How We Met: Boy George And Philip Sallon
BOY GEORGE: I first saw Philip at a club called Bangs in Tottenham Court Road. I was with my girlfriend Laura. I'd never been to a gay club before. I saw this vision dancing on a platform. He had black eye make- up on and a skirt and a weird Egyptian collar and leather gloves and pit boots. He was dancing like a mad goblin. I can remember saying to Laura, "We've got to get friendly with him." Laura followed him to the ladies, which we also thought was very fascinating. I said, "Go in and borrow his black lipstick." But he came out and walked over to us and said, "Hello, dear, where are you from?" I said, "I'm from Eltham." He said, "Oooh, the sticks."
I started regularly commuting to his house in Dollis Hill. Philip was this pied piper and all these freaks and punks and suburban kids used to commute to his house on Fridays and we'd all get into different cars and go off to various clubs and gigs. He was our guru. He was 10 years older than me and he knew the Sex Pistols and was far more outrageous than we could ever have hoped to have been at that point.
Early on, I sheepishly said to Philip, "Excuse me, can I ask you a personal question?" He said, "What?" I said, "Are you gay?" "Why, are you interested?" I almost fainted with terror. He said, "Why, are you?" I go, "I dunno." He says, "Of course you are, dear." Three weeks later I came out. I was not interested in him sexually, but as a friend. We've never slept with each other. We're sisters.
The thing about Philip was that he was really dressed up but he wasn't pretentious. We thought if we looked a certain way it made us more important than other people. Philip put that idea to rest quite quickly. He always used to say, "A lot of people dress up to disguise the fact that they've got nothing to say." He was full of philosophies on everything and extremely intelligent.
When you first meet him he can come across as being quite vacuous. On the surface he gives a lot away, but really he's only giving you a small percentage of who he is. It is hard work getting to know him, because he doesn't let that many people in. I've known him for 20-odd years and I think we still have problems being intimate. As I got older and more worldly I realised that Philip was much more insecure than I ever thought. His banter and his drag were like an armour, which I think we have in common. It was protecting vulnerability, stopping people from getting too close.
I've learnt to be less defensive as I've got older and I've calmed down quite a lot. That's affected the way I relate to Philip. He has all these bizarre concepts about me. He has this obsession that I want to be a woman. I just laugh at him because once something gets into Philip's mind that's it.
He has an incredible knowledge of fashion history. I think it's a shame that he doesn't put it to better use - in some ways he's a wasted genius. When he did the party for my book launch he went absolutely over the top and created this mad psychotic school environment and he wouldn't let anybody in unless they turned up in costume. I think it's good that Philip is like that. When he does something, he does it properly.
We had a really bad falling-out for about a year when I was 19. It was about a straight guy I used to get off with. Philip hated him because he wasn't honest. Because I was madly in love I fell out with Philip. I always used to see him everywhere. He would make a point of walking past me and sticking his nose in the air and making sure no one talked to me. They all talked to me anyway. They just didn't talk to me in front of him. I sent him a voodoo doll.
I don't listen to Philip's opinions about my music. I always find them a bit loopy. The first gig that Culture Club did at Heaven, he walked around saying, "I can't bear other people being adored." At least he's honest. He used to call me Boy Gorge, and sing, "Do You Really Want To Eat Me?" He's bitchy, but he's loyal. He had a flat in St John's Wood which he wasn't living in. I lived there for the first two years of Culture Club. So that flat became besieged. Philip used to come round and scream at all the fans. Philip finds the idea of having fans really creepy.
Philip has never done drugs and he hated it when I did. He blamed everyone else around me. He would tell people that they were evil and were destroying me. Our friendship suffered slightly because I was hanging out with people I did drugs with. He would never let me do drugs in his house. He is really anti-drugs, to the point of being ridiculous.
We are probably better friends now than we have ever been. We see each other two or three times a week. We play Scrabble at Philip's flat until four in the morning. Philip never leaves his flat. It's like a sanctuary. If you're feeling depressed he cooks for you. He's like a Jewish housewife. He's somebody I can always rely on in a crisis. There is a certain amount of bitchiness that goes on between us and quite a lot of insecurity, but when the chips are down, he'll jump straight into a cab, and vice versa. Whenever Philip has had any kind of trauma in his life - when his mum died, when he got stabbed in the Eighties, when a couple of years ago he got beaten up - I've always been there.
PHILIP SALLON: When you're dressed up, you're always eagle eyes, seeing who's looking at you. I was parading around at Bangs, knowing George and this girl were staring. I think I had a skirt on. It wasn't drag, it was like a spaceman thing, black, down to the ground from the hips, and then nothing on top except a big Gary Glitter collar, and my hair all up. We spoke and I gave him my number, then he rang me afterwards. He asked me if I was gay. What a question to ask somebody looking like me! I said, "What do you care?" Or something like that. I never got off with him ever, not even slightly. He's a friend.
We went everywhere together. When somebody is impressed by you it boosts your ego, and obviously he was a bit impressed. But it wasn't just based on that - we went out to clubs and talked on the phone all the time. That's what friendship is. We are similar in a way. We're both show-offs, we like dressing up, we're both foul-mouthed queers.
We fell out when he started being nasty to these people he hung around with, me included. We all went to this party and we were at Kilburn station waiting for the train and he just started ripping us all apart. Afterwards, I thought, fuck it, I won't speak to him again. It went on for a year. A few months later I couldn't sleep and I thought, "Ooh, he's thinking about me, I'm picking up vibes." I've never taken drugs - except when George spiked my drinks once in the late Eighties - but the next night my eyes opened and I could feel this terrible expression on my face. My voice started coming out like The Exorcist. I thought that I was going mad, and my mother called a rabbi round to bless the house. One day I came home from work and there was a present that had come in the post for me. It was a voodoo doll with pins going through it. The main one was going through my stomach and I had my appendix out not long after that. Later, I asked George what had happened and he said that night he and two friends had sat up all night chanting these curses on me.
That was the only nasty time in our friendship. We've had millions of rows over the years, as George does with everyone. At some stage, it changed. He wasn't the impressed-by-Philip George. He wasn't wide-eyed any more. I wasn't up on a pedestal.
I wasn't consciously jealous when he became famous. But the first thing you think is, what about me? But I threw a surprise party for him when he got to number one. I think he was delighted, and it reflected on me. Before, at clubs it was "those two freaks are walking in." Suddenly we weren't laughing-stocks anymore.
I don't know how I became aware that George was on drugs. I don't know how much thought I gave it. It just happened. I went round to his house and these crawlers threw me down the stairs. I said, "I just want to see him," because he was just lying in a room, off his head, not going anywhere. He's much nicer now he's off the stuff, which he has been for years.
I would say the roles have almost reversed. I don't look up to him but he has taken the more dominant role, whereas I used to be the more dominant one. In some ways he has become more like a father. He doesn't push me round that much, but he's much more decisive than he was. When there's a third person present we'll talk through them. I suppose we both need an audience. We can't really perform to one another.
When awful things have happened to me, he has been around. When my mum died he turned up at my place, which was quite important. When I got beaten up he was there afterwards. And he came to the police station to give a statement, when his manager had actually told him not to get involved. He has been quite loyal, I have to say. When push comes to shove, at the end of the day he is there for me, as I would be for him.
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