CALENDER: 18. June

 

   

Sat 18 Jun 1988

first of 2 concerts at SECC, Glasgow, Scotland


Mon 18 Jun 2007

I KNEW YOU WERE WAITING

By Rick Fulton

 

the BIG razz interview After years of hiding away from bad publicity, George Michael is selling out stadiums and loving every minute

THERE were some good headlines at last for George Michael last weekend when he played the first concert in the new Wembley Stadium.

For what seems like years now, the former Wham! star seems to have gone from shame to shame. Sleazy gay meetings in toilets and parks, falling asleep behind the wheel and crashing into three parked cars.

The glory days of the Eighties when he was one of the world's biggest stars - a No.1 artist in America as well as the UK - were almost destroyed overnight in 1998 when he was arrested for lewd conduct by an undercover policeman in a Californian toilet.

Even his anti-Bush stance and single Shoot The Dog in 2002 was roundly criticised. But as the anti-war voice grows louder, it seems he is now being proved right.

But despite all the bad publicity, George is making a startling comeback.

Slowly but surely he's set to join Elton John as one of the UK's national treasures.

And on Sunday he shows just how far his pulling power has increased as he plays Hampden Park in Glasgow.

It follows his SECC gig in November and again celebrates George's 25 years in the music business.

Of course, last weekend wasn't without some bad publicity. George may have played to 90,000 people on the Saturday and Sunday, but on the Friday he had been sentenced to 100 hours' community service and banned for two years for driving while unfit.

He had been found slumped at the wheel of his Mercedes in north London in the early hours of October 1 last year. The 43-year-old singer admitted the offence, blaming tiredness and prescription drugs.

He said: "It's just nice to have it out of the way." Perhaps it was the last bad headline for a while.

But then George, who has been with partner Kenny Goss for 10 years, claims many of the stories about him aren't true, especially the one claiming he had gay sex with Norman Kirtland on the notorious homosexual haunt of Hampstead Heath.

Speaking to Jo Whiley on VH1, George said: "That was a complete fabrication about an encounter with a very unfortunate looking man. I didn't meet him. He was a victim in it too, but the fact is we never ever met."

George has made no secret of his unusual sex life and the fact that he has other partners. And while he was going to marry Kenny last year in a civil ceremony, he insists the wedding wasn't put off because of the Kirtland story.

They decided to wait until the tour was over and everything had died down.

"Kenny is cool with it," said George. "I think he's like me. He wants it to be special. He doesn't want it to be a circus. Hopefully the only circus in town is the show."

And George has also had a stalker to contend with. Lucy Nowak broke into his Hampstead house in 2004 before forcibly entering his nearby office two days later and an Oxfordshire cottage the following month.

At one point, she slept under the floorboards in his London home for four days and compared herself to John Lennon's killer, Mark Chapman.

While she avoided a jail sentence thanks to George pleading for her to be given her freedom, he now claims he is fearful because the Crown Prosecution Service let her go.

"In the last year and a half, I've had the CPS release a stalker who basically was sending me death threats and breaking into my houses," he said.

"She broke into my house on seven different occasions. Once she was living there for a week without me knowing.

"She's smashed windows. She's stolen money. She worn my clothes. I've seen her in my clothes on the street.

"The police arrested her on two occasions and put her in a cell, and on both occasion the CPS let her go.

"At the time, I didn't want to make too much noise about it. But she was very ill and I should know I am safe from someone like that who's sending me notes about Mark Chapman and John Lennon. It's terrifying.

"I have to have locks put on windows and things like that, but the CPS didn't see fit to make me safe from her."

IT'S small wonder that after his arrest in America, George became something of a recluse.

He felt harassed by the media, unloved by the public and even pals like Elton John claimed he smoked too much dope, suggesting there was a "deep-rooted unhappiness in his life" and branded his album Patience "disappointing".

George said he decided to do the 25Live tour to "get out of the house". He added: "I felt I was becoming increasing insular."

Since last September and his first gig for 15 years in Barcelona, George has been touring, putting on dazzling shows of music and special effects, including glitter balls that melt into the stage. But there's more to what George is calling a "phenomenal year". He's going appear in new courtroom drama Eli Stone on American TV as a vision to an attorney played by Trainspotting's Jonny Lee Miller. Each episode will be named after one of his songs.

He said: "There's a lot of the stuff that they haven't heard in the 15 years since I sold any records there. I've started to write a song for Eli Stone's credits."

Despite having had 10 American No.1 singles and two No.1 albums, the US turned its back on George after his toilet episode and after he took on Sony in 1993, accusing them of "professional slavery". From one of their biggest stars, he turned into a pariah.

But now as well as the TV drama, there is talk of an American tour.

"I've actually been a bit of a laughable name since the early Nineties," said George. "Since I took on Sony, everything went wrong there. From that point on, I didn't have radio and I had some pretty bad publicity.

"The publicity in the last 18 months hasn't helped, and so I think I'm a bit of a joke. But it didn't really bother me anyway."

George is clearly hurt and mistrustful of the media and reckons the way forward is to continue touring and playing one-off shows for the super-rich.

He picked up a cool 1.5million for a one-hour Hogmanay concert in Moscow for the 300 guests of Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin.

"What I can do is take that kind of new income and then do what I wanted to do which is give away my music for free," said George.

"I can take those situations and pay for the recordings I wanna make, because I don't make cheap recordings.

"I want to give it away for free but my last album cost me millions to make.

"I'm not a complete fool so what I like to do is stick to the plan and release my music for free."

With talk of a new album next year, including tunes with his former Wham! partner Andrew Ridgele, a new generation of musicians is starting to name George as an influence.

American NME band of the moment, Gossip, fronted by heavyweight lesbian Beth Ditto, have admitted to loving Careless Whisper.

George brushes this of by saying: "If you hang around for long enough, you have a certain clique value.

"Wham! songs were Abba-ish in their clique appeal, but I think they were authentic so it makes sense some of those songs, like Tropicana, Careless Whisper or Wake Me Up."

Having battled depression, George admits there are now two places he's most happy.

He said: "When I walk out in front of those crowds or when in my bed with Kenny and the dogs and we're just going to sleep at the end of the evening."

'I can take that kind of new income and then do what I wanted to do which is give away my music for free'

'I decided to do the 25Live tour to get out of the house. I felt I was becoming too insular'