Back in 1972, a young South Londoner named George Alan O'Dowd saw androgynous glamazon David Bowie on Top of the Pops, and it changed his life. Roughly a decade later, when O'Dowd — now cheekily known as Boy George — famously performed on the same BBC program with his band Culture Club, his appearance had a similarly seismic effect on many starry-eyed pop fans. Wearing full-face kabuki makeup, flowing dreadlocks, and a knee-grazing smock dress, this girlish Boy played with concepts of sexuality and "gender-bending" in a way that was possibly even more radical and shocking in the '80s than Bowie had been in the '70s.
Flash-forward 30 years, as Culture Club embarks on a much-hyped (and already once-delayed) reunion tour, and the world has drastically changed. As George points out, now "Sam Smith can say, 'I'm gay,' and no one goes on about it," and Caitlyn Jenner has been enthusiastically embraced by the media and public at large. George is humble, but acknowledges that he and Culture Club helped pave the way.