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How George Michael used his single 'Outside' to tell people he would not be shamed for his sexuality

It was a direct response to his arrest and the public reaction in 1998

Roisin O'Connor
Tuesday 27 December 2016 10:05 GMT
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(YouTube/Screengrab)

George Michael knew better than anyone that success is the best revenge, and nothing proves that more than his triumphant single 'Outside'.

It was the first single he released after being arrested for engaging in a 'lewd act' in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, California, in 1998. Michael was handed a £500 fine and 80 hours of community service.

The incident prompted him to come out as gay in public - a detail of his personal life that had been the subject of rumour for several years - and subjected him to malicious tabloid headlines and moral outrage.

Many celebrities at the time would have issued a grovelling apology before going into hiding for the next year.

Instead Michael released 'Outside', a joyous, disco-infused jam that used self-deprecating humour to poke fun at the incident; even including direct samples of radio reports on his arrest in the song.

In the lyrics, Michael makes an obvious dig at the incident, claiming he has become bored with sex indoors and wants to go outside.

"Back to nature, just human nature/Getting on back to/I think I'm done with the sofa...

"...Let's go outside (let's go outside)/In the sunshine."

"I'd service the community, but I already have, you see," Michael sings gleefully, and you can almost hear the wink.

The video for 'Outside', directed by Vaughan Arnell, went even further.

It opens with a spoof of a Scandinavian porn film, and features Michael in a cop's uniform, clutching a nightstick and dancing around a public bathroom that has been transformed into a nightclub.

Two male officers are seen arresting couples engaging in lewd conduct outside, only to share a passionate embrace and a kiss which is caught on surveillance footage.

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Speaking on CNN in 1998 after his arrest, Michael identified as gay in public for the first time but also told of how he spent "the first half of my career being accused of being gay when I hadn't had anything like a gay relationship, in fact I was 27 before that happened to me.

"So I spent my years growing up being told what my sexuality was, really... which was kind of confusing and then by the time I worked out what it was - and I stopped having relationships with women - I thought I'd just hold on [and not tell the press]."

Michael would later speak openly and confidently about his sex life, telling BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs that hiding his sexuality had made him feel "fraudulent", and that being caught soliciting sex in '98 was a "subconsciously deliberate act".

He refused to be shamed over his sexuality, and the aftermath of the incident in Beverly Hills only seemed to encourage him to make that abundantly clear.

'Outside' made it to number two on the UK singles chart, and was included - of course - in his solo hits collection titled Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael.

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