Forget Matt Hancock, my bitchy, ballsy, lovely friend Boy George must win I’m A Celebrity – and here’s why

MATT Hancock may be hogging the headlines right now but Boy George will be the one to watch on I’m A Celebrity – and I sincerely hope he wins.

He is funnier than anyone else in the jungle this year, he’s bitchier, he probably has the biggest balls and his acid tongue has transformed him into a national treasure.


Boy George is a multi-millionaire who could only be tempted into the jungle by the show’s biggest-ever payday of £500,000Credit: Rex
Boy George performing live in 1982


Boy George performing live in 1982Credit: Rex
Boy George in theatre in 1978


Boy George in theatre in 1978Credit: Boy George Collection/Alpha Photo Press

And let’s face it, he’s a much better diplomat than Mr Hancock. His honesty is sure to provide peak-time, must-see TV.

Tweeting from his flight to Australia with a lion mask on his head, he called himself the “Lying Queen” and joked, “I was ahead of the crime” when he was chucked out of the Hilton Hotel for using the ladies’ toilet.

Actually, I can’t believe he hasn’t done the show before. So I’m convinced he’s going to win it. And if for some reason he doesn’t, he will certainly come out of it with more dignity than anyone else.

He’ll certainly come out of it with more dignity than Matt Hancock.

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Despite not scoring any hits for decades and being jailed for locking a male escort to a radiator, George is a multi-millionaire who could only be tempted into the jungle by the show’s biggest-ever payday of £500,000.

The creepy crawlies are unlikely to faze him. If I were them, I’d start running now.

Born George O’Dowd, he was the son of a Catholic builder of Irish descent who beat his mum Dinah.

Outspoken even as a child, George also faced a lot of abuse for the way he dressed and his sexuality.

In an interview in 1983 he claimed to be attracted to both men and women, but later came out as gay.

But he is one of the most-loved people in the country.

And deservedly so.

Widow Twankey in boots

I certainly loved him. Although it didn’t happen immediately.

The first time I saw George I was terrified.

This was in late 1978, in a pub in Soho.

He had a deathly, yellow face, spiky hair that stood almost a foot above his head, and the kind of ecclesiastical gear you didn’t see outside a church.

I thought it was Halloween but it was only September.

I was with a friend of mine, Fiona, who was a bona fide New Romantic, although even I was surprised when he came over to talk to her.

And guess what?

He was lovely. Bitchy, but lovely.

By the time Culture Club went on tour in 1983, they couldn’t move without escorts and security


By the time Culture Club went on tour in 1983, they couldn’t move without escorts and securityCredit: Rex Features
Boy George, pictured left, with his brothers


Boy George, pictured left, with his brothers
Boy George has been drastically changing up his look since his younger years


Boy George has been drastically changing up his look since his younger yearsCredit: Alpha Press

Sure, he looked like a total freak, and at the time was probably the most extremely dressed person in London.

But then that was the point. He, and every other New Romantic, went out of their way to shock.

George was just better at it than anyone else.

In London, I started to see him everywhere, most notably in the Blitz, the infamous New Romantic nightclub in Covent Garden.

The club was run by Steve Strange (another mad-looking clubber who turned out to be extremely nice when you actually talked to him).

George and Steve initially hated each other.

But George soon got a job as the club’s coat check boy, where he supplemented his meagre income by stealing anything that had been left in the pockets. George soon became the public face of the New Romantics, and after a dry run singing with Bow Wow Wow, the brainchild of former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, he formed a group of his own.

When Culture Club’s Do You Really Want To Hurt Me hit No1 on the British charts in September 1982, the pandemonium that greeted their success had distinct echoes of Beatlemania.

And by the time they replicated this success in the US a few months later, the band were genuine global celebrities. Well, sort of. It was George who became the focus, George who appeared on most of the magazine covers and George who became the group’s spokesperson.

By the time they went on tour in 1983, Culture Club couldn’t move without escorts and security.

George couldn’t even leave his house. He was Widow Twankey in biker boots, an androgynous superstar, and everybody wanted a piece of him.

Mad-looking transvestite

He became a tabloid darling, a deliciously quotable pop star who sold papers.

As Do You Really Want To Hurt Me climbed the charts, George was at an awards ceremony in London.

Towards the end he got up, strolled over to the two toilet doors and then walked theatrically between them in a show of mock-confusion — “Ladies? Gents? Decisions!”

The whole room was watching. Soon the whole world was watching.

When Culture Club became successful in America, George became the most famous person in the world.

Before Madonna, before Prince, before George Michael, a mad-looking transvestite became more famous than Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev put together.

He was so famous that he performed a cameo role in an episode of The A-Team, called, perhaps predictably, Cowboy George.

I was big friends with Jon Moss, the Culture Club drummer who became George’s lover. But it was always George who was the focus of the group, always George who created the most headlines.

In Japan in 1983, just before Karma Chameleon was released, I walked into a nightclub in Tokyo only to find a sea of young girls who all looked like Boy George.

This being Japan, the attention to detail was granular: Each of them looked perfect, almost as though they had been styled by the same team.

Boy George leaving court in 2006 after a drug charge


Boy George leaving court in 2006 after a drug chargeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Boy George pushes dirt at photographers while sweeping trash off a street in Manhattan during his first day of community service


Boy George pushes dirt at photographers while sweeping trash off a street in Manhattan during his first day of community serviceCredit: EPA

George had already become renowned for his tabloid sound bites — he famously said he preferred a cup of tea to sex — but now he was a global icon.

He had the ability to project an image of benign asexuality while at the same time looking like the most transgressive pop star of all time.

And then it all went horribly wrong.

Having become famous, George thought he’d become a drug addict too. And he became very good at it.

Not only did he become addicted to heroin, but his life became one big drama.

In August 1986 Michael Rudetsky, the songwriter and keyboard player, was found dead of a heroin overdose in George’s home.

Another pal, Mark Golding, also died in December 1986 from methadone, the day after being arrested with George.

In the same month, George was arrested for possession of heroin and his brother Kevin was charged with supplying the drug to him, while his pal Marilyn was in court for possession.

George then went into rehab and managed to stay drug-free for 16 years until 2003.

Clean and serene

In 2005 police found cocaine in his New York apartment.

In 2009 he was sentenced to 15 months for falsely imprisoning and beating Norwegian Audun Carlsen in April 2007.

He was given early release after four months for good behaviour.

However, thankfully George is now clean and serene, and has been for some time. He has a flourishing career both as a singer and as an entertainer.

George is popular enough to be a judge on talent shows (he has appeared on The Voice, The Big Deal and The New Celebrity Apprentice as well as many other shows), and cool enough to be invited to perform duets with Paul Weller, Diana Ross and Gary Barlow.

When he gets to the jungle, he says fans can expect some Shirley Bassey impressions, lots of dietary advice for his campmates (he’s a strict vegetarian), and says he’ll definitely be asking them what star sign they are (he’s a Gemini).

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Me, I love George, and sincerely hope he becomes King of the Jungle. Or Queen.

Either will do.

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