George Michael dead: Sydney, the city which stole his heart

STUFF.CO.NZ

80s pop star George Michael has passed away peacefully aged 53.

The private world of George Michael has been, for the last two decades of his life at least, a very public affair.

There was the Texan art dealer Kenny Goss, whom many felt was the love of Michael's life; their relationship lasted 14 years and the pair remained close.

And there was the Australian-born hair stylist Fadi Fawaz, who has been in a relationship with Michael for the last few years.

Former Wham! singer George Michael had an ongoing love affair with Sydney where he owned a holiday home.
PETER MACDIARMID

Former Wham! singer George Michael had an ongoing love affair with Sydney where he owned a holiday home.

But in 2010 the London-born pop singer was seduced by the most unexpected of things: the city of Sydney.

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Michael's whirlwind visit to Sydney in 2010 was planned like most: an airline ticket, a fast turnaround and one glittering moment on the stage at the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras after party.

George Michael impersonators for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival 2010 rehearse 28 historic years.
Brendan Esposito

George Michael impersonators for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival 2010 rehearse 28 historic years.

For those who remember it, it was a star-studded lineup: Michael, Kelly Rowland, David Guetta and Adam Lambert.

And like most Mardi Gras parties it was a celebration of freedom and hedonism, anthems which resonated powerfully with Michael's songwriting.

Just 48 hours later Michael should have been on an airplane back to London, but instead the then-46-year-old singer cancelled his ticket and decided to stay.

333 Whale Beach Road, Palm Beach George Michael's home.
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333 Whale Beach Road, Palm Beach George Michael's home.

Exactly what stole his heart is difficult to pin down: the late Sydney summer, the city's stunning harbour, its vibrant gay community or simply the opportunity to exchange his high-profile London life for something a little more ordinary and anonymous.

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Reflecting on his subsequent visits to Sydney, it seems he indulged in them all.

There were, of course, endless paparazzi shots and headlines in gossip columns about where he was, and who he was with. In London his circle of friends was a who's who of the famous and powerful; in Sydney he surrounded himself with a group of friends who were neither.

George Michael, rightt, with then-boyfriend, Queensland-born Fadi Fawaz, in Sydney in 2012.
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George Michael, rightt, with then-boyfriend, Queensland-born Fadi Fawaz, in Sydney in 2012.

There were also yacht cruises around Sydney harbour, where it seemed every man he was photographed with was a new "mystery man". And visits to the Queensland home of his partner Fadi Fawaz's family.

At one point he even exchanged his luxurious hotel for a serviced apartment and rented his own car; later he bought himself a holiday home - Palm Beach Villa - which is perched on Whale Beach and enjoys commanding views of the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.

Most famously, however, he used the dating app Grindr to meet men.

Peter Still/Getty Images Hulton Archive/Getty Images Michael Putland/Getty Images Michael Putland/Getty Images Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket Michael Putland/Getty Images Michael Putland/Getty Images Michael Putland/Getty Images Michael Putland/Getty Images Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic Pascal Lauener/Reuters Sean Gallup/Getty Images Mick Hutson Junko Kimura/Getty Images Paul Kane/Getty Images Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters Henning Bagger/Reuters Neil Mockford/Getty Images Jon Furniss/WireImage Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images HEINZ-PETER BADER

GEORGE MICHAEL: A LIFE IN PICTURES

English pop stars Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael of WHAM! at the 1984 film premiere of Dune.

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of WHAM! performing in Japan, January 1985.

Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael of Wham performing on stage in 1985.

Popstar Elton John (right) congratulates George Michael on winning the Ivor Novello Songwriter of the Year Award at London's Grosvenor House Hotel, on March 13, 1985.

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley pictured at the Great Wall of China on April 7, 1985. Wham! was the first-ever Western pop band to play in China.

Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael of Wham! at their farewell concert at London's Wembley Stadium on June 28, 1986.

Singers George Michael and Boy George perform on stage at an Aids awareness concert in London, April 1987.

George Michael lights up the stage in Japan during the Faith World Tour, his first solo world tour in March 1988.

George Michael pictured with former girlfriend Kathy Yeung on a train in Japan, March 1988.

George Michael won the Video Vanguard Award in the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, California.

George Michael and Stevie Wonder performing at the 1997 VH1 Honors in Los Angeles, California.

George Michael performs his song Amazing on a Swiss television show, March 27, 2004.

George Michael signs autographs for fans at the world premiere of his film George Michael – A Different Story during the 55th annual Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Feb 2005.

George Michael and Paul McCartney on stage at the LIVE 8 concert in Hyde Park, England, July 2, 2005.

George Michael and then-partner Kenny Goss at the Japanese premiere of his film A Different Story on Dec 15, 2005 in Tokyo.

George Michael on the first night of his George Michael Live Australian tour at the Burswood Dome, Perth, on Feb 20, 2010.

George Michael at Highbury Magistrates Court in London on Sept 14, 2010. He was sentenced to eight weeks in jail on Tuesday for driving under the influence of cannabis when he crashed his car into a north London shop in July.

George Michael on stage in Denmark during his European Orchestral tour, on Aug 29, 2011.

George Michael clutches flowers from well-wishers at a press conference outside his North London home on Dec 23, 2011. The singer spoke to the media about his recent illness, which forced him to cancel dates on his tour.

British singer Adele receives the award for best British Album from George Michael during The BRIT Awards 2012 at the O2 Arena, London, on Feb 21, 2012.

George Michael on stage at the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, August 12, 2012.

George Michael in Vienna performing as part of his Symphonica tour concert, Sept 4, 2012. The tour had been interrupted for months after the British singer contracted severe pneumonia. He credited the Vienna medical team for bringing him back from the brink of death in the 2011 health scare.

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It must have seemed almost surreal to switch on a phone dating app and see the face of a global superstar staring back at you. And with the pseudonym "Back for Wood" no less.

But for Michael, there was almost something very ordinary about life in Sydney that made it appealing. In London he faced a paparazzi scrum daily, and seemed constantly to have to explain the various scandals which had, for a time, plagued his career.

The fabric of life in Sydney for the pop superstar was a stark contrast: long, quiet summers, a chance to live his life out and proud, and a wider community which seemed to embrace him without judgement.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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