Sunday 22 February 2009

I want to be a radio DJ for the interesting love life

Two radio DJs, two break-ups. One with his second wife, the other with what seems like his 98th radio station.

On Valentine's eve, Glenn Ong announced his separation from Jamie Yeo, a former DJ herself, after divorcing another DJ, Kate Reyes, in 2003.

Three days before Glenn's bombshell, Joe Augustin was fired from Power98FM eight months after getting fired from Radio 91.3FM after having worked at practically every English-language radio station in the country.

These guys get around.

Still, I wish I could be like them - talented, funny and crazy rich from all those emcee-ing gigs. That's where the money is, you know.

Plus local DJs have such interesting love lives.

Daniel Ong dated fellow DJ Jean Danker before marrying a former Miss Singapore, Jamie Teo.

Mark Richmond married and divorced fellow DJ Vernetta Lopez before marrying someone closer to his height, Beatrice Chia.

Hoping to get in on the action, I once actually auditioned to be a radio DJ. I figured, hey, I liked music, I spoke English - what other qualifications do I need?

During the voice test - don't ask me why - I decided that the way to impress was to sound like Patrick Stewart from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Needless to say, I didn't get the job, although I'm not sure if it was because I sounded like a Federation starship captain or because I tried and failed to sound like one. Maybe I should've gone for William Shatner instead.

Imagine my confusion years later, when I met Glenn for the first time, he said he was a fan of mine. For what, I don't know. My bad Patrick Stewart impression? The encounter was so strange that I've avoided him ever since.

And now that he's separated from Jamie Yeo, whom I've worked with on a TV show, bumping into him would be even more awkward.

I would also be uncomfortable around around Mark and Vernetta because of their divorce. Their wedding dinner was the funnest I've ever attended, if for no other reason than I was seated at the same table as Paik Choo.

But after Mark and Vernetta broke up, my fond memory of that dinner has been somewhat tainted and I feel this odd tension like I should break up with Paik Choo too.

Fortunately, I have no such issue with Joe, who, despite his job-hopping, sometimes not by choice, at least didn't marry (and divorce) another DJ.

But it's hard to feel sorry for Joe because unlike me, I know this is a guy won't have trouble landing another job even in these tough times.

And I can't wait to see who Glenn marries next.

As Captain Jean-Luc Picard would say: "Engage."

- Published in The New Paper, 22 February 2009

UPDATE: Glenn Ong to marry Jean Danker and Joe Augustin has rejoined MediaCorp Radio

UPDATE UPDATE: Who is 'B' in Vernetta Lopez's new book?

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Living in the past: '90s rewind on Channel 5

Even before the MediaCorp sitcom 80's Rewind won a silver world medal for situation comedy at the 2009 New York Festivals, Channel 5 was already working on the sequel called '90s Rewind.

Except it wasn't just a TV series, but a series of local TV shows bearing remarkable resemblence to old Channel 5 programmes from the '90s.

Even the channel's new tagline "Come Home to 5", launched in May 2008, was resurrected from the decade that gave us the Macarena.

Then, three months later in August last year, Channel 5 debuted Singapore OK, basically a revival of the '90s infotainment programme Hey, Singapore! but without the old show's dimpled host Lisa Ang, who would later become VR Man's sidekick before joining and quitting Channel News Asia.

Currently on Channel 5 is the musical showcase Live 'N' Loaded that seems to have the recycled the set and production values from the 1994 variety show Live On 5, which also featured local artistes while introducing the unsuspecting world to an ex-Haw Par Villa performer named Gurmit Singh.

After premiering in January in Live On 5's old Tuesday 8:30pm time slot, Live 'N' Loaded has since been relegated to the graveyard time slot of Thursday 11pm and is no longer telecast live to air.

And who says we don't support local music?

Recently, you may have caught the extended trailers on Channel 5 for the two upcoming dramas Red Thread, an overwrought soap opera starring Adrian Pang with a posh accent, and Fighting Spiders, set in 1960s Singapore.

What does that sweeping shot of the yacht in the Red Thread trailer bring to mind? That's right, it's Masters Of The Sea all over again.

What do the clips of uniformed schoolboys with "slope" haircuts in the Fighting Spiders trailer remind you of? That's right, it's Growing Up redux.

If only they exhumed Triple Nine as well, it would mark the return of Singapore's first three English-language drama series on Channel 5 from the '90s. Come back, James Lye, all is forgiven (except VR Man).

Is it a coincidence that Kenneth Liang who used to run Channel 5 in the '90s is currently back running the channel again?

(Update: On 11 March 2009, it was announced that Mr Liang will relinquish his appointment as Executive Vice President, TV Programming and Production at Channel 5 to assume the role of Director, International Productions. He has since left MediaCorp.)

There was a time (in the '90s?) when Channel 5 would be accused of copying foreign shows - Masters Of The Sea was a copy of '80s soaps Dallas and Falcon Crest, Growing Up was a copy of The Wonder Years and Three Rooms was a copy of Friends.

Nowadays, the channel can be accused of copying from itself.

At least no one can accuse MediaCorp of not recycling.

- Published in The New Paper, 17 February 2009

Sunday 15 February 2009

Ladyboy does fine: May the breast man win

So I was shooting the breeze with this ladyboy I met at a bar in the beach resort town of Pattaya, Thailand, while on shore leave.

I will admit that I didn’t know “she” was a “he” when I first saw her – I mean “him”. Not that I was inclined to re-enact the love story from The Crying Game. (M Butterfly, maybe.)

Around 20 years old with a fair complexion and wearing a T-shirt, denim skirt and minimal make-up, he looked like the sweet girl-next-door type.

Except that he was working at a bar, which wasn’t very sweet. And he wasn’t a girl, next door or otherwise.

He even showed me old photos of himself as a skinny Thai schoolboy – in uniform and everything – before he decided he wanted to be pretty.

He was on hormone replacement therapy, but hadn’t gone for the, uh ... final cut yet, so to speak.

I jokingly asked if he was going to get really big breasts. To my surprise, he said he wasn’t getting any breast implants at all.

“Why?” I asked, confounded by his rejection of my favourite female erogenous zone.

“What’s the point of becoming a women if you don’t get breasts?” I argued. “They’re the best part! Look at the other ladyboys. They all have huge boobs.”

“That’s why I don’t want them,” he explained. “I don’t want to look like a ladyboy.”
Oh. That actually made sense.

How ironic, I mused, that the much sought-after twin props that make a woman a woman are also what make a man a ladyboy.

“But how are you going to attract men?” I asked. “We like big breasts.”

“Oh, I already have a boyfriend,” he said. “He’s an architect in Japan. He likes me the way I am.”

I was impressed. How many architects could there be on the planet Earth with a partiality for flat-chested pre-op transsexual prostitutes?

And my ladyboy acquaintance here managed to nab one of them.

It just goes to show that there’s someone for everyone in this world – even if you don’t have a couple of Dolly Partons on you.

And the place to find that someone is in Thailand.

Now isn’t that a lovely and reassuring thought for the day after Valentine’s?

- Published in The New Paper, 15 February 2009


would just like to say that your articles are really quite humourous and i look forward to reading them each week..keep up the good work!



Thursday 12 February 2009

Looking for sex and glamour? Become a teacher!

You know, I’ve always wanted to be a rock star (which partly explains my hair).

But after seeing the Ministry of Education (MOE) scholarship ad in The Straits Times last month with educators posing in black leather jackets and boots, I realised that the real glamour is in teaching.

And I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. In Parliament on Tuesday, MP Denise Phua of Jalan Besar GRC expressed concern that the ad “over-glamorised” the teaching profession.

And let me tell you, if there’s one major problem that’s plaguing the teaching profession today, it’s the glamour.

Your students hound you to sign their autograph books at the end of every school year, MTV keeps calling you because they want to feature your HDB flat on MTV Cribs, and don’t even get me started on the paparazzi.

The high pay, the long school holidays, the iron rice bowl – it’s a gruelling jet-setting, red-carpet lifestyle that only the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie can relate to.

But having never been a teacher before in my life, I can assure you that it’s not all “money for nothin’ and get your chicks for free”.

Unless you’re that 32-year-old female teacher who on Monday pleaded guilty to having sex with an underaged male student.

Then you get something else that rhymes with “chicks” for free.

A teacher like that is, of course, every straight teen boy’s fantasy (and nightmare if the teacher is male).

Who needs SDU when we’ve got MOE?

The trick is to wait a few years for your student to reach legal age before hooking up. It also helps if you’re not already married and the student won’t threaten to kill you and your family when you want to break up.

Besides sex with students, teachers also enjoy other privileges that we common folk can only envy, like Teachers’ Day.

I mean, do I get a Columnists’ Day? Have the editors ever gone up to the assembly hall stage to perform a special song and dance dedicated to me? Never!

And then there’s the sham that is Children’s Day. Oh, we all pretend that it’s for the kids, but come on, ultimately it’s just another day off for the teachers.

Even rock stars don’t get a Rock Stars’ Day.

And that was why I decided to put aside my plans to become the next Jonas brother and go into teaching instead – until I found out that I had to do some actual teaching.

Oh well, at least I still have my Guitar Hero game on Xbox.

- Unpublished

Sunday 8 February 2009

Good service is welcomed, but low prices even more so


I still feel a little unnerved whenever I’m assaulted by this forced greeting as I step into a Giordano/Bossini/Hang Ten/IP Zone store.

And I’d be startled again when I leave the shop and someone shouts, “Thank you! Come again!” which almost makes me feel guilty for not buying a $8 T-shirt that half the population already own.

I hope this is not the kind of “service” that the Government hopes to encourage with the $100 million fund it announced last week to raise service standards.

But I guess it’s better than entering a “high-end” shop and being greeted by a cold hard stare that hisses: “You can’t afford anything here. Go back to Giordano/Bossini/Hang Ten/IP Zone where you belong.”

That’s still not as bad as Mustafa, where every customer is treated like a potential shoplifter.

Even after you have paid for something, the surly cashier will place your purchase in a plastic bag and then close it up tightly with a cable tie that can only be removed with a bolt cutter. This presumably is to prevent you from sneaking any unpaid merchandise into the plastic bag.

Once I went to Mustafa with my wife and was stopped at the entrance by a security guard who said that before he could let me in, he had to secure my knapsack with the aforementioned cable tie.

I said okay and asked if he was going to bind my wife’s tote bag as well. To my surprise, the guard said no because my wife was (and reportedly still is) female. It was the guys they didn’t trust.

What? So Mustafa was not only zealous and somewhat low-tech in preventing shoplifting, but they were also gender-biased? Since when do women not steal? (They steal my heart all the time.)

But was this going to stop me from shopping at Mustafa ever again? No, because what’s a little misplaced sexism and surly service as long as you can get low prices and an insane variety of stuff in one place?

Remember when food outlets were required to display the grade they received for their hygiene?

When was the last time you actually paid attention to the grade? Did you stop eating at your favourite hawker stall because it was given a lowly C grade? Of course not.

Hygiene and service are all well and good, but other factors like value for money and taste also matter.

So what’s a little food poisoning now and then?

- Published in The New Paper, 8 February 2009

UPDATE: And the ‘baddest’ shopping centre in Singapore is...

Sunday 1 February 2009

In good times or bad, give me money or I'll go naked

You know the recession has really hit home when you lose not only the shirt off your back, but your pants and skivvies too – and then walk around Holland Village with your equally under-dressed female companion.

And if you’ve also lost your home along with your threads, the police will provide a roof above your head – at least until you’re released on bail.

Despite the economic downturn – or because of it – the Government has managed to find a way to still give us some goodies in the new Budget, like doubling the GST credits.

Except they’re not called “goodies” this year. They're called "measures".

“Goodies” probably sounds too festive and heaven forbid, anyone should get too festive during Chinese New Year. There is a recession after all.

As the annual Budget is usually announced around CNY, there was a time when it was called a Hongbao Budget. Actually, that was only last year.

Now, less than 12 months later, it’s called the decidedly less festive “Resilience” Package. Which I guess sounds better than “The Global Economy Is Shot To Hell And We’ll All Screwed” Package.

To keep the CNY spirit, just imagine the Resilience Package coming in a giant red packet – since we’re going to be in the red anyway as the Budget is expected to go into deficit.

But let me get this straight:

When times are bad, the Budget provides financial relief in the form of tax rebates and additional GST credits.

When times were good, like last year when there was a budget surplus, the Government shared the bounty in the form of tax rebates and Growth Dividends.

I don’t mean to look a gift ox in the mouth, but if the Government is giving us cash in good times as well as bad, when will it not give us money?

If the Government doesn’t give us money when the economy is doing badly, we would complain that it’s not helping us through these tough times.

If the Government doesn’t give us money when the economy is doing well, we would complain that it’s not distributing the wealth.

What is the Government to do?

All I know is if I don’t get another Government hand-out in next year’s Budget whatever it’s called – Hongbao, Resilience, Little Nyonya – I’ll be walking around Holland Village naked in protest.

Get your camera phones ready.

- Published in The New Paper, 1 February 2009