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Boy George, coming to Tampa with Culture Club, talks fame, Pulse and the term ‘LGBTQ’

Itíll still be June when Boy George arrives in Florida this week to kick off a summer U.S. tour with Culture Club. But the LGBTQ icon says it wonít feel quite like a Pride parade.

"I also bake cakes for straight people," he laughed. "Thatís going to be my mantra for this tour: ĎI hope to bake cakes for straight people. Theyíre spongy and theyíre sweet.í?"

Itís been more than 35 years since Culture Club ó and especially their flamboyantly fashionable frontman ó crashed the pop world with a string of globally inspired New Romantic hits, including Karma Chameleon, Iíll Tumble 4 Ya and Do You Really Want to Hurt Me. Boy George, with his androgynous, sexually fluid appeal, became a new, very different kind of pop idol.

Over the decades, Culture Club became a bit of a punch line. (Remember the Boy George doppelganger in The Wedding Singer?) But theyíve gotten the last laugh, not just outlasting many of their peers, but thriving on stage with vibrant, enthusiastic performances. Theyíre finalizing their first new LP in nearly 20 years, and are back to playing American arenas like the USF Sun Dome (soon to be renamed the Yuengling Center), which theyíll headline on June 30.

Boy George, 57, is still a one-of-a-kind star, which is part of why heís a judge on the Australian version of The Voice. He was in Sydney when we caught up by phone recently to talk fame, LGBTQ culture and more.

You seem like a guy whoís met everybody in the pop world. Is that true?

No, I havenít, actually. Itís a funny thing in this business ó you think because youíre in the business that you would naturally bump into people. But remember, famous people are just human beings. Some people arenít approachable, some people wonít approach you, some people see you and run a mile. Human beings are complex and socially uncomfortable. Thereís no rule.

Iíve always maintained that famous people are very weird. And I consider myself to be one of the more normal ones. Which may sound weird coming from me, but in my experience, the life of a famous person is super-vicarious. You donít have a fixed job, do you? You get this sense that famous people are always protecting their corner ó or they call it a "brand" now, donít they? Theyíre promoting their own brand. Youíd think that weíd have more in common than we donít, but that isnít always the case.

For you, how does Culture Club differ as a creative vessel live, as opposed to when you book shows for yourself?

Some of the musicians that we have on stage with Culture Club are my guys from my band. The only difference is when I do my band, Roy, John and Mikey arenít there. When I do my gigs, theyíre a bit more experimental; I always try to do things I havenít done, because you need to keep the shows exciting for yourself. And even with this Culture Club tour coming up, I said, "Oh, letís change some of the covers that we do; letís look at this; can we try this?" You never want to go on stage and look like youíre dialing it in. Itís all about attitude and intention with performance.

Your last U.S. tour in 2016 launched in Orlando a few weeks after the Pulse nightclub shooting. Do you remember the mood at that show?

I remember that going on, and commenting about it on stage. When itís an attack on a gay club, obviously, that makes it more personal, because Iím part of the big, glorious gay family all over the world, so I do feel that very strongly. But I feel all of those things, really. Being a Buddhist, I feel any kind of pain in the world, whatever it may be.

The term "LGBTQ" didnít exist during Culture Clubís early years. How much has the cultural understanding of sexuality changed since then?

I suppose I use that term because everybody else does, but I donít really need that term. Iíve always been open and connected to everyone and everything different ó and everything normal. Iím not one of these gay men that ostracizes straight people. To me, my sexuality takes up about four hours a month. Itís not the most important thing about my life. Iíve always felt like Culture Club was a one-stop shop for anyone who felt different for any reason. On a day-to-day basis, I just think people are people, and there are two types of people, nice people and not-so-nice people. It doesnít matter really where theyíre from, or what their sexuality is.

Weíve lost some of your peers from the 1980s: Michael Jackson, George Michael, Prince, Whitney Houston. Is that something youíre conscious of as sort of an elder statesman of the í80s, of holding that mantle?

I canít possibly speak for other people. Michael Jackson, you mention his name. Iíve always felt that someone like Michael Jackson was quite untouchable, almost nebulous as a person. And in fact, Iíve seen photos of myself with him on the internet, but theyíre all doctored; I never met Michael Jackson. He seems like someone that you would never really meet if you were in a supermarket. Whereas Boy George, you probably could bump into by the counter.

Who I am is very different to a lot of those people because I donít want to get lost. I want to be in the world. I love being in the world. Youíre right better when youíre in the world. Youíve got things to reference and things to talk about. Fame can make you very lonely, and it can isolate you. So anything you can do to be in the world, from doing your own shopping to doing a bit of (the yoga practice) Breath of Fire, I think itís really essential.

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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