GE­ORGE MICHAEL

Ev­ery­thing you need to know.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT -

IN THE 1980s HE WAS A POP SU­PER­STAR. IN THE ’90S HE CON­QUERED AMER­ICA AND WRES­TLED WITH HIS DEMONS. TO­DAY, GE­ORGE MICHAEL IS STILL AN IN­TRIGU­ING MESS OF TALENT AND QUES­TION­ABLE IM­PULSES! MARC AN­DREWS CHARTS THE HITS AND HIGH­LIGHTS, THE BUSTS AND BURNOUTS AND THE CON­TIN­U­ING SAGA OF THE BIG­GEST GAY POP STAR ON THE PLANET.

Born 50 years ago with the less mar­ketable name Ge­or­gios Kyr­i­a­cos Panayiotou, Ge­orge Michael has been a star since he was in his late teens. He first found fame with school chum Andrew Ridge­ley as part of pop duo Wham! at the age of 19. Ge­orge made Andrew prom­ise never to re­veal his “bi­sex­ual” se­cret. “All of my early sex­ual fan­tasies were straight and to­tally read­able,” he said years later. “My first fan­tasy in­volved me be­ing sur­rounded by a group of nuns who all had their tits out. I mean, how ob­vi­ous can you get? I was ly­ing help­less on some kind of med­i­cal ta­ble, so all that led me to be­lieve I was on the path to het­ero­sex­u­al­ity. It wasn’t un­til pu­berty that I started fan­ta­sis­ing about men and I do think it had some­thing to do with my en­vi­ron­ment. But there are def­i­nitely those who have a pre­dis­po­si­tion to be­ing gay in which the en­vi­ron­ment is ir­rel­e­vant.”

Al­though their first sin­gle, Wham Rap! (En­joy What You Do) in 1982 ini­tially flopped, Wham! got luck­ier with their sec­ond sin­gle Young Guns (Go For It!). While the sin­gle was only a mi­nor hit ini­tally, they man­aged to se­cure a slot on iconic Bri­tish pop show Top Of The Pops when an­other act couldn’t make it. Their sin­gle flew into the top ten the next week.

Af­ter Young Guns hit the top ten around the world, they re-re­leased Wham Rap! which fol­lowed suit and a new pop sen­sa­tion was born. Wham! ri­valled Boy Ge­orge’s Cul­ture Club and suave pin-ups Du­ran Du­ran as the big­gest pop band of their era.

A few more catchy sin­gles fol­lowed, in­clud­ing Club Trop­i­cana, fa­mous for its video fea­tur­ing a heav­ily tanned Ge­orge wear­ing a pair of skimpy white speedos. Lit­tle won­der that the ap­peal of the band spread quickly from teenage girls to the gay boys.

With a #1 al­bum in Fan­tas­tic, Ge­orge threw out a chal­lenge to the other bands that Wham! would be the big­gest pop band on the planet with their next record. They ac­com­plished that with their know­ingly-ti­tled sec­ond al­bum, Make It Big.

That was pre­ceded by a sin­gle still con­sid­ered the pin­na­cle of the band’s shiny, bright bub­blegum phase – Wake Me Up Be­fore You Go-Go. In the video the band wore white Katharine Ham­nett T-shirts with Choose Life and Go-Go writ­ten on them, but it was Ge­orge and Andrew’s teeny tiny shorts that got at­ten­tion from their grow­ing gay fan base. Also grow­ing was Ge­orge’s hair – into a mag­nif­i­cent 1980s bouf­fant.

But Ge­orge had greater am­bi­tions and his first solo sin­gle is one of the finest big hair power bal­lads of the era, Care­less Whis­per. It was moody, beau­ti­fully melan­choly and it topped the charts around the world.

By the end of 1984 Wham! (now un­de­ni­ably the world’s big­gest pop band) even man­aged to write a hol­i­day hit, Last Christ­mas, that be­came as much a sta­ple of the sea­son as tak­ing an Alka-Seltzer af­ter eat­ing too much pud­ding.

Ge­orge also lent his dis­tinc­tive vo­cals to Band Aid’s global #1 hit to raise money for the Ethiopian famine re­lief, Do They Know It’s Christ­mas? At this point, people started to won­der what Andrew Ridge­ley ac­tu­ally con­trib­uted to Wham!. As it turns out, Ge­orge was the mu­si­cal one; Andrew gave him the

My first fan­tasy in­volved me be­ing sur­rounded by a group of nuns who all had their tits out… that led me to be­lieve I was on the path to het­ero­sex­u­al­ity.

con­fi­dence to per­form. Ge­orge has ad­mit­ted he’d never have jumped on stage with­out Andrew by his side.

Hounded by the tabloids about his love life (es­pe­cially af­ter ri­val pop star Boy Ge­orge sniffed, “Ge­orge Michael’s het­ero­sex­u­al­ity is one of the world’s best kept se­crets!”), Ge­orge an­nounced he was in a re­la­tion­ship with Asian model and make-up artist Kathy Ye­ung. Andrew, mean­while, hooked up with Bana­narama’s Keren Wood­ward and also took up rally car driv­ing. He’s still into both. Ge­orge, un­sur­pris­ingly, did not last long with Kathy. “I used to sleep with women a lot in the Wham! days but never felt it could de­velop into a re­la­tion­ship be­cause I knew that, emo­tion­ally, I was a gay man,” Ge­orge ex­plained years later. “I didn’t want to com­mit to them but I was at­tracted to them. Then I be­came ashamed that I might be us­ing them.”

Af­ter she fea­tured in his first post-Wham! solo sin­gle, the risqué I Want Your Sex, Kathy was never seen again. That sin­gle marked the real be­gin­ning of Ge­orge’s solo ca­reer in 1986 as Wham! dis­banded, Andrew Ridge­ley sunk into obliv­ion and Ge­orge un­der­went a bout of de­pres­sion. “My de­pres­sion at the end of Wham! was be­cause I was be­gin­ning to re­alise I was gay, not bi­sex­ual,” Ge­orge re­vealed decades later about the band’s demise.

Yet be­fore Ge­orge of­fi­cially be­come a solo star he still needed to con­vince folks in Amer­ica that he was het­ero­sex­ual and butch enough to be al­lowed to swing his hips in front of their teenagers at con­certs. En­ter soul leg­end Aretha Franklin who he teamed up with for the clas­sic I Knew You Were Wait­ing which hit #1 in the UK, US and Aus­tralia.

In 1987, Ge­orge re­leased his de­but solo al­bum, Faith. Dressed in a leather jacket, cow­boy boots and denim jeans on the cover he looked to­tally butch and het­ero­sex­ual – ex­cept this look was ex­actly what gay clones were wear­ing at the time as well. His straight au­di­ence didn’t seem to no­tice.

Faith went on to sell a whop­ping 25 mil­lion copies world­wide and spawned a slew of hit sin­gles in­clud­ing Fa­ther Fig­ure, Mon­key, One More Try and Kiss­ing A Fool. Ge­orge un­der­took a mam­moth world tour and be­came more suc­cess­ful and pop­u­lar than both Michael Jack­son and Madonna.

But Faith didn’t make Ge­orge happy. In fact, it made him so un­happy that when he fi­nally got around to re­leas­ing a new al­bum, Lis­ten With­out Prej­u­dice Vol 1, in 1990, he de­cided he wasn’t go­ing to do any pub­lic­ity for it and was not go­ing to ap­pear in any more of his own videos. “I never minded be­ing thought of as a pop star,” he claims now. “People have al­ways thought I wanted to be seen as a se­ri­ous mu­si­cian, but I didn’t. I just wanted people to know that I was ab­so­lutely se­ri­ous about pop mu­sic.”

While his record com­pany had a vir­tual ner­vous break­down with this “is­sue”, Ge­orge scored some of his finest solo hits es­pe­cially the philo­soph­i­cal Pray­ing For Time and good­byeto-the-past Free­dom! ’90 which fea­tured the su­per­mod­els of the era (Naomi! Christy! Cindy and more!) lip sync­ing the lyrics of the song. >>

>> It tran­spired Ge­orge was go­ing through a ma­jor melt­down at this stage as some years into his solo suc­cess he knew he was gay. He met Brazil­ian fash­ion de­signer Anselmo Feleppa in 1991 at a con­cert in Brazil. Six months later when they had be­come a cou­ple, Anselmo dis­cov­ered he was HIV-pos­i­tive. “It was ter­ri­fy­ing news,” Ge­orge said later. ‘I thought I could have the dis­ease, too. I couldn’t go through it with my fam­ily be­cause I didn’t know how to share it with them – they didn’t even know I was gay.”

In 1991 Ge­orge is­sued a live record­ing of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me with his old pal El­ton John that be­came a global #1 hit with all pro­ceeds go­ing to char­i­ties for chil­dren, AIDS and ed­u­ca­tion. El­ton once said that he feared for Ge­orge’s life. “El­ton lives on that,” Ge­orge replied some years later. “He will not be happy un­til I bang on his door in the mid­dle of the night say­ing, ‘Please help me, El­ton. Take me to re­hab.’ It’s not go­ing to hap­pen… El­ton just needs to shut his mouth and get on with his own life. Look, if people choose to be­lieve that I’m sit­ting here in my ivory tower, Howard Hughes-ing my­self with long fin­ger­nails and loads of drugs, then I can’t do any­thing about that, can I?”

That same year, 1991, Ge­orge is­sued a mem­oir, Bare, which kept de­tails about his lovelife very vague.

Af­ter a bust-up with his record com­pany ac­cus­ing them of not pro­mot­ing his al­bum prop­erly, Ge­orge scrapped his next al­bum and in­stead do­nated three songs to the 1992 AIDS char­ity al­bum Red Hot + Dance. In­cluded was an­other of his big dance floor suc­cesses, Too Funky, fea­tur­ing his posse of su­per­model pals again strut­ting around while Ge­orge had a cameo as the video’s di­rec­tor.

While sub­se­quent sin­gles were met with a more muted re­sponse, es­pe­cially as he moved into more ma­ture adult con­tem­po­rary ter­ri­tory and away from his pop master­pieces, Ge­orge scored an­other #1 hit when he per­formed with the sur­viv­ing mem­bers of Queen. Some­body To Love on his Five Live EP be­came a huge hit and proved Ge­orge was still a vi­able pop com­mod­ity. He do­nated all pro­ceeds to the Mer­cury Phoenix Fund (the AIDS char­ity set up in hon­our of Queen’s Fred­die Mer­cury who died of AIDS in 1991). There was even talk of Ge­orge join­ing Queen as its new lead singer but this never tran­spired.

In­stead, Ge­orge dis­ap­peared for the next two years. While his record com­pany in­sisted he was work­ing on his third al­bum, what Ge­orge was mostly do­ing was car­ing for Anselmo who died in 1993. Ge­orge said in a re­cent in­ter­view, “I’m still con­vinced that had he been in the USA or Lon­don he would have sur­vived be­cause just six months later ev­ery­one was on com­bi­na­tion ther­apy. I think he went to Brazil be­cause he feared what my fame would do to him and his fam­ily if he got treat­ment

People want to see me as tragic with all the cot­tag­ing and drug-tak­ing… I think it re­moves people’s envy to see your weak­nesses. I don’t see them as weak­nesses any­more. It’s just who I am.

else­where. I was dev­as­tated by that.”

When Ge­orge fi­nally re­turned to the mu­sic world in late 1994 he de­buted a seven-minute bal­lad, Je­sus To A Child. Al­though few people re­alised it at the time, the song was a mov­ing trib­ute to Anselmo.

Some­how man­ag­ing to let his grief go, Ge­orge re­leased his third solo al­bum, his first in six years, Older, in 1996. The al­bum was pre­ceded by the sin­gle Fast­love, which proved Ge­orge still had the sex fac­tor and he starred in his own video for the first time that decade. The song ru­mi­nated about the joys of cruis­ing for ca­sual sex but by the end turned into a lament for lost love. The al­bum fea­tured nu­mer­ous clues about Ge­orge’s sex­u­al­ity. Yet some people still in­sisted he was straight.

Ge­orge had gone into ther­apy as soon as Anselmo was di­ag­nosed, and it was three years af­ter his death be­fore he felt able to con­sider an­other re­la­tion­ship. In 1996, he met hand­some Amer­i­can flight at­ten­dant Kenny Goss at a spa in LA. The same day he called his mother to tell her he had met a nice man, she told him she had been di­ag­nosed with cancer. “So I didn’t even get one day to feel happy about hav­ing met Kenny. I was back into the black hole,” he said later. The death of Ge­orge’s beloved mother Les­ley in 1997 set him on a path of un­rav­el­ing that within a year would see ev­ery­thing change. “There was a point when all I had were dark days. I just used to sleep and sleep. Some days I could barely put one foot in front of the other; it was real de­pres­sion.”

While per­son­ally Ge­orge had faced up to his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, pro­fes­sion­ally it was about to come to a head. On April 7, 1998 Ge­orge tried to pick up a hot un­der­cover LA cop, Marcelo Ro­driguez, at a pub­lic toi­let in Beverly Hills. “I got fol­lowed into the re­stroom and then this cop, I didn’t know it was a cop, ob­vi­ously, he started play­ing this game, which I think is called, ‘I’ll show you mine, you show me yours!’” Ge­orge told MTV soon af­ter. “And then when you show me yours, I’m go­ing to nick you!”

Not only did Ge­orge go on TV to con­fess that, yes, he was gay, and, yes, he was a big fan of cruis­ing – he wrote a song about it, Out­side, and made a video in which he dressed as… a hot cop! It be­came a hit, but not with Marcelo Ro­driguez. He later sued Ge­orge for “mock­ing him” and brought a court case against him, which was even­tu­ally dis­missed.

Ge­orge was now out and proud and in love with Kenny. Their re­la­tion­ship lasted for the next 13 years (end­ing in 2009). “Fall­ing in love with a man ended my con­flict over bi­sex­u­al­ity,” Ge­orge told The Ad­vo­cate. “I never had a moral prob­lem with be­ing gay. I thought I had fallen in love with a woman a cou­ple of times. Then I fell in love with a man, and re­alised that none of those things had been love.”

Mu­si­cally, Ge­orge al­lowed him­self in in­dulge in a cool cov­ers al­bum, the un­der­rated Songs From The Last Century in 1999. He even changed the words of My Baby Just Cares For Me from “Lib­er­ace” to “Ricky Martin”, a not-so­sub­tle dig at a pop star still in the closet at that stage. Ge­orge never lost his sense of hu­mour.

His fifth al­bum, Pa­tience, ar­rived in 2002 and came with con­tro­versy – Ge­orge dared to make fun of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween US Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush and Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair on the sin­gle Shoot The Dog. Amer­i­can au­di­ences were in­censed and so was Ru­pert Mur­doch, with most of his pa­pers turn­ing against the singer.

While Shoot The Dog didn’t win him any friends on the Right, Ge­orge sol­diered on and when he re­leased his best sin­gle in a decade, Amaz­ing, it be­came a big hit, es­pe­cially >>

El­ton will not be happy un­til I bang on his door in the mid­dle of the night say­ing, ‘Please help me, El­ton. Take me to re­hab.’ It’s not go­ing to hap­pen…

>> since Oprah Win­frey loved it and had him per­form it on her show – giv­ing his ca­reer a boost it needed. An­other sin­gle, Flaw­less, used big chunks of a dance hit of the same name. Some fans com­plained Ge­orge was get­ting lazy, but most couldn’t care less as it be­came a big dance hit, es­pe­cially pop­u­lar in gay clubs around the world.

In 2005, a doc­u­men­tary about Ge­orge’s life, A Dif­fer­ent Story, was re­leased which fi­nally gave fans some in­sight into the real Ge­orge and the skele­tons (not to men­tion ex-boyfriends) in his closet. Around this time Ge­orge told the press about his love of cruis­ing. “The hand­ful of times a year it’s bloody warm enough, I’ll do it. It’s a much nicer place to get some quick and hon­est sex than stand­ing in a bar, E’d off your tits shout­ing at some­body and hop­ing they want the same thing as you do in bed. Know what I mean?”

A decade af­ter his first ar­rest for “lewd be­hav­iour” Ge­orge was caught again for the same thing, this time on Hamp­stead Heath, down the road from his North Lon­don home and this time by Mur­doch’s dreaded tabloid News Of The World (later to be closed down due to their hack­ing of celebrity phones). Ge­orge said his part­ner Kenny had no is­sue with him look­ing for sex out­side their re­la­tion­ship, which pre­sum­ably made them “monogamish”. “Some gay men man­age monogamy for­ever, and I envy them be­cause it’s a great thing,” Ge­orge said sagely, “but when you first meet some­one, that chemical flows through your body and says ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck!’ It’s won­drous. If you can keep hold of that, great, but for me to ex­pe­ri­ence that again in a re­la­tion­ship I’d have to split with Kenny. When I walk into a restau­rant I check out the women be­fore the men, be­cause they’re more glam­orous. If I wasn’t with Kenny, I would have sex with women, no ques­tion, but I would never be able to have a re­la­tion­ship with a woman be­cause I’d feel like a fake. I wouldn’t pair with a woman and stay with her. Emo­tion­ally, I’m def­i­nitely a gay man.”

Ge­orge de­voted the next few years of his life to tour­ing, re­leas­ing Twenty Five in 2008 to cel­e­brate his 25 years in the mu­sic busi­ness. In 2010 he toured Aus­tralia, the first time since 1988 and also found a few min­utes to ap­pear at the Syd­ney Gay Mardi Gras. He also worked on new tracks with Aus­tralian pro­duc­ers Sey­mour Butz and Paul Mac, which re­main un­re­leased to this day. Ge­orge also de­buted the new man in his life, hunky hair­dresser Fadi Fawaz. “What I want now is a lit­tle more in­te­gra­tion in terms of who I ac­tu­ally am,” he ex­plained. “I think there are things about my jour­ney that might be use­ful to other people, and com­ing up with a hit record on its own doesn’t seem to be enough any more.”

Ge­orge so en­joyed his time in Syd­ney that he stayed on, rent­ing a large yacht on the har­bour to which a mul­ti­tude of hand­some friends made reg­u­lar vis­its. His Grindr pro­file was even pub­lished in the gos­sip pages of The Syd­ney Morn­ing Herald.

In 2011 he de­cided to tour again – this time with a sym­phony orches­tra, but sadly most of

his Sym­phon­ica Tour had to be can­celled af­ter he be­came sick in Aus­tria with pneu­mo­nia and al­most died. He later thanked the hospi­tal in Vi­enna for sav­ing his life, promis­ing he would per­form a free con­cert. He later wrote a dance track about his near-death ex­pe­ri­ence, White Lights, to thank those who prayed for him (and spite those who prayed for his death).

Ge­orge has of­ten had run-ins with the law due to his sex­ual pro­cliv­i­ties, but also be­cause of his taste in recre­ational party treats. In 2006, he was ar­rested for the pos­ses­sion of drugs but only re­ceived a cau­tion. A year later he was ar­rested again af­ter he was found slumped over the wheel of his car at a set of traf­fic lights in Lon­don. Ge­orge, who ac­knowl­edged he likes to smoke joints, pleaded guilty to hav­ing been un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs, was banned from driv­ing for two years and was re­quired to per­form com­mu­nity ser­vice. A year later he was ar­rested again, this time in a toi­let in Hamp­stead Heath for hav­ing all man­ner of drugs, not just joints. He re­ceived yet an­other cau­tion. In 2010 he was spotted com­ing home af­ter a Gay Pride Pa­rade driv­ing sus­pi­ciously and was charged with pos­sess­ing il­le­gal sub­stances. He served four weeks in prison in late 2010 for be­ing such a drug devo­tee.

Last year, Ge­orge had to be air­lifted to hospi­tal with a head in­jury af­ter be­ing in­volved in a bizarre ac­ci­dent in which it ap­pears he fell from a car trav­el­ling at high speed on a mo­tor­way. It’s not known how many spliffs he smoked on that par­tic­u­lar day.

All of the sex, drugs and dance mixes might have killed off some­one else’s ca­reer but this has not been the case for Ge­orge Michael. While other 1980s icons, no­tably Michael Jack­son and Whit­ney Hous­ton, suc­cumbed to their ad­dic­tions, Ge­orge ap­pears to flour­ish, per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. 2014 sees the re­lease of his sixth solo al­bum, Sym­phon­ica, recorded dur­ing his ill-fated tour. A free down­load of a live, strings-laded ver­sion of Pray­ing For Time was re­leased via his web­site to an­nounce the al­bum. His record com­pany re­ports Ge­orge has sold over 120 mil­lion records dur­ing his ca­reer and that Sym­phon­ica will be re­leased on a hard­back deluxe 17-track CD edi­tion; a stan­dard 14-track CD; a stan­dard 14-track dig­i­tal ver­sion and on Pure Au­dio Blu­Ray. A doc­u­men­tary filmed dur­ing Ge­orge’s Sym­phon­ica per­for­mance in Paris, where he made his­tory as the first con­tem­po­rary artist to per­form at the leg­endary Palais Garnier Opera House, is to be re­leased on DVD, too.

Among his fans, Ge­orge can count big names such as Bey­oncé, Adele and Justin Tim­ber­lake as ad­mir­ers.

He is thought to be worth well over $150 mil­lion and is cur­rently work­ing on his proper mem­oirs which were first an­nounced back in 2008. This time he is sup­posed to write them him­self, which is prob­a­bly why it’s taken some time (the last one hav­ing been ghost­writ­ten). “People want to see me as tragic with all the cot­tag­ing and drug-tak­ing,” he pon­ders. “Those things are not what most people as­pire to, and I think it re­moves people’s envy to see your weak­nesses. I don’t even see them as weak­nesses any more. It’s just who I am.”

De­spite the per­sonal lows, the drugs and the DIYs, Ge­orge’s in­tegrity as a mu­si­cian has never waned. Did he change the script for the gay pop stars like Adam Lam­bert, Ricky Martin and Mika, who fol­lowed him? Not sin­gle-hand­edly: times changed. Can his name be ut­tered in the same breath as Noel Coward, Fred­die Mer­cury, El­ton John and KD Lang? Cer­tainly. At 50, Ge­orge has the op­por­tu­nity to grow into an el­der states­man of the en­ter­tain­ment world and con­tinue to grow old dis­grace­fully. He’s earned the right to play on his own rules.

from a life: Scenes part­ner with for­merGoss; the LA Kenny where toi­let blockwas busted; Ge­orgeSir El­ton with mate innabbed John; and driv­ing yet an­other

Ge­orge live with Adele.

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