Boy George Party
Richard E Grant

My High Times with Gay George

Punch - March 1998

George 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 come out.
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.