November 20, 2018

A Conversation with Boy George

I fell in love with Boy George the first moment I saw him. I was a teenager in Canada and thought he was handsome with a wonderful voice. I would dream about him and was certain if I were ever lucky enough to actually meet him, he would be charming and smell good. I laugh about it now because 35 years later I still want the men I love to be charming and smell good.

I was thrilled to meet Boy George this week. We sat down for a chat and it was one of the few times in all my years of meeting and talking with celebrities, that I forgot about my job and got caught up in my memories, unable to concentrate on anything other than his gorgeous blue eyes looking at me with what I am convinced was love. He was charming and smelled good!

I don’t really remember our first 5 minutes together because I was distracted by my drooling. George is very handsome. He has an easy smile, lovely laugh, and eyes that are so kind you immediately feel comfortable. He feels like an old friend. He is also a gentleman for pretending to not notice I was stammering and sweating in his presence. It was embarrassing.

My hands were shaking and I think at one point I actually started crying. Not sobbing, but rather tears of joy streaming down my face. Boy George is an important part of my life and I’m still in shock, even as I write about it days later. Yes, days later. I tried to write about George sooner, but every time I started I had to stop to call someone and talk about how great he is.

I have 15 pages of notes from our chat. To clarify, 5 pages are illegible chicken scratch from shaking hands, 5 pages are tear stained scribbles, and the remaining 5 pages I am happy to share with you. George is very interesting. He’s articulate and thoughtful with his answers. No question, even those asked by a fan over a writer, were made to seem unimportant, which was lovely.

I asked George if he understood how important he is to his fans. He explained fame forced him to discover who his real friends were, and he has always known his fans were real. He understands he matters to people and shared a memory of his mother, earlier in his career, reminding him there are countless people around the world who love and care about him. He cares about them too.

George said he was always his own person and never cared what people thought about him. He was confident and it never occurred to him he should be worried about how he would be perceived or received by strangers. He was embraced by his family and had good friends, which made it easy to be true to himself, and was ultimately reflected in his look and his music.

In the beginning of his fame, he was not allowed to play in certain parts of the world. He would get letters from kids in Russia and South America, thanking him for being out and free. He was a role model and icon to gay and transgender kids everywhere. I was not gay, or transgender, but he was a role model and icon to me too. This was a man living his life out loud.

When he wore a t-shirt with Hebrew lettering, he made me feel proud to be a Jew. He made me feel accepted and brave enough to wear my favorite plaid pants to school with pride. I truly feel like he participated in making me who I am and I wanted to thank him, but couldn’t find the words. I just listened like a child sitting at a Christmas tree, waiting for Santa to come.

George is very aware of how lucky he is to do what he loves. To have been doing it for so long and getting paid for it, is something he is grateful for.  Listening to George speak about his early days in London is amazing. He has a lot of stories and they are all fascinating. The punk scene, reggae music, a soulful voice, and musical dreams, brought together Culture Club.

George smiles as he remembers wanting to wear outrageous clothes and having to buy them in thrift shops, or make them himself. He appreciated the aesthetic of religious Jewish men, which I do too! He has always known everyone has a story and looked at strangers not with judgment, but a desire to hear their stories. There is no judgment from George and it is inspiring.

His father was a builder and always had his workers to their house. There would be people of all colors and religions at the table, and George was raised to embrace them all. His mother is an Irish immigrant who arrived to a London where there were signs that read No Blacks, No Irish, No Jews, and No Dogs. His parents had no prejudice, which is how George sees the world today.

I asked George what three words he would use to describe himself and he chose “work in progress”, which I loved. He has been in recovery for 8 years and proud of his sobriety. He has a network of support that has taught him what his boundaries are. He is happy, healthy, and aware of not only who he is, but what he has meant to others. Boy George is truly remarkable.

When he was young he thought you laughed when things were good, and cried when things were bad. He has learned that being happy is a choice and we all have the power to decide to be happy. Meeting Boy George made me happy. It made me so happy, I’ve decided we are friends. By friends of course I mean we’ll hang out, eventually fall in love, and grow old together.

Thank you to the lovely Paul Kemsley for reading my blog and inviting me to his home to meet George. You are hilarious, and although not particularly gifted with the timing of a Jewish joke, a mensch. To my beloved George, you are everything and I thank you for sharing your time with me. More importantly, thank you for inspiring me to always keep the faith.