A Shocking Absence of Fabulousness from the Original Karma Chameleon

TAKE IT LIKE A MAN: The Autobiography of Boy George

But for a fluke hit on the soundtrack to the 1992 movie The Crying Game, Boy George’s time has, by the hit parade stopwatch of pop music, long passed. This meandering, over-long autobiography of the gender-bending singer details a mercurial career that doesn’t warrant such an exhaustive catalog .

With the help of journalist Bright, who is more ghost than writer, the singer of the trifling British quartet Culture Club has produced an account of the rapid rise and fall of his group and himself amid the decadent London club scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Constantly informed by the author’s sexual orientation, this reads like a homosexual parody as it recollects the attire and style of each of its hundreds of flimsy characters. In between the numbing descriptions of bondage trousers and hennaed hair there are several funny and even tender moments.

Boy George’s upbringing in the working-class O’Dowd family produces some hilarious conflicts, and his failed romance with Culture Club drummer Jon Moss is still painfully close to the bone. One even gets the feeling that the reasons for the singer’s battle with heroin are more interesting than first meets the eye. Culture Club’s output, however, is insignificant in the canon of pop music, and Boy George’s antics are tame by the standards of both his predecessors (David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Lou Reed) and his successors (RuPaul, Madonna).

Every time the book threatens to become interesting, George incomprehensibly pulls the plug. He describes his first boyfriend Lenny and the reluctance that he felt to reveal their forbidden romance.

He was first in a long line of boys who couldn’t make up their minds until they had a few beers. The sex was groping and infrequent, in a dark corner at a party, up a quiet alley. Despite or because of this I fell madly in love. Love for love’s sake. I was cloying and desperate. Lenny and I were walking through Blackheath village on our way home from the club. I saw a gang of boys coming and made him hold my hand. They shouted, ‘Queers!’ Lenny started to shout back. I told him to shut up, they’d probably kill us. We were lucky, they walked away. A few weeks earlier we’ve been jumped on by a gang of black boys at Crayford station. Lenny had got hurt. He screamed, don’t tell me to shut up. I said I didn’t want him to get hurt, but he wouldn’t listen. He kept shouting Don’t tell me what to do! You don’t own me. I told him to fuck off. He ran off and left me in Blackheath. We never spoke again.

That’s it. No insight, no introspection, no nothing.

Ultimately, George’s shallowness and excitability bury any vital signs beyond an occasional witty remark. Furthermore, for so emotional a personality, Boy George remains eerily unperturbed about the deaths of fellow club denizens who are falling victim to AIDS.

This autobiography commits the worst crime its has-been subject can imagine: It’s boring.

TAKE IT LIKE A MAN: The Autobiography of Boy George by Boy George with Spencer Bright

(HarperCollins, 496pp, ISBN: 0-06-017368-8)

Ken Kurson

Ken Kurson is the founder of Sea of Reeds Media. He is the former editor in chief of the New York Observer and also founded Green Magazine and covered finance for Esquire magazine for almost 20 years. Ken is the author of several books, including the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Leadership.

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