The Day I Almost Met George Michael: Memories from the Edge of Heaven

Wednesday, August 9, 2023
Once upon a time I almost George Michael. It still pains me to say it out loud, the "almost." I could have met him. I almost did. Ouch! It's been almost 40 years but I still talk about this. And up until recently I really had no record of the moment that never happened. But thanks to the new Wham! documentary on Netflix (have you seen it? It's fabulous), the memory has resurfaced in my brain; this time with physical evidence!

This post is part of a series on my site called Momma Musings, where I share personal thoughts and feelings. I hope you'll check out my other posts, too, especially if you enjoy this one.

George Michael was so amazingly talented, wasn't he? I used to play Make it Big and Music from the Edge of Heaven over and over again, but I especially loved George Michael's later solo albums like Faith and Listen Without Prejudice.  In 1984 (at least I think that was the year) Wham! was fairly new to America, but their song 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' was super popular. When I heard that Wham! (George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley) were going to be signing autographs at Sam Goody* in Willowbrook Mall, I knew we had to go! *Sam Goody was a store that sold records, cassettes and CD's of actual music (for all of you young whipper-snappers out there).

So there we were at 11 years old, my friends and my sister waiting patiently in my family's driveway for another friend's mom to pick us up and take us to the mall. But she was LAAAAATE! This is probably the moment my anxiety was born because I remember standing there wringing my hands, looking down at my Swatch Watch with a feeling of preteen dread. Were we going to miss them? There was still time, right? They were going to be signing till 5:30, so maybe they'd even stay till 6. They wouldn't just up and leave, right? Right?!?

When we finally made it to the mall, I knew it was too late. It was like coming upon a parade after it had already passed through. There was clear evidence that something spectacular had happened at Sam Goody, but only dust and rubble remained. A few overturned chairs. A buzz of fading excitement still in the air. The crowds were gone- clearly there had been crowds- because Sam Goody looked like a desolate wasteland. Only stragglers remained, and everything was smoldering (not really, but that's how it looks in my mind*). We walked through the store like zombies, past the table where Wham! had sat only moments before. They must have been signing albums with markers because they had drawn mustaches on their own faces on the posters behind the table. Back then there was no immediate way to capture this moment, no cell phones to snap a picture of their doodles or record our own disappointed expressions. But it didn't matter because I knew I'd never forget such a letdown (Ever. For, like, 40 years!).
*My friends and my sister don't remember smoke and a desolate wasteland at Sam Goody- okay, maybe I was exaggerating there- but they do remember a line that actually remained, and we stood on the looooong line and then Wham! left.

I had one last fleeting hope that maybe Wham! was still out back, behind the store where the parking lot was. I convinced my friends to walk out there with me and see if we could catch a glimpse of them, or at least see their limousine or something. So we wandered outside the mall to the employee entrance of Sam Goody. There was no sign of George Michael or Andrew Ridgeley. No shiny stretch black limousine like I envisioned. Instead we found a bunch of giddy older girls, and one of them shouted to us with wild eyes, "I grabbed his balls!" And she gestured with her hand how she did it. I'm not sure whose balls she grabbed- Andrew or George- but I didn't want to know. I was just jealous that she got close enough to grab balls, even though my 11 year old brain was thinking, Who would grab someone's balls? And why? So gross. 

And that's where the story ends. No Wham!, no George Michael. But when I close my eyes I can still see the mustaches drawn on their album posters. Touching, I know. I'm sure there's a little violin playing for me somewhere. 

Imagine my surprise 39 years later while sitting and watching the Wham! documentary on Netflix. A familiar scene popped up on screen:

Well, I'll be! There it is! Evidence after all these years!! Now finally I could see the insane crowd that I missed 39 years ago. I could see the posters on the wall where Wham was sitting, without hand-drawn mustaches. 

They even showed Andrew Ridgeley by his limousine (see, I knew it was a stretch limo!). 

They also interviewed some girls by the employee entrance. Were these the girls who grabbed balls?!? (I can't say for sure, so if this happens to be your mom in the picture, I'm not pointing fingers). 

After watching the documentary, I also came across this picture of Andrew Ridgeley on Facebook, signing posters for the Wham! documentary. And lo and behold, he drew on this poster, too, just like he did at Sam Goody some 40 years ago. Suddenly I wasn't so sad anymore. Even though I missed seeing them in 1984, I know now that I was still part of a special moment- one of those magical 1980's memories that we just can't seem to recapture these days. And for that I am forever grateful. 

photo via Wham! on Facebook

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