Despite being shut out from a U.S. tour by immigration officials, ’80s pop icon Boy George is spreading love, not anger, toward America. The controversial singer was set to start his tour with a live performance on TODAY July 7 — until he found his visa application turned down by authorities because of an impending criminal trial in London.
Still, George bears no malice, he told TODAY's Meredith Vieira in an exclusive interview via satellite. “I’m feeling very upbeat at the moment,” the singer said. “Yes, it’s disappointing because of the fans and a lot of people have bought airline tickets, so I’m disappointed for them. But if [the tour] doesn’t happen now, it will happen in the new year.”
The London native born George O’Dowd was arrested last year on charges of assault and false imprisonment after a male escort told police that George and another man had handcuffed him to a hook on a bed in George’s London apartment. Thus, while a November trial date looms, the U.S. has blocked his travel plans. U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey indicated there “are often difficulties for individuals who either are currently subject to criminal charges or otherwise may have criminal records.”
While Boy George’s legal team continues to petition authorities to grant him a visa that would allow him to make good on his TODAY appearance and subsequent 24-city U.S. tour, he says he’s learning to take life’s difficulties in stride. The singer’s honey voice and androgynous garb brought him fame with his band Culture Club, which scored six No. 1 hits from 1982 through 1985, before George’s addiction to heroin sidelined the group.
No ‘hissy fit’
George told Vieira: “I’m sober; I’ve put my head back on the right way. I’m very happy at the moment — that kind of dictates how I react to certain situations.” He also made light of his fellow Brit Naomi Campbell, the international supermodel who found herself in legal hot water after scrapping with a police officer at London’s Heathrow Airport in April.
“I’m not going to have a Naomi hissy fit,” George said, laughing. “I’m not going to get wound up — there’s no point.”
George, 48, famously faced the U.S. legal system in 2006 after being charged with falsely reporting a burglary at an apartment he keeps in New York City. When police responded to his complaint, they found cocaine in his apartment, and George spent five days cleaning the streets of Gotham in August 2006 as part of a community service agreement.
He said he believes “I’ve paid my dues” to the U.S. — but looks back fondly on his job as a street sweeper, despite a famous dustup with a pack of press who tailed George during his grimy work.
“I got so much love from the people of New York every day, people were so supportive,” George said. “I was getting honks, and people coming out of manholes going, ‘Go on, George!’ I was surprised by how much affection I received. Everyone talks about it being a humiliating experience. I didn’t feel humiliated. I thought it was a really good experience.”
‘It’s not over’
George is confident that even if his appeals to immigration authorities don’t yield him a visa now, he will still return to the U.S. after he winds his way through his November trial. “It’s not over,” he told Vieira. “It’s not like I’m going to have to do my career in America by satellite!”
Since his mid-’80s heyday, George has recorded sporadically as a solo artist; performed as a club DJ; written two books, and staged a musical based on his life. He’s still proceeding with plans to tour England while he awaits his day in court.
“I have a great band and I’m really excited about doing my music again,” the singer said. “But to get all upset about it, it’s not going to help anybody.”
George promised Vieira he’d make good on his TODAY appearance once his legal issues are resolved — and he promised to bring her a present when he does. Throughout the interview, Vieira admired the bright red, wide-brimmed hat with gold stars George had perched atop his head.
“I’ll bring you one!” George promised.