Visage with bandmate Rusty Egan in 1978 while hosting club nights at the Blitz nightclub.

After signing a record deal with Polydor Records, the group's second single Fade To Grey became a massive hit - making the top 10 in the UK and reaching number one in several other countries.

However, following the release of their third album Beat Boy, which only reached number 79 in the UK album charts, the group would go on a long hiatus.

Following a long battle with drug problems and personal problems, Strange reformed Visage in 2002 for a series of live dates.

It took a further 12 years before Visage would release another album - Hearts And Knives.

Although their fourth LP failed to win over new fans and wow critics, its follow-up in 2014 Orchestral was described as a triumphant return to form.

The album featured re-recordings of Visage classics backed by a symphony orchestra - with friends saying it had re-invigorated Strange.

However, while Strange was one of the 1980s and British pop's most colourful characters those who saw him on a day-to-day basis where he lived in Porthcawl described him as quiet and unassuming.

Catherine David, 51, whose mother owns local cafe Bakerboyz, said the star was a regular customer and often popped in for a cup of tea.

"You wouldn't think he was a massive flamboyant star with this larger than life persona on stage," she said. "He was really ordinary and polite as well as coming across as a bit sensitive.

"I don't think some of my customers even realised that they were sitting down a few feet from such a big pop star.

"He was always nice and kind to my mum - and last December he brought in a signed photo for her, which takes pride of place by the counter.

"Since he died, people a lot of people have remarked on the photo - and been surprised when I tell them he was a regular in here.

"I'm so glad that he got a good turn out - not just with the big names but how ordinary people came too."

Following the funeral, a wake was held at the town's the Hi-Tide Inn where members of Visage were expected to perform with invited guests paying their own tributes.

Tony Hadley said Strange's death marked the end of an era.

"He was a lovely, lovely guy," he added.

And Martin Fry, frontman of 80s band ABC, said Strange had been a long time friend.

"Steve had an incredible sense of humour. I miss him, I miss him already."

"It's a sad day but a chance to pay my respects to a guy I hope will be remembered for a long time."

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