Black Country helped heal star’s heart

Everyone has suffered a broken heart at some time in their lives and few have taken the drastic step of moving to the Black Country to mend it.

boygeorge.jpgEveryone has suffered a broken heart at some time in their lives and few have taken the drastic step of moving to the Black Country to mend it.

But that was exactly what eighties survivor Boy George did as a teenager in love.

Thirty years ago, before he hit the big time with Culture Club and their multi-million selling hits Karma Chameleon and Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?, the London-born singer, famed for his androgynous looks and bright make-up, lived with four friends in a former dentist’s surgery converted into a flat in Goodall Street, Walsall.

Every day he would catch the train into Birmingham where he worked in a clothes shop in the Bullring.

The 47-year-old said his time in the flat in Walsall was a mixed bag. 

“The best thing was living right next door to a market, so we could go shopping whenever we felt like it. It was a bit tough getting to the train station, dressed the way we always were. We got a lot of shouts every time we made a break for it.

“I was only about 17 when I had my heart broken and wanted to leave home. My mother said it was OK as long as I went to Birmingham where I could check in with my aunt and grandmother. My aunt still lives in Edgbaston.

“One day while I was walking down the street I saw this vision across the street and he turned out to be Martin Degville.”

Degville would go on to front the punk band Sigue Sigue Sputnik but Boy George, born George Alan O’Dowd, worked in his shop Degville’s Dispensary, selling clothes, or “DIY fashion” as he called it.

George laughed off the idea that it was this that inspired his own clothing line, 

B Rude, launched in 2006. “They are very different styles”, he said. “Back then we used to get funny looks wandering through the markets by the Bullring. All the ladies with the beehive hairdos and the Spock eyebrows would stare at us and we’d wonder if they thought they looked any more normal.”

Fame came at a price and for George it was the constant glare of the media. But despite his drug taking, his arrest in New York after he called police to his home where they found cocaine, and his conviction for wasting police time, he remains matter-of-fact about his portrayal.

He ended up doing five days of community service picking up rubbish in Chinatown in 2006. “The whole thing was a photo opportunity”, he said.

“If George Michael got arrested he wouldn’t do that sort of community service but with me and the clothes I wear and the way I look it made a good picture. People ask me if it was really traumatic but things can always be worse.”

Even though Boy George dropped in a reference to George Michael, he is quick to point out that he is not looking to resume the spat which started in 2005 when he accused the former Wham singer of being a hypocrite for hiding his homosexuality for so many years.

This week he urged the singer to get clean of his own drug problems.

“The only reason I speak about George Michael is because people keep asking me about him. All I can say is that when you’re in that state, you don’t follow advice.

“With me I eventually started listening to my own voice in my head telling me that this was stupid, that I was going around in circles like it was groundhog day.”

George has to return from his current tour, which ends on November 2, to a court appearance in London on November 22.

He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of falsely imprisoning a 28-year-old man. 

“We can’t even go there so don’t even ask”, he said.

“There are two statements which define me. The first is that bitterness is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die. The other is “Remember you’re a Womble”.

"To me it just means that the sort of things we think are important often really aren’t. What’s important to me is to be present in what I’m doing.

"There were years that amazing things were happening to me and I was just blase about them.”

* Boy George’s next single Yes We Can is released on October 12.

He will appear at the Birmingham Alexandra Theatre on October 11. For tickets see www.alexandratheatre.org.uk or call 0844 8472388.