George Michael jailed for driving ‘out of his brain’
If only he’d listened to his own lyrics, says a First Post correspondent with a shockingly good memory
How ironic some of the songs seem now. From Waiting for That Day to Freedom to, most unfortunate of all, Spinning the Wheel, poor George Michael must wish he'd paid more attention to the words he was singing all those years ago.
The 47-year-old multi-millionaire singer will spend the next four weeks at Her Majesty's Prison Pentonville after being convicted of crashing his Range Rover into a Snappy Snaps shop in Hampstead, north London while high on cannabis and prescription drugs.
He was found by police officers in July looking "wide eyed and spaced out" behind the wheel of his car, the second such incident in three years.
Sentencing Michael (real name Georgios Panayiotou) at Highbury Magistrates Court on Tuesday, District Judge John Perkins told the singer: "On this occasion you drove your vehicle about a mile while suffering from a dangerous and unpredictable mix [of drugs].
"Your record is of concern. It does not appear that you took proper steps to deal with what is clearly an addiction to cannabis. That's a mistake which puts you and, on this occasion, the public at risk."
Judge Perkins then ordered that Michael, looking dapper in a pinstriped grey suit, be sentenced to eight weeks' jail (four in Pentonville, and another four on licence), banned from driving for five years and fined £1,250.
Michael reacted to the punishment with a laugh of disbelief but some of his fans in the public gallery were less amused. "No!" screamed one, while another bellowed: "Good luck, George."
According to today's Daily Mirror, Michael only appreciated the gravity of his situation when he entered the court's holding cell prior to his transfer to Pentonville. The paper quotes 42-year-old Richard Hayes, already in the cell awaiting sentencing, describing the moment one half of Wham! walked into the cell.
"I couldn't believe it was George Michael standing in front of me," said Richards, who confessed he wasn't into Michael's music and, anyway, "he wasn't exactly signing autographs".
Hayes says that when the cell door slammed shut on Michael, "he didn't know what to do. He was in pieces. He kept repeating: 'I can't believe this has happened to me'. I told him to come and sit down, asked him what happened and he just put his head in his hands. He was crying his eyes out, he was sobbing. He was like a little boy."
Perhaps remembering the line from Michael's hit song Father Figure ('I will be your father figure/ I have had enough of crime'), Hayes did his best to console the shattered singer.
"To be honest with you, he was shitting himself. I tried to reassure him, but he just held his head in his hands and stayed in the corner... I feel sorry for him going to jail with his status. But on the other hand, he was driving a big car while he was out of his brain."
On an otherwise grim day for Michael fans there was one note of encouragement struck by his lawyer, Mukul Chawla, who told the court: "For the first time in many years he has started writing again. His creativity, so long hampered by his drug dependence, is re-emerging."
The graffiti writers of Hampstead have had their moment of creativity, too. Scrawled across the still damaged shopfront of Snappy Snaps is the simple legend: 'Wham!' ·
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