April 1998, and George Michael’s arrest for committing a lewd act in a public toilet is splashed across the headlines. The News of the World threatens to publish sensational photos of the pop icon cruising in the same park months earlier.
Rewind to 1993: George Michael explains how losing his partner Anselmo Feleppa to AIDS prompted him to finally come out to his parents. ‘I wrote my mother a … letter the day after he died.’ But a grief-stricken George was determined to keep his sexuality a private matter.
Flash forward to 1998 and George decides to take control of his story and sits down with TV news channel CNN with Jim Moret. ‘Very rarely do we have a star of that magnitude,’ observes Moret, ‘…willing to go on camera and openly discuss something… so reckless’. George finally tells the world that he’s gay and declares ‘I don’t feel any shame.’ His cousin Andros recalls that for George ‘it was about admitting: Yes. I’m a gay man. And I cruise. I’ve been doing it for years. What’s the problem?’
As the interview flashes across the globe, future pop star Will Young remembers how it gave hope to young gay men: ‘To see someone flip the script and go, Yeah, I’m really proud of this… He was really unique’. Just months later, George releases the video to his hit record Outside, where he is seen dancing in a police uniform in a public toilet that turns into a disco.
George Michael – Outed
Tuesday at 9.00pm on Channel 4.
Photograph: ©Frank Griffin.
More pick of the day content for Tuesday.