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 up and grow down- and try to fit into society- whatever society was at that time in Hong Kong.

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

KGV was still standing tall, a new generation had been passed the relay baton and Hong Kong had a second five-star hotel- the Hyatt Regency in Lock Road.

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

Some of us 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 who ended up being killed in Vietnam.

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l11pQVLKeMM

As for Ian Godber, he 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 Mr Godber who was on the lam for a few months before being caught trying to get into somewhere like Greece and looking like Rasputin.

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

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Meanwhile, the riots in 1967 had shattered the chilled-out Hong Kong lifestyle as had the fires that burnt down hundreds of squatter huts in the Happy Valley area of the city 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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Still, Hong Kong 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.

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It was, however, a great 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 macho attitudes. G’day, g’day, g’day.

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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 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.

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.

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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 enough, bullshit sticks.

Still, he was one of Hong Kong’s many characters and the thought of him trying to pick up American “chicks” on the Star Ferry in this strange Portuguese-American accent and 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. There was something very Zoolander-ish about it all.

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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 before becoming part of Hong Kong’s Oldies Pop Club who missed the opportunity to make millions on the side and, today, pop up at Auntie and Uncle parties and rather sad nostalgia shows where, like an accident, you know you shouldn’t look, but do so, anyway.

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In those days, Teddy performing onstage looked fucking weird, but audiences loved it, they were “Uncle” Ray’s boys, won all the Radio Hong Kong polls and topped the charts with horrible little records produced overnight at the Diamond Studios in the basement of the Queen’s Theatre- all this “success” meant nothing, financially, but attracted the groupies- mainly girls from Maryknoll Convent who were game for anything.

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The only good thing about the band was guitarist Norman Cheng- excellent for that time- who became the most powerful Chinese music executive in the world- he was involved in the signing up of many of the city’s iconic music stars- and is, today, a semi-retired multi-millionaire with houses in Hong Kong and the States who races a number of horses- none very good in a global sense- in Macau and California and has succeeded where others have failed through various means.

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Timing, it’s all about timing, and Norman Cheng made the most of his timing as head of Polgram Music, then Universal Music, then EMI Music and, finally, his own China-based entertainment company named Gold Typhoon.

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The most interesting band back then were The Lotus purely because of their charismatic lead singer Sam Hui.

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Sam was everything Teddy was not- musical- and whom I first saw as a kid not supposed to be there when he was a member of an unknown band named Bar Six, the resident band at The Firecracker Bar in the Hyatt Regency.

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

Sam was to become the pioneer of Canto-Rock, wrote and recorded some very good tracks, was wildly successful as a pop idol and TV and movie star and, today at sixtysomething, leads a reclusive life suffering from an “Elvis Complex” and touring with his two sons to an audience needing that nostalgic fix.

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Opposite the Hyatt Regency, meanwhile, was another bar where my best friend Steve and I would hang out just to hear the lead singer from Beijing who sang Beatles songs in an operatic voice and walked around like a regal courtesan.

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His name was Roman Tam who became one of the most iconic Chinese singers, who, at that time, we just thought was “different”- a term our folks used to describe anyone who was gay.

Roman Tam was so gay he was more Happy than that stupid song by Pharrell Williams.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Kb1YN4HmeA

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

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Local music fans found this new ‘look’ by the Beatles made them look “dirty” and, good gawd, “even Indian” while finding nothing in trippy tracks like A Gadda Da Vida.

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

Most who had coasted living with their folks were looking for jobs while ‘live’ music faded into the background and was left to Filipino singers and bands to fill that void with covers of safe pop music- something that lasts today and relegated mostly to the bars in Wanchai and playing to an audience of drunk gweilos and Filipina hookers.

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Sure, there were the odds and sods 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 this new music and where an American named Kent would distribute uppers and a guy named Carlos Leitao and Robert Ho- Stanley Ho’s son- would walk in dressed like Sgt Pepper’s band.

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

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

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

His was a complicated family life with many rumors as to who was his real father and someone who couldn’t sing- who really could?- but he was the lead singer in a band called The Ragamuffins, he did drugs and he did young girls.

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

There, he was arrested for, yes, having sex with a minor, this time an American tourist 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.

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 and weekend hippies- a few of us, anyway- while Cocker Power in Hong Kong was like trying to sell Coppertone to Africans. It was too damn out there for public consumption.

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

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What Brian did do was get me a job as what was called a “copywriter” at a small ad agency; They had to hire me as the Hyatt was their only client.

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.

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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.

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 on your feet.

As a writer, I was also getting the hang of being a copywriter and realizing 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 The In People and Renaissance and taking up gigs around the world.

He married, he unmarried, and when I saw him in Honolulu, a splattered dish of food stuck to the wall made me realize that my best friend was hitting some personal trainwrecks and needed help.

When he returned to Hong Kong, he fell in love with an “older girl” we had known earlier as a dancer, and was now a singer- Irene Ryder, a stunning Eurasian.

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He showed me his wedding invitation for the wedding that was suddenly not going to take place- and it was worrying how Steve was taking this.

That night, we went down to the Dickens Bar at the Excelsior Hotel to hear a band from Africa following which, 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 a 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: “You better sit down,” he said. “I have some bad news: Steve’s dead.”

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.

We had done so much together. We were brothers, friends, and the yin and yang and the Yin Tong Song who loved the Beatles as much as we did The Goons and had some strange adventures with straight girls, older women, bored housewives and experimented in “feeding our heads” with acid tabs on blotting paper where a Dick Tracy poster came to life and was shooting at us and Penthouse Playmates took us where we should never have gone.

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But when you drop acid, it really is heaven and hell, and lunch that day after we first dropped with his folks was a very dazed and confused few hours.

Steve and I had been to heaven and hell and Camelot and the Wild West and into our mothers’ wombs.

We had traveled that far with each other, it was something we never reminisced about.

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

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

I had grown up.

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