Picks and Pans Review: Take It Like a Man

updated 11/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Autobiography of Boy George with Spencer Bright

When I was a little boy I wanted to be just like Shirley Bassey. I longed for those rare occasions when my brothers were out of the bedroom so I could close the curtains, turn off the light, and put Shirley on the record player. I would strut around the room waving my arms...throwing my head from side to side." So begins the chatty, catty, ever-so-wordy memoirs of George O'Dowd, the plucky "pink sheep" of a working-class English family who avenged his misunderstood childhood by becoming Boy George, pop culture's pre-RuPaul avatar of androgyny. Unfortunately, Boy (or is it George?) is never truly insightful about his tormented life in the nearly 500 formless pages that follow.

In the midst of a mini-comeback (this book arrives on the heels of his well-received CD Cheapness & Beauty), Boy casts himself as a soulful misfit who made good (hit songs like Karma Chameleon and I'll Tumble 4 Ya) before losing himself—and his career—in a haze of drugs and sex. A "tragedy queen" caught up in the sleazy hedonism of the early '80s, he drifted from dysfunctional affair to drug binge to record deal with an astonishing lack of discipline.

There's a compelling morality tale here somewhere, or at least a good yarn about excess, but Boy George hasn't shaped the odd events of his life into any kind of dramatic story. He treats turning points—his drug bust, the breakup of his band Culture Club, the death of a friend in his house—as casually as his stoned appearance on The A-Team. ("Totally awesome, Mr. T") We're left to wander through his decade of debauchery without much direction, much like Boy George himself. (HarperCollins, $25)

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