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Joan Rivers and Boy George end round in a draw

Joan Rivers and Boy George end round in a draw

Nov. 30, 1983: Boy George trades barbs with Joan Rivers on TV’s “Tonight Show” in a well-matched confrontation.

In the Dec. 2, 1983, edition, Los Angeles Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn reported:

It shaped up as one of television’s classic confrontations–perhaps something akin to Kennedy/Nixon or Snyder/Manson or maybe even King Kong/Godzilla.

In one corner of the set for “The Tonight Show” Wednesday, there was guest host Joan Rivers, the acidic comedienne who isn’t above such cruel shots as jokes about a dead woman’s anorexia.

Her easy target: rock singer Boy George, a colorfully attired wonder who projects the somewhat daft, androgynous aura of an ’80s Tiny Tim. He’s probably the first guy who ever had to take makeup off before going on camera.

As Boy, 22, walked onto the set, guests huddled nearby went through a flurry of their own jokes about who would win this match-up. Scoring, someone suggested, should be based on such matters as prettiest dress and cutest smile.

Boy scored quick points in both areas. His outfit, made from a bedspread, had more bright colors than a jumbo box of crayons; his smile was as disarming as a new-born pup.

But Boy, lead singer of the group Culture Club, didn’t rest his case on appearance. On camera, he proved to be an articulate, even endearing, conversationalist who stepped past Rivers’ early questions about sexual preference to explain why he adopted such an unorthodox persona.

The result of this exchange was a victory, of sorts, for both Rivers and Boy. Talk-show hosts normally do a terrible job interviewing rock performers. Usually ignorant of the artist’s music, they either play the interviews for laughs (a la David Letterman) or deal with predictable and superficial matters (a la Dick Caveat).

Rivers, however, showed excellent instincts for following Boy’s train of thought and for asking the questions that someone in the TV audience might raise if lucky enough to end up on a plane seated next to rock’s newest – and most colorful – star.

Explaining that he has been into heavy makeup since he was 15, Boy said, “I’ve no wish to look like a piece of paper. I don’t like to look ordinary….

“I’m not like normal rock stars…. I didn’t conjure up this image for the stage. I’m not like Kiss or David Bowie. I never have excuses about the way I look…. You don’t get Boy George saying, ‘OK, I’ve created a persona, and he’s the freak and I’m normal.’ I am the freak.”

About his motivation, Boy added, “Basically, I do it because I think my dial [face] is hideous without makeup. We live in a society where people are basically imperfect. I’m one of those people. Like Sheena Easton, I make the best of myself.”

Though he met Rivers in London last summer, Boy even seemed surprised at how smoothly the Rivers interview went. In his dressing room afterwards, he smiled and said, “I think she blew her reputation…. She was very sweet, completely the opposite of what I thought she’d be.” …

This photo by staff photographer Jose Galvez appeared in the Dec. 2, 1983, Los Angeles Times.

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