Fame, sex and drugs – the many trials of Boy George
Published 06/12/2008 | 13:22
If Boy George is planning on writing a third autobiography, he need look no further than the name of his band's 1986 album for a title. From Luxury to Heartache is an almost perfect summation of a career that began with No 1 singles and albums then lurched into heroin addiction before tailing off in a myriad of arrests and embarrassment.
Yesterday, the 47-year-old's career hit a new low when he was told he may go to jail after being found guilty of falsely imprisoning a Norwegian male escort in his east London flat. Even for a man whose stage act involves wearing high heels and lipstick, the courtroom revelations would have been uncomfortable, albeit unsurprising.
Boy George has never been a stranger to controversy. He revelled in it during his 27-year career, flaunting his homosexuality without declaring it. In 1981, he was spotted by Malcolm McLaren, the manager of the Sex Pistols, and invited to perform with a band called Bow Wow Wow. But he abandoned the project and formed his own outfit, Culture Club.
In its first year, "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" became a No 1 single in the UK. And Culture Club became the first group since The Beatles to have three Top 10 hits in the US with singles from their debut album. Their second album reached No 1 and featured their most famous hit, "Karma Chameleon", which went to the top of the UK and US charts in 1983.
Even in those early days, George was controversial. His sexuality was a fascination and a source of constant speculation for the British press, fuelled by his ambiguous responses to questions about his sexual orientation. He once replied that he'd "rather have a cup of tea", when asked by the television host Russell Harty if he liked sex.
Eventually, he said he was bisexual and admitted he had been having a long-term affair with the Culture Club drummer, Jon Moss, and that Moss, who apparently broke off his relationship with a woman to be with George, was the inspiration for many of George's songs.
Then there was the drug dependence. In 1985, George developed a heroin addiction. His drug habit, at its height, cost him £500 a day. In 1986, he was arrested for possessing the drug. The same year, Michael Rudetski, who had played keyboards for Culture Club, died of a heroin overdose while staying at George's apartment. George's addiction tore the band apart and it broke up – the first of two such splits. George enrolled in a rehabilitation programme and weaned himself off drugs.
With the band over, he went solo, recording singles and collaborating with other artists in the late 1980s and 1990s. At the turn of the century, he re-invented himself as a club DJ, playing sets in Ibiza and at the legendary London club, Ministry of Sound.
But the controversies were never far behind. In October 2005, while living in the US, he was arrested for possession of cocaine but the charge was dropped. In August 2006, he was again in trouble after falsely reporting a burglary at his Manhattan flat. He was subsequently ordered to carry out community service, which involved going on "garbage duty" in New York.
In 2007, he was arrested again for possessing cocaine and faced perhaps his most serious allegation yet – the false imprisonment of Audun Carlsen.
Perhaps an insight into his state of mind can be gleaned from an interview he gave at the start of this year. "I wanted 2007 to end, with a line drawn firmly under it, and move on," he said. "The last couple of years were shit. I mean, I got arrested twice. I'll be 47 in June. It affects everything in your life. I don't ever want to see a policeman again. I have a New Year's resolution; I'm going to try hard to become a shrinking violet."