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GEORGE MICHAEL

from Jim Moret’s CNN News Exclusive Interview

(April 10, 1998 at CNN studio, Los Angeles; copyright CNN)
Used with Permission

JIM MORET: For sixteen years George Michael has been an international star, but for the last week the international tabloids, specifically the British tabloids, have been focusing a great deal on his personal life following an arrest here in Beverly Hills on Tuesday. And you’re here to talk about this…

GEORGE MICHAEL: I most certainly am. I’d like to put to rest some misconceptions full stop, really, or period as you say here. The greatest misconception of this week is that I’ve had the most hellish … well I’m not saying it’s been a good time, but it has not been the worst time in my life by any means. It’s been humiliating, embarrassing … funny to some degree … but I’m reading reports coming back from London that I laid awake crying and was devastated and this and that. And the truth was I laid awake quite angry at the situation. And believe me, if this one gets over here: I did not try to convince the arresting officer that I was looking for my lottery ticket when he arrested me. Par for the fact that I think they were trying to make me look greedy as well as perverse.

JM: They being the British press?

GM: Yeah. But it’s had its lighter moments. I’ve been living in a circus, you know, in the middle of helicopters flying around my house. Literally hundreds of people outside the house waiting day and night for something … I don’t know what exactly. But I just want to tell my fans, who I feel, apart from embarrassing myself, I’ve embarrassed them to some degree. I just want to let them know that I’m okay; that I know a lot of them realize I’ve had a very tough time over the last 5 or 6 years. And I want to let them know this is not going to finish me off. This is really nothing compared to the bereavements I’ve had to deal with. Even compared to the legal situations I’ve had to deal with, this is kind of … I was going to say a walk in the park, but I don’t think that would work here.

JM: You were actually taken into custody at a park in Beverly Hills?

GM: Yes.

JM: You were alone?

GM: Yeah, I was alone.

JM: And you’ve chosen not to comment on the specifics because you were arrested, but there have been no charged filed…

GM: I’m not at liberty to talk about it, but not because I’m afraid to talk about it, but simply because it’s a legal situation that’s still up in the air and I don’t know whether or not I’m going to be charged with anything. I’ve been advised that I am not really allowed talk about the detail of it.

JM: But you’ve been very open about the fact that it’s something you’re not exactly thrilled with yourself for; you’re angry with yourself for putting yourself in this position…

GM: Of course. I put myself in a position where I risked all kinds of things. I risked prosecution. I risked all of the things that happened to me and I’m not proud of that at all. But the actual the moral question at the center of it – which ultimately would not be a huge deal if it was a heterosexual moral question – the moral question at the center of it, I’m not ashamed of it at all.

JM: Your sexuality has been a focus of tremendous attention…

GM: Yeah.

JM: … in Great Britain …

GM: Yeah. I think everywhere, to some degree. With pop stars or film stars, we become the object of people’s self-definition, as well as the object of sexual definition. I think people like to think they can spot a gay person as opposed to a straight person because it makes them feel, in some way, a little more defined in themselves. And if someone is on the borderline, which I’ve always considered myself in terms of the way I appear to people…

JM: You mean ambiguous?

GM: Ambiguous, yeah. I think while it works very successfully in pop culture – especially if you are trying to communicate something emotional or sexual, that you’re communicating with both men and women – my sexuality was not cut and dried. I spent the first half of my career being accused of being gay when I hadn’t had anything like a gay relationship. In fact, I was 27 before that happened to me. So I spent years growing up being told what my sexuality was, really, which is kind of confusing. And then by the time I’d kind of worked out what it was and I’d stopped having relationships with women, I was just so indignant about the way I had been treated until then, I just thought, well, I’ll just hold on to this. They [the media] don’t need to know. I don’t think I should have to tell them. But, you know, this is as good a time as any…

JM: So, in unambiguous terms, what is it that you want to say?

GM: I want to say that I have no problem with people knowing that I’m in a relationship with a man right now. I have not been in a relationship with a woman for almost ten years. I do want people to know the songs that I wrote when I was with women were really about women, and the songs I have written since have been fairly obviously about men. So, I think in terms of my work, I’ve never been reticent in terms of defining my sexuality. I write about my life and I want people to know, especially people who loved the earlier stuff, especially if they were young girls at the time, there was no bullshit there.

JM: George, why do you feel compelled to open up a very private part of your life and make it so public?

GM: Because I’ve kind of done that, haven’t I? I’ve done that in a way that I didn’t really intend to. And, I think having done something as stupid as that – I’m a very proud man – I want people to know that I feel stupid and I feel reckless and weak for having allowed my sexuality to be exposed this way, but I don’t feel any shame whatsoever.

JM: Do you feel that, in some fashion, you put yourself in this subconsciously so you could address this issue that has apparently been disturbing you?

GM: No. I don’t think so. I don’t think I ever really wanted to address it and certainly not quite this way. I think it was the danger of the situation that must have compelled me to do it because it was absolutely compulsive. I have no problem in saying that I am a human being and I think for most of us our biggest frailties are sexual.

JM: But you have been, as we’ve said, in the limelight. You’ve been considered a superstar for so long, was there a time you felt you wanted to step back from such a public life?

GM: I made some pretty important decisions at the end of the whole Faith period. I don’t think that they were entirely divorced from my feeling my sexuality was changing, or that I was defining myself in a different way, but it was far more to do with the fact I was feeling very unhappy. I was very miserable at the center of that kind of fame at 23-24. I just couldn’t cope with that. I don’t think that is all together that surprising considering that I left school at 17 and was a star by the time I was 18 – a star in certain parts of the world anyway.

JM: What do you make of the tremendous attention, perhaps over zealous -- at least certainly by your accounts -- of the British tabloids into your personal life and the incessant interest?

GM: Well, I think its just something you have to accept and I think if I wasn’t prepared to accept that I wouldn’t have put myself out there again. I really did at one point believe that I never wanted that sort of success. My success over the last seven years really has gone from strength to strength in the rest of the world. So I achieved what I wanted, which was to hold on to my ability to do something that was going to please people and write something that meant something to me and to them. I also gave myself the chance to quite slow my life down and grow up a bit, even though this week has not been the most grown up of my life…

JM: Are you angry with yourself, or are you angry at the position the British press has put you in your own country?

GM: No, I think I’m angry at media generally about a lot of things, but not just for myself. I mean for all of us, whether we’re famous or not famous, or just happen to get caught in the glare of publicity over one issue or another, I think the media is a real demon. But from my own point and what’s happened, I can’t be angry with anyone but myself. I mean, the only people I’ve really hurt are myself, the people who love me and my partner who has been absolutely amazing and understands me, thank God. I owe those people apologies, as again, I said I probably owe an apology to fans that have been supportive and have not wanted to believe that any of this was true. I know it really takes a little bit of the sheen off of the mystique, to put it mildly, but other than that I really don’t have apologies to make.

JM: Was it a difficult decision for you to come out publicly about being gay?

GM: No. I knew I was going to do this from the moment I was arrested. Absolutely,

I knew that this was the only way to go. I’ve seen too many people run away from situations like this and I’m thinking "just go on TV; you’re a human being, just go on TV and get it sorted out as quickly as possible."

JM: Sorting out this incident and telling the world "I’m gay" are two very different things.

GM: I define my sexuality in terms of the people that I love and my life right now is very happy living in a gay relationship. I’m very happy with that; I don’t look to the future and think I might change my sexuality because I’m hoping that my relationship is the one that is going to last me for the rest of my life. I mean I could’ve tried to put any number of angles on this tonight, but ultimately at the end of the day I’m not ashamed, I’m just pissed with myself for having been so stupid. And I’m perfectly prepared to believe that as long as I am truthful to myself and truthful to the people who are out there with my music then I have nothing to fear.

JM: I appreciate your candor and thank you for coming here.

GM: Thank you.

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