In 1998, in Los Angeles, George Michael was arrested for committing a lewd act in a public toilet. It could have been career ending, but it became a defining moment of gay liberation.
George Michael: Outed tells the thrilling inside story of how George turned disaster into a PR coup in a landmark moment for queer politics. Featuring never-before broadcast audio of George and interviews with his inner circle - his partner at the time, Kenny Goss, and cousin and business partner Andros Georgiou - this two-parter reveals how George took on the tabloids and won.
As the media descended on George's Hollywood home, the film meets the journalists who got the first tip-off that George's 'secret' was about to be revealed. Kevin Smith, founder of Splash News, an agency renowned for breaking celebrity scandals, reveals that 'the gloves were off, the moment the news was out'. But why was it a secret?
The first episode looks back to earlier in George Michael's career, when the young pop pin-up faced a stark choice. As former manager Simon Napier-Bell explains: 'It would probably be better if George wasn't gay'.
As the eighties progressed and the AIDS crisis turned into a moral panic, former Communard Richard Coles recalls: 'If you were nervous about how you might be perceived as a gay man in 1982, by 1986, you would have perhaps more reason to be'.
Or as George revealed later, when established as an international star: 'If you have the option of hiding, when you're more successful than you ever dreamed you're going to be, what are you gonna do?
Flash forward to 1998 and George decides to take control of his story and sits down with Jim Moret from TV news channel CNN. 'Very rarely do we have a star of that magnitude,' observes Moret, '...willing to go on camera and openly discuss something... so reckless.'
George finally tells the world that he's gay and declares 'I don't feel any shame'. His cousin Andros recalls that for George 'it was about admitting: Yes. I'm a gay man. And I cruise. I've been doing it for years. What's the problem?'
As the interview flashes across the globe, future pop star Will Young remembers how it gave hope to young gay men: 'To see someone flip the script and go, Yeah, I'm really proud of this... He was really unique'. Just months later, George releases the video to his hit record Outside, where he is seen dancing in a police uniform in a public toilet that turns into a disco.
George Michael: Outed airs Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th March on Channel 4.