It was the first week of 1984 and Newsweek had a Technicolor Boy George and Annie Lennox splashed across the cover proclaiming the second coming of the British Invasion, yet all my sexually confused 16-year-old eyes could see was endless possibilities. He looked like a chick. She looked like a dude, sort of. I specifically remembering staring at the cover while listening to the Eurythmics' haunting song "Jennifer" and feeling completely sick to my stomach thinking, maybe I wasn't the only one who felt this way.
This was the year before I went all Trapper Keepers
Like many gay people growing up during the '80s, the new wave explosion was a welcome escape from the boy-girl society around us, a convenient way to hide our sexuality behind the fashions and styles of the time. (I'm not sure what I'd have done, say, in the '70s or '90s.) And with each passing year someone new came along to push the boundaries. From Visage, Culture Club and Eurythmics to Haysi Fantayzee and Dead or Alive. But of all the artists of that gender-bender era, none garnered my affections the way Marilyn did.
I'll never forget seeing the 12" single of his debut song, "Calling Your Name," in the bin at Zia Records on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Ariz., with his glamorous blond dreadlocks tossed to the side, perfect makeup and his exposed chest. After tearing up the U.K. charts with that one he never had another real hit even in his homeland, so the singles and subsequent album, "Despite Straight Lines," were never even released here in the states. But that didn't stop me from snatching up every new thing he released (my friend Laura Thomas even had the picture disc of "Cry and Be Free" with the rare b-side "Running" on it, which I promptly taped!) and every No. 1 magazine and Smash Hits that he appeared in. (That's him in the bottom lefthand corner of my English folder from Dobson High. Can you name the others?) Was I sexually attracted to Marilyn? No. But I was definitely drawn to him in some strong way. Looking back I think it was his ability to have enough self-confidence to be who he was with no apologies that made me admire him, despite his increasingly obvious lack of musical abilities. (His outsider within the group of outsiders status was certainly something I related to, too.) When Boy George brought the era to life in the show "Taboo"a few years ago it was Marilyn's biting oneliners that stole the show, of course. And every so often I'll dust off my homemade Marilyn CD of everything he ever released (none of which ever made the leap to the digital age officially) and play it with fond memories of the pretty boy who wasn't afraid to be himself.
"Calling Your Name"
"Baby U Left Me (in the Cold)"