At this time, Charles H. Fox, a massive 3-floor theatrical costume shop, was going out of business and everything was going cheap. Fox fur coats were selling for 2 pounds ($4.00 US), and loads of other costumes only cost around 5 pounds ($10.00 US). This encouraged whimsical dressing, as people created their own unique brand of style. The feel was decadent, like a 1930’s Berlin Cabaret.
Bands such as Spandau Ballet and Dépêche Mode were part of the scene, and hung out at The Blitz. Marylyn, the cigarette girl, had the hit song “Calling Your Name”. The then-unknown Boy George, lead singer of Culture Club, worked coat check until he was fired for going through people’s stuff. It all came to a head when Boy George physically fought with two girls who demanded their things back.
Strange was legendary for turning people away at the door, wanting only the right people to be in the club. People would show up dressed in the most ridiculous outfits, such as wet suits, with their faces painted half black and half white.
Strange had a mirror that he held up to show them how ridiculous they looked and sent them away. He was the doorman with the mirror. The point was to dress with genuine style and show that you put some thought into being creative.
One of the things that made Strange’s name was when he turned away Mick Jagger at the door. When Bowie and Jagger came to pick extras from the club for the video ‘Ashes to Ashes,” Bowie was let in but Jagger was not. Strange felt he just didn’t suit the vibe of the club, which was critical to its enduring success.
There was a reporter from the Daily Mirror at the club who witnessed this rebuttal, and two days later it was front-page news. Strange styled, choose the extras, and was also featured in Bowie’s video “Ashes to Ashes”.
The look and mood of the video was strongly influenced by the New Romantic movement, which Strange spearheaded. Considering the size of The Blitz and that only a few hundred people were allowed in the club, it certainly received lots of media attention.
Camden Palace was opened in 1982, and lasted two years with Strange controlling the door. The New Romantic Movement was in full swing and a British invasion was hitting the charts worldwide. Camden Palace became the most famous of the era, with major celebrities coming in regularly. Acts that performed live were Madonna, Eurythmics, Wham, Culture Club, Visage, and a long list of other chart-topping artists.
When Visage went on tour, their first stop in North America was New York City. Strange wanted to make an impact and parade down 5th Avenue on an elephant, but he made do with a camel instead. When going through customs, the officers didn’t know what to make of him and his outrageous Peter Pan-like outfits. But with financial delays from the record labels due to commercial disappointments, Visage broke up in 1984.
Soon after, Strange’s success and money started to fade as drugs took over his life. In 1985 he decided to get his life back on track, and moved to Ibiza, Spain. There he became an integral part of the Trance movement. This was the next wave of music, and led to Electro clash – a blend of new wave, punk and electronic dance music. Strange’s influence can be felt in bands today such as Goldfrapp and Fischerspooner.
In 2002, Strange released a book about the 80’s New Romantic scene called “Blitzed”. He has appeared on several reality shows. In 2008, Strange made it into The Guinness Book of World Records for the most haircuts donated to charity for “Children in Need”, executed through the reality series Celebrity Scissorhands.
Strange has reformed Visage, now named Visage MKII, with new members involved. Strange can still be found running club nights, creating music, touring and being actively involved in TV shows.
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.