Boy George, one of the most iconic figures in pop tells M the story of meeting another trailblazing musical hero, the inimitable Little Richard. The photograph is from a new book, Boy George: King Of Queens, documenting the Culture Club singer's amazing life and times.
One of my best friends, Paul Starr, who sadly died a few years ago, was a make-up artist who worked with the most amazing people. One of them was Little Richard.
We’d already spoken on the phone before we met; Paul would be with him and Little Richard would say, ‘Put me on the phone to Boy George!’ I had some amazing conversations with him, he’s such a funny man. I used to say, ‘When are you coming to London?’ and he would go, ‘Ooh chile, I couldn’t get on an aeroplane, make me scream like a white lady. Woooo!’ He was a real character.
I got to meet him at the Harlem Apollo as we rehearsed for the venue's 50th anniversary concert in 1985, and we had this photo taken.
Even when you’re famous yourself there are levels of people you really respect and when you meet someone you’ve been into since you were a kid and listened to those records it was like, ‘Oh God, I’m meeting Little Richard!' I’ve always loved him; he had a real interesting history and was someone I really admired.
Little Richard was braver than me, but I grew up in the 70s which was a tough time. When you’re young you just don’t think about it. When I was 16 I used to walk around Woolwich dressed as a nun in full make-up and I would never do that now. When you’re 18 you feel like you’re super-resilient and that it’s your divine right to do what you want. At the time you don’t think about it, but looking back, I don’t know how I got away with it.
The Apollo gig was amazing. I sang with Stevie Wonder, I sang with Luther Vandross, I met all these people I had loved – Gladys Knight, Mary Wilson, Patti Labelle - all these amazing icons. It was a brilliant experience.
The one person I regret not getting a photograph with, just before I met Patti, was Sammy Davis Jnr. We were rehearsing in the daytime and I was watching him from the shadows. He stopped and said, ‘Hey, are you Boy George?’ and I replied ‘Wow, you know who I am?’ To which he responded, ‘How can I not know who you are?’
I remember being so impressed meeting Sammy as he was such an amazing performer. Afterwards I kicked myself for not getting that picture with him.
Boy George is the lead singer of Culture Club, one of the UK's most iconic bands with album sales in excess of 20 million.
His successful solo career has included the hit title song to the film The Crying Game.
Today, George runs his own record label, designs clothing and is a notable DJ. New single Turn 2 Dust is out now.
Boy George - King Of Queens, a coffee-table book featuring unseen photos, illustrations and memorabilia was released on 12 December. The deluxe book is limited to 999 numbered copies, each featuring a unique centrefold spread, personalised by Boy George.
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