'98's Best: Pop Star George Michael Charged With Lewd Behavior

Police department's Crime Suppression Unit arrest solo artist in a Beverly Hills, Calif., park.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at

1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Wednesday, April 8.]

LOS ANGELES -- British pop singer George Michael was arrested Tuesday afternoon in a Beverly Hills, Calif., park restroom by an undercover police officer who caught him "blatantly engaging" in a lewd act, police said.

An undercover officer with the Beverly Hills Police Crime Suppression Unit

discovered the 34-year-old singer alone in a bathroom at Will Rogers

Park, which is located approximately a mile from Michael's home. He was "blatantly engaging in the act," Lieutenant Edward T. Kreins said, declining to indicate specifically what type of behavior Michael was allegedly involved in at the time of his arrest.

"It will get out," Kreins said. "Someone will get this report eventually,

someone will sell it, but [the information] will not come through us."

Michael did not solicit the officer, and the two did not engage in conversation until the officer identified himself, Kreins added.

The platinum-selling singer was arrested at about 4:50 p.m., initially giving his Greek birth name, Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, under which he was booked. He later supplied his popular stage name when he was asked if he had any pseudonyms, and he stated his occupation as a singer. The officer who arrested him did not recognize the star, Kreins said.

Michael, whose hits during his nearly two-decade-long musical career include the song "I Want Your Sex," posted bail in the amount of $500 and was released at approximately 8 p.m. on Tuesday night. He is scheduled to appear in Beverly Hills Municipal Court on May 5 to answer the charge, according to Kreins.

Chief Marvin Iannone made the decision not to specify the act in which Michael was allegedly involved at the time of his arrest, Kreins said. "Maybe another agency would release that, but we didn't think giving the details about it was appropriate," Kreins said. "We tried to go out of our way to make sure we didn't cause unnecessary rumors about the incident by stating that he was alone, but to still respect his privacy."

Undercover officers had been assigned to cover the premises after the

department had received complaints of lewd conduct at the park, according to

Kreins. In response to radio and press reports that the park is known for gay

cruising, Kreins said, "I think that is an unfair assumption, especially when you look at more known gay hangouts, such as some of the clubs in West


However, Mauricio Arocha, a Beverly Hills park ranger who was making a

routine check at the park Wednesday evening, disagrees. "We have had a

problem with the men's restroom being used as a rendezvous for homosexual

male patrons who will go there to expose themselves to each other or to

masturbate," he said. "It's very well known in the gay community. It's an

ongoing thing, and we don't like it. We have a lot of children who play at

the park and may go into the bathrooms unchaperoned, in addition to the

other patrons who use them."

"It's not the kind of image we want to project, so we have to do

something," Arocha said, adding that the rangers make checks and notify

police of any misconduct.

Susan Maurer, who lives near the park and was there for the first time

Wednesday night with her two children, was unaware of the recent arrest

there. "It's a shame because I was just thinking what a nice park this is,"

she said. "It gives a whole new feel to the place, and I definitely won't

feel as comfortable here."

The park was the focus of two of the 21 citywide arrests last year for lewd conduct, as well as an unrelated arrest in the same bathroom earlier Tuesday, Kreins said.

Calls to Michael's DreamWorks label regarding the arrest were referred

to Bryn Bridenthal, head of publicity at Geffen. However, Bridenthal said

there was no comment from either Michael, his management or his label at this


Michael's musical career began as a teen-ager in the early '80s as half of the

pop duo Wham!, which broke up in 1986. He launched his hugely

successful solo career in 1987 with the album Faith, which spawned such hits as "Faith" and "Father Figure" and sold 7 million copies. After his second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, saw a significant drop in sales, selling a million copies, Michael bagged the album's sequel and

engaged in a legal battle with his former label, Columbia, stating that

he would never record again if he lost.

Though he did lose, he later bought his way out and recorded his most

recent album, 1996's Older, on DreamWorks.