Things you didn't know about George Michael

Pop icon George Michael passed away on Christmas Day 2016 at the age of 53. The Wham! star who became a solo artist led a somewhat troubled life, but for every low moment in his rollercoaster career and personal life, there was also a peak to balance the journey. Let's take a look at the lesser known light and dark moments of Michael's life.

He wrote 'Careless Whisper' as a teen

Michael's longtime publicist, Guy Farrow, told the The Sun that most people don't realize just how talented the musician was. "For me, with the exception of David Bowie, he was the best. He wrote, played, produced and sang his music," Farrow said. "Not bad for a kid from Bushey. George wrote Careless Whisper on the bus when was just 17."

He impressed David Bowie

During a 1992 rehearsal for a Freddie Mercury tribute, Michael performed a soaring rendition of Queen's hit "Somebody to Love." During a backstage video, David Bowie, who collaborated with Queen on the classic "Under Pressure," can be seen jamming out and grinning as Michael's performance concludes. That's no small feat, and it's a beautiful moment to witness.

He was forced out of the closet

In April 1998, Michael was arrested for allegedly engaging in a lewd act in a public restroom. The Los Angeles Times reports that the arresting officer didn't specify what the lewd act was, but did note it was in an open area of the restroom where anyone could see him; not in a private stall. After the incident, Michael came out as gay on CNN.

"This is as good of a time as any," he said. "I want to say that I have no problem with people knowing that I'm in a relationship with a man right now. I have not been in a relationship with a woman for almost 10 years." When asked why he decided to come out, he said simply, "I feel because I've already kind of done that—haven't I? I've done that in a way I didn't really intend to." He added, "I don't feel any shame. I feel stupid and I feel reckless and weak for having allowed my sexuality to be exposed this way. But I don't feel any shame whatsoever."

Coming out didn't improve his circumstances

"For some strange reason, my gay life didn't get easier when I came out. Quite the opposite happened, really," he told the BBC. "The press seemed to take some delight that I previously had a 'straight audience,' and set about trying to destroy that. And I think some men were frustrated that their girlfriends wouldn't let go of the idea that George Michael just hadn't found the 'right girl' [yet]. Which is still what a lot of my extended family still think!" He added that he'd never judge anyone for their decision whether or not to come out. "It's about family," he said. "In the years when HIV was a killer, any parent of an openly gay person was terrified. I knew my mother well enough that she would spend everyday praying that I didn't come across that virus. She'd have worried like that."

Michael told GQ that part of his issue with coming out to his mother was her own family's history with homosexuality. "I think it was because her brother Colin had killed himself the day after I was born, and she thought it was because he was gay," Michael said. "So I'm sure she was terrified of seeing anything gay about me because, to her, being gay meant misery. I totally understand that, even though she was misguided in worrying about it."

Michael's father, at least, wasn't necessarily upset with him over his sexuality, though the singer suspects there's a specific reason for that. "He never displayed any disappointment or homophobia. I'm sure he felt it, and it was hard for him, but he didn't lay any of it onto me which I have to thank him for," he said. "This is sad, but I do feel success can negate a parent's disappointment. I genuinely feel that although his son is gay and not going to give him any grandkids, my dad's consolation is that I have done well in life."

He considered himself 'emotionally gay'

Michael explained to GQ that when he slept with women in the past, it wasn't a fluke. "When I walk into a restaurant I check out the women before the men, because they're more glamorous…I would have sex with women, no question," he said. "But I would never be able to have a relationship with a woman because I'd feel like a fake. I regard sexuality as being about who you pair off with, and I wouldn't pair off with a woman and stay with her. Emotionally, I'rn definitely a gay man."

He continued, "I used to sleep with women quite a lot in the Wham! days but never felt it could develop into a relationship because I knew that, emotionally, I was a gay man. I didn't want to commit to them but I was attracted to them," he said. "Then I became ashamed that I might be using them. I decided I had to stop, which I did when I began to worry about AIDS, which was becoming prevalent in Britain. Although I had always had safe sex, I didn't want to sleep with a woman without telling her I was bisexual. I felt that would be irresponsible. Basically, I didn't want to have that uncomfortable conversation that might ruin the moment, so I stopped sleeping with them."

He lost a lover to AIDS

Michael's longtime but secret boyfriend, Anselmo Feleppa, died in 1991 from a brain hemorrgage after going to Brazil for a blood transfusion after being diagnosed with HIV. "He'd had the result earlier but he told me it was negative because he didn't want to spoil my Christmas," Michael told GQ. He added that because Feleppa's death was sudden and unexpected, he wasn't with him when it happened, but that it may have been a blessing in disguise. "It was untimely, but that way he never lost his dignity, and I suppose I was spared the worst of what some people go through," Michael said. "But I'm still convinced that had he been in the USA or London, he would have survived, because just six months later everyone was on combination therapy."

He continued, "I think he went to Brazil because he feared what my fame would do to him and his family if he got treatment elsewhere…I was devastated by that. The idea that he had the opportunity to go somewhere better but wouldn't take it because of my fame makes me feel very guilty…One of the most heartbreaking things I ever saw was when I went into Anselmo's room one afternoon and he was sitting there in bed with his prayer cards. I just thought to myself, 'Please don't tell me you think you're going to hell.' It makes me so angry and I sincerely hope he didn't fear that."

He suffered from depression

Within three years of Feleppa's death, Michael's mother, Lesley Angold, with whom he was incredibly close, also passed away. "I struggled with huge depression after my mother died," he told the Independent (via People). "Losing your mother and your lover in the space of three years is a tough one."

In 2005, he told The Guardian he suffered "12 years of depression and fear" after their deaths. "In terms of coming close to saying 'I don't want to live,' that would have been after my mum died. I had this overwhelming feeling that the best was behind me. I so loved my mum, and respected her. I swear to God, it was like I had a curse on me. I couldn't believe how much God was piling on at once. There was so much death around me, I can't tell you."

He battled addiction

In 2006, Michael was arrested on suspicion of drug possession after police found him slumped behind the wheel of a car, The Guardian reported. According to the BBC, he was arrested again in 2008, this time in a public restroom, under suspicion of drug possession, with the substances believed to include crack cocaine.

Those arrests may not have been enough for the singer to get clean. The Mirror reported that Michael partied hard in his final days, and News AU said the "Freedom" rocker went to rehab as recently as 2013 for allegedly abusing GHB and Valium. Gary Farrow, a longtime friend of the singer, told The Sun, "I believe easy access to drugs was the cause of his problems. I thought George was too bright to get involved with illegal substances. But once this disease gets hold of you it's hard to fight it…After smashing into the shop in his car under influence of cannabis in 2010 he knew he was going to receive a custodial sentence. I wrote to him in prison and he wrote a very funny letter back. After rehab he wasn't allowed to see anybody, so I don't know what his state of mind was at the end."

He was close friends with Princess Diana

Michael admitted in an interview (via The Sun) that the late Princess Diana was the only person who ever left him starstruck, despite being a close friend. "Diana was the only person that I knew who made me feel like an ordinary person," he said. "That's what I thought was so amazing about her. But I was always reluctant to call her up. It was almost like a mate of mine who doesn't want to call me up too much in case it looks strange—because he thinks that everybody else is calling me up." He revealed that he was a wreck at her funeral. "I had forgotten my hanky and I was really streaming," he said. "I was one of the few people in that part of Westminster Abbey that was really blubbering and I remember thinking, 'God, this is going to be really embarrassing.'"

He 'dated' Brooke Shields

In supermodel Brooke Shields' memoir, she admitted having a huge, but one-sided, crush on Michael in the 1980s. In an excerpt published in People, Shields described meeting Michael through her mom and going out on several very chaste dates with him. One night, when they were in the back of a limo after a party, Shields thought she and Michael were going to do the deed, but instead, he reportedly told her, "I think we need a break. I need to concentrate on my career."

"It was sort of ridiculous, but he was so sweet to me," Shields said. "In that era, nobody was coming out, and he was a sex symbol. So, I was harmless. We kind of laughed. He was funny. There's a depth to him, too…I was smitten just because he was so respectful and I didn't feel pressured. It all worked out. It was very enjoyable."

The iconic 'Faith' outfit was all him

Michael says that the iconic ripped jeans and leather jacket combo was his actual outfit—that he literally wore out. "My dad's got them stashed away at his house," Michael told People in 2010 of his infamous ripped Levis. "They were my own jeans. The rips were genuine, because I wore them so much. I used to ask my mum to sew up new rips. In the end, they were so worn out, she refused." He added, "The whole 'Faith' image was all me. I came up with the leather jacket and everything else. I didn't use a stylist—I don't think I could have afforded one!"

He once called out Dr. Phil

In June 2008, Michael poked fun at TV shrink Dr. Phil McGraw during a Los Angeles performance. "I probably shouldn't say this, but it's very me. Dr. Phil is here, and in the sea of faces he has this miserable look—he's been doing it for the last hour," Michael cracked, per People. "Maybe you need to see someone about that." Witnesses said the jibe was in good fun and that McGraw took the joke in good humor.

He had come close to death before

In November 2011, Michael fell ill during a performance in Vienna, Austria, and was hospitalized. At the time, doctors released a statement explaining the singer had suffered from a "severe pneumococcal infection." A month later, Michael revealed to The Guardian that he had a tracheotomy and was in the intensive care unit to recover. "I would like to play one show for the doctors in the hospital in Austria who saved my life," he said. "It was by far the worst month of my life, but I am incredibly, incredibly fortunate to be here—and to have picked up the bug where I did….I got streptococca-something…It's a form of pneumonia and they spent three weeks keeping me alive basically."

In May 2013, BBC reported that Michael was injured in a car accident in which he was a passenger. He reportedly suffered a head injury and was airlifted to a hospital, but made a full recovery relatively quickly.

He had a stalker, but didn't care much

In 2004, Michael revealed to GQ that there was a woman living under his home for four days before anyone discovered her. "I had no idea she was under there. I was talking to one of my friends one night, and I thought I could hear my name being called out. Then she suddenly presented herself," he said. Michael said he called police, but because there weren't any anti-stalking laws on the books at the time, the authorities were limited in what they could actually do.

"The only reason they eventually took her to the police station was because she punched one of them," he said. "She came back a few times, and a few months later they found her masturbating in the corner of my garden!" He added, "I'm just not security-minded. And I have a feeling that if you think that way, bad s**t comes to you. If someone really wants to hurt you, they'll find a way whatever. I don't want to live my life worrying about it." Michael concluded, "Listen, if I had children, I would be Mr. Security. I'd have all the trappings because I would be neurotic on their behalf. But as it's just me, no."

He was generous

Publicist Farrow told The Sun, "[Michael] gave to charity endlessly without wanting a name check. He wrote huge checks and didn't want anything in return. He bought the piano that John Lennon wrote 'Imagine' on for nearly £1.5 million (approximately $2,560,564) and then gave it back to charity." He added, "George studied world politics and got hurt very easy [sic]. The suffering in Syria would have been intolerable to him. When we did Band Aid, seeing the footage of people starving in Africa was very harrowing for him. The world has lost not only a superstar musician, but a caring, loving man."

TV host Richard Osman revealed on Twitter, "A woman on Deal or No Deal told us she needed £15K for IVF treatment. George Michael secretly phoned the next day and gave her the £15K [about $18,500]." A fan replied, "He gave a stranger in a cafe £25k as she was crying over debt. Told the waitress to give her the check after he left."

Another Twitter user reported, "George Michael worked anonymously at a homeless shelter I was volunteering at. I've never told anyone, he asked we didn't. That's who he was."