Running down the corridor of the tremendous and imposing CBS Building at 60 miles an hour doesn’t do much to settle one’s nerves, especially considering who’s waiting at the end of the hall. When I get to the elevator, two very tall young men are waiting for me: both with thick, tousled dark hair streaked with blond, both very tan for this time of year, one with sad, smouldering bedroom eyes, and the other with a mouthful of teeth so white you’d almost look away. But who would want to look away from George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham!?
“Later on you’ll get to see us eat,” promises George of the Brilliant Smile as he gives me a friendly handshake. “You can write about that.” Then he begins reading from an earlier Wham! interview from Star Hits: “ ‘Andrew’s the laziest person I know.'” he reads, grinning at his partner,” ‘And he picks his nose constantly.’ Yeah, you’ll get to see him do that later too!” says George, as the two erupt into a fit of giggles. Gee, guys, promise?
Everything about Wham! is surrounded by excitement, energy—and frantic mishaps. First Andrew is nowhere to be found, then when he does turn up, the limousine is lost. George and Andrew don’t panic though, both being “quite easygoing chaps.”
“Hey,” a guy screams from a car window. “You’re Wham!, ain’t cha?” George smiles broadly, pleased at being recognized in the Big Country, and once again bares those pearly whites while giving the guy a thumbs up. Another happy customer drives away.
It seems these guys will never turn a cold shoulder on their adoring public. “But.” George whispers secretly, “we didn’t kiss the girls at the record signing yesterday.” Awwww. Meanwhile, the errant limo has been found, and we’re off again.
Next stop is the even more imposing NBC Building at Rockefeller Center, where the boys will do a radio interview. While in the limo, George and Andrew continue their leisurely perusal of Star Hits. Andrew growls affectionately at a picture of Madonna and George carefully studies the competition: Spandau Ballet. Culture Club and Duran Duran.
“John Taylor’s got a lot of style, hasn’t he?” muses George. “I mean, he always looks casually stylish, not like he’s trying, y’know?”
“Oh no,” cries Andrew, “Prince is bandy¬legged!” Rock and roll can be disillusioning, but not Wham! They are more charming and much less obnoxious than their native British press would have us believe. “Yeah, l don’t understand it,” George sighs wistfully. “It seems the more successful you become over there, the more they hate you.”
Led to the studio. George and Andrew settle down in front of their microphones and do their voice checks: “Hello, this is George Michael of Wham!, the one with the butch voice…”
“.. And this is Andrew Ridgeley, with the soft, smooth voice that makes women swoon!” The familiar giggles begin again, then subside as the interviewer shushes them like an impatient teacher.
The Wham! boys are all set to bare their souls on radio when suddenly a mysterious knocking invades the studio. Speculation as to whether the place is haunted begins, but whether it is or not, no taping can be done. We adjourn to the NBC commissary so Andrew can get some chips (that’s french fries to you) until the noise can be found and stopped.
Well, they promised they’d let me see them eat, and it was a pretty sickening affair. Andrew orders two hot dogs draped with American cheese and chips with a side of mayonnaise. George, meanwhile, snoops about the cafeteria with a gently picky air—nothing interesting. Eventually he settles for a cup of instant hot chocolate, a sip of which evokes a disdainful
While their publicist and the radio DJ chatter on about Asia’s new guitarist (yawn), Andrew concentrates on more important things, namely lunch. George leans over to his steadily- munching mate and whispers “can I steal a chip?” With mayonnaise? “Mmm, wouldn’t steal it if it didn’t have mayonnaise,” grins George, as he pops the mayo-laden spud into his mouth. Ugh.
George studies Andrew’s face for a moment, which has yet to be visited by a razor this morning. “You look like you’ve been dragged on the street, you unshaven tramp,” he decides, smiling sweetly. “Feel like I’ve been dragged after last night.” chuckles Andrew, and the two share clandestine smiles again.
Luckily. Andrew doesn’t really look dragged. The two are actually the picture of planned casual dress: Andrew in a midnight blue corduroy sports jacket, leather trousers and black velvet slippers embossed with little gold emblems; George in blue warm-up pants with a green sweater and immaculate white sneakers. Each wears a pair of subtle gold earrings that barely show behind slightly overgrown haircuts.
“We’ve been so busy lately, we don’t even have time to get our hair cut.” shrugs George “Or go shopping. I’ll have to do some shopping before we go back to England or I’ll have to appear in my birthday suit on Top of the Pops! Then we’ll do a centerfold in Playgirl!”
Revealing centerfolds will have to wait, now it’s back to the studio for the interview. Wham! settle down again and field all the usual questions with a slightly jaded ease George chatters on quite amiably, but Andrew quickly loses interest. “I’ve got a lot of nervous energy I don’t know, sometimes it’s because I’m bored, but I’m constantly doing this,” he says as he shows me his nervously-jiggling knees. “I like picking my nose as well.” he grins wickedly.
Back in the limo, George tells the terrifying story of an adoring fan who tried to get at them in another limo by jamming her arm in the closing door. “Oh, that scares the bloody hell out of me,” shivers George. “If we’d closed the door, her arm would’ve gone KKKKKRRRRKKK!!!” Eeesh—so this is the pop star life? “Bloody terrifying, innit?” agrees Andrew.
It might get a little hairy when Wham! return to the States with a hit album and a major stage show. “There will be sixteen people on stage, including us,” boasts George. All that virtually guarantees that the Wham! boys will be busy and the girls will be swooning.
Later that night, there’s a huge party for Wham! at Private Eyes, a posh New York video club. Wham! videos blare back to back and two dancers dressed as flamingoes pass around trays of Wham! yo-yos (as in “Don’t leave me hangin’ on like a yo-yo”—geddit?). The dazzling duo finally arrive in matching tuxedos, only to be mobbed by photographers and record company executives.
As Andrew swans about saying hello to as many people as possible (and smelling quite delicious at the same time). I cautiously approach George, now surrounded by a dozen or two people, to say goodbye. Hoping not to impose (and that he’ll remember me), I gingerly tap him on the shoulder. “Oh. I’m so glad to see you!” he says as he wraps his arms around me and gives me (gasp!) a kiss.
To think this day began in a record company corridor with a handshake and ended in a trendy nightclub with a kiss. Sometimes this pop star life can be bloody terrifying.
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- Andrew Ridgeley on Life With and After Wham! (Hello!, 1997)
- Desert Island Discs: George Michael Interview (2007)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- After George Michael Strained His Back (Smash Hits, 1985)