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'We have seen the good and bad times together, and I love him to bits'.

Byline: By Abby Alford South Wales Echo

When 21-year-old Valley boy Steven Harrington scored a number one hit, no-one could have been prouder than his little sister Tanya.

From her Newbridge home, the 15-year-old eagerly followed the career of her London-based brother, better known to millions of music fans as Steve Strange, and his band Visage.

But the excesses that accompanied his 1980s chart success soon took their toll.

Addictions to class A drugs cocaine and heroin coupled with personal tragedy brought the iconic New Romantic star to the brink of a nervous breakdown.

As success and friends deserted him, Steve felt he had nowhere left to turn.

But, as always, his number one fan stuck firmly by his side.

Tanya took Steve into her Porthcawl home at the lowest point of his life and the stability and encouragement she provided helped him emerge from a pit of despair.

Today as Steve, now 46, prepares for a forthcoming tour and the release of a DVD of Visage's greatest hits on March 24, Tanya tells her side of the story.

'When we were growing up in Newbridge, Steve used to make me and my friend do his chores and then he'd get all the praise,' said the 40-year-old mum of two.

'It's true,' Steve confesses, adding that he also used to lock her in the coal shed because having a little sister around 'isn't cool'.

It may not always have been 'cool', but it's clear the pair enjoyed a typical brother and sister relationship, with each taking delight in riling the other.

It is something which continues to this day.

'Steve always wanted to perform and as a youngster he wanted to go on Opportunity Knocks to sing Two Little Boys,' said Tanya, laughing at how such a revelation will make dedicated music lovers see her brother in a whole new light.

But, while it may be OK for her to make fun of him, Tanya is the first to step in and protect him from the sometimes hurtful remarks of others.

'I love him to bits and I won't let anybody put him down.'

During his meteoric rise to international fame, Tanya often went to stay with Steve, which led her to rub shoulders with some of the other big names of the day.

'We used to have some good times in London,' she recalls. 'We'd go to all these clubs and I met loads of people like Toyah, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran.

'I used to feel like Victoria Beckham.

'I kept an album of all these pictures as I was so proud of him.

'But someone broke into my car and stole it and I cried my eyes out.'

Unfortunately, these were not the last tears she would shed.

As the 1980s progressed she noticed a change in her brother when he came home to visit her and their mum Gill.

'I didn't really know much about drugs myself. At the time, we didn't know about that kind of thing in Newbridge.

'But when he used to come home I could tell the difference in his face. It was all drawn in.

'I used to say to my mother, 'Oh Steve doesn't look well,' and she would just say she thought he was all right.'

Of course, Steve was far from fine, although he did his best to shield them from the truth.

'Around 1986 I tried to come off it and came home to Wales, but the withdrawal was so bad I basically ended up lying in the foetal position on my bed for 24 hours,' he said.

But it wasn't long before his mum and sister learned the truth.

'I couldn't understand it,' said Tanya, who works as a manager for cosmetics company Avon.

'I used to cry. I used to say, 'Steve, why do you do it? You have got the capacity to be better than this'.'

Realising the hurt he was causing both himself and his family, Steve got himself clean in the late 1990s.

But the pain continued with the death of friends Michael Hutchence from Australian rock band INXS and his partner Paula Yates and false accusations in a national newspaper that he had sold the pair drugs.

Steve fled London and ended up back home in South Wales, where he was taken in by Tanya, who had now moved to Porthcawl.

'He paid to have my loft converted and it was lovely to be living together,' she said.

Steve also enjoyed being on-hand to help when Tanya's two sons Kyle, now seven, and Connor, five, were born.

Life seemed to be getting better, but things took another turn for the worse when he went to buy a Teletubbie doll for one of his beloved nephews.

Steve said: 'It just goes to show what a state my mind was in at the time, because when I couldn't find anyone to give the money to, I just walked out of the store.

'The next thing I knew I was standing in the street holding La La and surrounded by security guards.'

After being bailed from the police station Steve returned to his sister's house, where the press gathered outside.

'I thought it'd be fun to put this Teletubbies rucksack we had over my shoulder and to walk out and show the press,' he said.

'But just as I was about to open the front door I felt Tanya's hand come down on my shoulder and she pulled me back in saying 'What are you doing? It'll look like you're condoning shoplifting,'.'

Steve said it was his sister's down-to-earth wisdom that eventually 'brought me back to sanity'.

To combat the boredom he feared would tempt him back to drug taking, he accompanied her on her rounds for Avon and while she delivered parcels for catalogue company Freemans.

Then, following the successful publication of his autobiography, Blitzed, in 2002, he was invited to perform on the Here And Now tour with other 1980s artists.

Since then he's appeared in various TV documentaries and has now taken up jogging to prepare for another 1980s revival tour, Three Men And Black, later this year.

He also hopes to counsel other recovering drug addicts.

But Steve said any new fame is unlikely to go to his head as he sees Tanya and mum Gill virtually every day, which keeps his feet firmly on the ground.

Tanya said: 'Everyone asks us who's the oldest and I say, 'He is, but I've had the most worry'.'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 13, 2006
Words:1086
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