My High Times with Gay George
- March 1998
Michael made £50
million as the music businesses ultimate pin-up. It wouldn't do to
compromise that by coming out as gay. But his
carefully honed image was blown by his very public outing at the hands
of an undercover cop. In a damage-limitation TV interview, he insisted
that his sexual watershed occurred at the age of 27, but Fiona Russell
Powell knows different.
We wondered when and how it would happen. For anyone who has known George
Michael for any length of time, his ability to keep his rampant homosexuality
out of the press for so long was frankly amazing.
Of course, like most successful people, he is an absolute control freak
and his preference has been an open secret in the media for at least
the last decade. However. George's other love — litigation - was
always kept in mind and. given his superstar status, the press decided
to sit on it and keep him sweet.
But since George was collared in a Los Angeles public convenience by
one of LAPD's finest, he has had no option other than to come clean.
There are various shades of the truth though, and I would say his is
distinctly grey For instance, this business about discovering his sexuality
at the age of 27 and having only had girlfriends before then. Does this
mean he was 27 in 1982. when I first encountered him at places like the
Mud Club, the Camden Palace and the Wag Club? Doubtful, since we're both
the same age and I was 19 then. And isn't 27 rather late to realise one's
sexuality, particularly when everyone else knows it?
I remember the first time George and I were properly introduced, although
we already knew each other by sight and had mutual friends on the club
scene. It was the •(C'fB New Year's Eve special of Channel 4's
Whatever You Want, hosted by Keith Allen. I had been writing for The
Face for eight months and managed to get myself noticed enough to be
interviewed with another up- and-coming youngster for whom expectations
i ran high. He was George Michael of the new pop sensation Wham!. Unfortunately,
like my career. I didn't take the programme very seriously and spent
most of our joint interview picking fluff out of George's navel, joking "You
ought to return that to the bedspread it came from." After that
we bumped into each | other regularly and became quite friendly
His penchant for anonymous clandestine sex in public loos was already
known among queenie friends of mine at the Wag and Mud Club who began
referring to him as the Toilet Queen of Boreham Wood. Marilyn, the one-hit
wonder and former best friend of Boy George, said he often ran into George
cruising there. I couldn't understand why he would go to Boreham Wood
when he still lived at home in Edgware. but I was admonished for being
naive: "Cock will travel anywhere in search of good trade." It
was affectionate ribbing in the main, though, as George was fairly well
liked, and we were pleased to watch his star ascend, particularly as
it did not seem to affect his behaviour in those days.
In 1964. I joined the Sheffield pop group ABC using a pseudonym, while
continuing to write for The Face. By night I went clubbing with my friends
Richard Habberley (Boy George's flatmate before he became mine), the
Stylist Paul Lonergan. artists and clothes designers Trojan and Leigh
Bowery, 'he ballet dancer Michael Clarke, the film-maker John Maybury,
designers John Galliano and John Kk'tt. pop star and DJ Mark Moore. Boy
George and DJ Fat Tony Obviously it's a coincidence that they're all
gay. or were. Sadly the list is rather depleted now.
We often came across George propping up the bar in Heaven. London's notorious
gay nightclub, wearing his famous leather Triumph jacket (purchased from
another old flatmate of mine. Pretty Lee-Barrett. Sade's manager) in
the company of his then "girlfriend", Pat Fernandez. (Incidentally,
she too was a minor celebrity at the time, having been one of Malcolm
McLaren's Buffalo Girls and then a backing singer for Culture Club, but
we knew her as Cowpat. Fat Pat or Black Pat.)
Some of my gay cohorts began to get annoyed with the discrepancy between
George's relentlessly hetero image as pushed in Wham! and what we all
knew to be the reality Some of the jokes began to acquire a vicious edge.
1 had interviewed a few of my friends who had become successful for The
Face. Boy George was particularly obliging. The only person 1 knew who
declined to appear in what was then a shit-hot magazine was "the
other George". It wasn't until about a year later that I discovered
the reason for his reluctance.
In September 1965.1 flew to LA with ABC to appear on Solid Gold and American
Bandstand. After a couple of days, I left to stay with a handsome young
photographer in Laurel Canyon whom I had met at Bianca Jagger's Christmas
party Brad Branson was just starting out in fashion photography and we
both had work in that month's Interview. He was very ambitious and very
gay Still is, from what I hear. He also took a lot of drugs and was the
first person ever to give me a fix.
We went to the only late-night club in LA. their version of the successful
London all nighter, the Dirt box. Brad dropped some ecstasy and a Quaalude
not long after we arrived. To my surprise, George Michael turned up and
came over to chat to me while Brad almost wet himself with excitement
and behaved in a totally embarrassing and uncool manner, hissing in my
ear to introduce him. I did and they chit-chatted briefly but George
didn't stay long and returned to his hotel, the trendy Mondrian, if I
remember correctly Brad bugged me for the nest hour, whining on about
how cute George's ass was (undeniable) and did 1 think George fancied
him? I told him the truth: George liked men. but I hadn't noticed any
signs of interest in Brad. By this time, though, fuelled by the drugs,
he was practically frothing at the mouth and 1 couldn't believe it when
he had the brass neck to leave the club and follow George to the hotel
in his battered old Cadillac, convinced that his charms would get him
into bed with the front man. I was sure George would be furious at his
impudence and send him away with a flea in his ear
I couldn't hare been more wrong. Brad didn't come home for three days
and two nights, phoning just once from George's hotel room to explain
where he was. "What's happening?" 1 asked. "George is
in the bathroom and I can't really talk." he replied, "but
promise not to tell anyone about this. He's really worried." I assured
him that I wouldn't breathe a word.
By the time he did return, most of LA knew about it and it didn't come
from me. However, no one had the details. Brad stopped to score a bag
of smack on his way home. Evidently spending three days servicing George
Michael can do that to a man. He spilled the beans as he cooked up.
'Tve never seen such a small cock," he confided. "It was like,
what do I do with that?"
Brad crooked his little finger. "That small."
" Oh God. it's true, a real Princess Tinymeat [homosexual slang for someone
with a small penis]. Why did you even bother then?"
He paused to look at me "Now. Fiona, that is one dumb question."
A couple of days later. I flew to New York and was amazed to discover
that the news about George and Brad had arrived already As most of the
club cognoscenti knew that I knew George and had been staying with Brad,
naturally 1 was in the firing line for all the gossips. I denied it on
George's behalf and managed to squash the rumour, thereby preventing
it from reaching London. I thought it was rather decent of me and. for
a while, so did George. 1 hoped that if George saw I could be trusted,
then he would grant me an interview, and a good one at that.
But on December 31.1985. The Sun carried a front page story: "It's
a hit! Gender bender DJ thumps Wham! George". It was true, I'd been
there. Fat Tony, the drag DJ. had played I'm Your Man. Often the only
way to get George Michael on the dancefloor was to play one of his own
records. We were always taking the piss out of him about this. As usual,
Black Pat was standing guard and Tony decided to taunt George by singing
over the top about his fake relationship with her. The Wag Club was packed
and George rushed over to the DJ booth and ended up in a brawl with Tony.
The Sun incident scared him as he had thought his secret was about to
By 1988, Brad had moved to London and his career began taking off. He
got a lot of work
doing covers for EMI. His fling had proven fruitful: he and George began
a solid friendship that has lasted to date. It was he who explained why
George grew more and more distant with me over the next couple of years.
As he went from famous to mega, he became increasingly paranoid about
the press, and that included me. I still ran into him regularly, though,
either doing coke or E in the toilets (he was much more discreet about
his drug-taking) or in the VIP room at the Limelight, where he hung out
with Paul Rutherford, the clone from Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Brad
told me about when he and George went to Rio, where they enjoyed the
hospitality of Ronnie Biggs and where George met his South American boyfriend,
Anselmo Faleppa who has since died of AIDS and to whom his last album.
Older, was dedicated.
He was wry generous when it came to gifts. I remember he gave Brad a
state-of-the-art Bang & Olufsen hi-fi in the early Nineties, to which
Brad responded, rather ungraciously, by moaning lo everyone apart from
George that he hadn't been given a Mercedes sports, like Anselmo had.
In 1993, Fat Tony DJ'd for George's 30th birthday party, held at the
ranch, a stud farm George had bought for his parents, which is best described
as a Southfork in the Home Counties. The party had a Seventies theme
and, as usual, everyone else entered into the spirit, except for George,
who only lasted 10 minutes in his outfit before going off to change into
a more sober designer number.
He can be very' uptight and was always afraid of making a fool of himself.
At a wig party at the Limelight, he was noticeable for being the only
queen there not wearing a wig. At his birthday party there were "buckets
of MDMA [ecstasy]" and all the boys were snogging each other, which
greatly upset George's Greek-Cypriot father. George had to run around,
looking incredibly embarrassed, begging everyone to tone it down. His
father was the only one there not aware of his son's sexual orientation.
He comes from a culture that finds it hard to accept homosexuality, and
this explains much of George's failure, for so long, to come to terms
with his sexuality
His aversion to inversion ran much deeper than some publicist's advice
not to alienate fans. The fact that he did not come out of the closet
voluntarily and continues to obscure the truth, even in his supposedly "frank" CNN
interview, has angered some of his gay friends and acquaintances, with
whom I have spoken. Hopefully he's getting plenty of support from Brad,
who returned to LA about four years ago.
To be frank, though, no one really cares about George's love life. It's
the persistent lies that matter. One wonders whether George Michael will
ever be entirely truthful, either to us or to himself.