Rise and fall of a pop icon...

PUBLISHED: 10:16 22 January 2009 | UPDATED: 16:02 25 August 2010

RUBBISH: Boy George cleaning the streets of New York.

RUBBISH: Boy George cleaning the streets of New York.

SINCE his meteoric rise to fame in the 1980s, Boy George has not been unaccustomed to scandal and controversy.

SINCE his meteoric rise to fame in the 1980s, Boy George has not been unaccustomed to scandal and controversy.

Even at the start of his music career, as the androgynous lead singer of Culture Club with his feminine kimono outfits, vampy make up and long plaits adorned with colourful ribbons, he rocked taboo in much the same spirit as his hero David Bowie had done years before.

The New Romantic was often quizzed about his sexuality and despite famously joking he'd "rather have a cup of tea" than have sex, he was generally unapologetic about his sexuality.

Despite the furore in the national media over his controversial image, Culture Club's single Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? reached number one in the UK and their debut album, 1983's Kissing To Be Clever, made him a worldwide star.

But his success was short-lived after the band started to fragment, in part due to George's affair with drummer Jon Moss according to his 1995 biography Take it Like A Man, as well as his addiction to heroin.

He hit an all time low in 1986 when, six days after his arrest for marijuana possession, Culture Club's keyboardist Michael Rudetski was found dead in his home after a heroin overdose.

After George was pictured visibly thin and pale and collapsed on stage at a benefit concert, his brother David O'Dowd blew the whistle on his drug addiction in a national newspaper in a bid to get him to seek help.

As he underwent treatment in 1987 however, Culture Club dissolved with Everything I Own in the charts and Rudetski's family filed a wrongful death suit against him.

By the late 1980s, Boy George had bounced back and returned to the charts with his first solo album Sold enjoying chart success in the UK while being virtually ignored in the US.

George's international stardom had been too badly damaged by scandal yet he was able to make a minor comeback in 1992 with the title song for the controversial film The Crying Game, bagging his first US hit since Culture Club.

Following various album releases, his involvement in the Hare Krishna religion and a Culture Club reunion in the mid 1990s, he was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Dance Recording category for his album When Will You Learn.

In the early part of the 21st century, George had a successful and varied career, writing a regular newspaper column, presenting radio shows and launching his own fashion label.

In 2001, he also found success on the stage in London and New York with his aptly-titled autobiographical musical Taboo which earned him a Tony nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of performance artist Leigh Bowery and three more for the production.

But the magic of Taboo soon wore off when in 2002 Madonna wrote to the singer demanding that he take a cover of her song Vogue out of the show and, by 2003, the Broadway production was suddenly closed after just 100 shows.

The demise of Taboo marked the beginning of another dark time for Boy George, culminating in his arrest in 2005 in Manhattan on suspicion of possessing cocaine.

He was sentenced to a humiliating community service sentence for wasting police time, after falsely reporting burglary, picking up rubbish for the New York City Department of Sanitation which was hindered by mass media coverage.

Two years later, he was sued for £31,000 by an American club promoter for loss of earnings after his arrest caused him to cancel his appearance providing only 10 days' notice.

In 2008, he was forced to cancel a US tour after failing to secure a visa.

And months later, he was convicted of assaulting and falsely imprisoning Audun Carlsen in a drug-fuelled rage.

He was sentenced to 15 months in prison and is currently serving at HMP Pentonville in north London.

The question remains whether George will be able to ride out the storm of this latest controversy or if it will spell the end of his colourful career.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Bexley Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Bexley Times