He never leaves the house without a personal assistant, trained in the martial arts. He is driven everywhere, and cannot use buses or trains. When he goes to a nightclub, the management automatically assigns a bouncer. Hughes states the obvious: 'I enjoy being noticed. Love me or hate me, you can't ignore me.'
Kevin Hughes is a professional Boy George lookalike. At 29, he has spent the past 10 years dressing up as the pop star. 'I'm a closer thing to Boy George than Boy George. I fit people's perception of what Boy George is. I fit the ideal.'
Back in 1982 he found he was constantly being mistaken for the star, so he began dyeing his hair and wearing outre clothes. After a year, he went to a lookalike agency and started doing personal appearances . . . opening supermarkets, endorsing products, appearing in films, giving concerts. He charges around pounds 400 now for a personal appearance, slightly more for club performances.
People still tell him how much they love George, often mistaking him for the genuine article, though some fans get angry when Hughes tells them who he is. He dreads being left alone, especially in restaurants. 'You've only got to have one person come over and ask for an autograph and half a dozen come over. People are sheep.'
He was at his busiest when Culture Club had No 1 hits with 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me' and 'Karma Chameleon'. But he was in demand even when Boy George's heroin addiction was revealed in the mid-80s. He fainted at the Hippodrome during this period, and heard a woman say: 'Serves him right - bloody junkie.'
When Boy George's popularity waned, Hughes had a quiet period: 1990 to 1991. Then George's group, Jesus Loves You, took off and happy days were here again. 'I earn a good living out of this. I can afford to buy Estee Lauder, not Avon.'
Boy George is famously vegetarian and gay; Hughes eats meat and is heterosexual. 'There's no point in me saying 'I'm really macho'. Here I am caked in make-up, wearing high heels and a skirt. It's a job.'
He fooled celebrity-watchers at last year's Viz party. The magazine said it would pay celebrities who turned up. Hughes pocketed pounds 50 for being Boy George. Only to be confronted with the real Boy George a while later. Embarrassment was deferred when the party was cleared by a bomb scare.
Hughes can remember his first meeting with the Boy. It was at the Limelight in 1984. 'It was like meeting the Queen. I was nervous because I heard he'd slapped some Duran Duran fans. But it was fine. He was friendly. He even remembered my name the next time.'
Eileen Schemberi, Boy George's publicist at Virgin, says: 'I know George has met Kevin Hughes, but he doesn't want to say anything about it, really. Anyway, I don't think Kevin even looks like George.' Hughes admits there is no great facial similarity: 'Still, it's amazing what you can do with make-up.'
Hughes has faithfully copied each Boy George look. 'If you open my wardrobe, it's like Boy George's life story on a hanger.' His attention to detail borders on obsession. He took elocution lessons to perfect a Boy George voice and laugh. He will study every look and gesture hundreds of times on videotape before he practises in the mirror. He wears dark blue contact lenses to mimic George's eye colour (his own are light blue). If the star puts on weight, so will he.
He says he is not a Boy George fan, but has grown to like the star. 'If I did what I did in this detail, and I was to be a fan, I'd go mad. I do it because I'm a professional.'
'Plastic surgery? That's going too far. The only thing I could do to look more like George is to make my nose bigger, but where would they take the bone from?'
Debbie Bransen, a friend who has known Hughes for six years, disagrees. 'I think he is a fan, his interest in George goes a lot deeper than just being professional. He's got posters on his walls at home.' This might explain why Hughes is reluctant to be photographed at his flat in Croydon.
Performing gives him a thrill. 'I like having an audience there. You can do what you want with them. You can whip an audience into hysteria, just by walking on to the stage. A lot of the fun for me is not being announced, just to walk on to a stage . . . '
He plays in night clubs like Equinox and the Hippodrome under the name George, mimicking the star with his own voice. He does a 25-minute set, which usually includes 'Do You Really Want to Hurt Me'.
Kevin Hughes insists he doesn't want to be star in his own right. 'I can be on stage and live the showbiz lifestyle without all the trappings that go with it. I don't have people camping outside my house.
'Boy George is always Boy George. Me, I can choose when I want to be famous.' (Photograph omitted)Reuse content