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By Hans Ebert

When they were not there, it’s impossible for those here who weren’t there to understand where you have been, how far you have travelled, mentally, physically and metaphorically, whom you’ve met along the way, those you’ve lost along that journey of life and everything you have seen and heard and all that you wish you never did.

Like The Naked City, Hong Kong has a million stories- and seven million secrets- and each of us who have grown up here carry our own.

Tony Tebbutt, a friend since my days at KGV, the Secondary School that still exists in Tin Kwong Road, has just published his first book- The Rising Son In The Land Of The Nine Dragons- which traces his life in Hong Kong during the Sixties and early Seventies.

As “the perfect son” and perfect student who had more badges on his blazer for his accomplishments than many war heroes, it’s a great read about a time Tony chronicles perfectly.

Having been best friends with his younger brother, Steve, and spent many a weekend at the Tebbutts for band rehearsals which went off the deep end when night set in and daytime Hong Kong became this unpredictable nocturnal animal, Tony’s story about being The Rising Son In The Land Of The Nine Dragons is very different to mine about being The Woo Hoo In The Land Of A Thousand Dances.

But that’s what Hong Kong was and is and will be: Malice In Wonderland for some, Wonderwall or something else for someone else and always a very complicated lady- one that shaped many a life and has taken a few down with it. That’s life, baby and what a life it’s given many of us.

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(Source: Amazon)

There was something magical, dangerous, plastic fantastic, secretive and forever about that particular time in Hong Kong and simply being at KGV taught us much more than what we were there to learn.

In my books, KGV will always be a metaphor for so much and I just hope I finish writing my musical about this weirdly fascinating school during the Sixties.

It had it all – sex, drugs, rock and roll and a cast even Harry Weinstein at Miramax couldn’t buy.

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(Source: KGV)

We weren’t bad students, we were just inquisitive at a time in the world when changes were taking place rapidly- the Beatles, JFK, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, Deep Throat, Woodstock, Dylan, Hendrix, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, sex, drugs and whatever rolled with them and a very young Hong Kong growing up faster than the rest of the world.

Along with new entrepreneurs like a man who once sold plastic flowers in North Point and named KS Li, below, who went on to become Li Ka-shing, the richest man in Hong Kong, there were pioneering hoteliers like Ken Moss and Bryan Bryce.

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(Source: Xin Hua Net)

There were also new movie-makers like Run Run and Runme Shaw and Raymond Chow, singers originally from Shanghai- Mona Fong, Rebecca Pan, Tsai Chin, along with a teenage cha cha champion named Bruce Lee.

Hong Kong was no longer some city with a silly sounding name. Hong Kong Pride was taking shape to a cha cha beat.

As kids at KGV, through our parents, through growing up too fast and furiously, perhaps having more opportunities than most to experiment with that wild side of life long before Lou Reed sang about it, we found nothing wrong in walking through Mongkok and Temple street, having congee with the triads at 4am, taking our folks car out for a joyride, accidentally crashing it on the Waterloo Road flyover, leaving it there and denying we had anything to do with it.

Reckless? Perhaps. Fun? Definitely. Same when it came to women: At least for me and my best friend, Steve Tebbutt, below, far right, a brilliant world class drummer, who left this world much too soon or, for him, the right time, we couldn’t spend those early teen years with girls our own age.

We did, but it was unfulfilling. It was like listening to the Searchers when we really want to go crashing through life with the Doors.

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We were always drawn towards the older Aussie showgirls, dancers, and all-girl bands that played in places like the Gaslight, smoked dope after work and showed us the underbelly of Hong Kong and more. They were our gurus and maybe our mother figures.

A few of us were in school bands, we had nice, innocent girlfriends and groupies whereas some of us also lived with Aussie showgirls who had part-time jobs and proved to be great teachers when our folks turfed us out on a regular basis for some dumbass thing we had done. Like hiding away from school for almost an entire term or refusing to cut up a rabbit during biology or threatening a teacher for throwing a blackboard cleaner our way.

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(Source: Redeemed Reader)

Through these alternative female teachers, we learnt what school could never teach us and met the good, the bad, the ugly, the narcs, the pushers, the triads and those who, like Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho, below, became Hong Kong Godfathers and who still look after some of us today. It served us well for what we had to deal with as adults.

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(Source: STNN)

There was also a glamorous side to Hong Kong- stunning models and movie stars- and, for some reason, this was attractive to some of us at KGV who wanted desperately to be dedicated followers of fashion and be part of that Beautiful Life even if it was on the periphery.

Meeting regular visitors to Hong Kong like Eartha Kitt, Cary Grant, William Holden, Steve McQueen, Sammy Davies Jr, Shirley McClaine, Peter Allen, Sinatra, Judy Garland and others simply happened and always at the only five-star hotel in Hong Kong at the time- the Hong Kong Hotel which eventually became the Hong Kong Hilton with its popular venues and meeting places like The Den, The Coffee Shop and The Eagle’s Nest.

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(Source: KK Box)

Why were these celebrities in Hong Kong? Perhaps they were attracted to the magic of the city along with the smell of new money and how this once-barren rock was taking on a shape and culture all its own.

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(Source: Hong Kong And Macau Films Stuff)

And then, the British Beat Boom happened. Local pop bands were formed and radio disc-jockeys became important- perhaps too important but Hong Kong was just following what was happening in Swinging London.

These local bands, no matter how crap, were signed to mainly one recording company- Diamond Music- and there was a “scene”- small, but which brought all these weird nationalities together- and from different schools.

Meanwhile, there was a division within the ranks taking place at KGV and some of us were finding it tough to follow rules like wearing shirt sleeves rolled up so that one’s elbows showed and making sure our pants had 15 inch cuffs when we wanted to wear drainpipes and look like George Harrison.

In Hong Kong, there had been visits by the Animals, the Kinks, Manfred Mann, Herman’s Hermits, the Hollies, the Beach Boys- most performing at City Hall or the Hong Kong stadium- and the Beatles at the Princess Theatre with Jimmy Nicol sitting in for an indisposed Ringo Starr.

The difference between then and now was being able to easily meet these bands- hang out with them and hear Rolling Stone-type stories about who was banging who, all the new musos to hear- and how to really appreciate their music.

It was like the time when one of us was barely fifteen, running into a scruffy looking band in a crappy restaurant in Kowloon- and everything happened in Kowloon those days- got to know the singer and guitarist and hung out getting wasted with them for two days.

The band was called Led Zeppelin and their bedrooms at the Mandarin Hotel were revolving doors of girls from every English-speaking school in Hong Kong.

It was rock and roll hell and heaven and some of us stayed on to see what the other side looked at and left KGV rules for others.

Vietnam and the Beat Boom and innocence segued along the way and all those who came to Hong Kong hiding their battle scarred minds probably changed this city more than we knew at the time.

Suzie Wong was suddenly not Nancy Kwan and love was no longer a many splendored thing. Love was for sale and Wanchai became a dirty word.

Hong Kong was flooded by “soul brothers” and what they brought and gave to Hong Kong was more than the music of James Brown.

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(Source: Kpalke)

They took away the innocence of this city though, perhaps, we were ready to break on through to the other side and living and dying became one. It was just an inconvenient truth that didn’t matter.

The Vietnam War brought many expat refugees to Hong Kong- very unusual suspects with Don Draper type pasts and which were kept well hidden.

Hong Kong was their passport to respectability and a new life and maybe a new name.

Looking back at some of these characters and with the city today caught in the middle of the saga involving CIA analyst Edward Snowden, one has to wonder about the pasts of some of the American photographers, film-makers, musicians, promoters and businessmen who made Hong Kong their home- took control and changed that old ding dong song forever.

The night when the father of a rich American kid named Bruce “Fuzzy” Baron, below, who went to KGV with some of us was found shot dead in his office in Star House on New Year’s Eve and which remains a mystery today, hit home- many homes.

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(Source: Impact Online)

Often I wonder what happened to “Fuzzy” Baron who spent years trying to find some closure as he went from being a B Grade action actor in the Philippines to a male model to script writer. His is one helluva story.

Suddenly, family secrets- rich expat families with their expensive apartments in May Road, Repulse Bay and Villa Monte Rosa- were out there and known by all- parents experimenting with acid, their kids strung out on smack, girls we knew in school living in the seedy Chungking Mansions and hooking on the side to make ends meet and pay for their new habits.

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(Source: uu Yoyo)

It was a mixed-up-turned-down world made up of The Scene in the basement of the Peninsula, soul brothers, pimps, hookers, the Mocambo, the Golden Phoenix and The Gaslight- and all those night owls and werewolves whom we met and bit us along the way.

This was no Twilight. This was The Dawning.

It was a long way from school dances and tea dances and taking a girl on a movie date and ensuring the movie was long enough so you could cop a feel and get some tongue.

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(Source: Scene Stealers)

Now, acid was being brought in on blotting paper by lost souls from the States who turned on others while they tuned into very different music and never fully returned to reality after their long day journeys into wherever their minds took them.

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(Source: Ihgritch)

At KGV, the transient city Hong Kong was and is meant many returning to wherever their parents’ homes were though this city would always remain their soul kitchen.

Others stayed on, but that old gang of mine was breaking up and the baton was being passed on to the next generation.

It was a very special baton and though it has gone through many hands, it will always belong to those who first ran and stumbled with it and saw it all from the ground and up in the clouds.

Were we really a City Of Broken Promises and, if so, who sold us out? The British? The Chinese across the border? Or did we become complacent fat cats joining the get-rich-quick train heading for the coast as her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale? We’ll never know.

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