When Roman Kemp was a boy, Christmas meant the latest round in an epic gift-off between his mum and dad (Shirlie of Pepsi and Shirlie and Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp), and his mum’s best friend George Michael. The edge frequently went to the legendarily generous singer.
“I was so spoiled,” remembers Kemp. “It was a constant battle between George and my parents as to who got us the best present. When I was like five, my dad gave me a kite while George bought me the new Sony PlayStation, with all the games and all that jazz.”
Michael’s cheeky sense of humour would come out in the presents too. “There’s a picture of me wearing a Liverpool shirt with Michael Owen’s name on the back,” says Kemp, “which I know angered my dad [a life-long Arsenal fan]”.
Now the host of Capital FM’s breakfast show, a documentary maker and author, Kemp is officially a celeb in his own right. While his early Christmases sound starry, he says that wasn’t how they felt. George Michael wasn’t a superstar to him, but Godfather Yog. He was a partner to play video games with or “have normal, boring family chats. He was looking for the nice things that you can do, and he was looking for them in every corner,” says Kemp. One time, he adds, Michael was watching Deal or No Deal when a contestant lost a large sum of money. Gutted, Michael found the guy and gave him the cash.
The whole family still misses him, says Kemp, particularly his mum, for whom Michael was nearer a brother than a friend. But they try to think of Yog with “pride rather than sadness”.
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Christmas is a hard time to deal with grief. Our own expectations meet a cultural pressure to have a perfect time – and that can be dangerous if you’re already in a dark place. “The worst thing for me when I am going through depression is when someone says, you should be feeling good. There’s nothing worse than someone prodding you on the shoulder, telling you that you should be happy,” Kemp says. “Unfortunately, as beautiful and loving a time as Christmas is, it can do that.”