George Michael rang up today. Yes, that one. He wanted to deny newspaper claims that he and partner Kenny Goss had split up. But the conversation soon veered off the subject.
I’m doing a bit of an odd job at the moment, with occasional blips of excitement. But what gets me interested is another man’s freedom fighter… er… What I mean is – horses for courses. Or is it chacun à son gout? Ok, it’s like this. Most supposedly oooh-tastic things just wash over me.
But then I get to meet Tracy Beaker and that’s a bit of a thrill. OK, I actually met Dani Harmer who plays Tracy – but they look the same and that’s good enough for me. And she’s talented and thoroughly decent. And it’s great gossip for my daughter.
And then there was the voice of Alexandr the Meerkat from the insurance ads. (You’ll not be surprised to hear the man behind the voice is another kids’ TV regular.) It’s just that what gets my colleagues going leaves me unmoved, and visa versa. (So I may be in the wrong job, but that’s another story. Or perhaps it’s that they’re childless.)
But today I perked up with the rest of them. Thanks to George calling in.
Two things struck me from what he said.
1. He can’t drive a manual (stick shift) car. So this guy who’s sold more than 100 million albums, earning quite a few bob in the process, cannot have any car he wants. Well, he can have it, but he can’t drive it. George has had problems with driving in the past, so maybe it’s for the best.
But why can’t he drive a manual car? According to George:
I was working as a labourer when I was first doing lessons, but I got drunk and lost my job. My dad stopped paying for the lessons, and shortly after that we were signed as a band. It was not until after Wham! split up that I got my first car, a Mercedes. I had no time to learn so I thought would stick to an automatic.
It’s a source of some shame to him. He went on to say that he’ll never appear on Top Gear, because he’d be too embarrassed to admit on the show that he couldn’t pull off being The Star in the Reasonably Priced Car – because you need to use a gear stick, and he can’t.
Is he right to be embarrassed? Does only having an automatic licence make you not quite a proper driver? I admit I drive automatics myself, though I have a full licence. And automatics are far more prevalent in the United States than in Europe. Have Americans given up on the visceral thrill of driving, or are they just more grown up and relaxed?
Anyway, the other thing that George said that struck me was…
2. He watches the show I work on. It’s daily newsy chatty minor celebrity show on weekday mornings. What in the name of all that’s holy is this internationally famous megastar, renowned for his creativity and music and notorious for his partying doing watching it? Why isn’t busy creating? Or sleeping off an all-night binge.
Makes me wonder what doth it profit a man to win award after award, to have seven UK number one singles and eight US number ones, and to rack up £90 million (or more) in cash – if at the end of it all he finds himself on the sofa going goggle-eyed in front of our morning output? Is that really where his glittering path has led him? It seems a bit… well, disappointing.
To be fair to George, he said he watched every morning while he was in prison recently (after being convicted of driving under the influence of drugs). I imagine the activity options are more limited in prison, even for a multi-millionaire. So perhaps his morning telly addiction is a recently acquired addiction he picked up in the nick. Well, they do say imprisonment can do terrible things to a bloke.
So there you have it. The man you’d think would have everything can’t drive a manual car, and sits glued to daytime TV every morning. It turns out he does however still have love. Which means he’s still coming out ahead.