'Those were not my drugs,' Boy George insists after cocaine arrest in New York

He topped the charts with Culture Club, but now the singer has been charged with possession after American police found drugs at his apartment. Anthony Barnes reports
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The Independent US

Emerging from a Manhattan courthouse in the early hours, the singer looked pale and grim-faced, stripped of the trademark layers of garish make-up as he faced the prospect of up to 15 years in prison after being charged with drug possession.

The 44-year-old singer, who now lives in New York and was charged under his real name, George O'Dowd, was protesting his innocence. His lawyer, Louis M Freeman, said: "Boy George doesn't know where the drugs are from. He's a very social person. He has a lot of people over to his apartment."

It is the latest twist in the rollercoaster career of the iconic star, who has repeatedly reinvented himself during his 23 years in the public eye.

The flamboyant son of an Irish builder, George rose to notoriety as the androgynous singer of Culture Club. Tall, with ringlets and a stove pipe hat, he prompted a nation of parents to stare in disbelief as he danced on Top of the Pops, wondering if they were watching a girl or a boy.

But as the years have passed he has gone on to become such a part of the establishment that he was booked to appear at a party during the 1999 Labour Party conference. The former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan recalled in his recent book, The Insider: "The spectacle of Peter Mandelson grooving around the dance floor to 'Karma Chameleon' will live long in the memory."

George's latest alleged fall from grace came as he was arrested by police who were called to a report of a burglary at his Manhattan home. A New York Police Department spokesman said that George had been charged with possession of cocaine and falsely reporting an incident. The spokesman said police responded to an emergency "about a possible burglary".

"Police arrived there, and they saw in plain view an amount of cocaine near a computer."

Barbara Thompson, the Manhattan District Attorney's spokeswoman, said the singer was released after being charged with possession of a controlled substance, allegedly more than an eighth of an ounce of cocaine. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

The case could also have an impact on George's future in his adopted US home. If found guilty, he would struggle to gain a visa to remain in the country. Mark Stephens, a media lawyer, said: "If he's found guilty it could have major implications for him to be allowed into the US. He would effectively be excluded. They treat drug convictions very seriously in America."

But his former agent, Tony Denton, said yesterday, after speaking to George's sister Siobhan, that the star had denied that the drug was his.

Mr Denton said: "Basically, he did call the police himself. He thought somebody was breaking into the apartment.

"They turned up and they searched the apartment and found traces of cocaine on the computer table, which George has said he was not taking and was nothing to do with him."

It is not the first time that George has been linked with drugs. He was famously exposed as a heroin addict in the mid-1980s, turning to the drug after Culture Club's third album bombed. In 1986, The Sun ran the headline "Junkie George has only eight weeks to live". However, he kicked his habit after a spell in rehab. George set about rebuilding his life with solo releases, a new band, Jesus Loves You, and a new career as a DJ, which made him one of the biggest names in clubland during the dance boom of the 1990s. It is still a lucrative career for the London-born artist and he can command tens of thousands of pounds for a night's work.

In 2002, he launched the West End musical Taboo, based on his life and the New Romantic scene of the early 1980s, even acting in the production, playing not himself but the performance artist Leigh Bowery.

When it transferred to Broadway, so did he - relocating to New York, where he now DJs and runs a fashion label, B-Rude, with his London home now rented out.

Party organiser Philip Sallon was a close friend of George for many years but said they had drifted apart in recent months. However, he said that he was not aware of any drug use. "He certainly didn't do it in front of me."

CELEBRITY UPS AND DOWNS

Kate Moss

Pictures of the model allegedly snorting a line of cocaine led to several fashion labels tearing up highly lucrative contracts. She apologised to friends and family and checked into the Meadows rehab centre in Phoenix, Arizona.

Noel Gallagher

The Oasis star once boasted that he sprinkled cocaine on his cornflakes. Hasn't taken cocaine since 1998. "I woke up in the afternoon from the night before and instead of having anything to eat, I had a can of Red Stripe and a line of charlie. And I had a massive freak-out and went 'That's it'."

Robbie Williams

Battled with drink and drugs, including cocaine, while in Take That. Claimed last week that he had taken cocaine with some of the journalists who were trying to "devour" Kate Moss.

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

"Cocaine comes round with the canapés at a lot of the parties in London," she once said. Her manic appearance on The Frank Skinner Show in 1999 prompted her to check into Meadows.

Sophie Anderton

The lingerie model ended up taking three grams a day, costing her £1,000 a week. Gave up a year ago after her weight dropped to six stone. "I despised myself and loathed what I had become," she said.

Steve Bloomfield

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