explainer

Drug abuse, psychotic episodes and prison: Boy George's turbulent life before The Voice. 

Boy George has graced Australian television screens since 2017 when he became a coach on The Voice Australia.

But before he took a seat on a spinning red chair, George had a turbulent career spanning almost four decades.

The Culture Club singer, now 57, whose real name is George O’Dowd, shot to fame in the early 80s after the band released their debut album Kissing to Be Clever. He received worldwide attention for his flamboyant clothing and makeup, and androgynous appearance.

Culture Club enjoyed success for much of the 80s with number one hits Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? and Karma Chameleon.

 

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Egypt 1984

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By the mid-80s, George was exposed as a heroin addict and his drug problems along with internal fighting led to Culture Club disbanding.

Since then, George has reinvented himself as a solo artist, fashion designer and DJ while also being a tabloid favourite for his many personal scandals and drug abuse.

In 1986, keyboardist Michael Rudetsky, who co-wrote Culture Club song Sexuality, was found dead of a heroin overdose in George’s London home.

Rudetsky’s parents filed a wrongful death suit against George, seeking financial damages for their son’s death but George won the court case and was not required to pay any damages, although he agreed to seek treatment for his addiction.

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In 2005 George’s drug problems returned and he was arrested in New York on suspicion of possessing cocaine.

In February 2006 the cocaine charged was dropped, but George pleaded guilty to reporting a false burglary and was sentenced to five days of community service, fined US$1000 and ordered to attend a drug rehabilitation program.

 

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#iconic

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In April 2007, George hit rock bottom after a “psychotic episode”.

Norwegian model and escort Audun Carlsen visited his London flat for a naked photoshoot, during which they took cocaine.

George had invited Carlsen into his room, when he and an unnamed man ambushed Carlsen.

Carlsen, then 28, told a jury at a 2008 trial he was forced into handcuffs, dragged across the floor, attached to a large bolt on the wall and beaten. Carlsen escaped after wrenching the wall fixture free and fled into the street in his underwear, screaming at pedestrians for help.

George’s lawyer told the court that his client’s long-term drug use had played a part in the “truly bizarre” attack and George had “genuinely believed” Carlsen had stolen photographs from his computer, The Guardian reported.

George was sentenced to 15 months in prison, where he finally got sober. Last March he celebrated 10 years of sobriety, which he has previously credited to his practice of Buddhism.

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“I went back to Buddhism last year,” he said in 2012. “I messed around with it in the 80s – it was cosmetic then – but I’m really into it now. Chanting is all about polishing your mirror. What do you want to be? I feel like I’m out of chances; people have forgiven me so much, I can’t let them down again.”

 

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Back to music and pitching school. @thevoiceau @boygeorgeofficial @deltagoodrem @guysebastian @kellyrowland

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In 2017, George reflected on his prison sentence in an interview with Piers Morgan.

At the time of the attack on Carlsen, George had a £400 (AU$730) a day heroin habit and admitted he was probably close to death but was too high to realise the danger.

“I sent myself to prison. I told the police why I did what I did. In hindsight I was having a psychotic episode,” he said. “I was a drug addict so I can’t sit here and say my reasons for doing it were founded in any way.”

Celebrating a decade of sobriety in 2018, George spoke to a sober contestant on The Voice Australia about recovery.

“As you know, if you’re in recovery, it’s amazing to think that you could go this long without being a mess,” he told Colin Lillie, a contestant on last year’s show. “It’s like, you get through the other side and you get a life beyond your wildest dreams, you know, because recovery really does set you free.”

He credited “everything good” in his life to being clean in an interview on Nova in 2018.

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