By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Robert Bartko has George Michael’s look and sound down pat, complete with the tight jeans, black leather jacket and sunglasses.
But there’s no gimmick here. He didn’t choose the tribute. In fact, it was the opposite; it chose him.
“From the time I was in high school, I looked like George Michael when he began to emerge on the scene,” says Bartko, who leads George Michael Reborn.
“I could grow a full beard at 17. I was a football jock and sang in the drama club. Usually, those are very polarized worlds in high school.”
But friends and family saw something special — his uncanny vocal resemblance to Michael.
“In 1988, I went to his big show at the Orange Bowl in Miami. I thought I was going to lose my life that night,” Bartko says about the reaction to his look.
He spent the 1990s producing songs for rock acts like Korn (“A.D.I.D.A.S. Level X Mix,” “Wicked” and “All in the Family,” which features Fred Durst) and dance artist Stevie B.
In 2018, he saw a resurgence of his dance career. When a booking agent called him to perform, he said, “‘Man, you look and sound just like George Michael. If you could put together a George Michael act, we could book it a lot more than we could book you on your own.’ Again, it chose me.”
Thus, George Michael Reborn was off and running. Bartko, who recently played a gig for Dita Von Teese’s birthday, stages a retrospective of Wham! and Michael’s careers. He says he “nails” the whole “Faith” era.
“He’s a hard act to pull off,” he says. “It’s a hard vocal, especially in America, where most think of 1988 George Michael, where he was just fighting fit trim. His vocal range was absolutely amazing. That’s what people remember.”
And fans lose their minds at his shows, which includes a New Year’s Eve show at Talking Stick Resort.
“I did a show in North Carolina and these women went absolutely crazy and were just tackling me,” he says. “I thought I was really going to get hurt there. But at times, it is quite flattering because whatever I’m doing is working.”
Glitter & Glow New Year’s Eve
WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, December 31; George Michael Reborn from 9:30 to 11 p.m.; Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience from 11:20 p.m. to 1 a.m.
WHERE: Talking Stick Resort, 9800 E. Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale
COST: Tickets start at $150
INFO: 480-850-7777, talkingstickresort.com