The Zhoosh! Brighton Blog
With Kate and Wills naming their new baby, George, we here at Zhoosh thought it only fitting that we should celebrate our own family Georges. so without further ado, here’s are top five iconic Georges.
5. George Passmore (half of Gilbert and George)
George Passmore first met his long term collaborator, lover Gilbert Proesch, back in 1967 at Martin’s School of Art in London (Central Saint Martins) where they both studied sculpture. Put off by what they considered the confines of elitism of sculpture taught at St. Martins, the duo decided to create a piece of art to challenge the conceptions of, “What is art?”
Their first piece of living art which they titled, The Singing Sculpture consisted of them standing on a table, dressed in their now iconic conservative suites shirt and ties while dancing and singing along to Flanagan and Allen’s, Underneath the Arches. From that day on Gilbert and George decided to present themselves as ‘living art’, 24/7, 265 days of the year. Their style of art has been scoffed at and parodied ever since; particular by French and Saunders in their brilliant sketch, “Muriel and Maddie”.
However, Gilbert and George’s The Singing Sculpture, should be seen in the context of its time. What Gilbert and George done was to break from the restraints imposed by convention and made people question art rather then have it preached to them what the establishment considered art to be.
They would then follow up this performance with a collection of arresting black and white images, framed within their distinctive black lines. The majority of Gilbert and George’s images are taken around the East End of London, which has been their home most of their lives together. A mainstay of their art has been to provoke a reaction, be it using images of skinheads, or that if an Asian man with the word, ‘paki’ scrawled below it.
As they progressed with this form, they began to add colour to their work, along with images of themselves sometimes acting quite eccentrically, naked and even having six foot images of their own turds as part of their ‘naked, shit’ collection. Of course, this once again caused much controversy, particularly to readers of the Daily Mail.
To dismiss the works of Gilbert and George without seeing their art work in the flesh, so to speak, is to give their work a disservice. Their exhibition at the Tate modern in 2007 was a stimulant to all the senses and something that should be experienced before rejecting their art as nothing more than, well… a load of shit.
4. George Takei
For his legion of fans, George Takei will be forever known as Hikaru Sulu, from the iconic sc-fi television program, Star Trek as well as starring in six Star Trek movies. George Takei has also appeared in numerous cult television programs, including: Supah Ninjas, Heroes and the controversial episode of the Twilight Zone: The Encounter, in which George Takei plays a young Japanese-American named Arthur Takamori who encounters a racists American WWII veteran named Fenton who together locked in an attic. With no escape, both men begin to make confessions. On Fenton’s part he confesses to the murder of a Japanese soldier, even though the the soldier had surrendered and disarmed. Takamori in turn confessors that his father’s actions helped kill a group of American soldiers.
In 2012, George Takei starred in : Allegiance – A New American Musical. The story centres around a World War II Japanese American internment. The project was of particular significant to George Takei, as he and his family had endured much suffering while captured inside one of America’s internment camps during the Second World War.
It is without doubt that the experience of the internment camps, led to his lifelong commitment to speak out for equality, particularly when it comes to issues around the LGBT community. Over the years George Takei has taken to the airwaves on The Howard Stern Show (which he makes regular guest appearances) to speak out on issues of Homophobia via his involvement with groups, Frontrunners and The Coming Out Project.
George has also appeared alongside his long term partner, Brad Altman (whom he married in September 2008) as the first same sex couple in USA television program, The Newlywed Game, in which he won the prize of$10,000 for their charity, the Japanese American National Museum.
There will be those who will scoff at his appearance on such a show. But in a time where homophobia and racism is still a huge issues in the USA, the fact that George and Brad appeared as a committed gay couple, on a prime time family program would have had a positive impact to many of his fans and viewers of that program.
Finally, George has embraced the power of the social media, particularly Facebook, using the platform to not only bring a smile to his legions of fans, but to spread the word on race and LGBT equality.
3. George Michael
Back in 1981, a fresh faced George Michael (dressed as if ready for a night at the Coleheme in a studded leather biker jacket, tight jeans, biker boosts) with his school friend Andrew Ridgeley and backing singers, Pepsi Demacque and Shirlie Holliman took the charts by storm with their song; Young Guns (go for it), Wham Rap and Bad Boys. From here, Wham would go on to dominate the charts, both in the UK and across the world with hit after hit including; Club Tropicana, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Freedom (the video famously filmed in Beijing, to coincide with Wham’s historical tour as the first Western band to play in China.)
Wham would continue their success with ever popular songs such as the Christmas mainstay, Last Christmas, I’m Your Man and Where Did Your Heart Go? By now the rumour mill was rife that George was planning to leave the success of Wham behind and give his all to his solo career, after having huge hits previously with, Carless Whisper and A Different Corner.
1987 saw the release of the critically acclaimed album, Faith. No doubt George Michael’s people took a leaf from previous performers who knew the power of a controversial video (Duran Duran’s, Girls on Film, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax) would not only get banned, but also then talked about with millions of people wanting to be part of the controversy. With this in mind, George and his publicity machine created the video, I Want Your Sex. The video had an extremely sexy, Kathy Jeung in little more than stocking, suspenders and a basque getting up close and personal with George. The video and great song would cement George’s reputation as one the decade’s hottest sex symbols.
Faith would go on to produce another five top 20 hit singles in the UK, including, Faith, Father Figure and the beautiful ballad, One More Try, (which was also covered by George’s mate, Hazel O Connor). Faith would go on to be critically acclaimed both the UK and the USA.
When George Michael released his next album, Listen Without Prejudice, he decided not use his image in any of the album art work or appear in any of his promotional videos. The video, Freedom 90, had George’s iconic Rockers Revenge embossed leather jacket and Juke box used in his previous video, Faith burning to a crisp and blown up. This gave a clear message that ‘Sex Symbol George’ would not be the driving force behind this album, but his ability as a first class lyricist should be the thing he should be known for.
At this same time George Michael had not come out publically about being a gay man, but revisiting his lyrics from the single, Freedom 90, there are perhaps some clues of George wishing to discard the image as a macho heterosexual he portrayed in the Video, Faith once and for all.
I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I told you so
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone else I’ve got to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Take back your singing in the rain
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man
Although Listen Without Prejudice started well, each subsequent single released entered at a lower entry in the chart, with the final UK single, Cowboys and Angels failing to enter the top 40. This would be the beginning of the end of George’s relationship with the record company Sony, with both parties blaming each other for the albums lacklustre success.
It would take another six years before George released his next studio album, Older. Within this time George had met and lost the love of his life, Anselmo Feleppa, who had died from a brain haemorrhage, complicated by his AIDS diagnoses. The song, Jesus to a Child, was written with the loss of Anselmo in mind. In contrast to Jesus to a Chid, the second single, Fasterlove, was all about instant sexual gratification from whomever. Both Jesus to a Child and Fasterlove both went to number one. album seeing George coming back to his iconic best, with a further five UK singles being released, including: Spinning The Wheel, Older and You Have Been Loved.
The years that followed would be a little chaotic for George to say the least. On the 7th April 1998 George was arrested by an undercover policeman after ‘engaging in a lewd act’ in a public toilet. With his sexuality as a gay man no longer a burden, George released the brilliant song/video, Outside. George was also able to speak openly about be his past relationship with, Anselmo Feleppa and his then present partner, Kenny Goss. Over the last fourteen years George has perhaps been in the headlines more for his private life then as his ability as a first class lyricist and singer.
But With George celebrating his 50th Birthday on June 25th 2013 we here at Zhoosh are celebrating George’s fantastic contribution to music and can’t wait for what this talented George will be brining to the music charts next.
2. Boy George
Thank goodness that Mr and Mrs O’Dowd decided to call their son George Alan, rather than the other way round. Somehow we think that Boy Alan, wouldn’t have had quite the same impact as Boy George has had over the last few decades.
It is also a great relieve that Malcolm McLaren rejected Boy George to be the lead singer in the group, Bow Wow Wow; leaving George to instead finding himself friends with Jon Moss (whom Boy George would have an extremely turbulent love life with), Roy Hay, and Mikey Craig. As a collective the group first called themselves the rather radio/TV unfriendly, Sex Gang Children. Somewhere along the line the group looked at themselves as a mixed collective of types, Boy George (Trans Gender, Jon (Jewish), Roy (Anglo Saxon) and Mikey (Black British); together they made up Culture Club.
The first time Boy George appeared on Top of the Pops, many viewers were unsure if the soul singer was male or female, leading to the tabloids to coin the phrase, Gender Bender. At the time the charts were dominated by the New Romantic Movement with the likes of Steve Strange and Annie Lennox pushing the boundaries of how gender could be presented and manipulated.
Literally over night Culture club were dominating the world with Boy George clones (mainly girls) screaming to see their idol. In the early days Boy George was very coy about his sexuality; knowing just as George Michel did that in those days, coming out as a gay man could seriously damage your music career. Boy George would famously say that he preferred a cup of tea to sex, but we can’t help thinking that such practice would have made his knob sore.
As Culture Club, Boy George would release four Albums: Kissing to be Clever, with singles, Kissing to be Clever (a song written about Boy George and John Moss’ relationship), Time (Clock of the Heart) and I’ll Tumble for Yah. Their second album, Colour by Numbers would eclipse the success of their first album and also include a string of hits, including, Church of the Poison Mind, Karma Chameleon, Miss me blind, Victims and Miracles.
The next two albums, Waking Up with the House on Fire (which had the dreadful single War Song, which in turn was parodied by Spitting image with the much more entertaining, War is Naughty) and From Luxury To Heartache (single release Move Away).
In those four short years Boy George had become a huge icon who fell from a great height when two of his close friends, Michael Rudetsky and Mark Vaultier both died of a drug overdose. Around this time Boy George was also rumoured to be addicted to drugs. The combination of these tragic events and the last two albums failing to ignite the same enthusiasm from the earlier albums, culture club disbanded.
After a well documented account of Boy George’s addiction to Heroin and subsequent battle to kick the drug, Boy George would go on to have a successful solo career; including the brilliant, Everything I Own, Crying Game and the political song, No Section 28 which although commendable, was as dreadful as the War Song.
Since then Boy George has gone on to have huge success as an international respected D.J., released two autobiographies, Take it Like a Man and Straight, as well as penning the semi-autobiographic musical: Taboo.
These days Boy George is off the drugs, lost a shed load of weight and is embracing his fifties with all the gusto and enthusiasm that saw him rise to successful acclaim when he first hit the underground scene of the Steve Stranger’s Blitz Club all those years ago.
1. George Montague aka the oldest gay in the village
In a list of top five iconic George’s, it was without a shadow of a doubt that George Montague would make Zhoosh’s number one spot. For the last few years George Montague has been an important visual presence at Brighton Pride’s in his mobility scooter with his placard proudly declaring that at the age of 90 this year he is in fact, “the oldest gay in the village.”
Born at a time when being gay was a criminal offense, George grew up knowing it was men that he was attracted to, but like so many other gay men of his generation, got married in the hope that it would literally, straighten him out. During his marriage he had a loving relationship with his wife and together they had three children. George now has three loving grandchildren too. During this time George knew that although he loved his wife, he was living a lie and so they chose to separate and live apart. Although both he and his wife found the separation difficult they both sorted out eventually their differences and remained friends.
For the past sixteen years, George has been with his life partner, Somchai Phukkhlai. Together they spend their time in Thailand away from the UK winter months and return to Brighton in the summer.
This year George will once again be an important part of Brighton’s LGBT Pride March, as an ambassador for the older LGBT community. So when you see George at this year’s march be sure to give him a huge cheer.