Thursday, April 7, 2011

Book Review: 從零開始 (Now and Then II) -- post #4…Anita Mui (梅艷芳)

** Disclaimer: The below is a review of one of the interviews in the book and is written from my perspective – it is not by any means a direct translation of the entire interview. For a detailed description of what this particular book is about, please refer to post #1.**

The next 80s/90s artist I chose to write about in my continuing book review series on 從零開始 is the late HK Cantopop Queen Anita Mui.

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INTRODUCTION

2003 was a bad year for Hong Kong....the nation was already reeling from an invasion of SARS and everyone was already in low spirits. As if that weren't enough, even worse news came later that year – the deaths of 3 ‘legends’ in the HK music industry that pushed everyone’s spirits to the lowest point possible and also changed the entertainment industry forever. On April 1st, the industry lost superstar singer / actor Leslie Cheung when he jumped off the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in HK; then on November 16th, they lost award-winning songwriter / lyricist Richard Lam Chun Keung (brother of Eunice Lam) to lymphatic cancer; and finally, on December 30th, they lost legendary music queen Anita Mui to cervical cancer.

This post will focus primarily on various aspects of Anita’s life, love, and relationship (through her own words in interviews with Mingpao compiled for this book). Of course, given the relationship between Anita and Leslie, there will undoubtedly be some information related to Leslie in this post, however I will also be dedicating an entire post to Leslie’s life and career later on in the year.

To be honest, it is impossible to tell the story of Anita’s life in 1 blog post, so I am not even going to attempt to do so (in fact, this post won’t talk too much about her career, since that is the part that most people know about Anita). Instead, with this post, I hope to bring to light some of the struggles that Anita faced throughout her life as well as hopefully let those who may not be as familiar with her understand why she is indeed the ‘big sister’ in the HK music world. Most importantly though, I hope to demonstrate why Anita was (and still is) so respected in the entertainment industry – not just because of her singing or acting, but also because of who she was as a person.

Eric Tsang actually said it best when he talked about Anita’s passing during his “Be My Guest” interview: right before Anita passed away, she was able to see all of her friends for the very last time – several floors of the hospital that she was staying at were packed with her friends from the entertainment industry who came to see her and be with her on the last leg of her short, but meaningful life journey (those who were working in another country immediately dropped what they were doing and flew back to HK). The love and support that Anita received during those last days was unprecedented and as Eric said, even until the end, Anita remained strong – she refused to succumb to her illness until after she saw every last one of her friends and said her goodbyes to them.

When most people think of Anita Mui, they probably think first about her extraordinary strength and endurance as well as her strong, outspoken personality and natural tendency to speak out against injustice. Even Anita herself once said: “I feel that I was naturally born to be one of those noble warriors from Jin Yong’s novels – the only thing is that I was born in the wrong time period.”

True, this was the public’s perception of Anita and in a sense, it was also her own perception of herself. BUT those who knew Anita well also saw the deeper side of her – a side that she rarely showed to others.

The following quote from the book is very fitting in the way it describes the inner conflict that Anita struggled with her entire life as well as the ‘tragedy’ of her life beneath all that glamour:

She [Anita] is open and candid, dares to love and dares to hate. On the surface, she gives the impression of being very strong and brave (In her words: “I have the personality of a man in a woman’s body.”) In reality though, underneath that bold, heroic exterior lies the loneliness and sensibility of a woman’s heart – her only weakness is that she is too used to undertaking responsibility, to the point that those around her start to view it [Anita taking up responsibility on all matters] as an expectation. One time – feeling that the burden on her shoulders was especially heavy – Anita said to me: “I am only a woman.”

On December 30th, 2003, Anita Mui left this world. ‘Towards a Quieter Life (往生靜土)’ – these are not just 4 words on Anita’s funeral shrine, but also something that Anita constantly hoped for. Now, every time I think of her, in addition to missing her, there are also feelings of sympathy and sorrow mixed in. My heart is also full of question marks – why is it that even in her last action of establishing a will for herself, she was not able to get the respect that she rightfully deserved?

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CHILDHOOD / PERSONAL LIFE

It is hard to believe that in 1982, when 18 year old Anita Mui won the 1st annual New Talent Singing Competition, she had already been ‘in the industry’ for 14 years! Anita’s mother was the head of a performance troupe that went around performing at various venues, mainly at nightclubs and disco halls. So at the young age of 4 years old, Anita stepped onto the stage for the first time and along with her older sister Ann, had a constantly busy schedule performing and singing. As Anita herself states: “My childhood was very different from other children’s, so I was always envious of the ordinary lives that other children were able to lead…compared to others of the same age, I always felt very old – perhaps because I have been working since I was very little! I feel that youth [young people] have a special characteristic – that is, to just let it all out and be carefree….but I’ve been carrying a heavy burden since a young age, so in a sense, I never experienced ‘youth’ at all.” In addition to not having a childhood, Anita also had to give up her education – during her first year of high school, she fell extremely ill and had to pull out of school for a long period of time. Unfortunately, after she recovered, she was not able to keep up with the school work and ended up dropping out of school – but she did continue to self-educate herself throughout her life so that she never stopped learning completely.

One thing that Anita longed for throughout her life (but sadly, never got) was love from her family. Despite being the youngest in the family and the ‘little sister’ in the household, Anita did not receive the love or support that one would expect from their family – in fact, the only ‘sane’ (I will explain later why I chose this word) person in the family who truly loved and cared for Anita was her older sister Ann, who was closest to her in age. Anita’s mother was constantly working (or rather ‘scheming’ up ways to earn as much money as possible) and Anita was never close with her 2 older brothers (more on them later), primarily due to the huge gap in their ages.

Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to write about Anita’s life without mentioning her family, as they played a huge role in shaping the person she became. Before I go any further though, I feel that I need to APOLOGIZE in advance for any comments I make in this post in relation to Anita’s family that may be offensive to people, as it is definitely out of character for me to ‘diss’ someone’s family, but I really can’t help myself in this case. I myself am a very filial daughter and love my family very much, plus I have a lot of respect for elders and in general, I’m a pretty mellow person. BUT even someone like me (and I don’t even count myself as one of Anita’s ‘fans’), cannot help being completely disgusted and abhorrent / loathsome towards Anita’s family (with the exception of her sister Ann). I cannot believe that people like her imbecilic, money-crazy mother and bastard (also money-crazy) brothers exist on the face of this earth – and I feel EXTREMELY sorry for both Anita and Ann for being born into such a bad family!

I’ll talk more later on in this post about why I despise Anita’s mother and brothers, but for now, this direct quote from Anita (from one of her past interviews) should give people some insight as to why Anita’s relationship with her mother was so strained:

“I grew up in an ‘abnormal’ household. Mother always locked us up behind the screen door and I was only able to watch from within the confines of our house as the neighbors’ kids went out to play. Towards my family, I’ve always only felt a sense of alienation and estrangement, very little warmth. Whenever I’d try to speak to my mother, she would tell me to stop, shut up, not allowed to speak – so now, I have no words to say to her. I will not go and criticize her, but that DOESN’T mean that I agree with everything she does. No matter what, she is my mother after all – that fact will never change.”

With such strained relations to her biological family, it is no wonder then that when she met Leonard Ho (founder of famous HK production company Golden Harvest) and his wife, she was finally able to possess the parental love that she was never able to obtain from her own family. In the mid-1980s, Anita became the god-daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ho – even though the Ho’s already had a biological daughter of their own, that did not prevent them from treating Anita as their own daughter, showering her with love and support.

As a sidenote, former actress May Lo (God of Songs Jacky Cheung’s wife) was also Mr. and Mrs. Ho’s god-daughter – that is actually how she became so close with Anita and why they ended up becoming sworn sisters (hence, Anita referring to Jacky as her brother-in-law). During Anita’s funeral service in January 2004, Mrs. Ho (Mr. Ho passed away in 1997) as well as May and Jacky sat in the ‘family members’ section – Jacky also gave a eulogy at the funeral and was also one of the pall bearers who accompanied Anita’s casket to her final resting place.

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In 1988, Anita filed a complaint in court accusing her oldest brother Mui Kai Ming of extortion and embezzlement. At the time, Anita’s mother (Mrs. Mui) told her daughter Anita to give her brother some money as a form of investment to open a pet store and dog training facility – in less than 1 year, the business posted losses of close to 4 million HKD. It was said that ‘someone’ (Anita’s brother) used the company to borrow money from others and also misappropriate funds, which caused Anita much grief and disappointment. In the end, Anita did not ask her brother to return the money he took from her (since she was her brother after all), however she did make her stance clear that she was not going to give him any money and that she did not want to see him again. From that moment on, Mui Kai Ming did not dare to show his face in front of Anita again while she was alive (what a COWARD!!!!). Anita’s mother also took part in numerous ‘questionable’ financial practices as well and throughout the years, had ‘spent’ a lot of Anita’s hard-earned money.

Ironically, the moment Anita passed away, Mui Kai Ming suddenly ‘reappeared’ again and has become a fixture by his mother’s side these past 8 years. Along with Anita’s other brother Mui Tak Ming, the mother and sons have been in and out of court these past 8 years, protesting Anita’s will and filing appeal upon appeal. They refuse to accept the fact that Anita bequeathed majority of her ‘estate’ to charity in her will (even though she did request that her mother be given a certain amount of money every month as an allowance) and have continued to fight the will in court in attempts to get more money, thereby draining Anita’s estate almost down to the penny.

The following excerpt was taken directly from the book – I decided to include this long passage from the book because it does a good job of illustrating exactly the type of person Anita’s mother was:

Even though her mother’s actions throughout the years brought Anita nothing but trouble and the two were never very close (in fact, Anita always referred to her mother as ‘Mrs. Mui’), Anita continued to fulfill her utmost filial obligations to her mother. In 2003, despite suffering from severe illness, Anita drafted a will that arranged for her mother to receive 70,000 HKD every month in living expenses for the rest of her life until death – Anita made these monthly arrangements to prevent her mother from spending all her money in one shot and possibly descending into poverty in the future. Unfortunately, Mrs. Mui did not understand one bit the filialness that Anita had toward her. In 2005, Mrs. Mui sold the property that she owned jointly with her daughter and despite rendering profits of close to 5 million HKD, she repeatedly requested for the courts to increase the amount bequeathed to her for living expenses. Due to Mrs. Mui repeatedly losing the inheritance case each time it was challenged in court and subsequently filing appeal upon appeal, the funds in the inheritance account established by Anita’s will slowly dwindled and by October 2008, there was only 8500 HKD left in the account, which was not enough to pay for Mrs. Mui’s living expenses. Asked about the funds barely being enough to finance her lifestyle, Mrs. Mui responded: “So? What kind of stormy seas have I not encountered and conquered? It’s simple – I’ll just apply for public assistance!” Oh, and what about the older brother (Mui Kai Ming) who, while Anita was alive, did not dare show his face? From the moment his youngest sister Anita died, he resurfaced once again, accompanying his mother everywhere and becoming her ‘right-hand man’. By July of 2009, Mrs. Mui’s living expenses increased to 150,000 HKD per month.

When I read the section in the book that talked about Mrs. Mui’s actions, I was deeply saddened but at the same time, it also made my blood boil! How could a mother possibly be so cruel? Is it not enough that she did not show any love toward her daughter throughout the 40 short years of her life and instead treated her like a money tree, yet Anita continued to be filial to her and even left money for her in her will? How can it be that when her daughter dies, the only thing that the mother cares about is money and does not even have the decency to respect her daughter’s will?

If you thought Mrs. Mui’s actions in fighting Anita’s will and bilking her money were bad, you haven’t heard the worst of it! Not sure if anyone noticed, but in the 8 years since Anita’s death, there have not been any ‘official’ tribute shows or concerts in her memory (in comparisons, there were dozens of tributes for Leslie, Roman, and even legendary composer James Wong). How is this possible, given Anita’s tremendous popularity and iconic status in the HK entertainment industry? Well, we all pretty much have Mrs. Mui to thank for the ZERO tributes to Anita! Not long after Anita died, there was a fierce ‘verbal battle’ between Mrs Mui (escorted by her cohorts, the Mui brothers) and Anita’s former manager as well as all her apprentice students and close friends (think of it as ‘Mrs Mui versus the HK entertainment industry’). At the time, Mrs. Mui publicly declared that she would not allow ANYONE to hold any tributes or concerts in Anita’s honor because doing so would be equivalent to “making money off a dead person” (in reality, she was probably just bitter that SHE wouldn’t be able to make money off of any tribute/concert shows, since Anita’s friends know how she is and would most likely donate the money to charity instead, so she figured she’d ruin it for everyone). Not only that, she also pretty much ‘threatened’ anyone who ‘dared’ to make money off her daughter in that manner (concerts, tribute shows, etc.) with legal action (plus they would surely ‘rot in hell’ for doing so, as Mrs. Mui so vehemently proclaimed!). So what was the entertainment industry’s (aka Anita’s apprentice students and friends) reaction to Mrs. Mui’s unreasonable, stupid nonsense? As much as they were opposed to Mrs. Mui’s tirades and were disappointed with how badly she was tarnishing her daughter’s memory, they decided to take the ‘high road’ and abide by Mrs. Mui’s wishes – not because they were afraid of a senile old lady, because she was Anita’s mother after all, so they let things be out of respect for Anita and her memory.

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Anita’s relationship with her mother and brothers may have been strained, but amazingly, her relationship with her sister Ann was completely opposite – the 2 sisters were very close. I actually think that Ann was born into the wrong family because she was so different from the rest of them – she was very feminine, sweet, and just an overall wonderful person! And we can actually thank Ann for giving us Anita, as it was because of her that Anita entered the New Talent Contest -- Ann was also a singer and when a friend told her she should enter the competition, she felt more comfortable having her sister there with her, so she submitted an application for her (Anita actually didn’t want to do it). Ironically, Ann never made it past the semi-finals, but as we all know, Anita did – not only that, but she went on to win the competition itself. Even though Ann did not make it to the finals, she was not bitter – in fact, she was extremely happy for her sister and on finals night when Anita’s name was announced as the winner, Ann was right there in the stands, crying tears of joy that her sister had made it (she had always felt that her little sister was naturally talented in the area of singing and was destined to be an entertainer).

As the older sister, Ann always felt an obligation to take care of her younger sister (even though they weren’t too far apart in terms of age) and when reminiscing about their childhood, she admits that it was a difficult – two little girls having to ‘sell’ their singing at such a young age in order to earn money for the family. In past interviews, Anita herself lamented the difficult childhood that she and her sister had to endure: “In our family, the females had to work very hard and do all the difficult jobs, but the males didn’t have to work at all – if the males did work, it was for themselves and they were not obligated to bring money home....we were all born to the same mother, all healthy and able-bodied, we should be equals! Why is it then that I have to work so much harder than them?”

Indeed, Ann was the only ‘sane’ person in the family and the only positive influence (within the family, that is) that Anita had. Unfortunately though, the relationship was not destined to last – in April 2000, Ann Mui died of cervical cancer (the same illness that Anita would eventually die from 3 years later). Anita was devastated by the loss of the sister whom she loved so dearly and vowed to take care of her sister’s family forever, no matter what happened (Ann was survived by her husband and 2 children – fortunately, they did not need Anita to take care of them, as Ann’s husband was a doctor, I believe, so the family did not have to worry financially at least). Her sister’s death made her think hard about life and in an interview that year, Anita stated: “[Her death] made me reflect and changed my perspective on life. I realized that I need to be strong. No matter what difficulties, setbacks, or unhappiness comes my way, I will tell myself: It’s nothing! There is nothing more important than life itself – as long as I’m still alive, I can still start over!”

In March 2003, as Anita herself was silently battling cancer (at this point, none of her friends knew yet, except Eddie Lau), she perhaps recognized that she may not live much longer. In an interview, she stated: “There are so many distressing things in life…I myself have experienced all 4 ‘spices’ in life [sweet, sour, bitter, tart]. In the next life, I would rather be a little bird, flying freely up in the skies.”


RELATIONSHIPS: The men in Anita’s life

The men in Anita Mui's life can pretty much be divided into 3 categories -- her lovers (those with whom she had a romantic relationship), her brothers (those who were not related to her by blood and whom she was not involved with romantically whatsoever, but was very close to -- so close that they can be considered 'family'), and her friends (pretty much everyone else who did not fall into the other 2 categories).

*For the purposes of this post, I will not be talking about the 3rd category, as Anita has alot of friends (as I mentioned earlier) in the industry and it would take a long time to discuss her relationship with each one of them. Also included in the 'friends' category are all of her apprentice students (for the purposes of this post at least), which I'm not going to talk much about either (maybe some other post?).*


For such a huge celebrity, Anita was actually quite open when it came to admitting to her romantic relationships. The boyfriends that she had after entering the industry include: actor Michael Miu(with whom she filmed her one and only TVB series, “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears”), wealthy young socialite Stephen Chau Sai Lung(yes, the same man whom Barbara Yung was involved with back in 1985), part-time model Michael Lau (not really considered part of the industry, since he only modeled part-time for commercials and such), a man known only as Paul, whom she met at the gym while preparing for her concert in 1990 (not part of the industry), actor Ben Lam Kwok Bun (a martial arts instructor turned third/fourth line actor who had minor roles in movies and such), mainland actor and martial artist Vincent Zhao WenZhuo(Anita was actually older than him, so at the time, the media went crazy over the whole older woman/younger man romance), and Japanese singer/actor Kondo Masahiko(sorry, don’t know too much about him, since I don’t follow Japanese entertainment).

So out of all her boyfriends, which one was truly the ‘love of her life’? Anita was asked this question in March 2003, when she was in the last stage of her life, reflecting on her past. Her response: “I won’t say who specifically…all I can say is – the one with whom I had the long-distance relationship. If I were given a second chance to choose, I would still choose to love him. In other words, that was the relationship most worthy of remembering fondly.” The only ‘long-distance relationship’ that Anita publicly admitted to was with Japanese artist Kondo Masahiko – and throughout their courtship, it was very obvious to everyone (she even admits it herself) that she was extremely in love with him, flying to Japan often to meet up with him. So it is safe to say then that he was the ‘love of her life.’

In January 2004, as Anita’s friends gathered at her funeral to pay their last respects to her, something that is rarely seen in the entertainment industry occurred: pretty much all of Anita’s past boyfriends (except for the ones who were outside of the industry) were in attendance at the funeral – including Kondo Masahiko, who had purposely flown to HK from Japan to attend. Regardless of how her relationship was with each of her past boyfriends or what their reasons were for breaking up, it is obvious that in the end, with Anita’s passing, all misunderstandings and differences were buried along with her. Personally, I was touched to hear about Anita’s former boyfriends attending her funeral – it was definitely a very sweet gesture!

Despite the seemingly endless line of suitors, all of Anita’s romantic relationships were short-lived. Throughout her entire life, Anita longed to be loved, but ironically, she never found the love that she longed to have. She once said that she would give up everything she had in a heartbeat in exchange for true love, but it was not meant to be. She had once talked about being with the man she loved, having children, starting a family – in the end though, knowing that she did not have much longer to live, she decided to be ‘married’ to her work (show business)… ironically, Anita finally did get to wear a wedding dress – during her very last concert in November 2003, she wore a wedding dress with a long train, walked up the long flight of stairs while singing her classic song “Treasure the Time We Meet Again”, and – after looking back one final time to bid everyone farewell, she turned around and walked out into the darkness (backstage), the huge doors to the set shutting behind her.

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Aside from the various romantic relationships she had, Anita also had quite a few male friends with whom she was very close – a few of them she was especially close with, to the point that she considered them ‘family’. Anita’s entertainment industry ‘brothers’ included: Leslie Cheung, Danny Chan, Jacky Cheung, Eddie Lau, and Andy Lau (I’m sure there were probably more, but the book only touches on those who were more publicly known in terms of their brotherly relationship with Anita).

Leslie Cheung: True to his nickname ‘Gor Gor’ (big brother), Leslie was indeed like an ‘older brother’ for Anita – they were very close. The unique thing about Leslie and Anita’s relationship was that they always had awesome chemistry both on and off the stage. When Anita heard the news about Leslie’s suicide in April 2003, she was absolutely devastated and cried endlessly – at his funeral, Anita was so upset that her friends had to accompany her throughout the entire time, gently holding her by the arm and helping her make it through. Her closest friend and confidante, designer Eddie Lau, once said that upon seeing Leslie’s lifeless body not long after he died, Anita was heard telling him: “I will be coming to keep you company soon!”

Danny Chan: Back in the 1980s, Danny was like a ‘younger brother’ to Anita. The two of them were brought together through their love of dancing – in fact, even outside of work, they would sometimes bump into each other at discos and end up dancing to the music together. In the 1980s, the two of them would often be musical guests at each other’s concerts and undoubtedly, dancing would play a huge role in those concerts. One thing to note is that Danny is actually older than Anita, however in Anita’s heart, she felt that she needed to protect Danny from harshness of the industry, so she always considered him a younger brother whom she protected and loved.

Jacky Cheung: I already talked about Jacky’s relationship with Anita earlier in my post – he is Anita’s ‘brother-in-law’, as she is sworn sisters with Jacky’s wife May. One of the reasons that Jacky was so close with Anita is because she has always been very supportive of him throughout the 20 plus years they knew each other. Back in the late 80s, when Jacky was struggling with alcoholism and constantly got into fights with his then girlfriend May, Anita was the one who would be the ‘peacemaker’ between them. And the few times when Jacky and May broke up after getting into arguments, Anita was the one who got them back together.

Eddie Lau: Eddie was definitely the most important man in Anita’s life. Eddie was one of HK’s most famous fashion designers in the 80s and he was responsible for designing / dressing all of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. Eddie was an instrumental part of each of Anita’s concerts and he was the only person she trusted to design her attire. Out of all the men in her life (those who were not her boyfriends), Eddie was closest with her – he was Anita’s brother, friend, confidante – she pretty much told him everything and he knew exactly what made her tick. Whenever Anita felt down or needed someone to talk to, the first person she would call was Eddie. He was also the first one to find out that Anita had cancer and for almost a year, he was the only one who knew. And he was the only male who was able to go in and out of her house whenever he wanted. The relationship between Eddie and Anita was very unique, especially in the entertainment industry where it’s very hard for a male and female to be so close and not be romantically involved whatsoever.

Andy Lau: To make things absolutely clear – Andy and Anita NEVER DATED!! The reason why Andy always got linked up to Anita in the tabloids was because Anita admired Andy a lot as a person and being the straightforward person that she is, she would publicly praise him a lot. During an interview in the early 90s, Anita ‘hinted’ that she had a little bit of a crush on someone – she never revealed who that someone was, but it was widely speculated in the media and tabloids that the ‘someone’ was Andy. In fact, Andy’s relationship with Anita was more like a brother than anything else. True, she did admire Andy a lot, but that does not mean she had a crush on him…in fact, when she was being hounded by reporters about the issue, she once said: “No crush. Truthfully, I have a lot of admiration for Andy, but admiration is NOT the same thing as having a crush. It is possible to admire someone from afar.” Now that Anita is gone, we may never know for sure, but based on my understanding of how Anita is and her personality, I believe her when she says that she did not have a crush on Andy.

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CONCLUSION

After best friend and ‘brother’ Leslie Cheung died in April 2003, Anita’s grief caused her to reach her lowest point emotionally – but despite her pain, she still continued to care about society: “The SARS situation is very serious and dire. Leslie’s death awakened me and made me realize the importance of life. In front of the Buddhist altar, I asked Leslie to give me strength – I don’t want to waste anymore time. I hope to do something for Hong Kong.” Anita put her words into action – as the first female chairman of the HK Artistes Guild, Anita led the entire HK entertainment industry in arranging the 1:99 concerts to raise money for the victims of SARS.

In August 2003, as rumors of Anita’s illness circulated like wildfire in the media, she decided to end all the speculation. In a press conference where she was surrounded by many of her long-time friends, she told the world about her cancer and vowed to fight the illness until the very end.

Not too long after that, Anita realized that her cancer was getting worse and so during the last leg of her life journey, she decided to fulfill her biggest dream: to meet up with her friends and fans for one last time and say farewell – and, most importantly, to don a wedding dress and ‘get married’. Despite being very weak physically from her chemo-therapy, Anita showed almost unbelievable determination and strength in completing 8 shows at the HK Coliseum in November 2003 (about a month before her death). Even her doctors said the fact she was able to complete the shows was a miracle, a gift that the Heavens especially gave to her.

Though I did not get a chance to watch Anita’s final concerts in person, I did watch on DVD afterwards and I will admit that I was absolutely in tears almost the entire time. Her performances during those last shows were absolutely flawless in my book and I will forever remember that last concert of hers, more than any other concert she has done in the past.

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As I said earlier, there is so much to talk about when it comes to Anita that this post is only a small scratch on the surface in terms of knowing what type of person Anita was. And indeed, there is so much more that I could write about her – for example, her singing and movie career, her charity work, her relationship with her other friends, etc. etc. With this post, I simply want to give some insight into the life of a woman who was so instrumental in shaping the HK entertainment industry – an icon and legend who will truly be missed, but whose legacy will love on for decades to come. Rest in peace, Anita!

30 comments:

  1. She is definitely missed! There just aren't any larger than life personalities like her in HK entertainment anymore. That quote she made about being a Jin Yong warrior - perfect!

    A couple comments...First of all, her mother is a real piece of work. So disgusting.

    How sweet that Danny, Leslie, and Jacky were her brothers. Her REAL family. When Danny and Leslie died, I'll never forget how heart broken Anita was.

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  2. @retrotvb: Absolutely! That is so true! She was truly an icon! Looking at the HK entertainment industry nowadays, there isn't anyone who comes close (even the Queens of the 90s whom I very fond of can't even compare!).

    Oh, I know...it's hard to believe such a mother exists -- but then again, maybe it isn't that hard to imagine after all. It just pains me to see Anita still be so filial and respectful to her mother after everything her mother did (and knowing that her mom never loved her and treated her as a money tree this entire time)...but I guess I'm not too surprised because of her Chinese upbringing.

    Yes -- given how bad Anita's mother and brothers were, I'm so glad that she had such a vast network of close friends and 'brothers' (as well as students) who were always so supportive of her...I don't think she would have survived in the entertainment industry at all if it weren't for them. And that's where the HK entertainment industry differed back then from now -- the industry was alot more close-knit backt hen...

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  3. I finally finished the article in full and that was truly amazing. I was really upset at the beginning - like you - to read about her family. But then was pulled into her career, her strong personality, and much more about her friends, etc. Thanks so much for taking time to do this article for us. Another worth reading one about another legend.

    *On the random, thanks for clarifying regarding Andy and Anita. I always thought they were friends too. But the media are always taken advantage of the situation to blow things up.

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  4. @DTLCT: Aww, you're welcome! Thanks for reading! I know it was a bit long, but it was truly worth it for me (and hopefully for everyone reading it), as it gave me an opportunity to share my feelings about a truly legendary artist.

    And reading Anita / Andy -- yes, I definitely wanted to make sure there was a piece in there about their relationship, as I'm sick and tired of the stupid Media trying to tarnish Anita's memory with their falsities about the relationship. I wish I could translate the entire section about them that was in the book (yes, there was an entire section about it), but unfortunately, the post was already too long....

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  5. I meant to leave a comment earlier but I haven't been able to get a stable Internet connection for last week, so I saved this for later.

    First off, thanks for your post on Anita! She truly was one of the greatest losses for the whole of HK, being one of the most valuable entertainers in history. And to me, Anita was and is the Queen of Cantopop, as much as I like the great female artists of the 90's (and 80's).

    When I read the section about her mother, all the feelings of anger came back in. I'm pretty sure you fulfil your filial duties well, but someone like her, I don't think I ever could. It's like when Anita died, all she thought about was how much money do I get? Her mother was truly ugly to the bone. Same goes for her brothers too. I don't see why she got gifted with two such beautiful daughters whom she never chose to love. Seriously, Ann and Anita were just used to earn money, never cared for as daughters. I really do believe that the only sibling that cared for her was her sister, Ann, like you pointed out. I'm not really sure if her late father would have loved her but the only feelings of love I got from the whole family was between the two sisters.

    And even though everyone was talking about how young Anita was when she won the NTSA, it was like she had lived through 40 years, although she was only 18. Of course, having to perform at such a young age for so many years along with her sister added to her experience, shaping her as a singer, a performer and entertainer. But the sad truth behind that was her loss of childhood. I can't help but draw parallels between her and other late and great performers, like Michael Jackson. Underneath these seemingly great superstars lie stolen childhoods.

    I'm sure all her past boyfriends loved her even though their relationships didn't work out. I mean, how could you not like her? Like you said, a funny, outspoken personality, along with a pretty face (even though she herself never thought that she was pretty - I always find it strange that pretty people are so humble about their looks, whereas those who aren't think that they are the most beautiful things on Earth).

    And this thing about Andy is ridiculous. I've read comments from people who still speculate that she secretly loved Andy but I just know that wasn't true. But yes, she at least had the love and admiration of her sister, her friends and family.

    Anita, gone but not forgotten, just like big brother Leslie and the other true entertainers of HK. It really is true that the good die young.

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  6. @The Archival Queen: Thanks for the comments! Though Anita's story is a tragic one behind all the glamour, especially in regards to her relationship with her family, at least she can be at peace with the fact that she had such a vast network of friends and entertainment industry 'family' who loved her and supported her greatly. I hope that with posts such as this, those who may not know her well or may be susceptible to the Media trap can perhaps think twice before readily believing the lies.

    She will truly be missed and we will always remember her!

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  7. Thanks for writing this awesome review of Anita! She is truly a legend and an artiste and person I deeply admire.

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  8. @sytwo: Hi there! Sorry for the delay in response (got busy with a few things). Anyway, thanks for visiting and glad you found the review about Anita informatiive and inspirational. She is absolutely a legend and the persistence that she showed throughout her entire life (despite all the difficulties she faced) is truly admirable!

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  9. Many thanks for this great article that you have written. I am glad to have found more information about the late Anita Mui. Being born and raised in Canada, my Chinese is limited and my exposure to the 80/90's Hong Kong entertainment industry is not any better. Thanks again for your contribution.

    It saddens me to know hear about the recent turmoil created by her mother and brothers....another filing complaint, after 8 years since Anita's death. This is ridiculous, all they care about is money-money-money. Has the mother even realize how lucky she is? Anita is supporting her mother's living expenses for the rest of her life even though they have an estranged relationship. I hope one day she will come to her senses and stops fighting for more money when the money does not belong to her in the first place.

    - Bonn

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  10. @Bonn: Welcome! Thanks for visiting and glad that you enjoyed the article! Always glad to share about 80s/90s HK entertainment, as that's the time period I grew up in and so there's a certain amount of affinity for all things related to that era. If you get a chance to read some of the other 80s/90s related posts, hope you will find those informative as well!

    I totally agree with you regarding Anita's mother and brothers -- knowing what a wonderful, generous lady Anita was, it pains me to see her memory tarnished in this manner. Unfortunately though, I don't think Mrs. Mui will ever come to her senses...the only way that she is going to stop her ridiculous nonsense is once she steps foot in her grave...but then, her son will be there to carry on her 'nonsense', so I doubt that it will ever end....

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  11. I happened to learn about your blog a few days ago and am truly enjoy reading the review of Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, and Danny Chan. Anita is truly a legend and we missed her.

    Thank you for so many well written articles. Please continue to write a short biography of some of these true legendary superstars that we all can learn and enjoy.

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    1. @Anonymous: Thanks for visiting my blog and welcome! :-)

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed reading the "Now and Then" book review posts.....those are a few of my favorite posts as well and even though they took alot of time and effort to write, the positive feedback on them is very encouraging and makes it all worth the effort.

      Yes, I will definitely continue to write these types of 'biography' posts in the future, however it will take some time, since my schedule is usually pretty packed (and I'm quite anal when it comes to writing -- the wording has to be done a certain way, the translations need to be precise, etc.). There are actually alot more artists I would like to write about, as there are 3 books total (so far) to the "Now and Then" series (covering about 30 artists or so) and I would like to at least get to some of my favorites in there (LOL).

      Anyway, thanks again for visiting and hope you enjoy some of the other posts / articles as well. See you around!

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  12. I was surfing the net for articles about Anita and came across your post. It was very well written and thanks for posting it. Actually I am not a fan of Anita but love some of her songs. My curiosity about her life was triggered by her last concert which drove me to find out more about this amazing woman. From my readings she is indeed a spectacular person, full of love for others and a charitable soul. Just questioning myself why I didn't get to know her better though we are of the same age group.

    May she rest in peace and find the love she craves for in heaven.

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  13. I just finished watching a rerun of Anita's 2002 concert on my local TV. Since Monday is Anita' 10 year departure anniversary ... I decided to surf the website on your post. It is very well written and informative on this spectacular woman/artiste. To me, Anita is an extremely talented artiste.

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    1. @JJ: Thank you and glad that the post was informative for you! And yes, absolutely agree that Anita is an extremely talented artist -- she is a legend and will always be irreplaceable in our hearts!

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  14. Fantastic article! So much drama, so much grief and pain. However I disagree she fought her illness diligently. I believe fear drove her to her early grave. If only she has been diligent with the battle, I am sure she would still be here today. Not dissing but rather lamenting.

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    1. @Funn: I know what you mean and actually don't view it as 'dissing' at all, as it's definitely true that if Anita had gone through with treatment when she first found out about her illness, she likely would still be here today (maybe not completely cancer-free, but very close to it). No doubt that Anita was a strong, amazing woman though -- an absolutely legend who left us way too early....

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  15. Thank you for your post. This post has answered all of my questions about Anita and her family. The more I know about her, the more I love and respect her. I have been crazily searching for everything about Anita recently, and everything is answered in your post.

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    1. @Anonymous: You're very welcome! :-) Glad to hear that you were able to find the answers to your questions about Anita in the post. I also have alot of respect for her and hope that those who never got a chance to "know" her (for instance those who were born later) can understand what kind of a person she was and respect her as well.

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  16. I heard about her mother planning to release a book about Anita Mui's life and relationships. I don't know if you have read it or not. I'm really curious about the book. If you have read the book, can you please translate some of it?

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    1. @Anonymous: I’ve heard rumors too, but nothing solid….I don’t even know if the book actually exists. To be honest though, I wouldn’t believe a thing that woman (Anita’s mother) says anyway, as she knows nothing about Anita’s relationships – all she ever cared about was Anita’s money. If you would like recommendations on books about Anita’s life and friendships, relationships, etc. , I’d say that you’re better off reading the book that Anita’s late friend Elton Law (羅君左) wrote about her back in 2008 (the book is called: 不可能再遇上。Anita梅艷芳). Or better yet, read what Anita has to say about her own life through her pictorial autobiography Heart of the Modern Woman (現代女人心) , which Anita wrote and published in 2003 not long before her death (proceeds from the book went to charity).
      I will be honest with you and say that if Anita’s mother were truly to come out with a book, I probably wouldn’t buy it or read it, since I probably wouldn’t be able to get through it without getting really ticked off….

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  17. I still can't watch her 10th death anniversary concert on Youtube. I don't want to believe that she died...she's still in my heart. I think I'm going to cry if I watch that concert

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    1. @Anonymous: I totally understand your feelings….I’m sure many of us who grew up with her songs, movies, etc. have the same sentiments. I know it’s hard, but I highly recommend watching the 10th anniversary concert – it was definitely a fitting tribute to Anita from all the friends who knew her and loved her. I definitely cried when I watched the concert, but it also brought back a lot of fond memories for me. Just have a box of tissues ready….

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  18. Thanks for your writing about Anita. It is long, clarified. I can't believe that she died.
    I still love her so much.

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  19. thanks for letting us know about Anita.. I have been searching all about her.. however, I still keep postponing to watch her last concert in full, I think that I cannot help crying when I watched it in full.. hope that She will be in a happy state... aaah, my heart broke to pieces when I saw her trophies and medals and all private but meaningful things were sold... it is too bad.... hope her friends build a museum to honour Anita.. anyway, thanks again for the article.

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  20. @Taufia: You’re very welcome! I am definitely happy to share whatever memories I can of the ‘good old days’ of the entertainment industry as well as all those veteran artists who helped make the industry so great back then. Anita is one of those artists whom we will always remember for the rest of our lives. Her contributions to the entertainment are absolutely unquestionable and in many ways, she sets a great example for all of us to follow.

    I watched her entire final concert on DVD and believe me, I bawled like crazy – especially knowing how much pain she was in physically, yet she put in 1000 percent effort in each of the 8 shows and was absolutely FLAWLESS with her performances! No doubt that I was tremendously moved by Anita’s effort, but I also have to give kudos to all her friends and apprentice-students who so steadfastly stood by her throughout the entire concert. I remember one of her friends said that each night, all her apprentice-students and friends (those who were special guest performers each night as well as those who didn’t perform at all) would watch her perform backstage and each time there was a break, they would check up on her to see how she was doing – if at any point she felt ill or felt like she wouldn’t be able to make it, any one of them would step in at a moment’s notice and perform on her behalf. Many of these artists were big stars in their own right, yet they were willing to put aside that status to support Anita – it was definitely very touching to watch!

    I was also heartbroken at seeing Anita’s personal belongings being auctioned off last year, though to be honest, a part of me was angry as well. Yes, that trust fund company responsible for executing her will definitely deserved the wrath that they got from Anita’s fans, friends, and everyone else who loved her – but in my opinion, Anita’s mom deserved just as much, maybe even more, criticism, since technically she was the one who depleted all the money in Anita’s estate through her ridiculous decade-long court battle with that company. Ironically, she was also the one who ‘complained’ the loudest when Anita’s belongings were sold, even though technically the company had to do so in order to have enough money to execute the stipulation in Anita’s will to pay for her mother’s living expenses. (Sorry for going off on a tangent…it’s just that I can’t help getting irritated whenever this issue comes up…).

    I also hope that Anita’s friends build a museum in her honor, as it is an absolutely well-deserving honor. Unfortunately though, with the way things work in HK, not sure if it will ever come to fruition. We can only continue to hope….

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  21. Thank you for writing this. Her personality is truly inspiring.

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  22. Thank you for sharing. What a master piece. Having been in Canada for 50 years (I was 11 years old when I immigrated here from Hong Kong, I have recently become very interested in reconnecting with the entertainment industry in Hong Kong. I happened upon Anita Mui's final concert coverage on youtube and was immensely impressed by her meaningful, remarkable, and colourful life. I truly admire her character, bravery and kindness. I have since also enjoyed the clips of her other concerts and interviews. Your posting has given me a yet clearer picture of her beauty. Thanks again for your time and effort.

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    1. @Canadian Joker: You’re very welcome!  To be honest, I feel that my post only scratched the surface in giving people a glimpse into how Anita was as a person, especially later generations who perhaps never even got a chance to know who she was as an entertainer let alone as a person.  I also don’t live in HK (immigrated to the U.S. with my family when I was 3), but for some inexplicable reason, I’ve always had a strong connection to the HK entertainment industry (perhaps it’s in my genes, lol) and am grateful that I was still able to experience the industry’s golden era (pretty much the 80s/early 90s) despite the physical distance.  The HK entertainers we had back then were truly one-of-a-kind, so many of them legends in their own rights, which of course makes it all the more difficult to come to terms with the dismal state of the industry nowadays.  Anita was indeed a beautiful person inside and out, no doubt about that!  While I was and continue to be tremendously saddened at losing such a great entertainer, I take solace in the fact that Anita was able to live such a meaningful life surrounded by friends and fans who loved her so dearly.  To this day, I still get teary-eyed whenever I re-watch Eric Tsang’s “Be My Guest” interview and hear him recount those final days at the hospital where, despite the pain, Anita held on until the very last moment, refusing to succumb to her illness until she had seen every last one of her friends and the people who had meant so much to her.   Have you watched the tribute concert that Anita’s close friends put on for her 3 years ago to mark the 10 year anniversary of her death?  If not, I definitely recommend it, as the tribute was very moving and absolutely fitting to her legendary status in the HK entertainment industry.  It’s hard to find such sincere tribute shows nowadays, especially ones that involve those entertainers who were actually close to her and knew her personally. 

      Thank you for visiting! :-)

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  23. Thank you for taking the time to respond to every comment made! You, too, are a remarkable and caring person. I sense your warmth and appreciate very much your time and effort in researching and then sharing your work with us. I am sure many of the readers share my sentiments. People like Anita and you make me feel so underachieving in my lifetime to-date. You inspire me to do more. So starting this moment, I pledge to do only good and be as inspirational as I can be. (I dare not say to be as inspirational as others such as Anita or you). I have watched the 2013 commemorative concert and am moved by the love of Anita's friends and fans. It truly reaffirms the superb and admirable life Anita led for there are so many people who continue to love and miss her dearly! Thank you again for sharing. God bless!

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