The Boy From Wham!

Ever since I was a teenager, I’d always thought one day I would meet George Michael. It’s not that strange, actually, to have felt that way. I’m sure I’m not the only one who did. Every gay teenager at the time was affected by George Michael, whether they wanted to admit it or not. How could they not be? It was impossible to turn on VH1 for more than three minutes without seeing him.

There was something incredibly exciting about the way he took over the airwaves. He was handsome. Brazenly sexy, and his particular sex appeal seemed to be aimed at us. His relationship with Andrew Ridgeley was a flirtatious one. That had to have been his boyfriend at some point, right?

When he took off on his own, he became King Midas. Every new song an instant gold smash. There he was, in shadowy close up. His face covered in dangerous stubble. His amazing hair tinted a lighter shade at the bangs. A cross swinging from his ear. Which pierced ear means you’re gay?

Then came the song about sex. No innuendo. I Want Your Sex. Right out in the open. What gay teenage boy didn’t have that song playing on repeat in their bedroom? Walls lined with posters of George’s steamy stares into the lens. Dancing in front of the mirror, copying his moves.

Actually, I never had posters of him. That would have been too revealing. There was just one black and white photo, cut out from a newspaper. It was hanging on the inside of the medicine cabinet, where I didn’t think anyone would see it.

He went away for a few years. It was what he wanted. I remember turning on the radio while I was living out of the country and hearing a new song of his. Don’t think this song ever made it to the states, or if it did, if anyone noticed, but in Sydney, it was as if he’d never left. Huge hit. Playing in all the clubs.

Sydney is one of the most gay friendly cities on the planet. What’s more, the Australians as a people are not so hung up on Christian morals as Americans are. Whatever those Christian morals might be. Mostly, they are used as a way to excuse bigotry, and make it appear a virtue. On Oxford Street, however, they happily embraced George’s return to the top of the charts.

I’ll be your sexual… Freeeeeak.

Our boy at his most provocative. Dressed in red leather. Or was it red rubber? Overt. Unapologetic.

More time went by and then on youtube I saw a powerful music video from the grown up fully mature George. Salt and pepper in the closely cropped haircut. A few extra pounds hidden beneath the black cloak. A song about a near death episode. Coming close to leaving, but deciding to stay. The song was moving, and strikingly honest, and yes George really did have talent as a musician. He was never just a cute boy shaking his ass on MTV. He couldn’t have been as big as he was if that’s all he had to offer.

Whenever a celebrity dies, social media is filled with deeply personal tributes from fans who feel they have suffered the loss themselves. People carry on as if they knew the star intimately. It’s predictable, and therefore, easy to write off as indulgent. I try to stay away from that sort of thing.

With George Michael, I was surprised by how it was indeed deeply personal. I was instantly sent back to that chapter of my life, as a young man, with the newspaper clipping taped inside the medicine cabinet, and the lettering on the cassette worn off from use.

Today, I was walking in Beverly Hills, a few paces behind three young guys. All three were cute. All three looked gay. Ethnically diverse. In fact, they were so politically correct that they could have been in an ad for a young men’s clothing line.

The one on the right had a mushroom hair cut. Floppy long curls on top, short on the sides. He had a beautiful smile. Adorable.

It was the one on the left that struck me the most, however. He wore faded jeans and a white tee shirt, but the tee shirt was slightly oversized. The way it hung on his wide shoulders and slender frame recalled the 1980s. His brown hair had blond highlights. His wrists and hands were dripping with sliver. From the back, and from the side, he looked like the boy from Wham! The young version of George Michael.

I’m usually content to be the age that I am. Glad to have moved into a sense of myself that is much easier and more comfortable. Watching these gay men walk in front of me, I had a pang of longing. To be that young again. To be that comfortable with my youth. That comfortable being gay.

Did that pretty young boy know that he looked like George Michael? Was he emulating him on purpose? I hope he fully enjoys his youth. I hope he finds love, if he hasn’t already, and chases his dreams, whatever they may be.

I’d love to be him now. I’d love to go back as me. To get it right. I’d do things differently. For starters, I’d make sure I got to meet George Michael.

georgeshadow

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