The Face Interview: Boy George
Face - November 1982 issue
Fiona: "Each man kills the things he loves" - how would you kill the things or person you love?
GO'D: I don't believe in killing people that you love; if you love someone you don't want to kill them, ultimately you want the best for them. That's the sort of thing that frightens me about America - the way people have guns and they can just shoot each other, 'cos you know the way you get into a temper with someone and you can just shoot them. I think that's awful. People I hate - I wouldn't physically kill the, just psychologically kill them, I'd spend all my time hating them and voodooing them into non-existence. (George opens up some fan mail that is lying on the desk.) Oh look, she's got my phone number! Shall I read you a bit of this fan letter?
OK, just keep the names out of it.
" Dear George, I love you..." I don't think I'd better read you all of it because it's personal, but it just says, "I've got your phone number and I love you more than anyone".
Is it from a boy or a girl?
For once and for all - are you gay?
Well, to the local bricklayer I suppose I would be, but probably not to you if you think in that sort of terminology. I don't really know because I've never not one done or the other. When I was at school I used to go with girls all the time, it was like an obsession.
Why, were you trying to prove something?
No, I'm not that sort of person. For a start, I'm not a sexual person. I don't think I'm sexy. I don't think there's anything that needs to be proved but if you watch Top Of The Pops and see the dancers and ask them if they've got something to prove, I think you'd probably get a better answer from them because they have.
Why do you think that you get so much fan mail? I can't imagine many people identifying with you.
I think that with Culture Club and especially with me - because of the interviews - you can see that I'm not a prize prat and because I don't say silly things, I think people do identify with that side of it, the conversation side of it. I think a lot of people are confused about what they're doing, like why do they dress up, right? if you go to The Palace - a lot of those people are so confused about what they're doing, they spend so much time trying to be normal, it's like their whole life is obsessed with normality - I mean, basically, that's why they're so outrageous.
But you don't exactly seem to stay at home with a good book every evening!
When I was about 14 I used to go to the local disco and I used to go there every week regardless of whether it's boring or not because I just like going out. If you stay in your flat all day you're going to want to go out for a breath of fresh air sometime or other, even if it's just sticking your head out of the window. I don't go out to meet people, I'm a very on-the-spur-of-the-moment person, it's not a planned thing, I just like to go out.
I'm afraid I missed your performance last week.
It was a Capital Radio / Junior Best Disco In Town, anyway, so it was all quite young people, everybody was about 14 or 15. It was great, fantastic. I really enjoyed myself. When you play to kids like that they enjoy themselves, there's no pretentiousness and they don't think they're better than you. If you play somewhere like the Hacienda in Manchester they just bloody stare at you. They act like, "Oh we're not enjoying you 'cos we're just as good as you" and all that crap. Most of the little kids that go to the Camden Palace dress great, they dress better than anyone who tries to dress up and they treat it like a party. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
Do you remember Marilyn?
Yeah, I got a letter from him today. He's living in LA. But I don't want to talk about Marilyn! Come on, fire your questions.
When you did your NME "Portrait of an Artist as a Consumer", was that tongue-in-cheek or genuine?
" The People with Bigger Egos than Me" was orginally going to be "Rotten People with No Feelings" but Virgin wouldn't let me do it because it was mainly a list of journalists and Virgin didn't want me to go too over the top, but I felt that all those people deserve a kick in the teeth.
Is there any truth in the rumour that Pete Burns from Dead Or Alive came down from Birmingham specially to beat you up?
He doesn't really hate me. It's the old thing of looking at somebody and having a preconception of what they're like. Everyone does it; I did it when I was a kid but I've grown out of it now. I couldn't care less what people think about me, besides, he's entitled to his opinion.
Have you any brothers or sisters?
Five brothers and one sister.
So, are you Roman Catholic?
Yes. I've got a Catholic background but I'm not religious. I don't believe in God, God as a person that is, but I believe in the spirit. I don't believe that there's somebody up there with a bowl of rice waiting to feed us. I believe in life after death, I think that we all go back into the earth really, I don't think that we actually come back as another person but we all end up as maggots and that sort of thing. After all, we fertilise the earth don't we? We must come from something. It's a bit naive to think that we don't live again in some form.
Are your parents practising Catholics? The reason why I ask is because I was wondering what their reactions have been to your appearance and lifestyle.
They've never been practising Catholics becuase they're the same as me, they believe that if you're going to do something good, you do it, you don't talk about doing it. You don't clutch a pair of rosaries and pretend you're a really good person, if you really want to be good then go and work with people who need help. I don't believe in all this gushing shit. I'm not a good person because I don't help anybody. That's one of the things that I admire about people like Jimmy Saville, I know you probably think it's corny, but you've got to think how lucky you are. I know people who are in a really bad way, the most important thing is not giving money and things, it's actually giving them your time and your friendship.
I think a lot of people consider you to be facile and a bit of a bitch. Do you agree?
Well, I am pretty bitchy but I'm not facile. Listen, when I go out, people say to me, "Oh, you must be rolling in money," you must be this, you must be that. Let them think what they want, I really couldn't give two shits about their opinion. The thing is, I haven't become aware of what I'm doing, I'm not aware that I'm at Number 3. I'm not any different to when I was Number 38 or when I wasn't in the charts at all, I don't feel any different and I always thought that I would, and now I'm so glad that I haven't changed. I'm sure that if I ever started to feel cocksure of myself then I'd get really depressed. I hope it never affects me. I don't want to turn into an exclusive person sitting indoors not wanting to get out. I'm happy, I lead a happy life. I eat what I want, say what I want, do what I want, I'm not aware of being a star so I don't have to pretend to be anything. If I want to go out without any make-up on and people come up to me and say "Ugh you look really awful without make-up on," it doesn't bother me because I am what I am - a normal person. I think what some don't realise is that a lot of normal people are buying our single, like housewives. So when people say to me "Oh, you're only getting somewhere on your look", it's shit. Up to about two weeks ago, most people thought I was a girl. DLT called me a girl with a great voice and did you see that thing in the Sunday People slagging me off, saying - what was IT? That's me. Calling me Wally of the Week, I laughed; besides, who wants to be ignored? I don't take it that seriously, I used to go to work on the train every day, and every morning I used to get on the same train, the same people used to see me, and they all used to laugh at me. I just used to sit on the train and if anybody looked at me I used to say, "Ugly" or "Fatty". The best thing to do, if somebody's rude to you, say, "God, if I had teeth like yours I wouldn't open my mouth," or say "Blimey, at least I'm not eating my way through society," things like that. Or go up to someone and say "I love you in that dress, I never get tired of seeing you in it!" (screams with laughter). The thing is, most of the public don't dress up and if you dress up, for whatever reasons, you may think it's right but you've got to take their criticisms. They look at me and think (simulated bricklayer voice) "Ooh, no geezer dresses up like that, fuckin 'ell, leave it out." So you've got to put up with all that and if you don't want to, then don't go out, drive round in a limo all day. The only thing is, before, if I'd walked through a council estate dressed like this, I'd have probably got howled at and screamed at, they'd laugh at me and say "Look at that silly bastard", whereas now people say "Oh, aren't you Boy George from Culture Club, we saw you on the telly".
Do you think of yourself as an idol now?
I'm not idle, I'm very hard working (chuckles). It's all quite weird for me 'cos I'm experiencing all these new attitudes.
What job did you have when you used to get on the train etc. etc?
I was a printer, from printers great things come!
You said that you get quite a lot of hate mail. Can you give me an example of a typical hate letter?
I usually get, um, "Dear George, I'm writing to tell you what I think of you. You really think you look like a girl, don't you? Well you don't, you're an ugly dummy transvestite. I hate you, fuck off, I hope you die."
I presume most of these letters are from men?
No, they're not from blokes, they're from girls.
Do you think they see you as a threat?
Why should they? I haven't got breasts have I? I'm a man. I'm very much a man. Whatever I may look like to other people, I'm not effeminate.
So you've never wanted to be a woman?
Do you think women are superior to men?
No, but they could be if they tried.
Are you still going out with Jon Moss?
I've never gone out with him.
That's not what you told me two weeks ago.
I might have said that I love Jon but I didn't say I was going out with him. But then I love all the band. What applies to me doesn't necessarily apply to the rest of the band. I think a lot of people just think that I've got them all on puppet-strings and that they haven't got personalities of their own. People say to me, "Your band never go out", just because the band don't go to nightclubs doesn't mean that they don't lead a social life. They just don't lead the sort of social life that I lead and it's good for me that they don't becuase I work with them 24 hours a day.
What's been the happiest moment in your life?
Last night, outside the Top of the Pops studio, getting a bunch of red roses from this girl called Alison Reed. It was just so sweet, I couldn't believe it, I nearly died. I was so pleased, I mean, that's the sort of thing that nobody does. And even though it's so corny, it's a really affectionate thing to do.
Are you in love at the moment?
Do you like being in love?
No, but I do really. It's such a time-consuming thing and it eats away at your brain and it gives you damage. I do and I don't like being in love, it's a kind of love/hate thing with me. You see, there's a million kinds of love. Just because your love is one-dimensional doesn't mean everyone else's is. You can love a cat, it's the same word, but it doesn't apply in the same way. If you say to a little kid, "Oh, you're lovely", it doesn't mean that you love them and that you want to have rapturous sex with them. There are so many ways to love somebody.
Do you enjoy sex?
Everybody enjoys sex. It's a human thing, it's like eating and pissing and sleeping, everybody enjoys it. Certain people find it upon themselves to be hip and say that they don't, but I don't think anyboy just doesn't enjoy sex.
What about people who are celibate?
Nobody's celibate. Name me someone.
You're only celibate because you can't be bothered to go out and get it. I think that you're really feminine and neurotic about what people think about you and that's why you don't have sex. But it's not because you don't want to. The thing is about a lot of women - women are really perceptive and quite intelligent but a lot of them are so worried about what men think of them and that's why they'll never have an identity of their own. Actually, having sex with somebody for the first time for me is horrible. It's weird. I don't enjoy it at all. Sex is blown out of proportion anyway, we have to live with it 24 hours a day, it's shoved down our throats.
You've had very little live stage experience. How do you cope with everything moving so fast, do you become completely enwrapped in the stage role?
No, I don't. I get really scared. I shake. I've got no preconception about what I should do when I go on stage. I just go up there and do it, I feed off the people that are there. I try to do my best, try to dance, try to be entertaining. I try to give away a bit of friendliness so that people feel comfortable. Like the other night, all those kids were screaming. I don't care if they're screaming because they love me or screaming because they're having a laugh. I just hope they enjoy themselves. It's like at Top of the Pops, the kids come up and they talk to you and they say "thank you for talking to me", and I think, "but why, why should you be thanking me for talking to you?" A lot of stars, when they get famous, put up barriers and they act how they think they should act. That's why people fail. With a lot of bands, they all want to be Bowie or Bryan Ferry. I don't know any band at the moment that isn't like that. Although they're doing it differently that's all they're interested in, they're only interested in climbing up the social ladder. To me, what makes you what you are, are the people who buy your records. I know that sounds corny but if you have illusions about what makes you what you are then you'll never be anything. I'm not frightened of being unsuccessful, because I only want to be successful personally. Of course I want to sell millions of records but that's not all. I just want to be happy. When I go to these rock stars parties I'm the loneliest person in the world there because I can't understand why they're doing what they're doing. I just go home and think "fuck fuck fuck, what a load of shit", I feel so depressed.
Surely you can avoid them if they depress you so much?
Listen, I'm not saying everybody's horirble, but it only takes two people to make you upset, to make you think "God almighty, those people could be so nice." Basically, people are great, it's the reasons why they're not great, do you know what I mean? You have to think about that. It's like when people slag me off, I think why are they slagging me off and then I think "poor thing, how sad that they can't think of anything else to do." It's pathetic. The good thing about Culture Club is that we've come at a time when it would be so unhip to slag us off, it would be so obvious because we dress up and there's me singing - there's a lot of tension. We've had fantastic press apart from Robert Elms in The Face; it's so predictable, I mean he said about us that there should be "a certain honesty among thieves" and there's a picture of him with a quiff! But what he says is true, he can't tell if we're ABC, Spandau Ballet, Grace Jones or The Jacksons, but he thinks that's wrong and I don't think it is. I mean, what's wrong with sounding like other people? Look at Blue Rondo, they're a Latin American band but he's given them a fantastic review. That's because they're all his best friends. I don't care about them or have any bad feelings about them; all I think is, Robert Elms is a complete arsehole, he's just got no idea. I think it's really sad for someone to write a four page article on jeans and to give them great significance. People who wear ripped jeans are just doing it to show off their bollocks and their arse, they're not doing it to make a bloody statement. They just want to look horny. Why do girls go out in sequin boob tubes with their tits pushed up? Of course they're doing it for a reason, but it's not to make a statement, it's to make themselves look sexy.
What turns you on most physically about people?
Their breath. If people have got horrible breath I can't stand them. If someone's got a nice smelling mouth I always tell them. That's what turns me on. And hands, nice warm hands that make you feel all childish.
Do you think you'll ever get married?
I shouldn't think so. I think marriage is hypocritical. If you love someone you don't have to prove it, on the other hand, if you love someone, you're going to want to keep them. Therefore, I can go two ways on marriage.
Where did you get your hat from?
Jon bought it for me.
Do you take drugs?
Not now. I used to take speed.
Have you any acting ambitions?
No, it's so obvious, isn't it? If I ever get offered an acting part I'd like to do it, but it's all so "pop star makes it big and then does acting". I'm not interested in all that. I haven't really got any ambitions. I jsut enjoy what I'm doing. It goes from day to day with me. Nine times out of ten, if some gushing producer came to me I'd probably tell him to piss off.
Why exactly did Musical Youth pull out of supporting you, was it entirely to do with not wishing to be associated with your 'dubious sexual image'?
It's because of Charlie Ayre at MCA records.
Well, who is he? Exactly. How dare he be rude about me. Ugly moron. I bet he looks like a gargoyle. He said he didn't want Musical Youth to be on the cover of Smash Hits with us becuase it wasn't right for their image. I think Musical Youth are brilliant, I knew they'd be massive. Pop music is so diverse, don't you think?
Do you ever get embarrassed?
Never. No, wait. When you do photo sessions and photographers scream at their assistants. I fucking hate that. I hate people that think they're better than other people. I'm never rude to anyone unless they're rude to me. You get embarrassed about the slightest thing, which just shows your femininity. Women get more embarrassed then men. Especially your sort of woman.
What do you mean, my sort of woman?
See, look, you're getting embarrassed now. It's great, it's so funny.
Can you play any instruments?
Who writes the songs? Is it a total group collaboration?
I write the words and I write the melodies. I get an idea and I just sort of sing it and I keep singing it until Roy gets the idea and Jon arranges things and Mikey puts his bass line down. Mikey's starting to get some good ideas now, we're all more into the musical side of things. I've never known anything about music. For someone like me to write a song and get to Number 3 just shows that anybody can do it. Anyone can do something, it's just whether ytou get up and do it. I used to spend a lot of time just pissing about and now I've actually concentrated on doing something. Whether it would be successful or not is besides the point with me.
What are your future plans and ambitions for Culture Club?
Six months ago my ambitions were to get into the charts and now I can't be lieve that we're at Number 3. It hasn't excited me though, isn't it weird? I don't feel a thing. I was expecting to be jumping up and down rolling in green pound notes. I'm glad it didn't happen that way though. That's the thing that really gets on my nerves at the moment, everyone thinks I'm fucking rolling in it, and I'm not.
(At this point in the conversation Ronnie, Culture Club's Virgin Press officer, pops his head round the door.)
Ronny: George, do you want to do the fashion spread for the Sun?
Yeah, I'll do it with Mikey. And maybe a girl. Get some models. I'd like that, I'd much rather dress other people up than dress myself up.
Fiona: What is your follow-up single going to be?
Probably one called "Time" or maybe "Church of the Poisoned Mind". "Time" is sort of Gladys Knight and the Pips. We haven't recorded it yet but I know how it goes. It's got strings on, not like ABC though, it's more like Philadelphia. We're not like ABC, they're too rigid. (Sings) "Ooooh Time, ain't got no time, and time makes lovers feel like they've got something real." It's a really good song isn't it? I really like it. And the other one goes like this - oh look, you're getting embarrassed again!
Have you been interviewed by anyone you don't like?
foreigners. They just talk rubbish, they say (assumes Teutonic
pose and accent) "You are a queer, yes?" They tell you
what they want to hear. The thing is, with people you can look
at them in a club and hate their guts but when you get them on
their own they're a lot nicer, because they've got nothing to protect
them, you've got them just with you and they can't do anything
about it. Even if they hate you, they have to hate you in silence.
Last week, I was interviewed by someone called Lyndon Barber who
hated me and slagged me off in the Melody Maker. He said to me, "Your
music leaves me cold," which I thought was totally ridiculous.
I don't see the point of interviewing somebody you don't like.