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Juan Pablo Di Pace, Houston Symphony Team for George Michael Tribute

'The sound is going to be huge,' says Argentina-born actor who has appeared in 'Dallas,' 'Fuller House.'

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Juan Pablo Di Pace singing “I Want Your Sex” with a full orchestra in Jones Hall? Where else but the Houston Symphony’s Music of George Michael concert on July 14?

“The sound is going to be huge,” says Di Pace, the gorgeous Argentina-born performer who played a dashing scoundrel (the self-made millionaire Nicholas Trevino) on the 2014 season of TNT’s reboot of Dallas.

Currently, on the Netflix series Fuller House, he’s Kimmy’s ex-husband, a race-car driver named Fernando Hernandez-Guerrero-Fernandez-Guerrero.

“You’re the most wonderful man!” says Kimmy. “In the whole wide world!” Fernando agrees.

Offscreen, Di Pace is a longtime fan of the late George Michael, who captured his attention as a child when he heard hits from the duo Wham!, which was Michael’s early-1980s partnership with Andrew Ridgeley. “He was a brilliant musician, and the concert covers all the eras of George Michael’s career.”

In 1987, Michael released his first solo album, Faith, to the delight of the Houston Symphony’s current director of popular programming, Lesley Sabol. However, listening to the bad boy of pop landed the young girl in hot water with her parents.

“I remember very distinctly going to a girls’ sleepover one weekend when ‘I Want Your Sex’ was playing nonstop on the radio,” Sabol says. “I was in about second grade. We didn’t know what the song meant. I went home singing it, and I got in big trouble.”

Michael famously encountered his own trouble, with the law, when an undercover cop arrested him for “engaging in a lewd act” at a park restroom in Beverly Hills. Di Pace cheers how Michael handled the public vilification that followed.

“He actually took the piss out of it with a middle finger to the press,” says Di Pace, especially with his satirical video to the song “Outside.” It was so biting that the police officer who entrapped Michael sued him for the emotional distress allegedly stemming from Michael “mocking” him in the video. The multi-million-dollar lawsuit was ultimately dropped.

Di Pace says, “George Michael responded like the champion that he was. It really is a very private thing, and nobody should be forced to reveal his secrets to the world. Putting him in jail for something so dumb, it actually freed him to admit something he had been cagey about. He lived in a time when he obviously needed to be closeted in a certain way so that music executives could sell his music. The British press, in particular, was very tough on him.”

Di Pace lived for 20 years in Europe, performing in both England and Spain, before moving to Los Angeles five years ago. While portraying Danny Zuko in Grease in Italy and Tony Manero in a musical stage production of Saturday Night Fever in Madrid, he says, “It was always my dream to work in the States.”

His Hollywood credits include portraying Petros opposite Meryl Streep in 2008’s movie Mamma Mia! The Movie, and Jesus in the 2015 TV miniseries A.D. The Bible Continues, which was produced for NBC by Touched by an Angel star Roma Downey and her husband.

“Acting has always been important to me, along with my music,” Di Pace says.

About his own sexual orientation, Di Pace says, “I am a free spirit.”

Sabol, who isn’t gay, says “The Music of George Michael” concert will appeal to a variety of fans—all of whom should be impressed that the Houston Symphony’s classically trained musicians can perform pop music as well. “They are putting their full hearts into it, and it is fun to see them let loose.

“His music, to me, is timeless,” she says. “Any generation can grasp his lyrics. [Our audience will be encouraged] to let their hair down, sing, and get up and dance.”

About George Michael’s sudden death on Christmas Day 2016, Sabol compares it to Anthony Bourdain’s suicide by hanging on June 8. “I have a list of artists I would love to work with, and both of them were in my top five. I had to cross their names off my list.”

It wasn’t until after Michael’s death, which was attributed to natural causes, that Sabol learned about the singer’s extensive philanthropy, which he performed in secret. “I was so thrilled to learn about his generosity, [and so were] my friends in the LGBTQ community.”

What: The Music of George Michael
When: 7:30 p.m. on July 14
Where: Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana Street
Tickets: houstonsymphony.org

This article appears in the July 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine. 

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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