The George Michael mural was my teenage masterpiece. For four years I painstakingly curated the wall art, cut out photos of George and lovingly Scotch taped them together into a glossy mosaic.
Every month I visited the magazine section of a convenience store and scoured through Tiger Beat, 16, BOP, Teen Beat, Smash Hits, and Rolling Stone to find some morsel of information about George, WHAM, or even his tag-along friend Andrew Ridgeley. On the back of Smash Hits you could find a pen pal who shared your love for George Michael. But in most cases, these pen pals were more interested in Depeche Mode, Duran Duran or the Pet Shop Boys – all second class wannabe George Michaels.
Our cable service didn’t offer MTV until I was well into college. The three ways I could view George Michael videos was to stay up late after Johnny Carson to watch Friday Night Videos, babysit or go to the video rental store next to the A & P to rent the Make It Big VHS or the WHAM in China documentary about WHAM being the first western band to perform in mainland China. My parents didn’t own a VCR, but for $25 you could rent one for the entire weekend. A glorious weekend of George in Ibiza singing Club Tropicana in white Speedos, George in day-glow makeup doing the jitter bug in Wake Me Up Before You Go Go; and poor, forlorn George in a silk suit crooning Careless Whisper. In the dictionary, next to the definition of “satisfaction” is a picture of me from 1985 after one of my WHAM-A-THON weekends.
The George Michael collage eventually met its demise. I was a freshman in college. It was after lunch, a Saturday and my father was mad at the photo I added to the George Michael collage — a Calvin Klein cologne ad with a nearly naked man. Dad called it “pornographic” and asked me, “Aren’t you a little old to have those teeny boppers on your wall?”
In a dramatic fit, I stormed down the hallway, jumped on my twin bed and tore up the collage, ripping it into a million pieces. I slammed the door and had a good cry for myself, my tears wetting the tattered shrine to George. Maybe it was stupid to be fawning over some pop star. Maybe my dad was right. George Michael was a waste of mental energy. The wasted mental energy that made me happy, gave me a sense of hope about life, and sure did make high school tolerable. Listening to George sing, dance, and strut seemed like a good waste of mental energy at the time, and the thought of saying goodbye to being his number one fan made my heart ache.
Nearly, thirty years later, my George Michael collage can be heard on my iPod. Every other song is George singing to me. We sing out loud together in the car all the time. We reminisce about all those great hits and how each song reminds me of a brief moment in time when we were young, having fun, and dancing together. I don’t care about the guy idling next to me rolling his eyes as I belt out, “I’m Your Man!”
My friend George is now gone. I no longer have a wall mural to remember George by, but I do have my keepsake box of everything George. The FAITH concert t-shirt from 1989, his 25th Anniversary Tour t-shirt from 2008, George’s Rolling Stone cover issue from 1987, and even a paperback book on the biography of WHAM that I might have to re-read.
George was a good friend to me. I have no regrets over the time I spent singing, dancing and dreaming with him ….