opening

By Hans Ebert

And so after all the exams and time spent on English Literature, History and Art, it was time to grow up- and for some to slow and grow down- and try to fit into society- whatever society was at that time in Hong Kong.

KGV was still standing tall as it always will, some were still there, others had taken a permanent pass, a new generation had been passed the relay baton and as Hong Kong had a second five-star hotel- the Hyatt Regency in Lock Road- we had two places to hang out- the other being The Hilton on Hong Kong side.

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(Source: Star Photo HK)

There were also a few family secrets becoming very public knowledge.

Some of us, for example, who spent many weekends at their home in Kadoorie Avenue, were taken aback when the Godbers did a well-planned runner.

HONG KONG pOP SCENE

Some of us, for example, who spent many weekends at their home in Kadoorie Avenue, were taken aback when the Godbers did a well-planned runner.

Ian Godber was a friend who had played rhythm guitar in a school band at KGV called The Impalas with a guy named Danny Nagel on vocals. Danny  ended up being killed in Vietnam.

Ian tried his best to look and act like Paul McCartney and so would bob around school being free and easy with a new-found Liverpudlian accent. Many of us adopted Liverpudlian accents, luv. We were still having a hard days night.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkneYSOs-b8

As for Ian Godber, who knew that his father- Peter Godber, a Senior Superintendent in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force- had planned his great escape from Hong Kong with over HK$4m stashed away in Spain?

Ian and his mother were the first to disappear, then, as the newly-formed Independent Against A Corruption (ICAC) closed in on him, Mr Godber who was on the lam for a few months, was caught trying to get into some place like Greece and looking like Rasputin.

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(Source: Oriental Daily)

What happened to Ian? Who knows? He probably shaved his bushy eyebrows, changed his name and invested the $4m wisely.

What really happened to another member of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force Frank Knight- a regular at the Hilton and close friend of Actress Shirley MacLaine who was supposedly “kidnapped” by Mainland Chinese and then allowed to return.

What was Knight doing across the border, anyway. But Hong Kong adopted a Don’t Know, Don’t Ask policy and what happened in China stayed in Hong Kong and the police inspector became one of Hong Kong’s fat cats.

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(Source: Apple Daily)

Meanwhile, the riots in 1967 had broken the chilled-out Hong Kong lifestyle as had the fires that burnt down hundreds of squatter huts in Happy Valley along with some vicious typhoons, one of which even washed ashore a ship.

Hong Kong was shaken and stirred like a dirty martini made even dirtier.

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(Source: Calgary Dreamer)

Still, the city had always been resilient and though our parents might have held various fears over the city’s future after 1997, it was business as usual for us.

The one big difference was finding a job- a real job.

For myself, messing about with the newspapers as a “pop columnist” and “entertainment writer” was fine for that time and HK$400 a month, but it wasn’t exactly turning me into Hunter S Thompson or Lester Bangs.

It had been great to hang out and get stoned with Sammy Davis Jr and his gorgeous dancers and be seduced with a few actresses, but those were key for the groupie in me, but wasn’t exactly a career-making move.

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(Source: Wiki)

It was, however, a great life learning experience working with an eccentric lesbian named San and some hard-arsed Aussies who were friends with many of their countrymen jockeys and trainers and talked incessantly about racing, looked down at the locals and could never ever accept homosexuality.

Worst of all were the Asians who, desperate to be part of this boys club, suddenly adopted Aussie accents and phony macho attitudes just to buy their way into this world of knobs. G’day, g’day, g’day.

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(Source: Aussie Products)

At the STAR, a tabloid where most of us worked at one time or another, this homophobia was ironic as it was owned by a grumpy but extremely likable and savvy Aussie named Graham Jenkins, a well-known homosexual, whose boyfriend- a Chinese boy named Simon who would sashay into the office wearing short hot pants- was the photographer assigned to me.

Simon was good fun and a part-time hairstylist who, for some reason, always wanted to photograph me- nude. Hmmm.

We covered the night life and “pop scene” and wrote incessantly about Radio Hong Kong deejay “Uncle” Ray Cordeiro and other deejays like Mike Souza from Macau via Los Angeles, Tony Orchez aka Tony Leung, the very LOUD Ashton Farley and all the pop bands that surfaced like acne on a horny teen’s face.

star newspaper

How on earth Mike Souza learnt the names of every street in LA and made female American tourists believe he was American remains a mystery. I can only guess that if one says it long enough, bullshit sticks.

Still, he was one of Hong Kong’s characters who was the keyboard player in one of the first pop- and multi-cultural- bands in Hong Kong called the Kontinentals. (Rumor has it that there were the gigs when his electric piano or Farfisa organ was unplugged.)

The Kontinentals

The thought of Mike trying to pick up American “chicks” on the Star Ferry in a strange Portuguese-American accent where he would talk about North LeBrea, his “home in the Valley” and then checking out the coffee shop at the Hilton for other unsuspecting “chicks” while on one of his breaks as the compere at the hotel’s Eagle’s Nest remains a very vivid memory.

Still spoken about is Mike the recording artist claiming he wrote the song Galveston before genius songwriter Jimmy Webb did and gave it to Jimmy Webb. There was something goofy and Zoolander-ish about it all.

Still, if not for him raving about a gorgeous girl who had just arrived in Hong Kong- American, of course- I would never have met my wife.

MIKE SOUZA 1

 

As for the music, the most popular local band was Teddy Robin and the Playboys led by hunch-backed lead singer Teddy Robin Kwan who had a thin and screechy voice and would mash potato his way across the stage wearing pants that were way too short for him. Teddy would later become a reasonably successful movie director.

TEDDY ROBIN AND THE PLAYBOYS

Onstage, Teddy’s moves looked  weird but audiences loved it. They were “Uncle” Ray’s boys, they won all the Radio Hong Kong polls and they topped the charts- whatever that meant.

The only good thing about the band was guitarist Norman Cheng who became the most powerful Chinese music executive in the world.

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(Source: Oriental Daily)

For someone who left school at 15 and was playing professionally the next year, that’s quite an achievement.

Though the Rebel Sect made up Steve Tebbutt, Peter Holbrook and some musos from St. George’s was the only band with the looks and sound to fit into the British r’n b scene, the most interesting local band at the time were The Lotus purely because of their charismatic lead singer Sam Hui who brought a certain fey presence onstage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqZSvTnkX0w

Sam was also everything Teddy was not- musical- and whom I first saw when he was a member of The Bar Six, the resident band at The Firecracker Bar in the Hyatt Regency. He was good then and he was great with the Lotus. Well, he and guitarist Wallace Chau WERE the Lotus. The other members just had hair.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5UQso5zNPo

Opposite the Hyatt was another bar where my friend Steve and I would hang out just to hear the lead singer from Beijing who sang Beatles songs in a Chinese operatic voice and walked around during his band’s breaks like a regal courtesan.

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(Source: Mask 9)

His name was Roman Tam who became one of the most iconic Chinese singers who happened to be gay. At that time, we just thought he was different.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5QO0_NQ-cw

This local pop scene didn’t last that long and died when the Beatles grew mustaches and beards and tune in, turn on and drop out became a rallying cry in the States and “psychedelic music” came to the fore.

Local music fans found that this new ‘look’ by the Beatles made them look “dirty” and found nothing visiting In A Gadda Da Vida.

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(Source: Theselvedgeyard)

Hong Kong never really tuned in, turned on nor dropped out.

Most were looking for jobs and music faded into the background and was left for older, full-time Filipino singers and bands to fill that void with covers of safe pop music in hotels and places like the Golden Phoenix and the Mocambo though the latter did also host D’Downbeats- the Rolling Stones of the Philippines and The Quests from Singapore.

the quests

Sure, there were the odds and sods like Steve and myself who found the music of Hendrix, Cream, Blue Cheer, Led Zep and the tripped-out Beatles exhilarating and would meet up at the Dairy Farm restaurant to share these new sounds where a jobless American kid named Kent would distribute uppers and a young Portuguese-Chinese we knew as  Carlos Leitao and Robert Ho- Stanley Ho’s son- would walk in dressed like Sgt Pepper’s band and talk about the British scene. Robert lived there, he was rich, he was always high and he was happening, man.

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(Source: Next Media)

Robert would eventually clean up his act and looked like taking over the family business but died in a car crash while holidaying in Paris with his wife, Suki- Suki Poitier, the gorgeous one-time girlfriend of Rolling Stone Brian Jones.

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(Source: Flickr)

Today, no one even mentions Robert when talking about the Ho Dynasty. It’s like he never existed.

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(Source: Jrj Img)

The other rebel in our midst- Carlos Leitao- was quite mad and there was always some simmering rivalry between him and my mate Steve. Maybe it was the battle of the Afros. Maybe it was the battle for chicks.

His was a complicated family life and with many rumors as to who was his real father.

He couldn’t sing but he was the lead singer in a band called The Ragamuffins, he did drugs and he did girls.

In fact, he was arrested for sex with a minor- or a string of minors- all from St George’s- one long weekend when his parents were out of town- and was  quietly deported to Macau which gave more credence as to who his father was.

Deportation

There, he was arrested for, yes, having sex with a minor, this time in the back of a bus before being- quietly- sent to join the army in Portugal- and where he was killed in battle.

Live fast, die young and Carlos Leitao lived faster than many of us.

live fast die young

Apart from watching Woodstock and not getting it, Hong Kong was squeaky clean and never reached tie-dye proportions nor ever entered a world Carlos Leitao and a few of us saw.

We were underground before there was an underground.

We were also weekend hippies- a few of us, anyway- and getting into Cocker Power in Hong Kong was like trying to sell Coppertone to Africans.

It was too damn straight out there and there were also some who were “hip” on the surface, but working with undercover policemen.

Going to discotheques like The Scene and The Purple Onion were no longer fun whereas a Singaporean deejay hosting a rock program on Commercial Radio- a truly vile man- was known by many to be an informant.

The Scene Peninsula Hotel

When an older American businessman who hung out with us was busted in his office for having a ball of hash, the small Hong Kong “hippie” scene went into Paranoia Overdrive.

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(Source: Fan Pop)

Meanwhile, I was still trying to get a proper job and went for my first interview with my hair down to my arse, wearing snakeskin boots- and a suit.

My job interview was with Brian Bryce, who became Worldwide Chairman of the Hyatt Hotels.

Brian did his best to make me understand that I couldn’t be a hotelier while looking like Tommy Chong.

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(Source: eBay)

However, what Brian immediately did was get me a job as what was called a “copywriter” at a small ad agency. They had to hire me: The Hyatt was their only client.

Frankly, I was crap as a copywriter and writing hotel brochure copy about “opulent suites”, “breath-taking views” and “sumptuous buffets” was not for me. But, hey, I was making HK$1,500 a month and the world might not have been my oyster, but it was my dim sum basket.

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(Source: Job Mob)

Advertising had its upside in that one met models, models needed jobs and once they got a job, they could be very giving and open.

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(Source: CNTV)

Advertising also meant parties- big parties- meeting people from all sides of life and learning to be street smart and good at selling- products and yourself- and thinking quickly on your feet.

I was also getting the hang of being a copywriter after realizing that in advertising, I could actually start a sentence with a conjunction. So much for all those English lessons.

New bands made up of much older guys were moving into Hong Kong, Steve, turned down offers to join Blood, Sweat and Tears and the Barkays and was playing professionally with hotel bands The In People and Renaissance and taking up gigs around the world.

He married, he unmarried, and when I saw him in Honolulu where one of his bands were playing at The Outrigger Bar and noticed a splattered dish of food stuck to the wall of his apartment, it made me realize that my best friend was hitting some personal minefields and needed help.

When he returned to Hong Kong, he fell in love with a beautiful Eurasian girl- Irene Ryder- we had known for years and who was now a popular singer. They were ready to get married. But that never happened.

Irene Ryder

She was not in a good place, eventually married a B Grade martial arts actor and had her career ruined when someone threw acid in her face.

As for Steve, one night, after some time of not seeing him, he showed me his wedding invitation for the wedding that was suddenly not going to take place. He was embarrassed about how to explain this change of plans and was asking me how to word it.

That night, we went down to the Dickens Bar to hear a new band and try to lift the sombre mood.

After the band finished, Steve wanted to go to Yuen Long on a “midnight run.” And when Steve wanted to do something, he would eventually do it. He could always find enablers to keep him company.

This side of life was never for me plus I had just met the wonderful person- Trina- who would be my wife and told him that he’d meet her the next day.

enablers

This side of life was never for me plus I had just met the wonderful person- Trina- who would be my wife and told him that he’d meet her the next day.

The next day, I had a phone call from Mike Souza who was on-air at Commercial Radio. “You better sit down,” he said. “I have some bad news from a police report: Steve’s dead.”

old days 2

My knees buckled, my body went cold and I hugged Trina and cried.

Everything that he and I did together ran through my head like trains going off in different directions but ending up at the same stop.

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(Source: 45 Cat)

We were brothers, friends, Butch and Sundance, the yin and yang and the Yin Tong Song who loved the Beatles as much as we did The Goons. We had our own sense of very odd humor.

We had also been through some strange adventures where a Dick Tracy poster at The Scene came to life and was shooting at us, we saw a small army marching through our burgers and, back at his place, Penthouse Playmates took us where we should never have gone.

But when you drop acid, it really is heaven and hell and lunch that day with Mr and Mrs Tebbutt was a very dazed and confused few hours.

Steve and I had been to the Om Shop in Wellington Street to dress like rock stars and we had also been to Camelot and the Wild West and gone back into our mothers’ wombs.

We had traveled that far with each other and it was something we never talked about after that first trip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vW867TrVHA

When we laid Steve down to rest, a bird flew across my face.

My great friend was free at last and he visits me often in my dreams. Or my parallel universe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMDm5gEdLpA

I had grown up. Maybe. But what had I learnt and what mistakes would I keep on making when dizzy and drunk with supposed “power”?

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(Source: Pwhp Radio)