For the next few months - or until Taboo, my musical, closes - I am a resident of New York. So far, so good, with packed houses despite stinking reviews that seem to centre on a loathing of our producer, Rosie O'Donnell. One chap, from the New York Post, Michael Riedel, has waged a one-man campaign of hatred and was slamming Taboo before the doors opened for preview.
I'm a bit of a writer and critic myself, but I tend to write only about the stuff that I love. And even if I don't enjoy something, I don't see it as my job to stop others from making up their own minds. So many movies, shows, records that I hear being championed as genius seem dull to my ears and eyes. I rarely go and see blockbuster movies. I hate being told that I must see Titanic because it cost a small fortune.
Clearly, the audience thoroughly enjoyed Taboo on opening night, unless they gave us an ovation out of loyalty for helping them out in Iraq. Had I been Riedel, I might have reported the elation in exasperation and exclaimed that it was a riot of bad taste. After all, the issue is one of taste and we are all completely irrational in that department. Why does one novelty record sail through our ears with joy and another drive us to distraction? I don't know why I love "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" by New Kids on the Block, but can't stand the polished pop of Britney Spears.
I am playing Leigh Bowery, who distorted his body to give himself breasts and wore everything and the kitchen sink. That might not sound like much of a stretch until you remember that American audiences only know me as the charming queer that I truly am. The cheers for the Boy George they know go to Euan Morton, who plays the character Boy George. Since taking on the role of Bowery I have been asked if it is weird to be on stage with myself, and until now I had not realised what was so weird about it. I realise that, along with being the lovable queer that I am, there is a darker, sadomasochistic quality which I share with Bowery. It is why I admired him. I have never really tapped into that side of my nature, unlike many Tory MPs, but I know it is there lurking like a car thief.
This must be why I often come off-stage after a scene feeling strangely detached, and why I get a thrill when Morton (a much better Boy George) takes his rapturous curtain call. I am being given the rare opportunity to see myself in the distorted way that others might, while at the same time distorting my own self-image. This may seem hideously self-indulgent, but I assure you it is as strange to moi as it is to anyone else. Perhaps I am being overly analytical? Perhaps I am, in fact, insane?
It is bizarre to read reviews that speak of the hedonistic, dark club-culture of the 1980s by folk who have no experience of it. Even more odd is the heterosexual understanding of homosexuality, which speaks with equally knowing authority. They refer to the pointless "bitchy rhetoric", forgetting that it was devised, in the first place, to protect the queer from the verbal arrows of straight culture. In his song "Fame", David Bowie sings: "Is it any wonder I reject you first?" Well, exactly. I have been trying to understand fame since it wrapped its tentacles around me, and still I am confused.
Perhaps the trick is just to enjoy it and treat it like a delicious one-night stand with a married Russian in Moscow. This could be good advice to critics who get their knickers in a right old twist and write as if they have been taken from behind without warning.
I have, over the years, read some hideously cruel but witty things about myself. At the time, they cause a great ache in the heart, but often bring on a chuckle when I look back. I don't mind criticism if it is wise, dripping in wit and based on some kind of knowledge of the subject. Trust me, you are not a real man until you have walked through a crowd of football hooligans in high heels, and stuffing a cushion up your jumper does not help you understand pregnancy. I read the other day that I was wrong for the role of Bowery because I have "a singer's stage presence". Well, thank God it's a bloody musical!