Boy George: Rolling Stone Q and A

Culture Club's lead singer gossips as only he can in his new book, Take It Like a Man

Boy George from Culture Club, London, England,1984. Credit: Mike Prior/Redferns/Getty

Where else but in Boy George's new autobiophy, Take It Like a Man, would there be an index with these sorts of headings: heroin ("We slept for most of the next day, retching, sweating and crying"); Michael, George ("I called [him] a closet, and he said he was going to kick my arse. I retorted, 'Don't you mean fondle?' "); hair, dyeing ("[Mum] screamed when she saw my hair. 'You animal!' ") Now that's entertainment! George also has a glammy new album out, titled Cheapness and Beauty. At his hotel suite in New York, where he has journeyed to plug these products, George takes some time out to chat. "Would you mind talking to me in the bathroom?" he says. "I'm putting on my makeup." The process takes exactly 1 hour and 15 minutes.

What's the beauty product you can't live without?

The male form. [Laughs]

You were on Live With Regis and Kathie Lee this morning. What's Kathie Lee like?

Next question! [Laughs] She's fine, you know.

Fine is a four-letter word!

Yep! So's nice.

Give me a nickname that someone has for you.

A horrible one: My friend used to call me Chanting Pig because when I was Hare Krishna I used to chant a lot. She used to say, 'If the Krishnas found out what you were really like, they'd throw you out!' I don't talk to her anymore, but not because she called me Chanting Pig.

Any other nicknames?

What kind of interview is this? [Laughs] Well, in school I was called things like bum bandit, shirt lifter. Things like that. Is my voice breaking? [Laughs]

How'd you decide on covering "Funtime" on Cheapness and Beauty?

It's a song that reminds me of being 16, 17, and having no responsibilities. I was living in squats and having quite a lot of fun. Plus I didn't want to do something too classical.

Fill in the blank. When a guy wears a blank, I just cringe.

A frown. I hate miserable people, I really do. I'm an emotional sponge, and people who throw my change on the counter really bug me heavily. I particularly hate awkward lift silences. Sometimes I actually start singing or say, 'Hi, everyone!' Sometimes they laugh, and other times they get out on another floor.

Did you ever get your palm read?

Once somebody grabbed me in an airport in Italy years ago, looked at my hand, and said, 'Ooh, always trouble in love.' And so far he's been right.

What do people want you to sign in your book?

Sometimes people come up and say, "Can you write it to [outer boroughs accent] Jerry, Allen, Anita and Paul, and can you say, 'Karma karma karma karma chameleon?' " And you're like "No."

In your book, you say, "The War Song" 's "patronizing lyrics and brain-curdling melody was enough to drive even the most hard-core Culture Club fan into hiding."

When I did that song, it was when Frankie Goes to Hollywood first hit. And it was one of the few times when I tried to jump on a bandwagon: "Oh, let's be political!" And it just didn't work. I deserved what I got for that record.

Can we discuss Gavin Rossdale of Bush for a second here?

Who? [Laughs]

Come on, now. Let's not be coy.

What do you want to know? It's in the book. [Laughs]

You say in the book that Marilyn [the graspy London drag fixture of the '80s] was his boyfriend. Is that right? Have you heard from Gavin since the book came out?

I haven't spoken to him, so I don't know. The thing is, somebody called me about six months ago and said, "You're never going to believe this! Gavin's in this huge band in America!" And then they said, "What about the book?" And I said, "Well, shit happens!" People fall in love with different types of people. It happened to me. I mean, I kissed a girl once. Do I have to say I'm ashamed of it? That kind of attitude really, really does piss me off. I just go with the view that people are sexual and that people are attracted to people for various reasons. If you think back to the '60s, people like Mick Jagger...I mean, once upon a time, rock stars were interesting. What happened? Let's get back to that! I mean ... it happened. Gavin should be pleased about what I didn't put in the book!

You tell me now.

No!

Please!

Fuck off! [Laughs]

Your book details your first heroin experience. It hardly seemed glamorous.

I think everybody takes drugs for the same reason. People do it to escape. A lot of performers are very insecure people, and part of the whole reason why we want fame is that we want to be loved. What you find is that when you reach that peak where you're supposed to be satisfied, you're feeling just as empty because nothing outside of yourself can make you feel whole.

Nice shoes.

Versace. Gianni gave them to me.

Any fashion phases that you've regretted?

Um, I've had some scary looks. I had a pretty scary one this morning. I did my eyelids up in a creepy way. I did it like that yesterday, and it worked really well. Kind of Priscilla Presley meets Alice Cooper. I didn't do it quite right today. When I was doing drugs there were a few scary looks, as you can imagine.

In the book you describe your encounter with Keith Richards. I believe you said he was "like a ravaged baboon" and that he reminded you of your Uncle Jim.

Marilyn and I were in Jamaica, and he was like "Let's hang out with Keith Richards." I was like "I don't want to hang out with Keith Richards."

Why?

Couldn't be bothered, really. I think he's great, but when I go on holiday, I just want peace and quiet.

What's the worst pick-up line you've ever used?

"You know what would look good on you? Me." That's an old one.