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George Michael

George Michael

This installment of Gen-X-cavation was thrust upon me, as it were, from a few different directions.  First came word of my Hollywood playa friend jetting off to Vegas to see the big GM himself live in concert.  Meanwhile, here in the East, I overheard one of my 18-year-old coworkers blithely singing “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (duet with Aretha Franklin), a song that was released before she was even born.  And of course, it’s Pride.  What better time to celebrate the career of a man who was the last one on earth to know he was in fact gay?

I admit, I was kind of slow on the uptake on the subject of George’s orientation, but I think I can be forgiven.  First of all, I was eleven when Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” was released in the U.S. (I can still remember a friend’s slumber party and the screams of joy that erupted every time they played it on the radio).  My gaydar was not yet switched on.  Secondly, I was actually more into Andrew Ridgeley (to the point of trying to make out with the TV when the video for “Everything She Wants” came on).  Most crucially, George did a hell of a job playing it straight – when he growled, “You’re my lady/I’m your fool,” you could sense he meant business, highlights or no highlights.  Then again, the next big Wham! hit, “Careless Whisper,” is suspiciously gender-neutral (perhaps those feet were guilty in more ways than one).  Maybe if American fans had been more aware of the band’s earlier work, they might have had more suspicions about George’s interests:

Young guns
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run
Wise guys realize there’s danger in emotional ties
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!

One man’s “Bros before hos” is another man’s “On the down-low.”

Listening to later Wham! songs and the Faith album, one can now sense the desperation with which George tried to keep the bad thoughts from taking over.  As his lyrics become rougher and dirtier (“You know I wouldn’t hurt you/Unless you wanted me to,” for example, or “Huh! Sex! I’m not your father”), he just looks and sounds more and more like a leather daddy.  The identity crisis reached its peak with “Freedom ’90,” whose video George could not even bring himself to appear in, substituting fashion models and a leather jacket going up in flames:

I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I stopped the show
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone I forgot to be

If that’s not a coming-out letter addressed to one’s parents, I don’t know what is.

Sadly, since coming out (or rather, since being caught soliciting a hummer in a men’s room), George’s musical output has been somewhat lackluster.  Perhaps the drama of the closet lit a spark in him that the bright light of day (or is that Doris Day?) could not recreate.  Even worse, being honest doesn’t seem to have improved his personal life either, unless multiple arrests for public lewdness and/or DUI are signs of emotional growth:

To the heart and mind
Ignorance is kind

Hopefully, GM will dance again.