Friday, May 6, 2016

Book Review series “Now and Then” (從零開始)  -- Revival and Poll

Back in 2010, I started a book review series on a set of 3 book compilations called “Now and Then” (從零開始).  The books are written by veteran Mingpao reporter Wong Lai Ling where she essentially compiles all the interviews she has done with numerous celebrities over the past 3 decades and adds her personal anecdotes to create a semi-biographical first-person account of her experiences with those celebrities.   She covers many aspects of the celebrity’s career as well as personal life, often including her own personal stories and background information on HK entertainment history.  As a means of clarification, Wong Lai Ling is NOT the average unethical entertainment gossip reporter that we see way too many of nowadays -- she was actually a pretty reputable and respected reporter back then and still is even now.  I feel this clarification is important, especially in this day and age when it’s so easy to become jaded with the endless trash and false reports that the gossip rags dish out daily about celebrities big and small.  I don’t want people getting the wrong impression that this is just another one of those gossip rag compilations because it is absolutely NOT!  Granted, some of the stuff mentioned in the books may not be 100% true, since it IS from a reporter’s point of view after all, plus there will undoubtedly be certain biases and perspectives that not everyone will agree with (i.e.:  I had read some Anita Mui fans’ comments that they didn’t like how the segment on Anita talked more about her family than about her career – personally, I didn’t have a problem with it, as I felt the way the author put that segment together actually helped to highlight even more how great of a person Anita was despite having such a horrible family).  At the end of the day, each person’s interpretation and opinion will be different and there really isn’t a right or wrong in my opinion….

I will say that one of the things I appreciate about this book series is the fact that Wong Lai Ling tries, as much as possible, to include all or part of the original interviews that she had done with the celebrities themselves (so readers can hear from those celebrities directly) – she also provides background information on each interview, which helps chronicle each celebrity’s thoughts and feelings during that time and in some cases, even helps to explain why some of them made certain decisions that they did.  It pretty much reads like an extended story, complete with pictures from Mingpao’s photo vault that accompany each chapter in a chronological timeline format.

Another thing I like about this book series as opposed to other entertainment books released in recent years is that its focus (for the most part, with the exception of the 3rd book) is on veteran entertainers from HK’s ‘golden age’ time period, written by a reporter who actually experienced that era and knew these celebrities personally.  In recent years, I’ve seen too many newer reporters who have no knowledge of that era outside of what others have told them -- they try to write about these celebrities and oftentimes, the stuff they put out lacks depth and substance (some of it even amounts to mere ‘hearsay’, since many of those reporters weren’t even born yet when most of these celebrities were most active in the industry).   Having been one of those people who personally experienced that ‘golden era’ of HK entertainment myself, it kind of irks me to read watered-down accounts of that era from people who will never understand how things were truly like back then.  This is why I love reading stuff from veteran reporters such as Wong Lai Ling (as well as her other counterparts at MP such as Tsui Yong Yong, Charles Chak, etc.), as it brings back so many great memories of that era and essentially takes me on a fantastic journey down memory lane.

There are a total of 3 books in the series and each book focuses on 10 celebrities (for a total of 30 celebrities, though some of the books have ‘bonus’ material that is in addition to the regular content – such as the third and final book of the series where Wong Lai Ling writes a special tribute to Leslie Cheung, whom she had known for over 20 years and was close friends with – she had actually already written about him in the first book, but since the third book was written around the 7th anniversary of his death, she decided to put in a special chapter in honor of him).

I started writing a review series for these books on my blog back in 2010 and got through a handful of celebrities, but then I started getting really busy with life and work, so never got around to continuing the series.  In addition, with the amount of detail in the books and how picky I am about my writing and translations, doing this review series was actually quite draining on me, which is another reason why I haven’t picked it back up the past few years.  With all that said though, I’ve received a tremendous number of inquiries about the series the past couple years, with the interest level peaking especially in the last 2 to 3 years due to the HK entertainment industry reaching such a dismal state and more and more people jumping onto the nostalgia bandwagon (which, of course, I don’t blame them for since there truly is nothing much worth ‘following’ nowadays in the HK entertainment industry). 

Because of the above, I feel that I owe it to the dedicated readers and followers of my blog to revive this review series again.  However, instead of continuing where I left off 5 years ago, I would like to get feedback from you guys, on which celebrities you most want to read about.  Just to be clear though, there will be a few caveats, as there are celebrities that I really don’t care much about, so I prefer not to waste time writing about them, especially given how much time it takes for me to get one of these posts done (though being soft-hearted that I am, lol, if there are celebrities in this category that you absolutely are dying to read about, let me know and I might consider doing a brief, condensed version – but it will be way lower priority).

Here’s the list of celebrities featured in each of the 3 books.  The ones I already wrote about are in BOLD (planning to hyperlink the posts that I wrote, but won’t get a chance to until later – meanwhile, if you’re interested in reading these, please click on the ‘Now and Then’ tag in the sidebar to access the posts). 

Please feel free to indicate your choices and any other feedback in the comments section.

**Note:  Celebrity names are not listed in any particular order!

Book One:

Jacky Cheung (I only did a partial writeup though – I plan on doing a more in-depth piece later on)

Carina Lau

Alan Tam

Leslie Cheung (I will probably update later with the additional ‘special tribute’ that Wong Lai Ling wrote a few years after the first one)

Wong Kar Kui (Beyond)

Jackie Chan

Sammi Cheng

Teresa Teng

Veronica Yip

Brigitte Lin

Book Two:

Tony Leung Chiu Wai

Maggie Cheung Man Yuk

Andy Lau

Cherie Chung

Chow Yun Fat

Faye Wong

Danny Chan

Shu Qi

Stephen Chow

Anita Mui

Book Three:

Lydia Shum

Eason Chan

Sylvia Chang

Josephine Hsiao

Cecilia Cheung

Daniel  Wu

Sandy Lam

Joey Wong

Rosamund Kwan

Anthony Wong Yiu Ming

*plus special tribute to Leslie Cheung


  1. Ehm where can I get these books (online store, etc) ?

    And thank you for the translations. I have read all of them :)


    1. @fangorn:  I ordered mine from Yesasia back when they were first released, since I don’t live in HK so can’t get them directly from the bookstores.  The only thing is that the books came out several years ago (first one came out in 2008 I believe) so not sure if all 3 books will still be in stock or even in print for that matter.  Regardless, probably doesn’t hurt to try.  Good luck! :-)

  2. Hi, If you don't mind, I'd like to read about Andy Lau n in Tony Leung part, I still curious why at first, Kitty did not have a good impression of Tony at all ? also in the book, Did Tony say somethink about Kitty?

    1. @Anonymous: Hi there! I actually saw the question you had posted on the Tony Leung post -- sorry, didn't get a chance yet to go pull the book and look it up (since it's been a few years since I last read it). I vaguely recall that it had something to do with Tony's shy personality, but don't remember for sure....once I get a chance to look it up I'll let you know.

    2. @Anonymous: Ok, so I re-read the segment about Tony and Kitty in the book -- unfortunately, it's the shortest segment out of the entire chapter about Tony, so not as much detail as I'd like. The book says that prior to working with Tony (they collaborated for the first time in 1986's New Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre), Kitty didn't have a good impression because she thought he was like the typical young guys at the time who partied and played and didn't take their jobs seriously. In fact, the bad impression was so deep that the first week of filming, when Tony repeatedly offered to take her home, she refused each time (though she also admitted that part of the reason she refused too was because of Tony's tremendous popularity at the time and she didn't want people to think that she was trying to use him for promotion). It wasn't until a few weeks into their collaboration when Kitty got a chance to really see what kind of a person Tony was that she realized she was wrong about him -- he was actually a kind-hearted, compassionate person who was easy to get along with and was always willing to share his acting experience. She said that during filming, she noticed that Tony seemed constantly unhappy whenever the cameras stopped rolling, so her attitude softened and she finally decided to accept a ride from him...they would ride together every day and chit chat and that's how she got to know him and eventually fell in love with him.

      In terms of whether Tony said anything about Kitty in the book, the answer is no, which is kind of interesting because when the book talked about Margie and Carina, there were quotes from Tony about both of the segment about his relationship with Kitty though, all the 'quotes' were from Kitty and not Tony...

    3. Thank you very much for your answers, so nice of you.
      Kitty n Tony is my favorite copuple now and then :)
      n I enjoy reading your blog :)

    4. Hmmm I actually wonder why Tony repeatedly offered to take Kitty home, there's also Sheren and Maggie in there, maybe Tony has already had a thing for Kitty, just my thought :)

  3. Josephine Hsiao, Stephen Chow and Alan Tam would be an interesting read. I'm really impressed with your blog. It's always well written and brings back a lot of memory.

    1. @TC: Thanks! Definitely appreciate the compliments! :-)

      Those 3 are great choices for sure, though I'll admit that I was a little surprised with the Josephine Hsiao pick, since most people I've talked to in forums and such in recent years have no clue who she is and I've had to explain each time, so didn't think anyone would choose her. Happy to see her on your guys' list though, as she is one of the female artists I respect the most in the HK entertainment industry and her story is definitely very inspiring!