Sunday 26 July 2009

Remembering Fiona Xie when she was 'nobody'

Zoe Tay said she was “just sexy”, and that men love her and women hate her.

I can’t speak for women, but as a man, I don’t exactly love Fiona Xie. And no one is “just” sexy – Fiona is also bilingual

I remember the first time I saw Fiona. It was back in 2000 and she was hanging around the Phua Chu Kang rehearsal studio at MediaCorp.

“Cute, but a bit short,” I opined silently to myself. “Who is she and why is she hanging around outside the PCK rehearsal studio?”

We made eye contact and ... that was it.

I learnt later that she was acting in the Channel 5 sitcom as a PCK client named Mrs Lopez. So for a long time after that, I believed she was a married Eurasian woman in her 30s.

I only found out her name after I heard about her rape scene in the Channel 5 drama A War Diary about a year later. (Yes, local dramas were big on rape scenes even back then.)

Hey, that was the chick I saw hanging around outside the PCK rehearsal studio! But for some reason, I still thought she was a married Eurasian woman in her 30s.

I only met Fiona for the first time rather unexpectedly about a couple of years later when I went to Goodwood Park Hotel to chat with Eric Khoo about possibly doing a project together. (I had a brief cameo in Eric’s first feature Mee Pok Man.)

I showed up at one of the hotel’s swanky F & B outlets only to find Eric chilling in a booth with Robin Leong and Fiona, whom I gathered were an item at the time. Both had just appeared in Eric's football movie One Leg Kicking.

Of course, by then, everyone knew who Fiona was. She had made her name in the Channel 8 sitcom My Genie and even returned to PCK to guest star as Genie.

Eric introduced us and it was I could do not to blurt out: “Remember me? I saw you hanging around outside the PCK rehearsal studio a few year ago when you were nobody!”

I just kept my mouth shut. Man, it was awkward. Or perhaps it was sexual tension.

It became even more tense for me years later when after an unwelcomed turn of events, I suddenly found myself the executive producer of the second season of Maggi & Me starring Adrian Pang and who else but the erstwhile Mrs Lopez.

When I met her during the show’s production, Fiona commented that I didn’t talk very much. I wondered if she recalled our two previous explosive encounters.

So amid speculation why she pulled out of the upcoming Channel 8 drama Together at the last minute, let me clear something up once and for all: Fiona is not actually a married Eurasian woman in her 30s.

She is only in her 20s.

- Published in The New Paper, 26 July 2009

2016 UPDATE: Fiona Xie to make local TV return in August following six-year absence

A post shared by -fiona xie- (@xplacidacidx) on

Sunday 19 July 2009

I see your shaved head and raise you two eyebrows

Two Sundays ago, about 1,000 people showed up at Velocity@Novena Square to get their head shaved for the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF).

I wanted to be one of them, but then I found out that I had to donate a minimum of $30 to CCF before they would even raise an electric shaver to my noggin.

According to the CCF website, this was because in previous years, people had taken advantage of the annual Hair For Hope event to get a free haircut.

And thus my devious plan to get a free haircut was cunningly thwarted.

You know what this tells me? Merely getting your head shaved for charity is not enough.

This is especially true for Singapore men, most of whom have already suffered the unkindest cut when they entered national service.

Also, nowadays a shaved head can be considered cool. Just look at celebrities like Bruce Willis and Chris Daughtry (but not Britney Spears).

So how can we up the ante for next year’s Hair For Hope?

Let me share with you a story my wife loved telling her friends to show how idiotic her husband was.

One day, she returned home and was shocked to find that I had come back from the barber’s with my head cleanly shaved. At this point, her friends drew a collective yawn. “Yah, so?”

My wife then added I had also shaved my eyebrows.

Her friends squealed with disbelief. “Oh my god! Why? What was he thinking?”

My wife explained that I had looked in the bedroom mirror at my shaved head and said to myself, “I still look too good.” And so I took a razor to my eyebrows.

Her friends laughed until they cried.

Shaving your head was one thing, but to intentionally shave your eyebrows took a whole new level of stupidity.

I regretted it almost immediately. I knew the hair on my head could always grow back, but since this was the first time I had erased my eyebrows, I was afraid I might be browless for the rest of my life.

Because my wife didn’t want to be married to an extraterrestrial, she penciled in some eyebrows but that just made me look like a transvestite from outer space.

Fortunately, my eyebrows did grow back. And you know what? I’m willing to shave them and my head again – for a good cause.

Plus I challenge everyone out there to do the same.

(Of course, you don’t have to shave both your eyebrows, but if you shave only one side, you’ll just end up looking weird.)

After all, don’t cancer patients in chemotherapy lose their eyebrows along with their hair? This will help us better understand the ordeal they go through.

But I’m just not giving the 30 bucks. This is how far I’d go for a free haircut.

- Published in The New Paper, 19 July 2009

Monday 13 July 2009

Ad guru Neil French shares a secret over lunch

A number of years ago, I had lunch with Neil French.

You may not have heard of him, but he was - and still is - like the Michael Jackson of advertising copy. Like the King of Pop, this king of ads has won countless awards and is no stranger to controversy.

A larger-than-life ad man, the Brit made his mark with ground-breaking work in the '80s and '90s when he was based in Singapore.

In 2005, he left his position as the worldwide creative director of WPP Group amid uproar over sexist comments he made at an event called "A Night With Neil French". When asked why more women didn't make it to the top in the advertising profession, he replied it was because "they're crap". The word "suckle" was also bandied about.

My lunch with him took place some time before that infamous incident. It was the first and last time I had ever spoken to him. It was so long ago, I don't even remember the purpose of the meeting now. I think I might have been fishing for a job.

Perhaps it was to provide an anecdote for this article.

Anyway, just like today, there was some furore over some other ad campaign at the time.

Mr French wasn't involved in the campaign, but I asked the ad guru how an ad agency would react to such negative public response to its campaign.

He leaned forward and whispered: "Let me tell you a secret."

I leaned forward to hear better. "It's the Holy Grail," he said.

I didn't quite understand. This was long before The Da Vinci Code came out, so I wasn't thinking of Mary Magdalene.

Mr French explained that every ad agency was secretly gleeful when its ad campaign received public complaints because with the huge amount of advertising messages out there, controversy could help an ad cut through all the noise.

In other words, bad publicity is better than no publicity.

I wasn't sure if Mr French was yanking my chain, but because he was Neil French, I assumed he knew what he was talking about. Again, this was before the "crap" remark years later.

I thought it would've been impertinent of me to argue that sometimes, the controversy might be remembered, but not the product.

For instance, remember the jaw-dropping Zoe Tay's "I swallow" ad a couple of years ago? Yes, but can you name the product she claimed to have swallowed? Neither can I.

It would've also been presumptious of me to point out that courting controversy risks damaging the brand image.

For instance, back to the Zoe Tay ad again, would any mainstream brand (apart from Burger King) want to be associated with fellatio?

Unfortunately, Zoe Tay proclaimed her dietary habits some time after my meeting with Mr French, so I couldn't use her as an argument.

Also, I wanted Mr French to pay for lunch. To me, that was the Holy Grail.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 July 2009

Sunday 12 July 2009

Watermelon was my downfall in eating contest 22 years ago

It happened over two decades ago, but the humiliation of the defeat still haunts me to this day.

I was an underwater medic trainee at the Naval Diving Unit (NDU) in Sambawang Camp. NDU was celebrating its anniversary with a sort of mini games day. One of the games was an eating contest.

Because I looked like someone who could eat a lot, I was roped in to be part of the three-man team representing the medical centre. When the contest began, the first food I attacked was the slices of watermelon.

Now I need to describe these watermelon slices carefully because they changed my life. The hard inedible green skin of the fruit had been cut away, but some of the white part between the green skin and the edible red fleshy part remained.

As far as I knew, to win the contest, the rule was all the food had to be eaten. So naturally, I started eating the whole watermelon slice – the white part included.

The trouble was everyone else was eating only the red part and throwing away the leftover white part. I thought this was cheating because most of the strewn white parts still had some red parts attached.

This of course meant that everyone else was polishing off the watermelon much faster than I was and moving on to the other food.

When my teammate saw that I was still working on the watermelon, he yelled at me furiously with his mouth full: “What are you doing? Don’t eat the white part!”

So I stopped eating the white part, but it was too late. My team came in last – all because of me. I had let the medical centre down.

Today, 22 years later, I'm still asking myself: “Why did I eat the white part? Why did I eat the white part?”

So when I heard about the Botak Massive Burger Eating Contest – finally, a chance to redeem myself?

Organised by Botak Jones, this contest aims to find the masochist who can eat the Massive Sunrise Burger – a 220g beef patty, cheese, bacon, two fried eggs and a heart attack stuffed between two sesame seed buns – in the shortest time possible.

The record so far is 1 minute and 12 seconds. The final round will be held this Wednesday evening at Botak Jones' Toa Payoh outlet.

But because of my 22-year-old shame, I chickened out of joining the challenge. Instead, last week, I asked a colleague to time me eating the massive burger.

This colleague, by the way, has already made it to the final round with a time of 4 minutes and 6 seconds. I figured if I could beat his time, all the watermelon nightmares would go away.

My massive burger-eating time? 6 minutes and 27 seconds. Not even close.

So in addition to bad dreams about fruit, my nightmares now also come with an entrée plus a side of coleslaw and spicy fries.

No wonder I wake up every morning with such horrific flatulence.

- Published in The New Paper, 12 July 2009

Sunday 5 July 2009

10 real reasons so few AYG tickets have been sold

Fewer than 500 turned up at the 6,000-capacity Jalan Besar stadium to watch the Singapore football team’s loss to Thailand in last Monday’s Asian Youth Games (AYG) match, reported The New Paper.

On the same day, the Singapore Sports Council revealed that only 7 per cent of the 52,000 AYG tickets released to the public have been sold.

What happened? Where’s the love, Singapore? Why are we giving the first-ever AYG the cold shoulder?

The games, which will close on Tuesday, have a torch relay, an opening ceremony, a theme song, a creepy anthromorphic animal mascot and everything.

Unfortunately, there’s also a recession, H1N1 and some genius had the bright idea of scheduling the games right after the June school holidays.

Is that really it? Of course not.

Here are 10 real reasons Singaporeans are giving the AYG a miss:

1. It’s not free, you know.

To attend any AYG event, you have to pay from $2 (for the early rounds) up to $8 (for a semi-final or final game). On top of that, Sistic charges a booking fee.

After all, we have to save up for the Singapore F1 race in September – more specifically, September 3009. With the F1 tickets costing up to $1,388 each, we’ll have to skip quite a few AYGs to save enough money.

2. Reportedly, the AYG is a dress rehearsal for the first Olympic Youth Games to be held in Singapore next. Who pays money to watch a rehearsal?

3. It’s no Singapore Arts Festival. Apparently, the dancing monks were a big hit.

4. Everyone is on Twitter now. Even your parakeet is on Twitter. If you’re not on Twitter, you might as well don't exist. AYG is not on Twitter. (Correction: AYG is on Twitter, confirming that it does exist. Good luck finding it though. Hint: Try searching "SAYG2009".)

5. It’s not in computer-generated 3D. Did you see Monsters Vs Aliens in 3D with those silly glassess? That was cool. Even the new Ice Age movie is in 3D. Real-life 3D is so passe.

Embrace the future, AYG! Speaking of which ...

6. It doesn’t have giant shape-shifting robots from outer space.

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen earned $4.55 million at the local box office last weekend, making it the all-time biggest opening in Singapore. That kind of moolah can buy quite a few AYG tickets with enough change left over for one or two thousand F1 tickets.

7. It doesn’t have Megan Fox. See above.

8. There’s no Michael Jackson tribute. Young kids and the King of Pop go together like hand in glove.

9. There’s no Farrah Fawcett tribute.

10. “AYG? Didn’t it go bust last year, along with Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch?”

- Published in The New Paper, 5 July 2009

To Mr S M Ong,

Sorry to say this is just a informal letter. :) Not meant to be sarcastic or spastic in whichever way one might think.

In referal to your column on the F1 tickets part... Lol.. i dont think they can live 10 decades of life span to live up to 3009 just to buy a F1 ticket XD.. Unless i take that wrongly :S.. 1000 years later.

Melvin :)

P/S: no offence. just pointing out :D