Friday, February 22, 2013

Mingpao Special Feature: Unearthing TVB’s “All Star Challenge” from 30 years ago – A look back at the 5 Tigers’ ‘historical’ first performance

As most of you know, I’m an avid reader of Mingpao Weekly magazine – I’ve pretty much been reading it ever since I learned how to read Chinese back in the 90s.  There are many things I like about the magazine (obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t ‘support’ it for so many years) – aside from the in depth interviews that they do with celebrities (and not just the ‘big name’ ones – they interview a lot of lesser known artists as well as some who we may not have heard from  in a long time), another awesome feature they do is a 集體回憶[literally translated as ‘Collectively Recalling’] segment where Mingpao opens their ‘time capsule’ and shares with its readers some of the HK entertainment industry’s most ‘historic’ events / news, etc. (mostly about artists from the 70s, 80s, and 90s).  For me, reading this segment is always a trip down memory lane, since I’ve been following HK entertainment for long time and actually do remember some of the events they recall – this is one of the reasons why I enjoy reading the magazine so much, since I can get quite nostalgic when it comes to these types of things.

In last week’s issue, the 集體回憶 segment recalled one of TVB’s biggest charity events from the 80s:  TVB All Star Challenge (星光熠熠勁爭輝).  Now, unless you were following TVB in the 80s, most likely you may have never heard of this show before, since the name of the show changed in the mid-80s and also again later in the decade – but regardless of the name, the fact of the matter is that these type of charity fundraising shows were a ‘staple’ at TVB back then….the shows usually took place yearly and often featured performances by the station’s biggest stars (almost comparable to TVB’s yearly anniversary galas!)  Even though the show continued to take place over the past few decades, unfortunately the ‘star power’ has dwindled tremendously – to the point that nowadays, the show is not even worth watching anymore.

Anyway, back to the article….

The All Star Challenge show that MP features in the below article happens to be the one where the 5 Tigers famously ‘debut’ and Andy Lau does his ‘stone-breaking’ routine (which continues to be ‘talked about’ even now).   I was too young at the time that this show took place (1983!!) to have watched it at that time, but fortunately I was able to find the show on videotape several years later (around the time I started following HK entertainment myself) and watch it then.  I honestly don’t recall a whole lot from the show, since the last time I re-watched the show was some time in the 90s (when I did a ‘marathon re-watch’ of all the TVB variety shows from my family’s TVB collection), but I do recall the 5 Tigers’ performance, since that was a huge highlight from the show and would get ‘featured’ over and over again on various shows over the past 2 decades.  This made the experience of reading  some of the backstory to the performance in the below article all the more poignant and interesting (not to mention it reminds me once again how much the artists from previous generations had to endure to get to where they are today).  Of course, the bit about the ‘irate fan’ also reminded me that some things never change – there were a lot of ‘crazy’ fans back then just as there are now…LOL.

Also, I found the piece about Cheung Hing Lung and how he got injured quite interesting because all these years, I don’t think many people knew the actual background story (I surely didn’t – in fact, I don’t even remember that segment from the show at all).  It makes sense now why Cheung Hing Leung left the Little Tigers group and why so few people even knew he existed (when he participated in the Little Tigers reunion tour a few years back, I had read a lot of comments from people who had no clue who he was – some were even harshly criticizing him for trying to ‘piggyback’ on the Little Tigers’ glory, which I felt was totally mean and uncalled for..).  I’m glad Cheung Hing Leung was able to tell his side of the story this time, though it probably isn’t going to have much impact on anything – but at least those of us who care finally know what happened.

Lastly, I do have to say that reading this article and looking through the pictures was a bit emotional for me – especially seeing that many of the artists who participated in that year’s event are no longer active in the industry and some have even left us forever (i.e. Barbara Yung, Roman Tam, Anita Mui, etc.).  On the one hand, it was fun and nostalgic to ‘relive’ the moments from that show (and I definitely enjoyed doing it), but at the same time, it served as a further reminder of how badly the HK entertainment industry has deteriorated over the years.

In any case….hope other fans of 80s era TVB shows enjoy reading this article!   :0)


Mingpao Special Feature:  Unearthing TVB’s “All Star Challenge” from 30 years ago – A look back at the 5 Tigers’ ‘historical’ first performance

Translation:  llwy12

One day, while searching through some archive photos, we [Mingpao’s reporters] came across a few rolls of film taken during rehearsals for one of TVB’s charity events from 30 years ago:  1983’s TVB All Star Challenge (星光熠熠勁爭輝).  Interestingly, the rolls of film that we found did not show any signs of being opened or edited, which usually means only one thing – the photographs were never ‘exposed’ prior to this point!

Upon asking around, a fellow colleague who was already employed at that time [back in the 80s] explained that the reason why the rehearsal photos didn’t get published back then essentially boiled down to a ‘timing’ issue:  since the All Star Challenge charity program had already aired on TV, the rehearsal photos were considered ‘old news’ that was not worth publishing anymore.

Now, with all that has happened over the past 30 years, this long forgotten ‘photo trove’ has undoubtedly increased significantly in value.  Therefore, let’s use these photos as an opportunity to reminisce about a show that featured the very first collaborative performance by TVB’s 5 Tigers as well as other sentimental, ‘historic’ moments such as a rare dance performance by late actress Barbara Yung (翁美玲) and her then boyfriend Kent Tong (湯鎮業); music legend Anita Mui (梅艷芳) in her ‘newcomer’ days posing as a ‘cheerleader’ trying to earn points for her team, etc.

TVB’s ‘grand’ production shows of the past were truly that – grand, splendid, and resounding!

Felix Wong reminisces about 5 Tigers’ first performance; Tony Leung chips his tooth

In early 1983, due to the departure of many first-line siu sangs [from the 70s era], TVB ‘announced’ their upcoming intention of heavily promoting 5 ‘new’ siu sangs:  Andy Lau (劉德華), Tony Leung (梁朝偉), Felix Wong (黃日華), Michael Miu (苗僑偉), and Kent Tong (湯鎮業) – the 5 of them would come together and be promoted as a ‘group’ called ‘TVB’s Five Tigers’.    In September 1983, the 5 Tigers made their official debut as a ‘group’ during TVB’s annual charity competition show, TVB All Star Challenge (星光熠熠勁爭輝):  they were featured in one of the show’s most anticipated main segments -- ‘Leaping and Surging Five Tigers’ (飛躍翻騰五虎將) -- during which they were slated to perform challenging acrobatic stunts to win points for their team.

“It was the very first performance that the 5 Tigers did together – of course I remember it!”  recounts Felix Wong with a smile.  He expressed that for their short 10 to 15 minute performance, the 5 of them practiced for close to 2 months:  “At the time, all 5 of us were in the middle of filming series too, so we could only get together to practice after work.  We would go practice on the rooftop of the old CTV building on Broadcast Drive [TN: close to where TVB studios was at the time] nearly every day and when the time got closer, we decided to stop working for the time being so we could focus entirely on practicing.”

With 5 vigorous, energetic youth ‘throwing’ each other around and performing risky stunts every day, of course injury was unavoidable:  “Tony was the one who got the most ‘severely’ injured – he was practicing a backflip and accidentally slammed his mouth into the table, resulting in one of his front teeth snapping in half.  We were scared and concerned because when we looked, half of the front tooth was really missing!  But with the date of the performance approaching, it would be impossible to get the tooth fixed before then, so the only option was to stick it back together.”  (Stick it back together?  How?)  “I believe he asked the dentist to stick something on the tooth to cover it up for the time being and then after the show, go back and get it fixed.” (We heard that you [Felix] injured your shoulder as well?)  “That’s nothing –only a small injury!  Andy was also injured – when he was practicing a somersault, he accidentally bit his tongue!”

The only one who didn’t injure himself in the process was Kent Tong:  “He was extremely careful and always considered safety first.  Prior to doing a somersault, he always had to make sure that the floormat was neat and tidy – such an ‘old fox’!  But hey, at least that way he couldn’t injure himself easily like the rest of us – we really should give him a ‘Safety Team Captain’ award!”

In terms of the ‘Best Performance Award’, Felix expressed that no other person deserved it more than Andy:  “He’s not afraid of difficult or exhaustive work;  in fact, when challenging tasks come up, he’s the first to volunteer for them – this is a good attitude to have!   For the ‘stone-breaking’ segment [TN:  the famous ‘highlight’ of the show where Andy gets 2 large slabs of stone broken on his chest], the company (TVB) asked if anyone wanted to do it – Andy was the first to raise his hand and say ‘I’ll do it!’”

Andy Lau reveals the ‘secret’ to stone-breaking segment; his first ‘taste’ of the price of fame

As the saying goes:  ‘In order to win, you need to have a competitive spirit.’  Indeed, Andy Lau’s ‘stone-breaking’ segment was truly the ‘highlight’ of the entire All Star Challenge show – seeing Master Kong To Hoi [TN:  famous stunt coordinator back in the 80s] slamming a huge hammer onto 2 slabs of stone lying atop Andy’s chest was undoubtedly a stunning scene:  “The company hoped to do something different and special this year – at first they thought about having me perform on a unicycle, but later we scrapped that idea because it wasn’t a fresh enough idea, plus it would take too much time to learn.  In the end, Master Kong suggested the ‘stone-breaking’ idea.”   Back in 1983, after the ‘historical’ performance, Andy accepted an interview with Mingpao Weekly during which he revealed the ‘secret’ to his performance:  “The ‘secret’ is really in choosing the type of stone to use – the ones we used for the performance were coarse granite, which is more brittle and easier to break apart.  If we had used regular granite, I would be dead!”

During rehearsals, we saw that Andy only had 1 piece of granite on his chest, however during the actual performance, the 1 piece turned into 2 pieces – Andy described this as ‘taking a gamble’:  “That night, we were scheduled to perform around 8:30pm and it wasn’t until 6pm or so that we decided to use 2 pieces of granite – the reason was because we felt 1 piece wasn’t convincing enough and this was pretty much our only chance to pull in a lot of points.  At the time, we only had 2 pieces of granite left, so we couldn’t practice ahead of time – all I could do was try putting both pieces on my chest to test the weight and take a gamble [that things will work out] during the actual performance.  To be honest, I really didn’t have much confidence.”

The combined weight of the 2 pieces of granite was more than 280 pounds, which was almost double Andy’s weight at the time (he weighed 147 pounds).  During the performance, he had to first expand his chest to support the weight, then use his hands to hold the granite in place:  “Master Kong told me that as soon as I felt the force of the hammer, I should breathe out a bit if I felt the granite becoming heavy on my chest – this would help distribute the force and also prevent injury internally.”  Even with all the advice and safety precautions, seeing the hammer come down on his chest was still a very scary moment:  “When we first practiced it, I would look away when the hammer came down – I was afraid to look.”  After the performance, Andy felt tired, but luckily didn’t feel ill in any way.

The efforts that the 5 Tigers put in proved to be worth it – not only did their team [the artists team] win the competition, they also received tremendous praise and accolades from the audiences.  Even the usually reserved Tony Leung couldn’t help but become excited at how well everyone reacted to their performance:  “After the performance, I may have looked a bit tired and scared, but in reality, I was very excited!  You know, the excitement stayed with me for 3 days straight – every time I closed my eyes, I would think back to that moment [the performance] and remember everything that happened very clearly…every move, every person who applauded, etc…..”

From that moment on, the 5 Tigers truly ‘took over’ and became the ‘pillars’ of TVB.  Even back then, in the early stages of their ‘popularity’, they already got a taste of the price they would have to pay for fame.  Andy recounts:  “That night of the performance, we only had ½ hour for dinner.  When the 5 of us went outside to go eat, we were greeted by close to 200 fans who were waiting to get autographs – we had to explain to them the time restrictions and then rush over to the nearby food area to eat.  When we returned, the fans were still waiting there hoping for autographs.  We realized that if we were to sign autographs for each person, it could take up to ½ hour, which would make us late and we’d get in trouble with the company, so we went back in without signing any autographs.”

Later that night, one of the workers handed the guys an envelope with ‘To Five Tigers’ written on it.  Inside was a letter that started off ‘Dear 5 Tigers’ – however the word ‘Dear’ was crossed out – the rest of the letter consisted of a ‘rant’ by an irate fan [TN: most likely one of the fans who had been waiting outside for autographs]: ‘Even Roman Tam (羅文) was able to autograph for us, yet you guys couldn’t?  Who do you 5 think you are?  You’re trash, annoying fools!’ -- included with the letter were shredded up 5 Tigers posters, photographs, etc.  At the time, Andy [and the rest of the Tigers] couldn’t understand why some fans could get so unreasonable:  “Why aren’t they able to empathize with us?  True, if they like us and support us, we do have an obligation to autograph for them, but if we don’t have time to do so right then, all we can do is tell them next time – some fans are very understanding of this.”

These types of difficulties and challenges that the Tigers faced on their paths to success were a big deal to them at that time, but looking back now, these were simply ‘trivial’ matters.

‘A speck of gold beats ten thousand specks of sand’;  Cheung Hing Lung saves Anita Mui from injury

TVB’s All Star Challenge (星光熠熠勁爭輝) charity show started back in 1981 as an annual fundraising event for HK’s Po Leung Kuk (保良局), a multi-faceted charity organization providing various services to the community.    The show is in a competition format whereby participating celebrities separate into ‘Singers Group’ and ‘Artists Group’ [TN:  ‘artist’ group back then always consisted of actors/actresses from the drama and non-drama departments as well as hosts] and put on various performances against each other – the judges panel consisted of 44 executives and donors from Po Leung Kuk who would press a button to determine which team wins each round.  After 4 years, the name of the show was changed (in 1985) to Platinum All Stars Shine on Po Leung (白金巨星耀保良) and still later, it was changed once again to All Star Gala Spectacular (星光熠熠耀保良), which is the name it currently uses.

As the saying goes:  ‘The nobility journeying out brings on wind and rain’.  This was surely the case with the All Star Challenge show that took place in 1983.  Originally, TVB had wanted to set up brightly lit lights at the entrance of the Lee Gardens stage [TN: the venue where the event took place] to strengthen the atmosphere, however the sudden onslaught of a major typhoon in HK during that time caused plans to be cancelled.  Luckily, the typhoon did not last too long, so the show itself did not end up getting affected.  In terms of ‘line-up’ [celebrities in attendance at the event], no doubt that the Singers group had an advantage, as the number of singers in attendance definitely outnumbered  the Artists group by far.  But, as the leader of the Artists group Ivan Ho (何守信) aptly stated, it was the quality of the performances that mattered, not the number of people:  “We are a small but efficient troop – it’s not about having the most people at all.  Don’t you know that one speck of gold can beat ten thousand specks of sand?”

Even though one of the main highlights of the show that night was the ‘debut’ of the Five Tigers, that didn’t prevent the rest of the artists from putting 100% effort into their performances.  In fact, the Artists group put on quite a few strong and refreshing performances that night, including ‘big brothers’ Patrick Tse (謝賢) and Adam Cheng (鄭少秋) collaborating on a ‘shadow dance’, Lydia Shum (沈殿霞) doing a ‘sexy little wildcat’ dance routine, and also popular couple Barbara Yung (翁美玲) and Kent Tong (湯鎮業) performing a dance segment together.  In the end, the Artists group easily beat the Singers group [led by Roman Tam (羅文)] to win the overall competition that night.

Music Queen Anita Mui (梅艷芳) also participated in the show that year, however since she was a newcomer back then (having won the New Talent Singing Competition only 1 year prior to that), her performance was quite limited – in fact, the 2 segments that she did participate in were group performances involving other singers from her team.   During the very last segment where the singers performed various dance moves from the past 100 years, a major accident occurred that may not have affected the show itself at the time, but did end up halting a singer’s career indefinitely -- Anita’s  fellow New Talent Competition teammate Cheung Hing Lung (蔣慶龍) was injured during one of the dance routines and had to be rushed to the hospital.  [TN:  Cheung Hing Lung was one of the original members of HK’s Little Tigers (小虎隊) along with Lam Lei (林利), William Hu (胡渭康) and Suen Ming Gwong (孫明光) but he left the group shortly after his injury].

At the time of the accident, the Media reports stated that during the last dance segment, Cheung Hing Lung was supposed to catch Anita when she was thrown towards him, but because of his severe nearsightedness, the strength he used wasn’t right and even though he did catch her, he ended up severely injuring his back.  Thinking back, Cheung Hing Lung expressed that he remembers the incident very clearly:  “It had absolutely nothing to do with my nearsightedness!   When the person threw Anita towards me, he didn’t use enough strength and the positioning wasn’t right either.  I saw the potential risk of injury, but thought to myself ‘It’s better that I get injured rather than Anita’, so I quickly changed position and stepped forward so I’d be able to successfully catch her.  Actually, the moment she landed on me, I could already feel that my back was severely injured – I could barely stand up straight and they almost had to carry me backstage.  I was immediately sent to the hospital for treatment.”

Turns out that Cheung Hing Lung had injured his backbone – in addition to staying in the hospital for a long period of time, he also had to endure 3 to 5 months of physical therapy before he completely healed.  Unfortunately, by that time, he had already missed the ‘golden’ opportunity of his career:  “Originally, that show [All Stars Challenge] was supposed to be a testing ground for the 4 of us [him, William, Lam Lei, and Suen Ming Gwong] in preparation to attend the upcoming Tokyo Music Festival, but because of my injury, our performance that night was cancelled.  I remember one day when Florence Chan (陳淑芬) [she was one of Capital Artists’ top execs at the time] came to visit me in the hospital, she told me: ‘I’m afraid we won’t be able to wait too long.  You may have to withdraw [from the group] and try other development opportunities instead.’  I felt very helpless!”

Cheung Hing Lung’s record company advised him to wait for other opportunities, but coming from a poor background, how long could he afford to wait?  After his contract with Capital Artists expired, he had no choice but to temporarily leave the entertainment industry and find a more steady job instead.  Asked whether Anita knew the truth of what had happened, Cheung Hing Lung replied:  “I don’t believe so.  I don’t’ blame anyone for what happened though – perhaps it was destined to be, it’s fate!”


  1. The right and bold strategy by TVB at that time to promote fresh blood and it paid off as 5 Tigers claimed widely popular then and marked TVB Golden Era. Currently, TVB is too old fashioned, depends on and on the veterans and failed to groom young talented actors to replace first line "expired" Siu Sang :p

    1. Actually I'd say the opposite that TVB focuses on promoting young actors but choose the wrong people to promote especially the female actresses!

      It does seem like after the whole Olympic 6 Stars/S4 things that TVB hasn't really promoted a group of new male actors at once. I do seem alot of potential lead actors but TVB's taking too long and slow to push them up such as Him Law, Vincent Wong, Oscar Leung, Matt Yeung, etc

    2. @Anonymous: Well, part of it too is that the management at TVB back then (during the Run Run Shaw era) was truly very good in that they knew how to run the station properly and they had an eye for talent….unlike the management today – both under the Mona Fong era as well as the new owner Charles Chan – who wouldn’t know what “talent” is if it landed in their laps!!!

      Yes, TVB is too old-fashioned to some extent, but I feel more in terms of its policies and the way they run the company more than anything else. For example, their method of 24-7 promotion for their artists is something that has not changed in decades – at some point, they need to realize that today’s audiences are different from the ones in the past….audiences are smarter now and more selective – sticking certain artists in our faces 24-7 in order to get them ‘recognized’ (and not just via television, but also via music and movies as well) is not going to work well anymore because sooner or later, we are going to get tired of them – especially if the artists they are trying to push don’t have any substance.

      At the end of the day, TVB’s antiquated policies are really going to be what leads to their demise if they continue to stand firm and refuse to budge. They need to loosen up on their restrictive policies and stop stifling creative freedom – plus start treating their employees better (meaning stop running a slave shop and actually put their artists’ well-being in front of their own needs for once – which includes treating them with dignity and respect!). If TVB is not willing to change in this area, it doesn’t matter how much talent they groom – it’s still going to be wasted effort.

    3. @sport3888: Yup...but even with that promotional tactic (i.e. promoting artists as a group), it also boils down to the management and whether they have an eye for talent as well as whether they make the right decisions or not - choosing the right artists to promote is only the first step. Even with the 5 Tigers for example - sure, whoever it was that made the decision to promote those 5 in particular definitely had an eye for talent and kudos to him/her for doing it...but unfortunately, management didn't seize on that opportunity properly because after the 5 Tigers got famous, TVB management immediately took steps to try to 'tie' the Tigers down and 'hog' them all for themselves (remember that 5 year contract dispute thing, which was pretty much the catalyst for why 3 of the 5 Tigers left). Sure, at the end of the day, we can argue that TVB is a 'business' and like all businesses, of course their goal will be to make the most money possible - but there are ways to do it without sacrificing the very artists that they are trying to keep. In many instances, if TVB was willing to 'loosen up' on their policies / contract terms and not be so freakin' restrictive (and greedy), they probably would be in a way better position right now.