It’s George O’ Dowd‘s 62nd birthday! Boy, does that make you feel old?
Who among us has not restrained a rent boy to a radiator? I mean you can’t trust them to be left alone in the room. What is a pop star supposed to do?
Boy George claims knew he was gay when he was eight years old and he doesn’t seem to have ever struggled with it.
“Even when I was ten, I just thought: ‘It’s what I’m meant to be and that’s the end of it.’ I never, ever wanted to be straight.”
When he was at the very height of his pop music fame, before the bruising blows of rejection by fickle fans, before the drug addiction, jail time and tabloid infamy, Boy George was the very embodiment of fantasy escapism. All the way back in the zany 1980s, he was a Karma Chameleon, blurring the boundaries of sexuality and gender. Ahead of his time, Boy George was an example of how to transcend our physical limitations and become something other than who and what we are. Using bewitchment, beauty, and bemusement, he proved that you could be anything and anyone and achieve acclaim.
In case you were born after 1999, Boy George is a British gay soul singer, songwriter, DJ, Broadway composer, stage actor, Grammy Award winner, Tony Award nominee, fashion designer, sexually ambiguous gender-bending superstar, trendsetter, model, writer, gay rights spokesperson, anti-racism stalwart, jailbird, and an animal rights activist.
In the 1980s, everyone on our pretty spinning blue orb was fascinated by Boy George, with his gorgeous, rich singing voice, plus dreadlocks, dresses, exotic make-up and Hasidic headgear. For a magical moment, he was the most famous person on the planet. On talk shows and in interviews, he was pretty, witty and gay, charming his fans of all ages.
Yet, during those years as a member of the New-Wave band Culture Club, Boy George was helplessly drawn to the drama that came to define that genuinely great 1980s group. The tensions within the band were played out with such flamboyance that they soon resembled a public soap opera, with today’s birthday boy as the ringmaster. At the center of it all was Boy George’s turbulent relationship with cute bandmate Jon Moss, a relationship that Moss, now a divorced father with three children, spent years denying had even taken place. Moss now says that he was always a straight guy who had just that single gay affair.
“There’s this illusion that homosexuals have sex and heterosexuals fall in love. That’s completely untrue. Everybody wants to be loved.”
Boy George enjoyed having hit records and international recognition as a great big celebrity until revelations about his secret hard drug problem hit the tabloids. He was an emaciated junkie in 1986 when Culture Club fell apart. But, at the end of the 1980s he began to rehabilitate and reinvent himself. By the mid-1990s Boy George was back to the drugs, the booze and plenty of trouble. He was involved in a series of scandals, drug arrests and peculiar behavior, but who else could wear an ankle monitor with such finesse?
He was also a sad looking Boy in 2005, when he was convicted of falsely reporting a crime in New York City. He was sentenced to some especially well-documented street cleaning as his sentence. Do you remember that Boy George? In London three years later, he was jailed for 15 months after that incident with the hustler who he allegedly chained to a radiator.
“My appetite for self-destruction and misery is greatly diminished. I’m not interested in being unhappy.”
No longer an outsider, freak, or victim, he became an almost respectable figure. He turned to Buddhism, pacifism and vegetarianism. He gave up booze, cigarettes, sugar, even gluten. Boy George claims that he has been clean, sober and happy since 2008, no longer an outsider, freak, or victim. He continues to record music (a new single dropped this spring), DJ at major parties and catwalks, and still make fodder for the tabloids.
“Not knowing when to shut up was one of my greatest faults.”
Boy George has sold over 100 million singles and 60 million albums worldwide. He promises another album. Like me, he seems to own a lot of hats.
Boy George has two terrific, highly readable volumes of memoirs, Take It Like A Man (1995) and Straight (2005).
At the start of the Great COVID Pandemic, he released the Isolation Limited Edition, a three-track CD including the title track, a new song Spatial Awareness Meets The Boy, and Clouds. On Pop Don’t Stop (2021), a greatest hits collection by English singer Kim Wilde, they duet on aBoy George tune, Shine On.
I have been a Boy George fan from the very start. I remember how he really owned that new cable channel, MTV, back in the 1980s. I know that he is a friend of our World of Wonder family, which makes me feel super groovy and just one degree of separation from the Boy.
Astonishingly, this year marks the 42nd anniversary of Culture Club. That is a miracle because I have missed them blind.
When I was 19, I wanted everyone to like me, because fame is about seeking approval, and that means you’re always at the mercy of what people think.