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!
Jacky Cheung (I only did a partial writeup though – I plan on doing a more in-depth piece later on)
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)
Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Maggie Cheung Man Yuk
Chow Yun Fat
Anthony Wong Yiu Ming
*plus special tribute to Leslie Cheung