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BOY on Boy action: Iconic 80s photos of Boy George modeling fashions from BOY London
07.12.2017
09:57 am
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Boy George modeling BOY London, around 1987.
 
Iconic fashion brand BOY London got its start back in 1976 shortly after the opening of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s infamous SEX boutique on Kings Road in London. Known at first as Acme Attractions, founder and designer Stephane Raynor attracted a respectable clientele that included the likes of Bob Marley, Patti Smith, Billy Idol and Chrissie Hynde to his small street booth on Kings Road. Although BOY London catered strictly to punks (and tourists) at first, as the dawn of the 1980s approached, Raynor and his partner John Krivine opened a proper brick and mortar operation called BOY London which became a fashion haven for the incoming stars of London’s nightlife, the New Romantics.

Raynor was pretty tight with many of the elite members of the New Romantics scene including Boy George who would end up modeling quite extensively for the brand, helping propel it to international notoriety. As a matter of fact, according to Raynor, the first-day BOY was open for business it was raided by the cops. The windows to the boutique were smashed and people got arrested. Even Sid Vicious paid the shop a visit wearing a pair of high heels amidst the chaos of the shop’s early days. BOY was joined at the hip with the small, but influential Blitz nightclub in Covent Garden that was frequented by the “Blitz Kids” who, among others icluded Steve Strange, Rusty Egan, and of course George O’Dowd. Raynor approached his pal George about representing BOY which he did with incredible enthusiasm, often stepping out in head-to-toe ensembles by BOY anywhere he went. Many of the images below of Boy George modeling BOY London’s fashions were taken by photographer Paul Gobel for the cover and marketing materials of O’Dowd’s first post Culture Club solo album, 1987’s Sold.
 

Photo by Paul Gobel.
 

 
More BOY on Boy action, after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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07.12.2017
09:57 am
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‘Bowie, Bolan, dressing up & going out’: Boy George takes a personal trip through the 1970s
04.21.2017
09:31 am
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September 1982: Hit rock ‘n’ roll singer Shakin’ Stevens can’t make his scheduled appearance on BBC chart show Top of the Pops. Panicked producers make the life-changing decision to fill the gap left by Shaky with an unknown pop group by the name of Culture Club. Minutes after the band’s debut television appearance on the show, phones start ringing at the BBC switchboard asking What the hell did we just watch?. Next day, newspapers run similar stories filled with offensive mock outrage questions: “Who is Boy George?” “Is he a boy or a girl?” Within weeks, Culture Club was number one and Boy George was the nation’s sweetheart.

But how did it come to this? Where did Boy George come from? What shaped the life of this brilliant, iconic “gender-bending” singer?

Well, these are some of the many questions answered by the lad himself as Boy George aka George O’Dowd takes the viewer on a very personal pop culture trip through the decade that shaped him—the 1970s.

The seventies are all too often dismissed by the more, shall we say, snobbish cultural critic as “the decade that fashion forgot,” ridiculed for its supposedly bad taste in fashion, politics, sex, music and hair. Yet for Boy George, the seventies was a “glorious decade…all about Bowie, Bolan, dressing up and going out.” The “last bonkers decade,” when the young teenage George discovered all these “amazing things… punk rock, electro music, fashion, all of that.”

Of course, there was the downside to all of this heady excitement: the political crisis, the three-day working weeks, the strikes, power cuts, mass unemployment, grim poverty, and racism. But George was too young to know much about any of this. He was too busy finding out about music and glamor and miming to Shirley Bassey in his parent’s front room. He was about to hit puberty. He felt different from the other kids and was looking for a sign that he was not alone in this gray suburban south London landscape.

Then came the sign he’d been hoping for: the day he saw David Bowie performing on Top of the Pops in 1972. That’s when George knew he wasn’t alone. The androgynous Bowie in his fire-red hair, make-up, and jumpsuit with his nail polished hand slung defiantly over Mick Ronson’s shoulder as they sang “Starman.” This was a sign that life could be extraordinary and was just an adventure to be gained.

Save Me from Suburbia is more than just Boy George telling his life story, it is an essential history of the events and pop culture that shaped a nation during ten heady years from skinheads and strikes to punk and Margaret Thatcher. George takes us on an utterly fascinating tour through the decade with a little help from his friends and accomplices like Rusty Egan, Princess Julia, Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife), and Caryn Franklin—and most revealingly his mother.
 
Watch Boy George’s revealing pop culture trip through the 1970s, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.21.2017
09:31 am
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Early photos of Boy George, Steve Strange & more at the club that launched the New Romantics

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DJ and singer Princess Julia with George O’Dowd aka Boy George.
 
Billy’s was a nightclub in Soho, London, where every Tuesday for most of 1978 two young men—Steve Strange and Rusty Egan—ran a club night playing tracks by David Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. The club was in a basement underneath a brothel. From this small cramped space a new generation of artists, writers, performers and DJs first met up and planned the future together. Punk was dead. It was uncool. It had gone mainstream. The teenagers who came to Billy’s wanted to create their own music, their own style and make their own mark on the world.

Among this small posse of teenagers were future stars like Boy George, Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Marilyn, Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), DJ Princess Julia, Jeremy Healy (Hasyi Fantayzee), Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife) and an eighteen-year-old Nicola Tyson who would go onto become one of the world’s leading figurative painters.

It’s rare that someone is savvy enough to ever take photographs of a nascent cultural revolution. But Nicola took her camera along to Billy’s and she documented the teenagers who frequented the club that launched the New Romantics and a whole new world of pop talent.
 
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A blonde-haired Siobhan Fahey with at friend at Billy’s long before she joined Bananarama and later Shakespeare’s Sister.
 
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Club host Steve Strange (in cap) with an unknown friend.
 
See more photos of Nicola’s photos, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.20.2017
01:47 pm
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Behold the ‘New Romantic’ Barbie: A vintage ‘Boy George’ doll straight from 1984
07.15.2016
10:32 am
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A 12-inch version of Boy George made by toy company, LJN in 1984.
 
Back in the magical year of 1984 toy company LJN put out a 12-inch version of a prominent member of the New Romantic movement, George Alan O’Dowd—otherwise known as Boy George—which came ready to party dressed in a “Color By Numbers” themed outfit.
 

A print ad for the Boy George doll by LJN.
 
Billed on the box as “The Original Outrageous Boy of Rock!” the toy Boy was fully poseable and his long hair came styled in one of his signature looks—braids tied with colorful ribbons to match the makeup on his face. Little Boy George also came with a microphone, hat and “posing stand.” Noted as an appropriate plaything for ages four and up, had I received a Boy George doll when I was a kid I would have promptly burned all of my Barbies in the backyard while Boy and I twirled around the fire to the sounds of “Karma Chameleon” playing on my boom box. Good times.

If you’re like me and had no idea that this delightfully dolled-up version of Boy George even existed and now must have one of your very own, you’re in luck as I found a few for sale on eBay. During my very important “research” for this post I also came across footage from a UK television show doing a feature on a Boy George doll (that came in two sizes—one rather alarmingly large) put out by a UK Culture Club fan club during which the gorgeous looking Mr. O’Dowd is presented with one of his very own—which he holds while singing a version of Cliff Richard and The Drifters song “Living Doll.” You can see that surreal event below along with a few images from die-hard CC fan, Flickr user KAZZ who went the extra mile and created custom outfits for her Boy George doll. All of this proves once again that the 80s were indeed much cooler (and a lot weirder) than most of our collective memories give it credit for. Enjoy!
 

 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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07.15.2016
10:32 am
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Boy George ‘Karma Chameleon’ telephone is the best/worst (and saddest) thing of all time
05.17.2016
09:05 am
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Culture Club and their gender-bending lead singer, Boy George, were top hitmakers in the ‘80s, selling more than 50 million records. Ten of their singles reached the Top 40 in the United States, and they dominated the early days of MTV (back when MTV still aired music videos).

Despite the fact that by the turn of the 21st Century, the ten-hit-wonder group was already practically a footnote in music history, some marketing genius in 2003 came up with this fucking thing:
 

 
This is the “Karma Chameleon” telephone, which was sold via television marketing at the “low, low price” of $69.95 (marked down from $89.95).

It’s a cheap plastic telephone in the shape of a chameleon and ladybug. When the phone “rings,” it plays the Culture Club hit “Karma Chameleon.” The animatronic lizard “sings,” while the ladybug plays the harmonica. The tacky chameleon lights up in the “red, gold, and green” from the song’s lyrics.

Boy George himself actually shows up in the commercial to hawk this item. How badly did he need the money at that point? It looks like they shot him with a VHS camcorder.

When I first saw this, it seemed so over-the-top stupid that I assumed it had to be a put-on—it’s SO “Tim & Eric”—but, no, this was a real, actual thing. Here’s a 2003 Entertainment Weekly article on it, and you can still find the phones on eBay from time to time.

I have to admit, now I kind of want one.
 

 
What it looks like in real life, after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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05.17.2016
09:05 am
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Leigh Bowery’s shock therapy: ‘When I’m dressed up I reach more people than a painting in a gallery’
03.28.2016
12:00 pm
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The dictionary defines the word “legend” as:

1. a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated.

2. an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field.

It would be fair to say this word fits rather snugly with the performance artist, designer, would-be pop star, icon, artist’s model and “work of art” Leigh Bowery.

When asked recently, “Who was Leigh Bowery?” I was briefly flummoxed as where to begin in any attempt to describe this wonderfully extravagant yet self-indulgent character. There were so many facets to his life—so many fictions, so many facts—it seemed rather unsporting to choose only one.

Leigh Bowery was born on March 26th, 1961, in the small working class suburb of Sunshine in Melbourne, Australia. He was was the eldest of two children born to Tom and Evelyn Bowery. His mother had lived her entire life in Sunshine and raised Leigh and his younger sister Bronwyn in a house opposite her own childhood home. Sunshine was that kind of community. People lived and died there—they knew their place and rarely ventured beyond its boundaries.

Leigh was a large beefy child with a head of golden curls. Because of his build, his father hoped Leigh would become an Australian rules football player or at the very least something sporty. Yet Leigh showed no inclination for such physical activities. He preferred gardening and later needlework—something he first learnt while convalescing in hospital after an operation to help his testicles descend.

At school he was a very bright pupil. He had a keen and enquiring mind, was constantly reading books and showed great aptitude for classical music—in particular playing the piano. His life changed after he won a scholarship to Melbourne High School.

Leigh later claimed that he had known he was gay from the age of twelve. During his time at Melbourne High, he began his sexual adventures. On his way home from school, Leigh cruised the public toilets at the central railway station. He discovered wearing a school uniform made him highly attractive to the older men.  By his own estimate—which may or may not be true—he claimed he had sex with about one thousand men before he left school.
 
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His parents had hoped Leigh would study music at university. Instead, he chose to study fashion design at the Melbourne Institute of Technology. Leigh was one of only two boys in his year. He quickly learnt how to machine sew and began making some of his early flamboyant designs. These were not exactly appreciated by his teachers who wanted him to design ladies’ underwear and children’s clothes.

But Leigh had moved ahead of such small ambitions and wanted to create his own designs. He was eighteen and had fallen under the influence of punk—as he later explained in an interview.

The thing which made everything click for me was the punk movement where people used themselves and their appearance to describe so much and I just loved Busby Berkeley movies—all those sequins and feathers—and I would always have my nose in a National Geographic, gazing at women with stretched necks and rings going in strange places.

Leigh was also very enamored with the club scene in London, which he read about in all the imported pop and fashion magazines he got his hands on.

I wanted to hang out with the art and fashion people. I wanted to go to nightclubs and look at the clothes in the shops. I loved the idea of punk and the New Romantics. England seemed the only place to go, I considered New York but that just seemed full of cheap copies of London. I don’t think I made a mistake.

He quit college and worked in a department store to raise the funds for the London move. When he arrived in the city of his dreams, Leigh lived with a friend. When this friend moved out, Leigh decided to change his life and become more involved with the city around him. According to his friend and biographer Sue Tilley, Leigh made a list of four resolutions on New Year’s Eve 1980:

1) Get his weight down to twelve stone.
2) Learn as much as possible.
3) Establish himself in either fashion, art or writing.
4) Wear make-up every day.

Leigh managed to meet three of these resolutions over the next decade.

Read more about Leigh Bowery, plus a documentary about him hosted by Hugh Laurie, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.28.2016
12:00 pm
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The Chemical Generation: Boy George investigates how Ecstasy changed the world
03.11.2016
09:05 am
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It’s the analogy of a young happy couple moving into their first home. They decorate it. They like to fill it with those things that best represent their tastes, likes and overall loveliness. Sometimes they might add an extension, put in new windows, or knock down a few walls. One day the couple moves on to another house and a younger couple moves in. The fashions wrought are soon changed—but the structure of the house generally stays the same.

Every generation makes some claim to having changed the world. There may be some truth in it. Still however the furnishings may change, overall human nature usually remains stubbornly the same. Similar loves, hates, fears and worries never too far beneath the skin—or that fresh new coat of paint.

Folk singer Pete Seeger once claimed music could unify people and bring them all together as one big happy family—eliminating differences and highlighting shared pleasures. There was a similar belief held out for drugs in the 1960s when Harvard professor Dr. Timothy Leary urged everyone to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Poet Allen Ginsberg thought if every politician dropped acid then world peace would result.

But can the hedonistic pleasures of drugs and music ever really change the world?

In the 1960s, Baby Boomers claimed they had revolutionized the world—made it better, more peaceful, freer. Weed, LSD, birth control and music had liberated everyone. Yet this belief is often founding wanting by the wars, oppression, racism, sexism, corporate greed, and some truly awful music produced during that decade and ever since. Pop music may have been widely available but LSD was only there for a certain elite—if you lived outside of a metropolitan area, your drug of choice then was probably alcohol or aspirin.

Similarly in the 1980s the raved up Ecstasy Generation claimed they had revolutionized the world with their raves and pills. But was it true? Did gurning and dancing and getting sorted for E’s and wizz really change society that much? Access to drugs was far easier, sure a byproduct of the Baby Boomers in the sixties looking for new experiences. The illicit production of ecstasy was enormous, which meant more people could sample the goods. By the mid-1990s, the Observer newspaper estimated that some 52 million ecstasy tablets were taken every weekend in the UK alone. And this in a nation of 63 million people!

Did rave culture have a greater effect on the world than hippies in the trippy sixties? If so how and what exactly (if anything) changed?
 

 
Superstar, singer, DJ, and famous former druggie Boy George is the ideal host to investigate these questions in this fascinating documentary The Chemical Generation. The ever radiant George examines the acid house, rave and club culture revolution, with considerable reference to the generation’s favorite chemical: methylenedioxy-methamphetamine—MDMA or ecstasy for short.

First broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 in 2000, The Chemical Generation tells the story of British club and drug culture from the early days of Acid House. Interviewing those on the front line—promoters, bouncers, drug dealers, clubbers, DJs (Danny Rampling, Judge Jules, Nicky Holloway, Pete Tong, Lisa Loud, Mike Pickering), top cops (Ken Tappenden, former Divisional Commander of Kent Police) and those cultural figures who have written about ecstasy culture (Irvine Welsh, Dave Haslam).

As an introductory note, a brief history to rave culture in the UK goes something like this:

In 1987 four working class males, Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway and Johnny Walker found themselves in clubs across Ibiza, listening to the music which was to make them legends in the dance scene and transform the face of youth subculture in Britain. Not only did they discover the musical genre of Acid House, played by legendary house DJ’s Alfredo Fiorillo and Jose Padilla in clubs such as Amnesia and Pacha, they were also crucially introduced to the drug MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy. Johnny Walker describes the experience:

“It was almost like a religious experience; a combination of taking ecstasy and going to a warm, open-air club full of beautiful people - you’re on holiday, you feel great and you’re suddenly being exposed to entirely different music to what you were used to in London. This strange mixture was completely fresh and new to us, and very inspiring”

More after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.11.2016
09:05 am
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Comedy trolling genius interviews Cheech & Chong, Zappa, Boy George and McCartney

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Before Ali G, Borat and Keith Lemon, “Norman Gunston” was trolling celebrities with his bogus interviews for Australian television. Gunston was the madcap creation of actor-comedian Garry McDonald, who ambushed celebrities and probed them with his microphone and excruciatingly dumb questions.

Gunston made his first (brief) appearances on the Pythonesque Aunty Jack Show in 1972, before becoming the “legendary un-personality” on spin-off series Wollongong the Brave in 1974. With his shiny blue suit and his face covered with blood-spotted pieces of tissue paper, the beautifully observed Gunston was an instant hit.
 
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Gunston excited to be probing a Beatle.
 
Over the years, Norman Gunston interviewed Paul and Linda McCartney, Cheech and Chong (who he mistakes as comedy duo Morecambe and Wise), and Lee Marvin (caught in a airport terminal). Sometimes the stars played along—like a flirtatious Karen Black or Frank Zappa, who happily jammed with the harmonica-playing Gunston, or Muhammed Ali who said to Gunston “I’m punchy, what’s your excuse?” 

Occasionally, the celebs didn’t know how to handle Gunston—like an eyeballing Elliott Gould, or a confused Warren Beatty, but their desperate responses only add to the comedy.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.13.2015
09:07 am
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‘I pity the fool who messes with my Boy, George’—An unlikely A-Team cameo
09.03.2015
08:38 am
Topics:
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When I was a kid I liked The A-Team and I liked Culture Club, yet somehow I never knew about Boy George’s inexplicable guest-star gig on the NBC program. I’ll chalk this up to a combination of not expecting these two worlds to collide and the fact that by the fourth season, The A-Team had already “jumped the shark” and was moved to the Friday at 8:00 pm slot up against Webster. Webster was hot shit.

Face (Dirk Benedict) has a scheme to make big money as a club promoter managing a “Cowboy George” concert at a local redneck bar. The ol’ bait-and-switch brings Boy George to play the contractually-obligated gig, not at the promised “Arizona Forum,” but at the “Floor ‘Em.”

The rednecks at the Floor ‘em aren’t the biggest Boy George fans in the world, indicating that they “don’t want no English glitter prince.” Boy George is likewise not excited about playing the roadhouse which he describes as “a certified toilet.”

B.A. (Mr. T) shows up and is star-struck by Boy George, whom he is a huge fan of.
 

 
Believe it or not, things get really convoluted from there. Boy George has to entertain the roughneck good ol’ boy crowd at the Floor ‘Em while the A-Team guys investigate the shady dealings of the club owners. Of course Culture Club inexplicably wins over the rowdy roadhouse crowd.  While Culture Club plays, the A-Team foils a bank robbery in typical A-Team style with lots of bullets and explosions but with no actual people being shot or blown up. When the A-Team gets falsely imprisoned for the robbery they foiled, it’s up to Murdock (Dwight Schultz) and Boy George to bust them out and catch the bad guys. All’s well that ends well with an encore Culture Club performance at the Floor ‘Em with a rousing performance of “Karma Chameleon.”
 

 
This episode has made such illustrious lists as “The 25 worst cameos in TV history” and “Most embarrassing TV moments.”

Here’s an abbreviated and condensed version of the bizarre episode:
 

 

Posted by Christopher Bickel
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09.03.2015
08:38 am
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Boy George, Gary Numan, Elvis Costello & more tell what ‘they’d’ do if they were Prime Minister


 
In June of 1983, in her first bid for reelection, Margaret Thatcher won “the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945,” according to Wikipedia. For the unionists, punkers, anti-nuke activists, and enemies of the National Front, it was a depressing outcome, parallel to Reagan’s easy reelection in the U.S. a year later. Labour’s platform was stridently left-wing, seeking unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the European Economic Community, abolition of the House of Lords, and the re-nationalization of the major industries Thatcher had privatized.

Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman later referred to his own party’s platform as “the longest suicide note in history.” Labour was in the same predicament the Democrats in the U.S. found themselves in, led by standard-bearers like Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.
 

 
As with any major election, the subject was on everyone’s lips for a time. Smash Hits, the U.K. magazine, printed a two-page spread in its June 9, 1983, issue—the issue that would be on the newsstands when voters cast their ballots—in which they asked various prominent musicians “What Would You Do If You Were Prime Minister?” Included in the spread were Elvis Costello, Mark E. Smith of the Fall, Boy George, Gary Numan, and Malcolm McLaren.

The answers given by Costello and Smith are terse, and, each in its own way, perfectly representative. Boy George and Numan actually appear to have given the question some thought and give detailed answers. In general the answers are thoughtful but overall, especially with McLaren’s answer, tend to give credence to George Orwell‘s 1946 reference to “the irresponsible violence of the powerless.”

Probably the most attention-getting item on the page is Numan’s avowal of admiration for Margaret Thatcher, whose perceived image among left-leaning musicians was roughly that of the Wicked Witch of the West, as it remains today. Numan’s received plenty of flak for his early views—in 2006 he expressed regret that he had ever supported Thatcher, telling DJ Jonty Skrufff that “I voted for Margaret Thatcher once and it’s lived with me ever since. ... Like a noose around my neck.”

Support for Thatcher (or Reagan) wouldn’t be high on my list of attributes I’d seek in a friend, but the way I see it, Numan’s original answer was thoughtful and heartfelt and, most important, it took true guts to counter the orthodoxy of the artsy crowd he was running with at the time. 

Here are quotes from some of the participants:
 

Steve Severin, Siouxsie and the Banshees:

I’d stop the Cruise missiles, ban fox-hunting and animal experiments, change the licensing laws to open all the time—well, possibly—and I’d ban censorship, if such a thing were possible. I’d probably abolish the BBC or get it burnt down. One of the two. I’d also make Glenn Hoddle stay at Tottenham.

Gary Numan:

Personally, I’d like to see all the closed-down factories being incorporated into the school system so they can train school-leavers. I really like Maggie Thatcher—she’s everything that we needed and made me proud to feel British. The way the country’s going I really think that we’re on the way to recovery. Business is picking up and I liked the way she handled the Falklands’ crisis. But it’s hard for me to talk about British politics being rather outside it all.

Elvis Costello:

If Maggie wins again, I think I’d just take all the programmes off the air and just play Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All” for the next 24 hours.

Boy George:

I don’t think any politician is in touch with the realities and pressures that normal working class people have to live with. I realised that after seeing Margaret Thatcher on Jim’ll Fix It. There’s so much money and glamour involved in politics today that I can see why it’s hard for politicians to stay in touch. If I was in power I’d lean more towards ecology—improving the environment people live in. You have to understand why Coronation Street is so popular. It’s because people like the kind of environment where they can communicate with each other. The worst thing that ever happened to this country was council-built, high-rise blocks. I would spend more money on renovating old buildings in an attempt to preserve Britain’s character. I’d make a lousy politician, though, because I’m too soft.

Mark E. Smith, The Fall:

I’d halve the price of cigarettes, double the tax on health food, then I’d declare war on France and introduce conscription for all members of CND [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament].

Malcolm McLaren:

The Union Jack to be pulled down and a new flag with a big banana to be hoisted in its place. Free transport for everyone. An instant law that would shut out all TV, radio and press, encouraging everyone to invent their own truth. All public clocks to be put out of order.

The requisition of British Airways in order to transport all people under 16 to some more exotic part of the world. Parents must go to school and children to their Mum or Dad’s place of work. Everyone to write their own personal cheer, for example (sings): MY NAME’S MALCOLM—I COMMUNICATE/IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, YOU DON’T RATE/UPSIDE, DOWNSIDE/TURN THE TIDES MY SIDE/YOU—SHUT UP!

Everyone’s cheer shall thereafter be yelled by themselves throughout my term of office.

 

I found this issue of Smash Hits at the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives, which is located at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. It is free and open to the public. Visit their website for more information.

Here’s the full spread—click for a much larger view:
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.10.2015
04:11 pm
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Do you really want to out me?: The trial of Kirk Brandon vs. Boy George

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The golden rule: Never sue anyone unless you know you are going to win.

Eighties pop star Kirk Brandon should have considered this when he sued Boy George (aka George O’Dowd) for “malicious falsehood over allegations of homosexuality” contained in the singer’s autobiography Take It Like A Man and his song “Unfinished Business.”
 

 
Brandon is known as the frontman of band Theater of Hate, who had several hit singles in the 1980s most notably “Do You Believe in the Westworld?” Boy George is Boy George, and as everyone knows has achieved global success as a solo artist, DJ and with the band Culture Club notching up a string of number one records. Back in 1980, Brandon and George were members of the Blitz Kids—the young trendsetting New Romantics who were creating a club scene and were soon to dominate the pop charts.

In 1997, Brandon was incensed that George had “outed” him by writing about the couple’s “alleged homosexual relationship in the early 1980s.” (What’s wrong, I wonder, with just saying “relationship”?) Brandon said the “gay allegations” had damaged his career as a musician, claiming he “was terrified of being ridiculed as `some blond peroxided poof’.” A damning quote that tells you all you need to know about Mr. Brandon.
 
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The Blitz Kids: Kirk and George, 1980.
 
By 1997, Brandon was married and had a child, his wife Christina said, “It’s every woman’s worst nightmare to be told their partner is gay”.

Christina, 28, first read about the alleged affair in the gender-bender’s autobiography, Take It Like A Man, which was published in July, 1995.

And as she skimmed through the book in a bookshop her world fell apart.

“We had only been married a year and I just couldn’t believe what I was reading,” she says. “I knew that Kirk had been friendly with Boy George. I loved hearing about their time together. But, all of a sudden, I was reading about this intimate, sexual relationship they were meant to have had. I felt confused. Betrayed and humiliated. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. Then I felt angry.

“I rushed home to confront Kirk. I wanted the truth. Why he had lied to me? This could so easily have destroyed our marriage.

“But I know Kirk really well and I believe him when he says it’s not true.”

Yet, Brandon’s litigation was to prove otherwise.
 
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Brandon and George in the early 1980s.
 
When the case came to trial in April 1997, bucking the trusim that the man who is his own attorney has a fool for a client, Brandon represented himself. He told the court how he had helped Boy George from his first band and that they were good friends, adding:

He would sometimes stay at the singer’s squats—but was away on tour when he is alleged to have had the affair.

Mr Brandon said: “[Boy George’s] career took off and his mind was otherwise occupied. He was totally ambiguous and never confirmed or denied any sexual preference, terrified of rejection and the obscurity which would follow.

“Unbeknown to me, in the midst of his wealth, his obsession for me turned into something bitter, some might call it evil, a grudge. Somewhere in his mind he believed I had dumped him. Perhaps somewhere in his drug problems or whatever, his hatred focused on me. Some years later became a cleverly calculated possibility. As [George] stated himself, his book would be his revenge. He wrote his book and wrote of the relationship he really imagined he had had.”

Mr Brandon said he also believed that the attempt to ‘out’ him which would gain publicity for the book and song was part of a ‘sickening and totally reprehensible strategy.’

 
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Brandon’s opening gambit made him sound as if he was the man obsessed with Boy George, and bitter at his former lover’s success. He then began to interrogate Boy George asking him if he thought outing people in the public arena was a good idea? A question that implied Brandon himself had been in the closet.

“I don’t think you should be ashamed of what you are,” O’Dowd replied. “I don’t think you should wilfully drag people out of their closets, but our relationship was public knowledge. It was not something you denied at the time, You denied it later on.”

He told Brandon he was being “homophobic” in bringing the court action. “I said in my book that you were very talented and I loved you,” O’Dowd said. “Where is the damage in that? I am much more brutal about myself in the book about myself than anybody else.”

Avoiding the accusation of “homophobia,” Brandon changed tact accusing George of having “a kind of vendetta” against him:

“Why have you been obsessed with me all your adult life?”

O’Dowd: I am not obsessed with you.

Brandon: You were obsessed and you probably still are. Have you ever thought of leaving me alone?

O’Dowd: I would not say I am obsessed. I would say the obsession would be more on your part if you thought I was insane, why take this action? Why not just shrug and say: ‘He’s mad?’

Brandon: I would say you are a professional liar.

 
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The questioning shifted to the lyrics of Boy George’s song “Unfinished Business” from the album Cheapness and Beauty that George admitted was about Brandon.

He said the lyrics the lyrics included the line “You lie” and “You walk like a jack but are more of a queen”.

He added: “It says that [Brandon] has lied about our relationship and continues to do so. Songs are a way of exorcising feelings.”

Brandon: You get pleasure out of writing vindictive songs.

O’Dowd: Kirk, you were in a band called Theatre of Hate. You weren’t called the Blushing Flowers.

Brandon: Theatre of Hate was an art-house name.

 
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The questioning sounded like the petty tiff of two former lovers rather than a formal cross examination. Any points Brandon thought he had scored were undermined by the appearance of one of Brandon’s former lovers Naimi Ashcroft who suggested the two men had been sexually intimate.

She said that she and Brandon had to hide from O’Dowd in nightclubs: “He did say George was upset and was looking to beat me up.”

Brandon told her: “You are here to fit Mr O’Dowd’s jigsaw. Can’t you just simply forget about me and get on with your own life?”

Every piece of a jigsaw has its own place and the picture the trial revealed was not one that Brandon particularly wanted to see.
 
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Brandon admitted sharing a bed with George in a squat in central London in 1980 but denied any sexual activity.

George recalled: “I said, ‘I don’t have a spare bed,’ and he said: ‘I will be safe won’t I?’” Both kept their T-shirts and underwear on as they shared the mattress.

George added: “Kirk pulled hold of me and we started kissing.

“But on the first night, it was mainly hugging, kissing and touching, very affectionate, but no sexual activity.”

George admitted that in the morning he was unsure if he would see Brandon again in such an intimate way, but he returned with a bag and stayed for several days at the squat. George admitted he was very inexperienced at the time.

“Kirk never said he thought of me as a woman, but outside of the bed I did a very good job of looking feminine,” added george, “We slept together more than 100 times.”

George went on: “We were very close. Kirk was the great love of my life at that time. We were inseparable, holding hands in public and I was walking around in high heel shoes.”

Eventually the relationship finished and Brandon moved out claiming he needed “space.” George described how he “smashed up” his room and “cried for a while and walked in the rain.”

The trial lasted seven days at the High Court in London, with Judge Douglas Brown ruling in favor of Boy George, describing him as “an impressive witness.” As he gave his verdict, Kirk Brandon sat staring straight ahead as the Judge said:

“It’s difficult to believe Mr Brandon did not have a physical relationship with Mr O’Dowd.

“Mr Brandon agrees he knew Mr O’Dowd was a homosexual who was sexually interested in him, but went and stayed in his bed without protest, and without asking whether there was an alternative place to sleep.”

The judge added he did not believe Brandon:

“I am satisfied he has not been truthful about their physical relationship.”

Brandon was ordered to pay an estimated £250,000 in costs, but said he was unable to do so as he was bankrupt. Outside the High Court, he told reporters he had no regrets in taking Boy George to court:

“It was a matter of honour.”

The trail wasn’t about “honour” it was about Brandon’s misplaced personal sense of pride and vanity. His actions made him look foolish, petty, and dishonest. Boy George was vindicated, and left the court telling reporters that the verdict was “a great, great day for gay rights.”

A gallery of photographs of Boy George and Kirk Brandon in the early 1980s and clippings about the trial from 1997 can be found here.

A now bearded Boy George and Culture Club tour the USA this November details here. Theatre of Hate tour the UK this December details here.
 

 
H/T The Blitz Kids.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.27.2014
12:05 pm
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Boy George and Jerry Falwell talk androgyny on ‘Face the Nation,’ 1984


 
In the early ‘80s, the USA had a minor collective shitfit about blurred gender divisions. The subject emerged into the mass consciousness almost out of nowhere—all of a sudden, three mainstream movies had cross dressing as their central themes, and Michael Jackson and other androgyny-friendly musicians were experiencing huge pop chart success. Obviously, genderfuck had been a part of rock culture for a long time—it was a decade earlier that David Bowie and Lou Reed made career moves of conspicuous bisexual posturing, and then of course there were the New York Dolls—but MTV pumping Duran Duran, Haysi Fantayzee, and the Belle Stars into millions of Midwestern living rooms newly wired for cable was an altogether different level of cultural penetration.

The appearance of artists like Annie Lennox, Dee Snider and Pete Burns definitely startled a lot of normals, but the figure who, all by himself, racked up by far the high score of shat Middle-American underpants was Boy George of Culture Club. He was such a harmless and goofy figure, but 30 years ago, a lot of people found him genuinely threatening. DM’s Martin Schneider recently made a well-deserved poke at the Midwestern response to Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers tour. As I was a teenaged Clevelander at the time, I can personally vouch for the truth of that piece. A lot of “grownups” fully lost their shit about Boy George.
 

I still don’t get what the big deal was.

Of course, the national news media had to explore the issue for baffled masses in grave danger of seeing the totally artificial social construct to which they were accustomed fall slightly apart on a superficial level. Leslie Stahl, for one, explored “The Feminization of America” on Face the Nation in 1984.
 

 
I love how “the feminizing of society” is illustrated with clips of men doing laundry and caring for infants. Who, WHO I ASK YOU, will save this degenerate civilization from the horror of fathers acting like parents? But as the segment continued, I found myself astonished that the discussion was civil, adult, and not completely trivializing. Megatrends author John Naisbitt offers some perfectly sensible if perhaps simplified insights, and then JERRY FALWELL of all people is genial, respectful, and, though obviously faaaaaaaar from progressive in his views, he’s not totally insane and hateful. The way he was towards the end of his life, I honestly expected him to do some bonkers shit like blame a tornado on Yentl. Imagine a similar conversation as it would happen on Hannity, McLaughlin, or The Five today, and weep for what we’ve lost in just 30 years.
 

 
Apologies, by the way, for the huge glitch in the middle of Falwell’s comments. Not that it’s likely they were illuminating or anything, but I did try to locate an alternate video, and turned up nothing. It’s probably not that great of a loss—in part three, Falwell predictably, and in scripturally unconvincing terms, goes on to defend the American post-WWII gender status quo as God’s eternal and ineffable will, and is called out on his blatant cultural and class biases by co-panelist/actual smartest person in the room Benjamin DeMott. But the most intelligent and moving comments in the whole segment come from Boy George himself. The insights he proffers in his one-on-one interview with Stahl remain relevant today, and fully make up for my disappointment that he and Falwell weren’t on the live panel together. I generally dislike the Internet’s abuse of the adjective “epic,” but god damn, THAT would have been a valid use.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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04.03.2014
09:29 am
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Boy Serge: Gainsbourg does his best Boy George impression
05.06.2013
12:19 pm
Topics:
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Boy Serge.

Serge Gainsbourg impersonates Boy George and gives French comedian/singer Patrick Sébastien a big smooch on the lips.

Gainsbourg may be the only person on the planet who can dress up like Boy George and not lose my respect.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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05.06.2013
12:19 pm
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We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thing: Boy George’s fierce ‘No Clause 28’ protest song, 1988

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One of Boy George’s best pieces of music—well, in my book, anyway—is 1988’s seldom-heard slice of fierce, dance music protest, “No Clause 28.” I picked it up, neither knowing what it was about, nor having actually heard it, because of the amazing cover artwork by Jamie Reid depicting Boy George as Enid Blyton’s “Noddy.” It’s a pretty amazing record of its time, in more ways than one.

Clause 28 or Section 28, as it was also known, was an addition to the Local Government Act of 1988. Clause 28 stipulated that local government councils in the UK “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

This was the end of the Thatcher era and due to newly widespread awareness—and fear—of AIDS, then considered a gay disease, homosexuality was frowned upon in such a way that it was thought necessary to officially condemn it and protect children from it. The matter was largely a symbolic issue, but it caused many gay and lesbian groups at high schools and universities to close shop.

The night before Section 28 became law (May 24, 1988) a lesbian chained herself to the desk of BBC Six O’Clock News presenter Sue Lawley. Parliament was also invaded by lesbian activists scaling the building like rock climbers.

In many ways, Clause 28 is what saw the cohesion of Britain’s modern gay rights movement. Aside from Boy George, many big name celebrities spoke out about Clause 28, such as Ian McKellen, beloved One Foot in the Grave actress Annette Crosbie, Helen Mirren, Jane Horrocks and comics great, Alan Moore.

The Section was repealed on June 21, 2000 in Scotland, and in the rest of Great Britain in November of 2003. It’s worth noting that Prime Minister David Cameron was vocally in support of keeping the Section intact, although he thought better of this later and apologized in 2010.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.26.2012
12:30 pm
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The Legend of Leigh Bowery

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The Legend of Leigh Bowery is a brilliant documentary about a brilliant man.

Directed by Charles Atlas, the film covers Bowery’s life and times from his suburban beginnings in Sunshine, Australia, to his fame on London’s club scene in the 1980s and his success as one of the most influential and daring fashion designers in the past thirty years.

The Legend of Leigh Bowery has incredible archive footage and excellent contributions from Michael Clark, Sue Tilley, Michael Bracewell, Richard Torry, Donald Urquhart, Damien Hirst, Boy George and Leigh’s wife, Nicola Bowery.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Leigh Bowery interviewed by Gary Glitter from ‘Night Network’, 1989


 
Watch the rest of ‘The Legend of Leigh Bowery’, after the jump…
 

READ ON
Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.20.2011
06:43 pm
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