Pop singer George Michaelhelp to define the music scene of the 1980s and was one of the decade’s true superstars, thanks to his group Wham! and his subsequent solo career. Yet when he died on Christmas Day 2016, he seemingly had become semi-reclusive and had turned away from making music. Furthermore, the world were shocked when photographs appeared of him in his last days, his chiseled good looks replaced by a doughy, bloated man. Sadly, it seemed that the Elvis Presley comparisons he’d received throughout his career followed him to the end. Two Reelz Channel programs appearing this weekend take a look at the lonely life and what exactly caused the sudden and tragic end of this talented performer.
If there’s one consistent theme running through George Michael’s Lonely Life(Saturday, June 2 at 9pm ET/ 6pm PT), it’s that he was a man with an identity crisis. Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou and raised in a traditionally conservative Greek household, Michael always seemed to feel different, and what attracted to pop music at a very early age. However, his father did not approve, and it did not help that young George was extremely shy and introverted. When he became friends with a fellow schoolmate named Andrew Ridgeley, Michael’s life would change for the better. Ridgeley, who is extremely extroverted and somewhat devil-may-care, soon became one of Michael’s biggest influences, and as stated in the documentary, the persona he would create with Wham! seemed to be a case of Michael imitating Ridgeley’s positive attributes. It was a winning combination, and the duo almost instantly became international superstars.
In spite of the wealth and fame, Michael’s double life only caused more grief. Although he had dated girls, Michael ––who at the start of the bands fame was just out of his teenage years––soon realized he was gay. Yet due to the homophobic nature of the music industry, he could not announce to the world what he knew to be the case, and as the world’s eye was on him, he could not seek companionship, either. Michael soon became extremely lonely and depressed, for he felt he had to double down on the heterosexual imagery in order to sustain his career. When he brought Wham! to an end, it was a stunning split as the band went out on a career-high. Burned out from the promotional cycle and tired of the incessant pressures a fame, it seemed as if Michael was doing so to preserve his sanity.
If he thought taking a break would help alleviate his emotional stress and identity crisis, he was wrong. When he launched his solo career with Faith—one of the decade most iconic albums—it only exacerbated the problem. Questions of his sexuality soon began in earnest, and even though he had a girlfriend that the time––she can be seen in the iconic “I Want Your Sex” video—persistent rumors dogged him. At one point in the documentary a clip is shown of him being asked “Are you gay??” point blank as the first question in a television interview. Seeing his extremely shocked look at being asked such a question is extremely painful to watch, as was his response saying no, he wasn’t.
It would not be until the 1990s that he would find a long-term partner, yet that was tragedy waiting to happen. He met Anselmo Feleppa in Brazil, and Michael quickly fell hard in love, yet in 1993, Feleppa died suddenly from an AIDS related illness. Though he would find love again with Texan businessman Kenny Goss, Michael would not get over Anselmo’s death, and his mothers death a few years later would lead him into a spiraling down road of drug addiction, prostitution, run-ins with the law,and depression, one that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
But what exactly happen to Michael on Christmas day 2016? That’s the question posed by this weekend’s episode of Autopsy(Sunday, June 3 at 9pm ET/ 6pm PT). Did he overdose? Did he succumb to “The Anniversary Effect“? Was he suicidal? Or did he simply die from years of neglect and abuse, a la Elvis Presley? These questions are raised and examined by pathologist Michael Hunter, offering illuminating medical insight from thoroughly examining the evidence.
George Michael was a true talent and his premature death robbed the world of a brilliant man. His legacy will live on, through his music, and these documentaries help to illuminate the darker side of fame and the destructive nature of both depression and celebrity.