Comeback pop star Marilyn says, for all the tolerance and understanding enjoyed now by the gay community, nobody should be complacent.
He tells HuffPostUK:
“I had my share of psychological, verbal, emotional bullying. Has it changed? Bollocks. They should try popping over to Jamaica for the weekend and see how tolerant and understanding people really are.”
However, he agrees things are much better than when he first hit the London scene, teenage Peter Robinson transformed into dazzling Marilyn, inspired by his screen idol, challenging people’s ideas of gender, with his beauty and attitude, long before he became a pop star with singles ‘Calling Your Name’ and ‘Cry And Be Free’, and caused tabloid mayhem with his fellow reveller Boy George.
“When I used to go out at the weekends and I was 14,15 I used to do ‘Marilyn’,” he remembers now, with his 2016 look a lot more uniform but still striking.
“Marilyn used to be dresses, an homage to Marilyn Monroe, that particular kind of glamour.
“And I was banned from every gay club in London. I thought, aren’t I supposed to be one of you? Everyone I was with was saying, ‘Here we go again.’
“I was saying, ‘Why can’t I come in?” “You just can’t.” “This is a drag club, what’s going on?”
He chuckles. “It can only be jealousy - what else?”
Fast forward three decades, through which Marilyn has come out the other side looking impressively good for a man who claims to do no exercise “or anything at all, really” (never mind the two-decade drug addiction and staying in one room watching ‘Alien’ films), and one thing has remained the same since those heady days – his friendship with Boy George.
George produced Marilyn’s forthcoming album and he says now the pair “are like brothers”.
What is the secret to this bond, particularly when they were pitted against each other in the early years, and both worn down by drug addiction later on?
“George is family, he’s one of my family,” he says simply. “They say you can’t choose your family but I absolutely do. The others are… I don’t know what they are.
“We’re older. Our lives have run parallel to each other. There are so many similarities, with life experiences, it’s all about caring.
“I care about him and he cares about me. Even when, in years gone by, we’ve been at loggerheads over some ridiculous thing, we still care. If you don’t care about someone, you don’t get cross.”
As for the music itself, Marilyn won’t say too much - “I hate having labels attached to things, everyone should make their own mind up”- but does reveal it’s all inspired by his Jamaican roots, before he moved to England aged five:
“The album is island-inspired. I’m from Jamaica, and so we’re doing variations on musical themes that come from the islands.
“I don’t like trying to pigeon-hole creativity, trying to label it and confining it. We’ve got a rough premise. It’s a Marilyn project. Who is Marilyn? Marilyn is from Jamaica, and that’s the core.”
And, 30 years after he first broke onto the collective pop consciousness, he has one message he wants to come across:
“I’m enjoying working. I see people. I do music. I work. I travel. I just live. I enjoy my life.
“Success is… I’d like other people to hear it, and make a difference, and maybe get the message that, it doesn’t matter what happens in your life, if you decide a certain way about how it’s going to be then it will be, it doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, it’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about getting back up again, and living, and being happy.”
Marilyn’s ‘Love and Money’ is available now. His album is on its way.