Worried About The Boy

worried about the boy
Boy George, played by Douglas Booth

Worried About the Boy – part of BBC2’s line up of 1980s inspired films and documentaries – was a biopic of Boy George, focusing on both his rise to fame and his descent into drug addiction, post-success.

It was a powerful drama, successfully stoking the flames of 1980s nostalgia, though not – let’s be clear – with rose-tinted glasses. I don’t think anyone is naive enough to think the 1980s was a ‘great’ decade – but it was formative and memorable for a slew of different reasons: the royal wedding, the Falklands war, yuppies, Thatcher, the miners’ strike, the Cold War, the music, Eastenders, the AIDs epidemic. For me – the 80s are 100x more memorable than, say, the 90s or the noughties. That said, I was aged 4-14 in this period – a formative and impressionable age.

Specifically, this film captured the zeitgeist of the Blitz Club years, the down at heel but very trendy club which gave birth to the New Romantic movement. It was run by Visage band member Steve Strange and was renown for the outrageous, androgynous, gender-bending outfits worn by its patrons.

Boy George was living in a squat at that time and the colourful characters in his life included pop-transvestite Marilyn:

Marilyn pop-transvestite 1980s
The rather stunning Marilyn, played by Freddie Fox
worried about the boy
Freddie Fox as Marilyn and Douglas Booth as Boy George (real name George O’Dowd)

boy george and marilyn

boy george & marilyn
The real Boy George and Marilyn

Marilyn today, if you believe the News of the World. 17 stone (he used to be 10), broke and living with his 76 year old mother in Hertfordshire.

Boy George’s fractious personal life was examined. He was drawn to straight men like a moth to a flame – invariably getting burnt after they loved him and left him. Most notable of these was fellow band member Jon Moss.


worried about the boy Mathew Horne as Jon Moss
worried about the boy
The real Jon Moss and Boy George

The Telegraph had quite a positive review:

a stunning, sensitive and surprisingly moving production. It peeled away the popular image of the shabby, faded prima donna to reveal the story of a vulnerable young man who marched out of his parents’ pebble-dashed semi, with a naked mannequin under one arm, to join a rag-tag cultural revolution in London. George O’Dowd, as he was then known, fell in with a group of fellow misfits whose flamboyant, cross-dressing style put them at the forefront of the New Romantic movement, which, in the early 1980s, took up where punk left off at making Middle England choke on its cornflakes.

O’Dowd didn’t initially show much interest in singing. Instead, we saw him working reluctantly as a cloakroom assistant in Soho’s achingly cool Blitz Club, mastering the art of wearing a Korean peasant’s hat, and getting his heart broken. Douglas Booth, who played the lead role, was mesmerising. He offered a convincing portrayal of O’Dowd as a beautiful young man who oozed ambiguous sex appeal and protected his feelings with a carapace of prickly wit. In this he was helped by a crackling script. My favourite quip – among many – was when O’Dowd, in a typically outré outfit, embraced a man in a phone box. “I’m not really gay,” said the man. “That’s OK,” came the reply. “I’m not really a nun.”

And Metro has a good article on Douglas Booth and more about George O’Dowd – the ‘man behind the mascara’:

Born in London on 14th June 1961, George Alan O’Dowd was one of six children. Mum Dinah and dad Gerald originally hailed from County Tipperary in Ireland.

A follower of the New Romantic movement popular in early-80s Britain, George’s androgynous style caught the eye of punk pioneer Malcolm McLaren, who arranged for him to perform with the group Bow Wow Wow.

Soon after, he started the group In Praise of Lemmings with bassist Mikey Craig, though they had a rapid rethink on their name.

Jon Moss (with whom George had a secret relationship) and Roy Hay later joined the band and they settled on the name Culture Club, having abandoned another ill-advised moniker: Sex Gang Children. Culture Club referred to the band’s ethnic backgrounds, comprising transvestite Irish/English George, Jamaican-Briton Craig, Jewish Moss and Anglo-Saxon Hay.

There’s also quite a good interview on the BBC website with Boy George, about the film of his life. Worth a read.

So in summary, I really enjoyed it. But I tend to like all of these high quality BBC biopics. Others I’ve watched and rated include the ones on: ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn; WWII singer Gracie Fields;  comedian and actor Kenneth Williams; author Dame Barbara Cartland, 50s TV chef Fanny Craddock; and family values stalwart Mary Whitehouse. I also really enjoyed ITV’s biopic of Quentin Crisp.

10 thoughts on “Worried About The Boy

Add yours

  1. God I couldn’t agree with you more about the 90s and the “noughties” (is that finally what we’re going to start calling them?). Those decades seemed to lack a defining style of ANY kind. Unless you want to define them by shaky-camera / queasy-cam, reality TV, and jaded hipster self-referential cynicism.

    I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Boy George. And boy oh boy is John Moss in major denial 🙂 (Not that he’s “straight”; I can buy that more or less; but that he did a lot of stuff that *wasn’t* straight. I saw him interviewed some years ago and he pretends that it was all in George’s head. Pffft.)

  2. Justin – yeh, Jon Moss is being deceitful to only one person – himself. He may not be gay but he shouldn’t deny the past and what happened, either.

  3. Where are people getting that Jon Moss is in denial about his relationship with George? It’s not true. He has said in the press many times he had a relationship with George and he loved George. In fact, Jon was involved in the making of the movie. He met Mat Horne several times and was very open and honest about everything. Mat said that in the several interviews done to promote this movie. Jon was also recently interviewed in Radio Times and was very open about everything.
    Are you perhaps getting Jon confused with Kirk Brandon who does deny the relationship and is also in the movie? Kirk even sued George for saying they had a relationship.

  4. Hm. I definitely saw an interview — I think it was on VHS Behind the Music — where John Moss denied having ever had a physical or intimate or sexual relationship with George. He implied that it was all in George’s head.

    I have no trouble believing that Moss may be basically heterosexual, and that he never had the feelings for George that George had for him; but I believe that they had a physical relationship.

    (As if it’s any of our business! 😀 )

  5. I saw that VH1 interview. It was in 1997. Jon in it actually never said that he didn’t have a relationship with George. He said that he didn’t want to discuss it because it was private. He never said George was making it up about them having a relationship. The only reason he said that was because he was upset that George made him look like a bad person in his book. I suggest you watch the interview again, because Jon never denied the relationship but only said it was private and he didn’t want to talk about it. That was his right just like George refuses to discuss why he tied up the escort.
    He and George have subsequently made up and become friends. They did a Culture Club reunion in 1998. During the reunion and also in more recent interviews to promote this tv movie, Jon has said many times he did have a physical relationship with George and that he loved George. In fact, in a recent interview in Radio Times Jon says, “I still love Geroge. I love him to pieces”. So it’s not true that Jon didn’t have the same feelings for George that George had for him. It was very much a mutual love affair.
    Look up on the Internet more recent interviews with Jon and you will see I’m telling the truth. I think it’s unfair that Jon had said he loved George and they had a relationship a million times, but people are still hung up on an old Vh1 interview.
    You say it’s none of your business, but you are saying things about Jon and his personal life that are not true. I’m just correcting your misunderstanding.

  6. Thanks for the correction. I am sorry I remember the interview wrong. :-/

    I also know it’s hypocritical of me to say it’s none of my business when talking about the private life of a celebrity but then go on to make judgemental comments about that celebrity’s private life 🙂

    Thanks for the information. I’m glad to hear it.

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