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…