I have been a fan of George Michael since Wham was a four person outfit – since when it was George, Andy, Pepsi and Shirley. I liked their leather jackets and short and spiky hair, their voices held together by now primitive sounding hip hop beats and brass. They wore short boots and long pants and looked 1950’s and looked rocker, like Guys and Dolls, but really to me it was, Gays and Hags and that looked right to me then and made me feel like I was understood.
And they were ahead of their time even though their style echoed the past. Wham UK looked then like they all worked at a salon that could have been transformed by Tabitha’s Salon Takeover on Bravo. And George, the charismatic leader, could have been the owner of the salon, or at the very least, the colorist.
His hair changed hue over these many years and I have to say I have enjoyed every style, every coif, even the big coppery round brush sculpture of the Careless Whisper video. I bought that hair on him. The man is beautiful and he can sell a look, even one that requires that much heat styling.
As we know, George stood out and down amongst the 80’s superstars as the best male vocalist (the best female being of course, Cyndi Lauper – then and now), and a little dance band like Wham UK couldn’t contain his formidable talent. Those kind of pipes come around once in a millenia, and we haven’t heard another like them since the birth of recorded sound, so really, George is all we have.
If you haven’t heard his cover of the queer classic “Calling You”, I dare you to have a premenstrual listen on YouTube (I can’t find his version on itunes wtf?!) and not cry. This behemoth of a song spans many octaves, more than two normal singers combined, and George scales them all handily with his finely tuned low and high, growl and soar, light and dark. In his throat the song is realized fully for its potential as sound representing the soul. It is one of my favorite songs, and covered by numerous icons like Barbra and Celine – but sorry ladies, George sings it best. I love Etta James version too.
Calling You is a gay anthem if there ever was one, right up there with True Colors and I Will Survive and Mighty Real. Hearing George sing it has power and meaning beyond just a pretty handful of notes bound together with skill and adept emotional recall, as he was one of the first major celebrities I thought about and then later knew as being gay. Hearing him sing it feels like a revelation and a revolution and apologia and action. What can i say? I love the song, and I love George.
I had a chance to meet him once, and I didn’t do it, and I have kicked myself metaphorically a million times because of it. We were both at the premiere for the wonderful film “It’s My Party”, which I am in. George and I were both in attendance, although I didn’t know it was him at first, the pistil, the stamen in the center of a cabbage rose cluster of beautiful gay men, each like a petal, dewy and young and fine and rich. They fell away, one by one, he loves me, he loves me not. I watched them with fascination and desire, the way I have looked at gay men my entire life, wanting to see them, wanting to be them, this wanting which has long defined me.
Suddenly everyone was gone and I saw that it was him, it was George, and George turned to me, his hair this time in a close cropped caesar, very 90’s new and modern as it was the high 90’s then. His suit was tight and fit his lean body with an elegance that could only mean great wealth earned by talent not by heritage. We locked eyes and he stared into mine for several seconds, recognizing me from the film we had just seen together. I saw the beginning of a smile and then a slow walk towards me, but one of the petals came back and took his arm and in a fraction of a second, our moment was lost. I left the party never having met him, and have wanted that night back ever since.