Teeny-boppers, moms, yuppies rock out with Michael by Robin Benedick of The Orlando Sentinel published on October 24, 1988.
A smaller crowd than anticipated flocked to the Florida Citrus Bowl-Orlando on Sunday night to see teen-age idol and rock star George Michael. Michael took the stage at 9:10 p.m. to thunderous cheers from a crowd made up mostly of 13- to 19-year-olds, their mothers and overdressed yuppies. The opening act was the Bangles, a female rock band famous for the Top 40 hit “Manic Monday.”
“He is so hot,” howled 15-year-old Kristin Reineck, a lOth-grader at Winter Park High School, as Michael stormed onto the stage in an open black shirt and tight black pants. Thrusting his hips, Michael, known for his ever-present three-day growth of stubble, launched into “I Want Your Sex.” He gazed adoringly at several young girls in the front row who were jumping up and down.
Next to Reineck, 14-year-old Valerie Skousen danced and clutched two red roses she brought for Michael with a card that read “Thanks for the Music.” She planned to toss them on stage. Both teenagers said the concert helped them forget about their English tests this morning.
Nearby, 17-year-old Christy Henderson of Lakeland screamed: “I’m in love with him.” Henderson, a business student at Polk County Community College, spent sell out the stadium, said they $64 for three T-shirts and a poster to add to her collection of 450 Michael pictures that are plastered most keenly anticipated rock con-on her bedroom wall.
City officials, who had hoped to sell out the stadium, said they were surprised the event drew just 33,500 people for one of the most keenly anticipated rock concerts this year in Central Florida. It was the third concert at the Citrus Bowl in five years.
In March 1987, the British band Genesis and lead vocalist Phil Collins drew almost 50,000 people who filled the 49,379 seats in the Citrus Bowl.
John Christison, the Orlando official who oversees the Citrus Bowl, blamed part of the poor turnout on the fact that it was a school night. Because of a city-imposed curfew, the concert started about 15 minutes early and had to end by about 11 p.m.
Concertgoers started arriving at the football stadium about 3 p.m., 2lA hours before the gates opened.
Stadium parking lots quickly filled with carloads of fans who held picnics, stretched out on lawn chairs, tossed footballs and pumpkins and blared their car stereos and tape players.
It was a tangle of smells and people beer, suntan oil and the sweat of too many hours in the sun. Inside, the smell of marijuana wafted through the stadium.
Orlando police reported no fights or arrests inside the stadium.
“They were a real good crowd,” said Capt. Charles Edwards. “It was one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
Police arrested at least two people outside the stadium on charges of selling bootleg T-shirts, he said.
People stood in long lines to pay $10 to $25 for George Michael souvenirs.
Two 19-year-olds from Merritt Island, Rosemary Penn and Tracy Forster, both decked out in black-, and-white netted skirts and white gloves, unfurled a homemade banner with Michael’s name.
“He’s so sexy, and he sings good, too,” Penn cooed.
The two had seats in the 25th row. But getting great seats wasn’t easy. The teenagers had camped in blankets outside Merritt Square mall the night before tickets went on sale Aug. 20.
Police reported only minor problems, most of them traffic-related, said Lt. Jim Weaver, head of the traffic squad. A few people were taken by ambulance from the concert to area hospitals for mostly twisted ankles and other minor leg injuries.
Weaver said there were the usual traffic tie-ups on Tampa and Rio Grande avenues, Church and Central streets and South Orange Blossom Trail. The problems on Tampa Avenue were worsened because part of the road was closed to install underground pipes, he said. Weaver predicted that few concertgoers would take advantage of the $2 shuttle bus that ran from the Central Florida Fairgrounds on West Colonial Drive to the stadium. The shuttles began running at 3:30 p.m. But because the concert was reserved seating, Weaver said he thought most people would come to the show just minutes before it started.
As the crowds waited outside the stadium for the gates to open, they listened to George Michael practice several songs inside. They couldn’t see the 25-year-old pop star from England but hearing him was enough.
Many teenagers brought their mothers. The only way 14-year-old Sarah Hensch of Altamonte Springs and four of her girlfriends could go to the concert was if her mother accompanied them.
So Susan Hensch dug out an old seat cushion and ear plugs and took her daughter to their first concert together.
“I wouldn’t let her go alone with all the bad publicity about these concerts,” she said. “Anyway, I might even get to like him.”
Michael’s music doesn’t just appeal to women and teeny-boppers. And mothers weren’t the only ones who brought their kids.
J.J. Vaughan of Maitland brought his daughter Kristina, 13, and three of her friends. He said he didn’t mind it was a school night and didn’t mind being at the concert because he’s also a fan of the Top 40 rocker.
But Kristina and her friends weren’t as thrilled.
“Yeah, it’s a drag,” Kristina said. “I mean, he’s like walking around with me and stuff.”
The concert wasn’t only for young people. Shirley Kunkle, 58, got talked into going by her granddaughter, Tina Lane, 13, of Tampa.
“I’m here because I have to be,” Kunkle said, laughing. But Kunkle said she likes Michael after spending the entire drive from Tampa listening to his music on the car stereo.
Orlando officials said the city would make less than the $120,000 profit it received from the stadium rental and sales of food and T-shirts at the Genesis concert.
Tickets cost $20, but when the gates had opened people were outside the stadium trying to get rid of extras for $5 to $15.
Inside, 22-year-old Craig Dudash, of Sarasota, spent most of the evening fending off questions from fans who confused him for Michael. “If one more person tells me I look like him, I’m going to scream,” said Dudash, whose pretty-boy looks and spiked light brown hair strongly resembled Michael’s.
Mark Pankowski of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
- List of Duets and Backup Vocals
- Concert Review: Wham! delivers slick package to euphoric fans
- Wham! You’re On Your Own, George (Sunday Times, 1986)
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- Wham! Interview: The Odd Couple (Sounds, 1983)