Can you imagine how different Boy George’s life would be if Culture Club had become pop music’s equivalent to the Rolling Stones? The top-grossing tours, a fan base that spans several generations, drugs, sex, scandals and some good old-fashioned rock and roll…
Sure Boy George would be relatively similar — he’d still be that in-your-face, cheeky diva who thrust genderbending into a mainstream spotlight. And he’d still be hot, in that hyper-intelligent, I-don’t-fucking-care-what-you-think-about-me kinda way.
Let’s cut the make believe crap and fast-forward to the present. Boy George is hot and he still doesn’t care what you think about him.
Despite Culture Club dissolving in the late ’80s, Boy George continues to be revered as a cultural icon, especially for queers, and deserves the title, though wears it reluctantly.
Recently, the BBC included him in their Top 100 Greatest Britons of All Time, another accolade he clearly deserves, seeing as he’s diversified and expanded his talents to DJ-ing, producing a syndicated radio show on the Galaxy and LBC Networks, writing a national column in the UK’s Daily Express and authoring two best-selling autobiographies and a macrobiotic cookbook.
Fashion designer, famous DJ, Broadway musical star… his list of accomplishments go on and on.
Though in recent years, the spotlight has focused more on his personal life: the drug busts, public service and now criminal charges involving rent boys and allegedly unlawful confinement, which resulted in Boy George cancelling his world tour this summer and piecing together an international club tour to promote Koolwaters’ new Ibiza Compilation (though he’s still not allowed into the US).
Boy George agreed to a midnight interview with Xtra West Sep 6 at the completion of the Canadian leg of his tour at Celebrities. Here’s what he had to say:
Xtra West: Let’s break the ice with some easy questions. Which do you prefer: Pink Floyd or plastic pink flamingos?
Boy George: Pink Floyd. I hate plastic.
XW: Which do you prefer: Drag kings or The Lion King?
BG: Drag kings of course.
XW: And now for some quick word associations… When I say bacon, you say:
BG: No bacon. I’m vegetarian.
XW: When I say hockey stick, you say:
BG: (Laughs) Incense.
XW: When I say Celine Dion, you say:
BG: Good voice.
XW: Have you ever had sex with a Canadian?
XW: How did it compare to fucking Britons?
BG: It didn’t. I don’t even remember what it was like. It wasn’t about Canada, it was about the person.
XW: What appeals to you about a Canadian tour?
BG: I’m not particularly hung up about where I go, but I find Canada generally different from America because Canadians go out earlier and go out younger. There seems to be quite a vibrant dance scene over here, which is pretty much the same everywhere actually. Clubbing is universal now.
XW: And how is this tour different than your previous ones?
BG: DJ-ing is easier than bringing a band because there is less expected from the promoters, but it’s a bit of gamble because you never know what’s going to work. Gay crowds are different from straight crowds and music is changing all the time. It’s unpredictable, which is quite exciting.
XW: You have a sold out night here at Celebrities. How were your other Canadian dates?
BG: Toronto was good, but Ottawa was completely empty and a waste of time. Sometimes with me people think because I was big in the ’80s, they don’t have to advertise and that people will just turn up. The ’80s are over. That just doesn’t work.
XW: Given that the US refused you entry in July, how did you get a visa from the Canadian government to play Celebrities?
BG: I paid $300 dollars.
XW: Do you think that’s $300 more than you should have to pay?
BG: Well, every time I come here they change the rules. Every time I come through customs in Canada, there’s some other clause they come up with. It’s always just about money. I wish they would just charge me and get on with it because I wasted two and a half hours, they searched all my bags. It was just really boring.
XW: Is the fee and intense scrutiny related to your drug charges?
BG: Anyone who’s been convicted of a drug offence is hardly going to bring drugs into the country. I’m not stupid.
XW: What’s hot right now in your set?
BG: I don’t plan my sets or what I’m going to play. I bring lots of everything and play what I feel, a few classical things and a few fun remixes. I just want to make sure people have a great time.
XW: I saw a video of your recently where you played a track and sang over top it. Is that something you do regularly?
BG: It depends on my mood and how the club is.
XW: What are you excited about right now?
BG: My own stuff, actually. I’m about to release a new single on Oct 12. You have a lot of freedom as a DJ that I don’t really have as a musician.
XW: Do you have a preference?
BG: They’re both very different. Singing is more of an emotional thing. Dance music is emotional but in a different way. As a singer, I am expressing how I feel or I write songs about my life.
XW: A queer author I know regularly tells her audience that overcoming shame is the biggest thing that motivates her as an artist. Do you relate to that statement?
BG: Shame? Yes. I think that the most important person that you have to get comfortable with is yourself.
I think if you’re the kind of homosexual that blends in, then the world is a safe place. But if you wear your homosexuality on your sleeve, as I do, it’s a whole different story.
I always think you should love yourself. That’s the most important thing you can do before anyone else can love you. Be proud of yourself and love what you are. There’s no better time to be gay than now.
XW: When you think back to the ’80s and what you were doing then, especially the genderbending, do you feel like you opened doors for recording artists like Annie Lennox or Marilyn Manson?
BG: Annie Lennox isn’t gay. I feel like I opened doors for the disenfranchised. I personally felt like I spoke to people who felt outside of the outside.
Gay culture is hostile and excludes who are outside the gay mainstream. My message was to anyone who was different. They have a place.
XW: Has your message changed since Culture Club?
BG: Not really, but I’ve come to realize that just because you fancy members of the same sex doesn’t mean you have anything in common with another gay person. You and I probably have very little in common aside from the fact that we are gay men.
XW: What is your legacy?
BG: I feel like there are people who were affected by what I did and I feel that there were others who thought I was a gimmick — a dangerous gimmick or sporting my look for manipulation.
There are a lot of straight [people] that want to conform and others — gay men included — who think that drag queens are freaks. The gay revolution was started by drag queens. They are our suffragettes. They gave us the freedom we have today.
XW: Do you think gay men are biased against drag queens then?
BG: I can’t understand why some gays hate drag queens and why some gays want to blend in. I don’t want to be normal.
XW: How do you feel about your role as a queer advocate?
BG: Let’s put it this way: I don’t think life should be about sexuality. I think it should be about the right to choose.
I remember years ago meeting with [journalist] John Walters and he said something that made me laugh. He said, ‘If gay people getting married annoys Christians, it’s worth it.’
We all should have the right to do that. The key thing is to be happy with who you are and celebrate your difference.
XW: You’re facing criminal charges and were denied entry into the US this summer. Do you think police and legal authorities target you because you’re famous and reportedly into kinky sex?
BG: We’re all kinky, but no, I don’t. I think it’s more of a personal thing. If you have problems in your life and you’re a public person, it’s a story. It’s no more than that.
But what happens in the media is that those things come to define who you are. Those things don’t define who I am, they’re just things that happened. The trouble with negative press is that people come to believe that your life is one-dimensional.
XW: And what about your recent legal problems then?
BG: Nobody is a headline, nobody is a soundbyte. Britney Spears isn’t a soundbyte and neither am I.
XW: What quality in you brings out this adoration from your fans?
BG: Fame is a very weird thing. You’re only famous if you believe you are.
Now I have very different expectations of fame than when I was 17. I can’t give an explanation of why people follow me. They just do.
XW: What’s next for Boy George?
BG: I’m going to South America to tour and then touring the UK. I have a new video on YouTube called Yes We Can. Check it out.