BOOGALOO STU: A tribute to an ongoing scene legend
Tonight is Skinky Shonky’s 14th birthday. To mark the occasion here's why Boogaloo Stu is an unsung genius.
More from Jack Cullen
It has passed midnight in the basement of KU Bar, boys are getting a bit tipsy and suddenly the P!nk song that we were bopping to isn’t followed-up by another track. “What’s happening?” a few tourists wonder. “Is that the end of the..” someone begins to ask, but they they don’t finish their sentence because a man in mascara wearing silver platform heels, a sequined swimsuit and a foot-high yellow quiff has just appeared onstage. Looking like a wild Venusian dictator who is about to declare our imminent surrender into some kind of intergalactic porn Olympics - this is Boogaloo Stu.
Although he looks about twenty-five he has been on the scene since Sonia was number one, and because he doesn’t brag endlessly about himself like so many club promoters do, every night he gets to relish the joy of meeting yet another ocean of newly surprised boys, half of whom are totally uninitiated to his brilliance, the rest of whom bask patiently in his aura, waiting for their dignity to be serenely damaged.
“GOOD EVENING LESBIANS AND GENATALLLLIAAAAA!” he screams, and I swear one boy in the corner just expires against a stack of BOYZ mags. I too feel a slightly orgasmic brain-jam as my juvenile head tries to categorise what I am looking at – Ruby Rhod in Fifth Element, The Riddler from Batman, a gay Elvis, a male Marilyn Monroe, The Pinball Wizard, - and before I find anything remotely like a comfortable box to pigeon hole him into Boogaloo Stu is chucking pin badges into the crowd that say things like ‘WARNING – DEEP EXCAVATIONS’ and he has encouraged a hundred grown-men to shout “Milk, Milk, Lemonade…. Round the corner chocolate’s made!” while patting their bums, then he announces “RIGHT. We’re going to play a game now people”. The game turns out to be “spitroast musical statues” in which he eliminates people with the craned attention of the Child Catcher.
Boogaloo Stu is one of the most interesting and exciting figures that Scotland has produced since the fall of Hadrian’s wall, although his accent is quite cut-glass. And yet nobody produced him, he is entirely of his own esoteric creation. Boogaloo Stu is a dazzling and self-constructed freak of the animal kingdom, and his influence can be seen across the arts. He has never courted the press, never demanded critical respect and never conformed to anything remotely fashionable, because all he has cared about for the last twenty years has been to thoroughly entertain people night in, night out. He centres his own solar system where a sveltely chic razorblade of coolness flirts with the embarrassment of watching your Dad dance at a wedding. And behind the visual volume and the bawdy razzmatazz of Boogaloo Stu his act is quietly and modestly very, very intelligent.
Initially his dream was to be a fashion designer. Spotted by Fiona Cartledge Boog’s once had his own designer knitwear range in Kensington’s high-fashion mecca Hyper Hyper. He became an inspiration to one of his friends at college Leigh, who later changed his name to Alexander McQueen. Boog’s first collection was featured in both American and Italian Vogue, Kylie and Mariah became keen clients, but a victim of the 90s recession he failed to find a business-backer. And so whilst he watched Alexander McQueen climbed the ranks, Boogs turned his back on fashion design, deciding that he was too impatient for the churning cycle of it all anyway. He followed his heart and became a part-time pop star. Rapidly his stage persona outpaced the music that he was playing, and he quickly became a name to drop on the Brighton scene.
In demand, by the late 90s he was hosting events six nights a week and he accepted the fact that he’d not see daylight for the next ten years. A young Patrick Wolf would turn up to dance at his nights wearing false hunchbacks or self-marinated in fake blood. Kids TV programs like LazyTown and odd pop acts like Cartoons seemed to borrow heavily from his look. Despite proving to the world his gift for TV presenting when he did some Eurovision coverage once, and showing his gift for acting when he appeared in Amy Lame’s show Duckie, Boogaloo Stu has rarely been acknowledged in the national press, confined by inexplicable fate to the dark sticky stage blocks of gay culture’s seabed.
At the moment he is starting an ingenius new night called Pop Magic in which the audience write, record and perform their own pop record. You can see the fantastic results of the last one HERE. It just sounds BRILLIANT.
Definitely one of my scene heroes, I interviewed Boogaloo Stu in the back kitchens of KU Bar earlier this year, sat on upturned barrels whilst topless gym bunnies loaded the dishwasher. It'll be here later, until then pop down to Shinky Shonky tonight, and also take a look at his INCREDIBLE website.
See you at Ku Bar, Soho, London tonight.