SO, about a dozen or so years ago, Pete Burns had one of his flurries of millennial fame, long before Celebrity Big Brother.
As a result, my newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, did a spread on him, seeing as he was a local chap. It was a nice interview, the sort that newspapers regularly carried in those days. We did not take a picture of Pete, though. Interviews conducted by local newspapers tend to be done over the phone, and Pete’s publicist emailed us a portrait of the reborn star.
It was quite a restrained look for Pete. He was wearing a suit and patterned tie, and he had short hair. The suit, though, was purple, and his hair was green, and his lips were pink. He basically looked like The Joker.
You can see a cropped version of it at the top of this blog entry.
Still, it was a decent picture, and I used it well, even if I do say so myself. I am a newspaper designer by trade, and it was my job to lay out the spread. I did a cutout of Pete’s torso, and ran the text around it, and it looked jolly good.
It appeared in that Friday’s Echo.
On the following Monday morning, my editor at the time called me into his office, and suggested that I might elaborate on the thought process which led me to use that picture of Pete Burns. He explained that he had received dozens of complaints from readers.
I made some noises about homophobia, and said that we, as a modern newspaper, should be treating…
“No”, said the editor, “I’m talking about the tie.”
“Oh,” I said.
I peered at Pete’s patterned tie.
“Oh,” I said.
The pattern was not apparent in the black and white proofs of the pages which I had checked and had been checked by others, nor was it apparent on screen as the pages were laid out.
Only when it was printed on a colour page did it become clear – abundantly so – that it was not a pattern at all. It was an anatomically correct line-drawing of a eye-wateringly enthusiastic gay orgy.
EDIT: @anyabike off of Twitter found the picture in question, for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend. I’m not putting it on my website, but here is a NSFW link to the article in Digital Spy.