With 'Crying Game,' Boy George refashions success

April 07, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Boy George says one of his neighbors back in London hates him.

"He's threatened litigation more times than I can remember -- over noise, talking, people leaving late at night, the pump in the garden," the former George O'Dowd, 31, says by phone from his New York hotel room, just after he's had his eyebrows plucked and before he'll put his lipstick on.

Possibly the neighbor abhors the idea of Boy George -- a self-proclaimed "good drag queen," an openly gay and androgynously fashioned pop star and a recovered drug addict. But the concept sold a lot of copies of "Karma Chameleon" and "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" during the mid-'80s.

On the outside, little has changed since then. George still looks fab with a touch of rouge and the right shade of lipstick.

But behind the makeup, much is different. George has kicked the heroin and sleeping pill addictions that dogged him, sending his life and career into tailspins. He's found a new peace of mind, grounded in his home, religious beliefs (he's a practicing Hare Krishna) and twice-daily yoga and meditation sessions.

Best of all, his recording of "The Crying Game" -- a remake of the 1965 Dave Berry hit for the film that won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay -- is surging up the charts, giving him his first American hit in five years.

The question now is whether Boy George is ready to handle another bout of success. The first one almost did him in as Culture Club reeled off its string of hits. George became a pop culture darling, with his startling appearance and brash outspokenness. He also knew how to play the tease, never actually coming out as gay and generating more press with the mystery.

"People still go on about it," he says. "The way

I look -- wasn't that enough? It seems so weird people would still be sensitive about it."

George kicked his drug habits through religion, psychological therapy and homeopathic medicine. He became a vegetarian and began a modest exercise regimen.

Most of all, he taught himself to enjoy his successes so that he'd be prepared for a second chance if it came.

"When I was in Culture Club, I never allowed myself to enjoy what was happening," he says. "There was so much pressure, everything was so uptight, and I was such a control freak. I couldn't just lie back and enjoy it, sip the champagne, swallow the strawberries and say, 'I'm having a great time.' Everything was a drama."

These days, George -- who leads a band called Jesus Loves You -- prefers the quiet of his home.

"I have an album written and ready to record," says George, who's also working on a "very frank" autobiography. "I'm not going to just throw out a record to chase the success of 'The Crying Game.' I feel my career is a little more important than that. I don't want to just go chasing things anymore."

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