The book above was another exercise in my attempts to find impossible things. Boy George’s autobiography (and a New York Times bestseller) came out in July, 1995. 1995 was a rough year. I was 22. I was crazy in love, eating Little Caesar’s all the time, smoking cigarettes, not sleeping, and drinking insane amounts nightly. Basically, living it up. I honestly could not have cared two shits about Take It Like A Man. In the incandescence of heady youth, I somehow managed to not realize that one of my all-time music muses had released his long-hyped autobiography.
This was, as I have referenced in other posts, before the Internet blew up. Not literally, unfortunately. AOL was beginning its long held strangehold on the Interwebs, but there was not the wealth of knowledge that we now call “The River” ( I call it other words), Goodreads, Riffle, etc. It wasn’t easy to pull up a bestseller list on the old Dell, but it easier to pick up the newspaper and browse the NYT bestseller list. Sometime in October, 1995, reeling from a broken heart, I picked up a newspaper and checked out the bestseller list. I saw Take It Like A Man and Boy George’s name. I may have screamed. I’m pretty sure the word “motherfucker” was uttered. I would have to ask Jen, because I think she was with me when I spotted it. Something akin to rabid fangirling, before it was the “norm”, took place. And then I had to have it. Which is where the insanity began.
By the time I had found out about that the book had come out and I had missed it completely, there were no more 1st editions available. Believe me, I looked. And so did Jen. And Heidi. And my mother. And any poor person who was friends with me at that time. Pretty sure I mentioned it repeatedly to those I worked with at LCP. I went to Waldenbooks on Lagrange Road over and over again looking for it. They never had it. They offered to order it, but I never wanted to. Why? Because I didn’t want to order it and get in there, and it not be a first edition. Because I would not buy it, and they would be stuck with it. So I kept hoping I would find it. At this point, I was NOT a collector of any kind, but this was about to be my initiation.
Let me give you some background. I am a huge Boy George fan, not just Culture Club, but his solo work, his DJ work, his battle and win over addiction, and his incredible life. His story is bitchy, dramatic, overemotional, and often wrought with bitterness. It’s also wildly inspiring, full of bluntness in dealing with the drug addiction that almost killed him, and a lot of hard truths in dealing with his homosexuality in a time when pop culture and the world at large did not openly embrace gay people as it does in this day and age. In other words, a book I could identify with. He was the first gay man that I idolized and fell in love with (I still think it’s because it’s one of my cherished memories with my mom. When CC was on Solid Gold for the first time in 1981 and we saw who that amazing voice belonged to, we were in love. My mom also was enraptured, and more than a little curious. Truly a bonding experience, our shared love of Boy George). So a first edition it had to be.
Eventually, I found it at a Crown Books in Chicago Heights. Odd that I would end up finding it there before my eventual tour of duty with them four years after that. This was a 4th edition. The nice lady at the counter told me they had no control over what edition they got from the publisher and that I was going to have a “hard time finding one because it’s been out for months and reprinted several times.” I almost wept. Instead, I bought that copy, because the book fiend had to read it. I guess we would call it my desk copy. By the time I eventually gave that copy to Jen (once I found the elusive 1st edition), there were things underlined, the pages were dog-eared, things written in ballpoint ink in the margins, and I could recite whole passages by heart. I began hitting record stores, hoping I would find it. I did, but it was all the same edition I already had at home. I went to redneck garage sales, in southern Illinois and even in Georgia (I was dating the poor man’s Scott Weiland at the time, so I was in the neighborhood). Years go by, times change, scenes change, records begin to go out of vogue, then cassettes, etc, but I continued to use every avenue to try to locate the book. Tower Records, my beloved, had a great book section, and they couldn’t get it in. It was fucking impossible to find it. Rolling Stone Records in Norridge also has a great book and magazine section, and I used to go there with Czaja and Mark quite frequently, but no dice on the Boy. Of course, those fuckers had no problem having 10 copies of that stupid Pink Floyd biography by some Rolling Stone author, and they were all first editions, but not the one I sought. Life, and my mother’s death, came along and bumped me down a dark road for quite a few years. The twin bitches of responsibility and life took priority to my idle pursuits, so I let it spin off my radar for a while. And then one day, Beavis Jesus finally delivered me that copy I had been trying to find; at this point, for the better part of ten years. A decade. For one book. Believe it.
The lead-in to this culmination is rather lame, or the Rog without the Rerun. I was waltzing along one day in a Bargain Books, which was on its way to ruination. The minute those people starting wearing the denim overalls and blasting Jesus Music Hour out of loud boomboxes, that was the end of that glorious remainder shack. Heidi and I were hunting for Duran Duran photo books, or possibly a gift for someone, I honestly don’t remember. I saw something buried under a Joyce Meyer (she haunted even then, and that was before the Niles book signing of infamy) book. It looked like a biography of someone from the silent screen era. I love to read stories of old Hollywood. So I turned the Joyce Meyer book over and hid it- under a Sesame Street book. Don’t worry, Grover approved. There- in all its glory- was one battered copy of Take It Like A Man. And battered is being nice. The corners of the book were dodgy, the cover was in deplorable shape, and the spine looked like someone was using it for Koosh practice. I grabbed it and quietly remembered to breathe. I open the book. Yep, there’s the first edition. In a balmy, stinky, denim-outfitted book barn warehouse in the middle of Countryside Plaza (The Amish Store–used to be Bargain Books), there was my first edition. Not in the prime condition a collector would hope, but I was to the point where it was for me. I wasn’t selling it, I wasn’t showing it anywhere, and I really just wanted to have it. It was the principle. It still is. I still own it. It still looks like I chewed entire parts of it up while awaiting the Robot Apocalypse, but it’s a first edition, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the red eyeliner in Cambodia. And I’m proud as hell that somewhere in a world of irony, there was a homosexual under Joyce Meyer.