DNA Magazine

Boy George

He was once the most famous pop star – and homosexual – on the planet. And what a blur it was: his band Culture Club, his mate Marilyn, the heroin, the comebacks, the rentboy chained in the bedroom! Now he’s back and says he’s the happiest he’s ever been.


George O’Dowd was born in 1961 into a working class Catholic Irish family in England. His dad was a boxing coach but George was attracted to less violent pursuits such as fashion, music and, yes, boys.

In the late 1970s punk era he became a “Blitz kid” running around London dressed in all manner of safety pins, bin liners and eyeliner with folks who later became famous like Marilyn, Steve Strange and Australian performanc­e artist Leigh Bowery.

After a stint as a second lead singer with the band Bow Wow Wow, George formed his own group comprising a cross-dressing Irish man (George), a black guy (Mikey Craig), a white guy (Roy Hay) and a Jewish drummer (Jon Moss) playing reggae pop. The band’s name Culture Club seemed perfect.

After a few false starts they hit their stride in 1982 with the album Kissing To Be Clever and the hit single Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?, a love song George wrote for his on-again-offagain lover, drummer Jon. It went to #1 and Boy George mania began.

More hit singles followed including Time (Clock Of The Heart), Church Of The Poison Mind, Karma Chameleon, Victims, It’s A Miracle; and their second album, Colour By Numbers, sold ten million copies worldwide, even propelling backing vocalist Helen Terry to momentary fame along the way.

Culture Club became the biggest pop act on the planet and George an internatio­nal household name. He told reporters that while he was gay, he preferred a nice cup of tea to having sex. Little did anyone suspect that what George really preferred was heroin.

While keeping his addiction a secret, George continued to give good interviews (of rival band Wham! he said at the time, “George Michael’s heterosexu­ality is the best kept secret in show business!”). When George, Jon and Marilyn poodled off on an Egyptian holiday together, the tabloid press went into a frenzy of “sexy three-way gay tryst” headlines.

George still found time to sing on Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, one of the biggest selling charity singles of all time. But by the mid-’80s, Culture Club had lost their magic chart touch and while a third album, Waking Up With The House On Fire, disappoint­ed in sales, their fourth, From Luxury To Heartache, flopped. Soon after, one of George’s friends died from a heroin overdose in his flat. George was arrested for drug possession. Culture Club disbanded and George went into rehab. He came out a solo star and highly politicize­d, recording the No Clause 28 acid house hit against Margaret Thatcher’s anti-gay law in the UK. That led to him forming a new dance outfit, Jesus Loves You, on his own label – the cleverly titled More Protein.

Getting his personal life back on track, George tried Buddhism and vegetarian­ism, while in his profession­al life in the 1990s and beyond he turned his hand to being a club DJ. In 1992, his titular song for The Crying Game film was his first US hit in a decade.

George didn’t just fade into DJ obscurity as the years wore on. He continued to make experiment­al/undergroun­d dance music, with occasional chart success in places like Italy and Switzerlan­d. To celebrate their 20th anniversar­y, Culture Club briefly reunited and scored a new hit with I Just Wanna Be Loved and an album of new material, Don’t Mind If I Do in their signature reggae-pop style, with George’s voice sounding ever-more velvety.

In 2005, George called the NYC police to report a burglary but was arrested when they found drugs on the premises (cocaine, which he swore wasn’t his). He was sentenced to rehab and community service with the Department Of Sanitation which saw a humiliated George in an orange jumpsuit sweeping the streets of Manhattan.

His legal troubles didn’t end there. Two years later he was charged with falsely imprisonme­nt after chaining Norwegian escort Audun Carlsen to a wall in his London flat and beating him in a drug-fuelled frenzy. He served four months of a fifteen month sentence in prison.

Besides two successful autobiogra­phies, Take It Like A Man and Straight, George wrote an acclaimed semi-autobiogra­phical musical, Taboo, which ran for two years in London’s West End. When it was transferre­d to Broadway, however, even with the help of Rosie O’Donnell it flopped. George did get a Tony nomination for Best Musical Score, thankfully.

To celebrate the 40th anniversar­y of Virgin Records (who signed Culture Club) in 2012, special limited edition vinyl versions of Culture Club’s biggest hit, Karma Chameleon, and George’s biggest solo hit, Everything I Own, were released. George performed a special concert for the celebratio­n featuring old and new material. Last year, George also held his first photograph­ic exhibition, This Way Out, in London featuring portraits of Divine, Leigh Bowery and Steve Strange. Now sober, George works out regularly and follows a strict metabolic diet. He’s lost 38kgs, rediscover­ed his cheekbones and looks fantastica­lly back in form.

Perhaps most importantl­y of all, 2013 heralded George’s return to music. Ahead of his first solo album of all new material since 1995, This Is What I Do, he released a single called Coming Home under the pseudonym A Boy Called George. It detailed his journey into sobriety and how he has found true happiness, as he puts it, probably for the first time in his life. This Is What I Do scored almost unanimousl­y great reviews and Boy George, one of the truly great gay cultural heroes of our time, is back, Back, BACK! more: boygeorgeu­k.com or @boygeorge on Twitter. This Is What I Do is released through Very Me records.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? George’s latest album, This Is What
I Do.
George’s latest album, This Is What I Do.
 ??  ??                              and Jon’s romance hits the press.                                  friend and rival, Marilyn.
and Jon’s romance hits the press. friend and rival, Marilyn.
 ??  ?? Making the cover
of Cosmopolit­an magazine.
Making the cover of Cosmopolit­an magazine.
 ??  ?? Jon, Roy and Mikey – the other Culture
Jon, Roy and Mikey – the other Culture Clubbers.
 ??  ?? Public service in New York after getting busted with cocaine in 2006.
Public service in New York after getting busted with cocaine in 2006.

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