'79-'97: Anything but the Boy

In 1979 Boy George was living in a squat - and preparing himself for a fateful night with Kirk Brandon. John Lyttle shudders at the thought
While the nation has been foolishly concentrating on the minor matter of the election, gay Britain has sensibly turned its back on the sham spectacle of so-called democratic politics and devoted its attention to the genuinely important questions of our times. To wit: if there are more than 50 homosexual MPs in Parliament, how come there isn't a Party party? What possessed Channel 5 to move Prisoner Cell Block H to four in the morning? Why wasn't Martina Navratilova best man at the Andre Agassi- Brooke Shields wedding? And - brace yourself, it's the big one - did the avowedly straight Kirk Brandon really sleep with Boy George?

This week the High Court decided that the now married father had indeed done so with the former George O'Dowd, and dismissed Brandon's writ for malicious falsehood against the Boy for repeating details of their brief union in his autobiography, the brazenly titled Take It Like a Man. Brandon, ex-singer with Spear of Destiny - shall we spare a moment here to hum Spear of Destiny's Greatest Hits? Go on, you first - claimed that his musical career was damaged by the revelations, but the judge saw through that and decided that it was Brandon's heterosexuality that had taken a direct hit. Look! It's the Spear of Destiny! Run! Faster! Oops. Too late.

Well, I won't speak for you, but my bleeding heart flies out to Brandon. Wild horses wouldn't get me to admit I'd gone horizontal with Boy George. Who would? But that's beside the point. Brandon receives my sympathy because straight guys, poor bastards, are the last group allowed to own up to having had a bit of the Same. I know wives who have spent the odd morning in mutual cunnilingus before rushing home to hostess the informal buffet designed to land Clive that paperclip concession in the Midlands, and they're perfectly content to "confess" - Lawks a' mercy, what a lark - and the same applies to dykes who have disappeared under the duvet with the occasional male of the species. These things happen. Let's talk about it. Let's talk to the gay men who find themselves in bed with someone whose breasts aren't the result of steroids and compulsive working-out, and are delighted to spill all 57 varieties of beans about the ins and outs of the experience. C'mon. They'll tell all about women and you imagine they're not about to slurp and tell about sleeping with the enemy? I've said it before and I'll say again: sexuality isn't a spectrum. It's a swamp, and its sands are ever-shifting and ever-shifty.

Which isn't what the High Court or your mates propping up the bar want to hear, any more than they need to hear that curiosity killed the career. Or that, gee, it happened in 1980 and everyone was swamp-surfing, actually, even if David Bowie now swears that he never laid a finger on another penis-owner, ever. Disregard the experimental liberalism of punk, New Romanticism and other earlier, dimly remembered eras and movements that challenged the approaching wave of new conservatism. Never mind past moods: if you're heterosexual, when a gay man even looks at you cock-eyed you're meant to beat his faggot brains out, duh. Check the prosecutions: the law is infinitely more forgiving of such actions and is merely befuddled by post-dated protestations of innocence. Or maybe not. The arbiters of British law are invariably upper-class and therefore probably buggered senseless at public school, and, hell, it didn't harm them or their reputations, did it?

Still, let's not linger on it, hey chaps? Don't want the great unwashed getting wise. As F Scott Fitzgerald once proclaimed, "The rich are different." Kirk Brandon has more in common with Harold Robbins and Hugh Hefner, famously straight figures who were facing the sharp end of wannabe embarrassing legal suits brought by disgruntled former employees and/or lovers before committing to record the fact that yes, there was a phase they went through around the late Seventies when ... How would they doubtless prefer to put it? Let's see: when nature and novelty held a certain appeal. But Harold and Hugh, certain in their essential sexuality, brushed off any implied blackmail with a variation of the Gore Vidal tack: homosexual acts aren't the same as being homosexual. And, anyway, big deal. They weren't about to mime repentance.

Straight boys have their little problems, but ditto less than gracious queens. If I'd been the lovely Brandon, I'd have taken the stand and pointed out that the Boy perhaps had a masochistic challenge thing about men who weren't theoretically available or obviously on short-term lease. Hadn't Culture Club drummer Jon Moss been the inspiration for "Karma Chameleon", with its pithy thoughts concerning contradictions, just as Brandon himself was the figure haunting the song "Unfinished Business": "I hear you married a Danish girl ... You break your promise easily ... You lie, you lie, you lie, yeah tough guy, you know exactly what I mean." Really, the judge might pontificate that the whole sorry though instructive mess can be put down to "love and loss" and the Boy can intone "It's a good day for gay rights," but honey, that shouldn't prevent the rest of us from recognising a pay-back when we hear one. Here endeth the lesson