Saturday Night: Wham] It hit me. George, you have won
Saturday 25 June 1994
I walked into the newsagent's and picked up the the Independent, with its front-page story of George Michael losing his epic legal battle with Sony. George was very unhappy about his pounds 11m recording contract, seriously pissed off with his meagre pounds 70m fortune. Hell, he was miserable, so much so that he described his situation as 'professional slavery' and promised he would not record another note until the contract expires, 10 years from now.
Then I bought a copy of the Face, mainly for the rather pert and saucy Winona Ryder cover. (I'd buy unrefrigerated body parts if they came wrapped in saucy photos of Winona.) Inside, I found several articles loosely based on the slacker sub-culture. Slackers, as any media-literate fool will tell you, are young people whose lives are totally devoid of tension. Money, fashion, work, war, sex, drugs, politics - what's the big deal? In the end it's all a hassle, and nothing really worth getting worked up about. They can take it or leave it, whatever it is. Slackers would tell you to shove it, only they can't be bothered.
I suppose it was inevitable. All the real radical poses got used up years ago. Those greedy baby- boomers (the generation preceding the slackers, and their mortal enemies) cleaned the store out. They did all the drugs, had all the sex, blew all the cash, revived all the great moments of pop history and photographed themselves in the act to prove it. Realising this, the only thing left for slackers to do was to shrug and say: 'So what?'
Slackers (who hate being called slackers) got their name from a low-budget film called Slacker, made by Richard Linklater in 1991. I wondered why the Face had taken so long to raise the slackness issue, before I realised I was probably missing the point ('Hey, it's just another cultural phenomenon expressing the nihilistic fatalism of today's pampered youth. This year, next year . . . we'll get around to it, OK?'). And then I made the connection. The scales fell from my eyes.
George, you are inching towards slackdom. It makes perfect sense. For years now you have toiled in bondage. Of course, like millions of others you believed you were free, but in reality your waking hours are sheer torture. I mean, just being George Michael is a form of slavery.
You have that cheesy image to maintain. A golden tan to be topped up regularly. Hair that must be washed and conditioned every morning to keep it soft, silky and healthy-looking.
Then there's the stubble to trim and the nose hairs to clip. You must work your fingers to the knuckle in order to look so effortlessly well-groomed. And keeping that waistline under 32ins has never been a breeze, George, let's face it. Sit-ups? Diets? Am I ringing any bells here?
Consider the relentless wardrobe frenzy you must endure every time you appear in public - especially in the High Court. Which belt to wear with the Gucci loafers? Tortoise-shell Ray-Bans or gold rims? Is Versace too chi-chi for morning wear? It must be a nightmare, making those choices. Others may scoff, but my heart goes out to you.
All this time, you have been in denial, trying to convince yourself - and us - that you were in control. But finally you uttered the name of the beast - 'professional slavery'.
Now that the truth has emerged, I hope you will have the courage to go all the way, so that one day you can fling open those closet doors and tell the world: I'm slack and I'm proud. By setting such a courageous example you would help countless others in their own search for happiness and self-
It won't be easy, George. As a long-time devotee of slackness, I know the path, and there will be sleepless nights, soul-searching and terrible self-doubt. The quest for stasis, for that elusive inert condition, is an arduous one. It can be likened to meditating: if you think you're doing it, you're not doing it. You must surrender all effort, and then surrender your lack of effort, too.
Even the most committed fall by the wayside, and wake up one day slumped in an office chair, doing something, being someone, or even - God forbid - holding down a job.
The best thing you can do is get a slacker guru to help you find your way. On your behalf I rang Tom Hodgkinson, editor of the Idler, a magazine dedicated to slackness of all kinds, and asked for his advice.
'Actually, I'm not very idle,' he said. 'It's a complete paradox. Those most dedicated to slackness somehow end up with the least free time on their hands. People like freelance journalists, for example, have practically zero leisure time. It takes a lot of effort, not working.'
As you can see, there is a long way to go. But you have taken the first step, so why go further? I am willing to do as little as necessary in order to help you become the first megastar to cross over, in the hope that you will lead your fans (mutely, now - you promised) into a state of glorious slackdom. Don't forget, there will always be room for you on my bean-bag.
Relax, George. Your eyes are growing heavy . . .
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