On Air Now
The Smooth Sanctuary at 7 with Gary Vincent 7pm - 10pm
20 August 2020, 17:00 | Updated: 15 October 2020, 20:28
George Michael was singing on stage at Rock in Rio when he saw Anselmo Feleppa in the crowd, later saying the moment "changed his life forever"
Video footage has resurfaced of the day George Michael first spotted his future boyfriend Anselmo Feleppa in the audience at one of his concerts.
George confirmed he was singing on stage at the 1991 Rio de Janeiro concert when he locked eyes with Anselmo in the crowd for the first time and nearly forgot his words to the song.
The relationship with the Brazilian would become one of the most important of George's life, before their time was tragically cut short when Anselmo died from complications from AIDS just two years after they first met.
It was January 25, 1991 and George Michael took to the stage after Guns and Roses and Prince to perform to the huge crowd at Rock in Rio, when his life changed forever.
“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 later said of the day he met Anselmo.
"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."
At 2 minutes 40 seconds in the video below, George gives a prolonged look to the right of the stage and continues to look back at that direction throughout the performance of the rest of the song.
In the days following the Rio gig, 27-year-old George and fashion designer Anselmo Feleppa fell deeply in love and after George's tour was over, the pair flew back to the U.S. to live together at the singer's home in Los Angeles.
But after the concert, George spotted Anselmo in the lobby of his hotel with a woman and thought he was unavailable.
“The moment I looked at him I got the feeling he was going to be a part of my life," George said.
"The bizarre thing was, I saw him with this girl and presumed he was straight. I thought, “Lucky cow!” And he looked at me as we were leaving the hotel to drive to this island 200 miles away...I already knew that feeling where you kind of click, before I even said a word to them.
"I remember getting on the bus and thinking, 'That’s really odd, I got that little click – I’ll never see him again. Why would that happen?' he told Gay Times
"Three days after we arrived, he’d made his way onto the island, through one of the promoter’s children or something.
"He’d followed me for 200 miles – that would send me running for the hills normally.
"We had about two or three days on the island… and we got it together. And within days I outed myself to just about everybody in that circle of friends, work colleagues and stuff. It was very immediate."
George would later say that Anselmo was his soulmate and his 'saviour' - giving him courage to come out to close friends and also stand up to his record label for creative control of his career.
"I was happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Fame, money all the things you know. Everything else just kind of paled by comparison.
"To finally at 27-years-old, waking up in bed with someone who loves you, you know, and Anselmo was absolutely that," he told Attitude.
George and boyfriend Anselmo had only been together a few months when Anselmo developed flu-like symptoms that he couldn't shake, and decided to go for an HIV test.
On Christmas day 1991, George remembers the agony he felt waiting to find out the results of Anselmo's diagnosis - and whether he too may also have the HIV virus.
“I remember the terror of me understanding that this was possibly the beginning of an illness,” George recalls in a scene from Freedom, the documentary about the star's life produced by George Michael before his death in 2016
Sitting with his family in the UK - who knew nothing of George's sexuality or relationship with Anselmo - he recalls the lonely days as “the darkest, most frightening time in my life”.
“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.”
Anselmo, who had discovered his diagnosis, came to the UK after the New Year and delivered the news to George: “I was absolutely devastated to find out he had a terminal illness... just devastated,” he says.
In a horrible twist of fate, Freddie Mercury died from AIDS just a month before Anselmo's diagnosis and George Michael was asked to sing at his tribute concert in April 1992 at Wembley Stadium.
George Michael recalls the pain of going on stage with his secret lover watching in the audience - and no-one but himself and Anselmo knowing about the diagnosis.
“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," he says.
“I went out there knowing I had to honour Freddie Mercury and I had to pray for Anselmo."
"This was the loudest prayer of my life...The fact that it happened that way … I mean, my God, talk about destiny," he said years later in a Red Line Interview.
"I was with Anselmo for two years. After that was a total nightmare. It was a difficult time to lose someone–after two years–because I was still in love with him in such a romantic way.
"It was also difficult because I felt like I waited so long to find him. Not many people wait until they’re 27 to have that experience.
"I literally had five or six months of pure joy before I found out he was ill. Then it was all fear–pure fear. I just wish I’d had a bit longer before that was ripped away," he told The Advocate magazine in 1999.
Anselmo died from a brain hemorrhage in March 1993 in his home country of Brazil.
"I was so devastated by Anselmo dying. I was in a world of my own. I didn’t attempt any relationship in that time. And then, of course, I met Kenny three years after Anselmo passed away.…" he told the Gay Times in 2007.
"Even though it was a horrendous experience to lose Anselmo, it had been a terrific experience to have my first relationship."
George went on to meet new partner Kenny Goss and the two dated from 1996 to 2011 - remaining good friends until the star's death in 2016.