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:
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.
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.