The Evolution of George Michael

Michael spends part of his time in Texas to be with his partner, Kenny Goss.

July 24, 2008 — -- George Michael is in love. So in love, in fact, that he's been willing to relocate, part-time, to Texas.

Michael and his boyfriend, Texan Kenny Goss, split their time between London and Dallas, where the pop star often goes unrecognized.

"One day last year I was sitting in a McDonald's in the middle of the Dallas airport. It was incredible, I was standing there, absolutely no one was hassling me," he told "Good Morning America's" Chris Cuomo in an exclusive interview.

Michael, who was devastated by the deaths of his mother and former partner, said, "Kenny saved my life."

Michael catapulted to fame in the 1980s as the frontman of the pop duo Wham! and then embarked on a white-hot solo career. But his life has been rife with personal struggles, including a very public outing of his sexuality and a struggle with prescription drug addiction.

He's come through it all with a sense of humor and a good dose of humility.

"What is it about me that women seem to ignore the fact that I'm gay?" he joked.

"I think women really get the feeling that I understand them. … And I write from the heart. You know, I write from the place where most straight men are really a little too, there's a little too much pride going on to write. And then, there's a pride that's built into us as men."

The one-time pin-up boy also says he never saw himself as good-looking.

"When I was younger, I didn't actually believe I was even vaguely attractive," Michael said. "I don't look at myself growing older and panic in any way. Because I never associated the importance."

Michael has dabbled in acting recently, playing himself in the ABC show "Eli Stone," but he says his future remains in music.

While he is touring America for the first time in years, Michael is not worried about continuing to tour in front of packed stadiums.

"You've got to understand, I don't inhale any of that. It's dangerous, 'cause what I really am is a writer," Michael said.

"I just never thought the looks were much to begin with, but whatever they are, they'll fade. You know, my brain will go eventually. It's all gone, but the songs are still there."

Tragic Troubles

The perpetually five-o'-clock-shadowed crooner, whose global record sales exceed 100 million, is on his "25 Live" tour to celebrate his 25-year career. The tour, which began two years ago and will end next month, is Michael's last-ever big-venue gig and his way of showing appreciation to fans.

"I'm here to say thank you to those people and it's incredible," Michael said.

The British-born singer begins his set with a song he wrote in 1990 called "Waiting," which seems tailor-made for today, with lyrics like "Don't people change, is it too late to try again, here I am."

Michael has evolved since he first entered the spotlight fronting Wham! with collaborator Andrew Ridgeley. The duo parted ways in 1986, and Michael became one of the world's biggest solo pop stars when his 1987 album "Faith" spawned five No.1 singles and a popular global tour.

But even at the height of his success, when he was a female favorite, Michael struggled with his sexuality. In fact, the "Careless Whisper" singer said he didn't have his first relationship until he was 27 years old.

"I really had not come into my sexuality until I was 24, and six months into it, deep in the throes of love, I lost my partner to HIV and it took about three years to grieve," he said.

Michael said he never told his mother about his sexual orientation, though he suspected she knew.

"I remember her saying to me when I was about 17, 'It must be so much easier for parents of gay people now.' And I-- I thought-- and I didn't even hear it at the time. I just thought, 'Whoa, she said the word gay.' And when I look back, I just thought, 'Oh, bless her heart. She just wanted me to tell her,'" he said.

After losing his partner in 1993, Michael was dealt another heart-wrenching blow when his mother succumbed to cancer in 1997.

"I felt almost like I was cursed," he said.

During his most difficult time, his craft would help him recover.

"I wrote very, very little. But the little I wrote did well and kept my head above water," Michael said. "It was like depression and shock that just went on for years."

Tabloid Fodder

Even as Michael tried recovering emotionally from his loved ones' deaths and his own depression, rumors about his sexuality circulated publicly. The murmurs hit a fever pitch when police arrested the singer in 1998 for engaging in a lewd act in a public bathroom at a Beverly Hills park.

It outed him publicly to the world and made him the butt of jokes.

"It was a very eventful and bizarre — bizarrely dark period for me that I actually thought was going to go on forever," Michael said.

But he added the arrest had an unpredicted effect.

"It was a huge relief and it took me about a year to admit to myself that I'd done it deliberately," said Michael. "The truth is, cruising has gone on for as long as there have been men trying to hide their sexuality."

Michael eventually pleaded no contest to the charge. He was fined $810 and sentenced to 80 hours of community service.

The incident became the inspiration for the music video of his song "Outside," which parodied the occurrence.

Drug Troubles

But Michael's public problems didn't end with his bathroom arrest. In 2006 he had two drug-related arrests. In one he was found slumped over the wheel of a car after having taken sleeping pills.

" I needed my license taken away," said the singer, whose driving privileges were suspended for two years following the incident. "When you know you've done something stupid, punishment doesn't seem inappropriate."

"I think that I really learned something from that because I did something that I've never done in my life, which is take risks with other people," he added.

Now, two years later, Michael said prescription drugs are no longer an issue.

"I think that the whole thing was the last couple years of [trying to cope] and — and I saved myself, really, by deciding to tour," he said.