Pamela Rooke, who became an icon of the British punk rock scene under the name Jordan, has died aged 66.
Her partner Nick wrote on Brighton and Hove News: “She died peacefully a stone’s throw away from the sea in her home town of Seaford, East Sussex in the company of her loving family at 9pm last night (Sunday 3 April) … after a short period of illness, she succumbed to a relatively rare form of cancer known as cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer). Jordan was a wonderful woman and will be remembered for countless decades to come.”
With her highly imaginative makeup and clothing, Rooke was a linchpin of the London scene that produced the Sex Pistols, Vivienne Westwood and more; her daring fashion sense helped to coalesce punk’s aesthetic of leather, rubber, slashed fabric, partial nudity and other provocative styling.
Rooke got a job at Westwood’s boutique Sex in her late teens. “I was running a gauntlet every day. People were scared of me,” she later said of her daring outfits. “And the funny thing is, I was actually quite shy.” The Sex Pistols were regulars – bassist Glen Matlock worked there at weekends – and Rooke became a mainstay at Sex Pistols gigs, occasionally getting on stage.
As well as managing Adam and the Ants, she performed with them, including on the song Lou which appeared on the band’s John Peel session. She also managed Wide Boy Awake, featuring guitarist Kevin Mooney, who she married – they divorced in the mid-1980s.
One of her greatest cultural contributions was as a muse of sorts to film-maker Derek Jarman, who cast her as one of the leads in the fantastical Jubilee, playing a punk called Amyl Nitrate. She also appears in his debut film, Sebastiane.
Rooke turned away from working in the arts to become a veterinary nurse and cat breeder. “Things had become too hectic. It sounds really corny, but normality saved my life,” she said.
She will be portrayed by Game of Thrones actor Maisie Williams in Danny Boyle’s Sex Pistols drama Pistol, airing in May. Rooke recently described how she advised Williams on her performance: “What I said to her was, ‘You’re in a position of playing a role that is very strong, a strong woman, and a woman set apart, really.’ I decided that I wanted to be me, like a walking work of art, if you like, and I was totally and utterly unshakable. So she had to bring that to the role.”
Jonathan Ross was among those paying tribute, saying: “An amazing woman. She changed our world. And she loved cats. So sad she’s gone.” Glen Matlock said: “Will miss you girl.”