WHEN I was about two-and-a-half years old I was obsessed with Boy George. Completely and utterly obsessed.
So much so, my grandmother and mother decked out my bedroom with posters of him, without me even asking – I mean what two-year-old knows about idolising pop stars via shiny images blu-tacked to a wall?
Star Observer’s popular photographer and fellow Boy George fan, Ann-Marie Calilhanna didn’t have quite the same experience.
“My parents didn’t approve of him,” she said.
“So I would wait until the whole family went to church on a Saturday night and I would pull out my Boy George posters, put them up and dance around the living room like crazy. I would quickly take them down before they got home from church.”
When I heard Culture Club were touring, I made sure I was there with bells on. I’d never seen them live and had been excited for months in the lead up to the show.
But something really weird happened about two songs in – I started balling like a baby. Streams and streams of tears.
I don’t like crying in front of people, only a select few friends and family have seen me cry. So the fact I was sobbing in front of a room full of strangers was pretty horrifying.
The only other time I’ve cried at a concert was the few times I’ve seen Beyoncé live which, I think is fair. When you’re that close to a deity it’s only reasonable to be emotional.
At the time, I thought I was crying because seeing Boy George performing live reminded me how progressive and accepting some of my family are and that it’s really sad many LGBTI people don’t have the same experience.
And in a few hours, I would be reminded many LGBTI don’t face loving support from the world. On the way home from the concert, my friend called me because he needed somewhere to stay, his family had just kicked him out, after he’d suffered days of homophobic assaults from them.
I brought him home, gave him some wine and tucked him in. We went to sleep.
This morning I woke up to the news we all did. The man who committed America’s worst gun massacre had targeted LGBTI people at gay club, Pulse, in Orlando.
Trying to process this horrible news, I was scrolling through Twitter to find out more information when I saw a tweet with the names of some of the victims. The first name jumped out at me.
Edward Sotomayor Jr. My friend.
My friend was shot in the back as he tried to usher his boyfriend to safety. He died in hospital.
My friend was dead.
I met Top-Hat Eddie – as he was known for his signature top hat he wore everywhere – in London last year, where he invited me on a pub crawl.
Eddie was responsible for shepherding a bunch of drunk RuPaul’s Drag Race fans (myself included) around Soho. He did it with patience and humour. He was a saint, simply for putting up with us.
I liked Eddie not only because he facilitated and indulged my love for drag queens, but because he liked me. He cared and was interested in finding out more about me, hanging out and chatting. In a world that’s not so friendly to outspoken, ‘sassy’ (read: gobby) women, his respect meant the world.
Like many people today has been hard for me. I’ve broken down in tears at a number of Sydney train stations reading the online tributes. The homophobic attack has broken my heart. Eddie’s senseless death has broken my heart. But I have taken solace in the community banding together to clearly state, that Love is Love and love is better than hate.
Even a couple of hours before his death, his top-hat was getting lots of attention at Pulse, which we know because he had texted his boss, Al Ferguson, not long before he died.
Eddie was an important advocate for the community with an international network of friends who have felt this loss so profoundly, not only because we’ve lost a friend, but because this vicious, homophobic attack has shaken us to our core.
This morning I realised I was crying at the concert at the exact time the shootings would have started. I can’t not believe this was a coincidence.
Many of our mutual friends are changing their Facebook profile pictures to a top hat in honour of Eddie, which is a cute, touching tribute.
RIP Eddie, we’ll miss you.