Boy George: My life in a cultural bubble

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The Independent Culture

He is famous as the "gender bender" who burst on to the scene 20 years ago fronting the pop band Culture Club. Now 40, Boy George's most recent project is Taboo, a new musical inspired by the Eighties nightclub; music and lyrics are both by him.

How did you get to be called "Boy" and will you still be called that when you're old?

When the band first started people kept saying "the girl singer's really pretty, what's her name?", so it was partly about that. I am old George now, but I'm still called Boy. And I like boys, so ...

Ah, the Eighties. It was so crazy – gender bending, clubland, Wogan. And you were at the centre of it all. Do you look back on it fondly?

I'm not really a nostalgia freak. I don't sit around watching old re-runs of Culture Club videos. I've got other things to do.

Tell us about Taboo

It's about suburban people from dysfunctional families coming to the big lights. It's kind of Dick Whittington meets Valley of the Dolls, but with bigger hair. It's got many references, from Vaudeville to cabaret to Bowie. Everything is sent up, including me. The characters are based on real people. So Billy, the lead, is all the men I've loved and lost.

Is it a love story?

Isn't life?

When the Pet Shop Boys' musical Closer to Heaven opened last year, you said the gay community should support it. Why?

Gay people in this country are very apathetic. They worship Madonna, but they treat Peter Tatchell like shit. And to me that sums up England. When I was 14 I saw The Naked Civil Servant. I remember being blown away by this guy in the Thirties walking round with orange hair. It was a pivotal point in my development.

Do you think Taboo will appeal to both gay and straight people?

Yes, because every freak has a mother.

Are you in touch enough with real life to appeal to a general audience?

People forget I come from a really rough family and that I go on the tube. I might live in a cultural bubble, but it's not as big as Elton John's!

There was a lot of naivety about being a pop star in the 1980s, but also a lot of creativity. What do you think of today's scene?

A lot of romance has gone out of rock'n'roll.Ideas are swallowed at an alarming rate. If punk was to happen tomorrow it would be in a B&Q advert in two weeks. Dressing up in the 1980s was about looking ugly, what we called "scary drag". Now everyone wants to look the same and sound the same and be expensive.

You are famous for your look. What are you wearing today?

I'm very casual. Maria Chen made me this top with Elton written on it. And I'm wearing a pair of Marks and Spencer's trousers and paint-splattered shoes.

Do you always wear make-up, and what are your favourite brands?

I always wear my eyebrows and a bit of mascara. I use cheap stuff. And Clinique and Mac.

We saw you flirt with Mark Lamarr on telly. What's going on?

Mark always drags me down that road. People think he's really homophobic, but he's not. Straight men love to flirt with homosexuality. Masturbation is about playing with a penis after all, even if it is your own.

'Taboo': The Venue, London W1 (0870 899 3335), opens Tuesday, booking to 6 April

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