U.S. Tour: 'Heartbroken' Boy George Speaks Out

If only Boy George really were a karma chameleon—maybe he could change his rotten luck. Last week, the U.S. State Department denied the 47-year-old British performer a visa to enter the country due to a pending criminal case in the United Kingdom. The former front man for '80s synth-pop group Culture Club has struggled publicly with heroin abuse in the past, but prior to this U.S. tour—his first in nearly a decade—his drug test came back clean, and he was determined to make a comeback. But there was one more hitch: charges filed last year asserting that George assaulted and imprisoned a male escort in London. The androgynous singer was forced to cancel his 24-date tour, which was scheduled to begin July 11 in Las Vegas, and will remain out of the States until the charges are cleared. He awaits trial in November in the United Kingdom. Boy George spoke with NEWSWEEK's Susan Elgin while in France. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: You seem very accepting of this situation. Were you anticipating problems?
Boy George: As I knew I would have a negative drug test and got myself to a good place, I did not think I would have any problems. As far as my upcoming court case is concerned, I had no restrictions placed on my movements. I am allowed to travel to any country in the world.

You haven't been convicted of the pending charges. Do you believe the U.S. government is treating you unfairly?
I thought innocent until proven guilty also applied in U.S. law. It seems sad when, as everybody who has had a drug problem knows, it takes supreme effort to get where I am today. I was really looking forward to doing my first live tour for a decade, and to be told that after all this hard work, I am not welcome in the U.S. for even six short weeks is heartbreaking.

The main purpose of a visa is to keep the country secure. How do you feel being, essentially, labeled as a threat to national security?
I am hardly a threat to national security. I am just a performer trying to do his job. I have called America home at different times in my life. I love America, and the American people have always treated me with love and kindness since I went there as a 19-year-old boy with my band Culture Club.

Why did you even book a tour before you had a visa?
The general public and fans do not realize that, for an artist to apply for a visa, they have to show all the tour dates and venues before they will process the visa application. Every date is set up, all the band and tour people booked flights, hotels, etc., which involves a huge amount of work. So when the visa is refused, the same amount of work is involved to cancel, plus thousands of people have bought tickets, which have to be refunded. It's not just a case of Boy George being refused entry. It means no work in July and August for my band and the tour people, most of whom are supporting families. It's a triple whammy: Book your tour, get refused and it costs a fortune. How much easier would it be if we could apply before we set up a tour?

After originally being denied a visa, Amy Winehouse was granted one to perform at the Grammys, although she decided not to come. What is it like to watch her be granted a visa, when it appears she has drug problems?
Good luck to Amy Winehouse. I am thrilled she was granted a visa. She got lucky. I was unlucky. I just wish the visa people who looked at her visa had been the ones deciding on mine.