Christmas was a bitter-sweet time for George Michael. The late singer, who passed away on Christmas Day 2016 at the age of 53, associated the festive season with the death of two of the most important people in his life – his mother and his first love, who died within five years of each other. George opened up about that dark period in what was to become his final project, George Michael: Freedom, the 90-minute documentary he was working on in the days before his death. In the intimate TV interview, George spoke about how the deaths of Anselmo Feleppa and his mother Lesley Angold Panayiotou took their toll on him.
George Michael said he felt 'picked on by the gods' in his last ever interview
Admitting that he felt "picked on by the gods", the former Wham! singer said: "From the day I found out about my partner to the day I can say I was on the mend from my mother, it was just constant fear. It was either fear of death, or fear of the next bereavement. I'd never felt that kind of depression. It was the darkest time."
Describing Christmas Day 1991 as the "darkest, most frightening time in my life", George recalled waiting in the UK to find out the result of fashion designer Anselmo's Aids diagnosis in LA, all the while keeping their relationship a secret from the public and their families. "I sat at the Christmas table not knowing whether my partner, who the people around the table did not know about … not knowing whether the man I was in love with was terminally ill, therefore not knowing whether I was, potentially, terminally ill," he said.
The singer on stage at Rock in Rio in January 1991
George and Anselmo first met in January 1991 at the Rock in Rio concert, and their connection was instantaneous. "At the front of 160,000 people there was this guy over at the right-hand side of the stage that just fixed me with this look," George revealed, according to the Mirror. "He was so cute. I was so distracted by him, I stayed away from that corner, because otherwise I thought I was going to get really distracted and forget the words. The moment I looked at him I got the feeling he was going to be a part of my life."
Just months into their romance, Anselmo became ill with the flu and was advised to take an HIV test while staying at the star's home in L.A. "I remember looking at the sky and saying, 'Don't you dare do this to me!'" George shared.
During this same time, George's friend Freddie Mercury died of bronchial pneumonia, a complication of his own battle with Aids. "I just wanted to die inside. I was so overwhelmed by singing the songs of this man I had worshipped as a child, who had passed away in the same manner my first living partner was going to experience," George said. Less than one year later, Anselmo passed away, in March 1993.
George Michael pictured with his parents
While the star was still mourning the death of his first love, he endured further heartbreak in 1996 when his mother was told her cancer was terminal, and she was allowed to spend one final Christmas with her family. "I was so spiritually crushed after my mum died. So crushed and felt so bloody picked on by the gods. For all of my adult life she was phenomenal. Terrible, horrible loss," George said of losing his mother to the illness, months later in February 1997. "I'd never felt that kind of depression. It was something different to grief. It was on top of grief, I was grieving for my mother still, but it was something else. It was the darkest time."