That April First When Leslie Took Off

A common friend texted me last night, “Daniel, it is April first again. It has been nine years.” In 2003, on this day, he sent me a message. We knew something was amiss with Leslie. But I still thought it was a bad April Fool joke. The reporters started to call. Then Leslie’s manager called. Leslie had jumped to his death.

I was never any good with April Fool jokes. But since then, April Fool jokes have a sour aftertaste. Leslie and I had met at the hotel where he committed suicide. It was and still is my favourite hotel in Hong Kong. It has an enduring colonial charm, even after a massive renovation. Fans would leave flowers at the exact spot outside the hotel. Bouquets of fresh flowers will be there today.

Cantopop was all the rage in the 80s, but I was not a fan. Leslie was then in TV series and teen idol movies. We met at his concert in Singapore. Anita Mui was his opening act. She came along with us for supper. I never worked with Leslie or Anita professionally. When I started my broadcast career, Leslie was already an accomplished actor. His many movies helped define how the Hong Kong film industry evolved in the 80s and 90s.

On this April first, I am remembering some of his best works. ‘Farewell My Concubine’, ‘Rouge’, ‘Days Of Being Wild’, ‘A Chinese Ghost Story’, ‘He Is A Woman, She Is A Man’, ‘A Better Tomorrow’ and ‘Happy Together’. He was not exactly a great singer and there were better actors. Yet with his matinee idol looks, he took on the Hong Kong entertainment scene with a brash showmanship entirely his own. Transcending the divides of acting and singing to be the legendary superstar in the East. And paving the way for the likes of Andy, Aaron, Jacky and Leon…

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