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Faces of the week (Friday 3 March, 2006)


Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are GEORGE MICHAEL(main picture), with CONDOLEEZA RICE, JON STEWART, KANYE WEST and TESSA JOWELL.

GEORGE MICHAEL

In a week that sees one of the world's most successful pop artists once again under the magnifying glass for his social behaviour, what's eating George Michael?

After more than two decades at the top of the pop music tree, George Michael has millions of record sales under his belt, looks, wealth, fame and the love of a good man.

But even buffered by his huge surplus of luck in these departments, the star has been unable to prevent controversy entering his door - indeed, he has often invited it in. As he said this week of his drugs arrest at London's Hyde Park Corner, "just my own stupid fault, as usual".

Aspirant pop

Twenty years ago, George Michael was not a radical figure. With his blonde-streaked flicked hair, perma-tanned face and dazzling smile, the creative half of Wham! captured the zeitgeist of the 1980s - the sun-kissed counterpart to his friend, the young Princess Diana.

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley formed a wholesome duo
He was the default pin-up for a generation of British schoolgirls, and could back it up with song-writing talent and a killer voice.

Back then, Michael and his school friend Andrew Ridgeley sang aspirant pop about the Club Tropicana where drinks are free. It seemed these young, new romantics had earned their fortunes and gained access to an exclusive community just by singing about it. Arrivistes, yes, but threatened or threatening, definitely not.

Michael also enjoyed phenomenal success as a solo artist but, by the 1990s, he was shaking off his cherubic epidermis, beginning to be a serious artist and, more radically, a serious person.

"Lewd"

His music developed darker undertones, and he made the kamikaze decision to take his record company to court, attempting to extricate himself from what he termed "professional slavery". He lost the case and millions of pounds in the process.

And in 1998, the worst-kept secret in the music business entered the public domain, and the word "lewd" peppered a thousand news stories. George Michael was arrested for lewd conduct in a LA public toilet, and the media had a field day - the Sun newspaper led the charge with "Zip Me Up Before You Go Go."

An eighties' heart-throb
Although Michael handled the ensuing frenzy with aplomb bordering on strategic brilliance - good humoured interviews and a hit song and video about the incident - his method of coming out to the masses once again marked him as a maverick character in the pop world.

And the delayed revelation of his sexuality did not help Michael's struggle to articulate his views. When he made his Shooting the Dog anti-Bush/Blair diatribe, his critics questioned the authority of someone who, in the words of Noel Gallagher, "hid who he was from the public for 20 years".

Suburban angst

Michael's reluctance to reveal and address his sexual confusion can be traced to his upbringing. Born Georgios Kyriacos to a Greek father and English mother, he suffered from all the adolescent angst that an overweight, be-spectacled, mono-browed, acne-riddled teenager might expect.

His first serious partner, Anselmo Feleppa, died of an Aids-related illness in 1993, and he lost his mother to cancer four years later. In a recent documentary, he said he would willingly swap lives with his former pop partner Andrew Ridgeley "because he hasn't experienced loss - 12 years of my life in darkness".

George Michael sang with Sir Paul McCartney at Live8
Whether railing against the government or detailing the course of his own development, the latter often expressed in the disturbing, post-therapy, Geri-Halliwell-like third person, George Michael has become increasingly articulate, well-informed and confident of his views.

Could it be that inside the immaculately-coiffed, tailored, stubbled George Michael, an overweight mono-brow still lives, breathes and finds it hard to believe he ever made it to the glamorous table. When he became beautiful, circa 1984, he celebrated the fact by prancing around on stage with a shuttle-cock down his shorts.

Was this the act of a performer insecure of his appeal, or just someone poking fun at his phoney heterosexual image?

George Michael said this week "I have been through enough in 24 years of dealing with the media to know what I am in for from them this week." But this self-aware performer was once a self-conscious teenager who wrote the timeless ballad Careless Whisper aged 14 sitting on a bus.

If his controversy is rooted in his suburban background, so, too, is his genius. And there isn't too much of that around.


CONDOLEEZA RICE

The most powerful woman in the world appears intent on being one of the fittest. Condoleezza Rice was filmed for US TV this week undertaking her gruelling daily exercise routine. Some believe this is all part of her push for the White House - she follows in the footsteps of presidential joggers Clinton and Bush; not so much Jimmy Carter, who went running in the 1970s and ended up being carried by the Secret Service.

 

JON STEWART

US comedian Jon Stewart will host this year's Oscars on Sunday night. Stewart enjoys cult viewing in America for his spoof hit The Daily Show, and has appeared in several films. At the helm of the biggest night of the show business calendar, he follows Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Whoopi Goldberg. But Stewart claimed himself to be "disappointed with the choice - another sad attempt to smoke out Billy Crystal".

KANYE WEST

Rapper Kanye West was a shocked onlooker when a fan shot two of his bouncers at a Birmingham concert. The man, confronted for not having a ticket, fired eight times before fleeing the area. Several rap artists - most notably 50 Cent, Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. - have been caught in gunfire, but Kanye West is famously peace-loving. He has spoken out against violence, and invites his mother to his concerts.

 
TESSA JOWELL

Tony Blair cleared his culture secretary of breaching the ministers' code of conduct - because her husband, David Mills, did not tell her about a £344,000 gift that he had received. Italian prosecutors have claimed that the payment was made in return for helping Silvio Berlusconi at his corruption trial in 1997, but both Tessa Jowell and her husband deny this. She said: "I have always discharged my responsibilities in good faith."

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Caroline Frost