Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Leslie Cheung – 7 things you didn’t know about the Canto-pop icon, actor and LGBT pioneer

The youngest of 10 children from a modest family, he overcame early setbacks to become one of Hong Kong’s most-loved sons, only to succumb to depression 17 years ago

It has been 17 years since Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing passed away, tragically killing himself after suffering from depression. Although he was only 46 when he died, Cheung lived an incredible life – he was a Canto-pop icon, an award-winning actor recognised around the world and an 
On the anniversary of his passing, April 1, it is fitting to pay tribute to this incredible Hongkonger. Whether you’re a diehard fan who knows every word to every song or someone who only recognises him from Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild, here are some facts you may not have known about “Gor Gor”.
He initially had no interest in show business
Cheung grew up in a large family, the youngest of 10 children. His father, Cheung Wut-hoi, was a tailor in Central of some renown, who had made suits for the likes of Marlon Brando, Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock. As a result, at university Cheung studied textile management. Cheung admitted all this in an interview with RTHK, saying, “Fate played a very important role. If you look at all the courses I was studying, they had nothing to do with show business. If I really had an interest in show business, I would have studied music when I was overseas, but that was not the case. In the end, there was no way of escaping my destiny to be in show business.”
His local idols were Cantonese opera actors
Cheung had many “overseas idols” that he confessed to admiring. The likes of Jane Fonda, Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand were among those he name-checked in his youth. Movies more than music were where he found his idols.
Closer to home, the performers he liked best were Cantonese opera actors, specifically Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin, since his nanny frequently took him to watch operas when he was growing up.
He began his musical career singing American Pie

In 1977, Cheung took the first steps of his professional career by entering the Asian Amateur Singing Contest held by Rediffusion Television (the future ATV). At the time he had been performing with a folk band called Onyx – “which stands for a unique and brilliant black stone” – and so he went with the familiar Don McLean song American Pie, even though he was aware that the typically seven to eight minute song would have to be truncated for television. Famously, Cheung did not win and had to be content with second place.
He was initially a flop as a singer

I remember well that my singing career at the early stage was like ‘a person running into a rock’, full of despair and obstacles.”Leslie Cheung
Despite the stardom he would go on to achieve, Cheung was not initially popular as a professional singer. He received criticisms that he was immature and had a “chicken-like voice”. At a pop folk music festival, which also featured The Wynners, a group led by Alan Tam, another Canto-pop star in the making, Cheung was booed offstage.
“The audience shouted at me, saying ‘Get off the stage!’,” Cheung later recalled. “It was the first time I performed in public after the singing contest. In those days when everything was full of uncertainty … I remember well that my singing career at the early stage was like ‘a person running into a rock’, full of despair and obstacles.”
It took eight years before Cheung felt popular enough to headline his own personal concert.
He was a generous philanthropist
Despite coming from a fairly middle-class background, Cheung was generous with his money when he finally hit it big. When an earthquake struck Taiwan in 1999 Cheung joined a charity fundraiser, and after trying some fried rice cooked by Chan Po-chu, he immediately donated HK$250,000 (US$32,250). Equally impressive is the fact that he donated all the profits from his platinum-selling album Salute to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Following his death Cheung’s family established the Leslie Cheung Memorial Scholarship at the institution to help encourage outstanding students as well as to help students from poor families.
In his early acting career he made sure to applaud his performances when in the cinema
According to Hong Kong writer and socialite Eunice Lam, Cheung used to applaud his own acting when he was getting started in movies. She recalled, “Every time when he saw himself appearing on the big screen, he would clap his hands happily. I asked him, ‘Why did you clap your hands every time when you saw yourself?’ He said naively, ‘If I do not clap first, who will? I have to lead them to do so.’ Really – when the audience heard the clapping sound coming from [the balcony], they followed suit.”
He directed only one film
Despite being the star actor in numerous films, Cheung only ever took the director’s reigns once. This was for a non-profit, anti-smoking film following the government’s decision to name him an anti-smoking ambassador. The film, From Ashes to Ashes, starred Cheung alongside fellow icons 
Anita Mui
 and Karen Mok. Nearly 40 minutes long, the film focuses on parents (Cheung and Mok) who are stressed by their work and smoke a lot to unwind. The unfortunately side effect is their child getting cancer from their second-hand smoke.

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