Tracie O’Keefe died suddenly in 1978 at the age of 18 from bone marrow cancer, but she’ll be remembered as one of punk’s early characters. Tracie was a sales assistant and model for Malcolm McLaren’s shop Seditionaries. She was part of the Sex Pistols fan group ‘The Bromley Contingent’ and provided between-set-dancing entertainment at the Pistols’ Screen On The Green gig.
At the legendary Sex Pistols’ Jubilee riverboat cruise gig/police storm in June 1977, Tracie was arrested along with about ten other people, including McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. Many accounts of the event report heavy-handed police response and targeting of McLaren and the band. However, the only person to receive a jail sentence for this was Tracie O’Keefe.
Press cuttings from God Save the Sex Pistols web site
After being acquitted on appeal, Tracie O’Keefe died unexpectedly from bone marrow cancer a few months later. Accounts suggest that McLaren didn’t handle her death with sensitivity;
“Malcolm filmed her funeral for use in the ‘Swindle’ movie and even sent a wreath which read ‘Never Mind The Bollocks – Tracy’ much to her family’s horror. At least he didn’t make a t-shirt of the event e.g. Sid & Nancy !!! Yet another scene that was scrapped from the movie.”
Punk shook things up and helped to create a different world for so many of those young people. We saw reckless fun, ballsy fuck-offs and the creation of so much new art, music and fashion.
As school girls at the time, punk pointed us to a possible future life that wasn’t just working in a bank and making shepherd’s pie. We have women like Tracie to thank for that. I now love seeing older punk women who will take that edgy spirit to the grave. It’s just sad that Tracie O’Keefe went too soon.
The link below takes you to an Irish RTE programme about punk that starts with an interview with Vivienne Westwood and goes on to show Tracie getting a short punk crop haircut.