Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Tale of How George Michael Taught the Paparazzi a Lesson on the Great Wall of China


One of George Michael’s pals who has been in demand by TV shows– such this past Tuesday night’s ABC “20/20” network special to pay tribute to him — is our old friend Martin Lewis.

Martin produced “Foreign Skies” the documentary about George Michael’s historic Wham! concert tour of China in 1985. Wham! were the first Western pop act to perform in China.

Lewis and George Michael arranged for the film – for which Lewis had recruited the iconic Lindsay Anderson as director – to have its World Premiere at London’s Wembley Stadium in June 1986 in front of 100,000 fans at Wham’s farewell concert.

“George’s idea was that it would break the world record for the most people ever to attend a film premiere – and as usual he was right!” explains Lewis who stayed friendly with the star over the following decades.

Among his many affectionate recollections about the young George was a spontaneous jokey action by George in China – shown in the music video that Lewis produced for Wham’s 1985 hit “Freedom” that in hindsight provides an early glimpse into George’s growing unhappiness with the fame-game aspect of being a musician in the tabloid-obsessed 1980s.

Lewis took George on an excursion to view and walk on the Great Wall of China – but George’s visit was blighted by the omnipresent paparazzi who followed him everywhere. George knew that Lewis always carried an ancient camera on which he was shooting his own personal home movie during the China tour (his father’s 1958 Standard-8 hand-cranked Bell & Howell!) and he asked to borrow it. George then proceeded to film the offending photographers with it! Turning the tables to make clear that he didn’t enjoy constantly being in the goldfish bowl as a mandatory quid pro quo for his desire to simply create music.

Lewis recounted that story and showed the actual movie camera George had used in China during his tribute to his old pal on the “Good Day L.A.” TV show.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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