Ge­orge was good be­fore he died. It was so shock­ing

Back­ing singer and close friend Shirlie on star’s fi­nal days

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - News - halina.watts@trin­i­tymir­ror.com BY HALINA WATTS Show­biz Edi­tor

HEART­BRO­KEN Shirlie Holliman has bro­ken her si­lence over pop pal Ge­orge Michael’s death to ad­mit she is still strug­gling to cope with the loss of the su­per­star.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view Shirlie – one of Ge­orge’s back­ing singers in Wham! – tells how the star had been per­fectly fine when she saw him shortly be­fore he died last Christ­mas Day.

And it was the shock of his pass­ing at just 53 – and wild, ini­tial spec­u­la­tion about the cause – that is still the hard­est thing for Shirlie to come to terms with.

In the weeks af­ter he died many re­ports claimed his death was linked to long-term health prob­lems.

But Shirlie, 55, in­sists noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

She says: “It was a shock, a mas­sive shock for us all, when he died. None of us were ex­pect­ing it.

“He was good be­fore he died, there was noth­ing wrong with him, so yes, it was a shock. It was also very public.

“I didn’t read any of the sto­ries at the time, we knew the truth and Ge­orge’s fam­ily, who I am very close to and speak to a lot, knew too.

“His fam­ily are very, very pri­vate. I have known them for many years, as I did Ge­orge. I know the truth.

“We had to let the fire burn out with the things that were writ­ten af­ter Ge­orge’s death.

“Ge­orge was some­one who I loved and who loved me very much.

LAUGHED

“I miss him and it is so sad for me, we knew each other for over 40 years and we laughed so much to­gether and I have re­ally spe­cial me­mories of him.”

A coro­ner ruled the star had died of nat­u­ral causes brought on by heart and liver disease.

But de­spite nine months pass­ing, Shirlie – one half of pop duo Pepsi and Shirlie – still misses him ter­ri­bly.

It was Ge­orge who played Cupid to Shirlie and Span­dau Bal­let star Martin Kemp by set­ting them up on a blind date in the 1980s.

They went on to marry and Ge­orge be­came god­fa­ther to their two chil­dren Ro­man, 26, and Har­ley Moon, 28.

Ge­orge’s fans have this month down­loaded new mu­sic from the star – the sin­gle Fantasy fea­tur­ing Nile Rodgers. But Shirlie hasn’t yet sum­moned the strength to lis­ten to the new record.

She ex­plains: “It makes me feel too sad. I can’t. It is too sen­si­tive for me at the mo­ment.

“I will do so in time. Ev­ery day I go on­line and I think I will lis­ten to it but it is very sen­si­tive. I will do when I’m ready.

“I think Ge­orge would be happy that it’s out there. He loved mak­ing mu­sic for peo­ple to dance to, for peo­ple to en­joy, have fun, to make them smile.

Mu­sic

I miss Ge­orge so much... I knew him for 40 years and have spe­cial me­mories SHIRLIE HOLLIMAN BACK­ING SINGER ON HER POP SOULMATE

is Ge­orge’s le­gacy. We grew up danc­ing to his mu­sic and he would want peo­ple to go out and buy his mu­sic and en­joy it in the same way we did.

“There are gen­er­a­tions of peo­ple to come and en­joy him yet, that’s what he would love.”

This is Shirlie’s first in­ter­view since she gave an emo­tional tribute to Ge­orge at the Brit Awards in Fe­bru­ary along­side Pepsi DeMacque and Ge­orge’s great pal and Wham! co-star An­drew Ridge­ley. To­day she is sup­port­ing hus­band Martin as Span­dau Bal­let pre­miere their new doc­u­men­tary Through The Bar­ri­cades.

Since Ge­orge’s death there have been re­peated calls for his fam­ily to give its bless­ing to a me­mo­rial event where fans can pay tribute.

But Shirlie said: “There are no plans for any me­mo­rial ser­vice. The best tribute to Ge­orge is to go out and buy his mu­sic, dance to it and en­joy it.”

YOUNG GUN Ge­orge with Shirlie and pal in 1980s FLAW­LESS Ge­orge’s mu­sic still wows fans says Shirlie

I’M YOUR MAN Ge­orge fixed date for Shirlie and Martin

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