Boy George on his formative days in Kent

Having kicked into touch the demons of his younger years, Boy George has come full circle and is today DJ, model and author

George slaying the dragon

Having kicked into touch the demons of his younger years, Boy George has come full circle and is today DJ, model and author

Boy George is a self-confessed family man these days. With no offspring of his own, he dotes on his nieces and nephews, lavishing on them gifts and attention during frequent trips to Shooters Hill, where his sisters and mum Dinah live.

Despite some very public aberrations over the past 30 years, family has always provided the steady compass for the performer, although very little else has remained the same.

Take the welcome he receives nowadays when venturing back to some of the areas he grew up in – Eltham, Woolwich and others. The friendly reception he receives on the street in 2012 is a world away from events contained within his childhood memories. After all, growing up as an ‘out and proud’ gay teen with a very individual fashion sense offered its fair share of problems.

“A few years ago, I was DJing in some nightclub in Dartford and there were a big group of lads chanting, ‘you’re one of us, you’re one of us’,” he begins. “Well, all I could think was what a difference a few decades made, because they were the very brand of guys who made my life so difficult when I was growing up.

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“They were the ones who used to chase me down the street, baying for my blood. They never caught me though, I was like an Olympic athlete... I had to be to survive,” he jokes.

“But when you’re a teenager, you think it’s your business what you do - you’re really courageous and you convince yourself that it’s totally normal to walk around dressed like a nun. I don’t know how I got away without it. But now, it’s a different world, I’m seemingly accepted by the same guys. It’s a bizarre turn of events.”

Maybe it’s time to break out the nun’s costume for his next visit home? “Are you mental?!” he roars with laughter, “there’s no way I’d be as brave now and I’m certainly not a fast runner any more. They’d definitely catch me. If I ever dress up as a nun, it’ll be in my car breaking the speed limit.”

Born in Bexley in 1961, the young George O’Dowd grew up as one of six children in a traditional Irish household in Eltham, before moving to Shooters Hill when the aspiring new wave pioneer was 14. “There are nice bits and not-so-nice bits” he admits.

“Like most of London really, you turn a corner and you’re in some opulent neighbourhood, yet venture round another corner and there’s some dodgy council estate. I liked growing up there to a certain point, but I always found myself drawn to Blackheath more.”

The picturesque surroundings resonated with the Culture Club frontman, who enjoyed a string of hits in the 1980s with favourites such as Karma Chameleon and Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?, and he still finds himself drawn to some of his favourite spots in the area.

“Any time I’m back at home and I want to venture out from mum’s for dinner, I’ll often nip over the Kent border to go to Blackheath. There’s a Chinese there - The Laughing Buddha - I love the food. There are some other lovely posh restaurants and if you’re going out for dinner, you want to go somewhere nice.

There’s a ‘can do’ attitude among Kent people and a lot of pride for the county

“But Kent to me has always offered its own special feel. There’s a ‘can do’ attitude amongst Kent people and undoubtedly a lot of pride for the county, and I suppose the further away from London you go the more that blossoms. But I’ve always felt it. It’s no bad thing.”

Currently living in north London’s Hampstead, George is enjoying a career renaissance after a period of deep personal torment. Prior to kicking his addictions given a well-documented lifelong battle with alcohol and drugs, the flamboyant singer’s creative output had been minimal over the past two decades, and he spent more time making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In 2006, he called police to his New York apartment to report a non-existent burglary – and a string of events followed that led to a month-long stint of community service as a dustman on the streets of Manhattan. Three years later, George served four months of a jail sentence after false imprisonment of a friend.

Throughout these dark times, he managed to find a positive life lesson. “I have always maintained that jail was the worst place in the world and if I went there I might not make it through,” he says, “but I did. You somehow find the strength. It was a life-changing experience and I feel I came out of that situation educated and more positive than I’d been in years. I really don’t view that period in my life as a negative, but I wouldn’t want to go back to it – no way.”

These days he regularly criss-crosses the globe as a highly sought-after club DJ. Indeed, the pop icon - who turned 50 last year - is currently promoting his latest single Turn To Dust with a string of live London dates, while also working on his new solo album and fresh material for Culture Club’s hotly anticipated 30th anniversary reunion tour. And somewhere among this chaos, he’s also managed to produce a coffee table collection of personal family photos and memoirs, King of Queens.

“It’s not like I was slaving away on some epic autobiography. It’s just photos I’ve selected myself, and it’s a nice way to look back into my family history. Like my own version of Who Do You Think You Are?”

And besides, George has already penned two self-revelatory autobiographies, Take it Like A Man and Straight, but admits he often regrets being too open about his private life. So why put a collection of personal family photos out there?

“In the past, I wasn’t that cautious about what was published. Now I know your personal life is personal and there’s nothing in King of Queens that would shame anyone – well, apart from a few unusual hairstyles!”

Despite celebrating his own golden anniversary milestone, the singer is in no mind to slow down, but confesses he often toys with the idea of leaving London and permanently moving back to his roots.

“I’m a Londoner by heart, but there are some stunning places back home where I could be near my mum, enjoy some traditional home cooking and feel as though I’d returned to somewhere special.

“I think I’m at the point in my life now where Kent would be one of the few places that would be able to lure me away from London...  but I’ll see how much longer I can hold off the temptation for!”