Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Culture Club

I did not see this coming. From today's RAMP Newsletter

Big news for the many fans of '80s icons Culture Club -- for the first time in over a decade, the band has reformed and will be going out on tour with the original line-up -- (l-r): Jon Moss (drums and percussion), Mikey Craig (bass guitar), Roy Hay (guitar and keyboards) and Boy George (lead vocals). Culture Club was formed in 1981 and enjoyed massive success during the '80s, as radio stations pumped out their hits like "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," "Time (Clock of the Heart)," "I'll Tumble 4 Ya," "Karma Chameleon," "Miss Me Blind," and "Church of the Poison Mind."

I have my own Culture Club story. It goes back to 1985. Boy George was one of the most famous singers in the entire world, and his band The Culture Club had just released their third album. Unfortunately, their third album was a flop. The record was floundering, and the crowds were not coming out to see the concerts. I think the best way to describe how badly it was going for them was this--one day the program director of a radio station in Champaign-Urbana received a phone call offering up Boy George as an in-studio guest.

That program director was me.

I accepted the offer immediately, of course. I was also doing the afternoon show on WPGU at the time, and Boy George was far and away the biggest celebrity I ever had the opportunity to interview. I researched his controversial career diligently, and had a long list of questions ready.

He was scheduled to arrive at 4:00 p.m. Around 3:15 one of the WPGU staffers came into the air studio to tell me that a huge crowd was forming outside the radio station door. That was certainly a new phenomenon for us, and only made me more nervous. Around 3:45 the same WPGU staffer told me that a limo had pulled up to the door, seen the big crowd and left. By 4:30 it was pretty clear that Boy George had been spooked by the rabid fans, and had decided to cancel the interview without telling us.

I did what any professional broadcaster would have done at that moment. I asked my friend Dave to come into the studio and pretend like he was Boy George. We were having a great time goofing around. Dave talked in the worst British accent you’ve ever heard, jokingly referred to himself as “Oy George” (Dave is Jewish), and began describing his favorite sandwiches in ridiculous detail. Imagine our surprise when a newspaper photographer arrived at the studio about ten minutes later.

“I was listening on the radio and heard you had Boy George here,” he said.

“Did he sound like this?” I asked, pointing to Dave, who used that same horribly fake British accent in front of the photographer.

“Yeah,” the photographer said. “Where is he?”