There was an interesting piece in the South China Morning Post today about Hong Kong losing its mojo and, somewhat ironically, written by my old sparring partner Mike Rowse.
Some might remember Rowse, below, as the one-time head of InvestHK and who- unfairly- ended up holding the bag for the 2004 HarbourFest fiasco.
This musical event, organized by gremlins and every act- including the Stones- paid five times more than their usual asking price- was supposedly- DUH- the ‘feel good’ cure after Hong Kong taking an image battering after the SARS epidemic.
Those really responsible for this financial scam slithered away into their respective snake pits led by the very dark “concert promoter” Ray Garmen- never to be heard again- despite the phony companies set up under the names of wives, and the pivotal role of Jon Nierman, then head of Disney Asia- and later to run Electronic Arts in the region, who sponsored their boss’s own turgid television talk show.
Scuse me while I hurl the sky- and more on Jon Boy later, his stupid foray into music, and how and why Hong Kong has lost its mojo.
But these were bit players in HarbourFest compared to their fearless leader who almost became Hong Kong’s Chief Executive before ending up being caught building some illegal structures in one of his homes that housed a multi-million dollar wine cellar and then hiding behind his wife’s skirt when that gig was revealed.
Arise, “Horseface” Henry Tang, Governmental Girlie Man.
The likes of Tang, Donald Tsang, the former Chief Executive, Timothy Tong, the former head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and others in various seats of power who have been only recently revealed to be greedy, corrupt individuals who abused their powers are symptomatic of Hong Kong today where that one-time entrepreneurial spirit has been replaced by the local versions of Gordon Gekko and The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Gone are those who gave Hong Kong its mojo when this once-barren rock was starting to take shape- Moni Narain and Bobby To and their Om Shop in Wellington Street, Gordon Huthart and the gay meeting place Disco Disco- long before Gay was fashionable- Run Run Shaw and the formation of Shaw Brothers, Raymond Chow and the launch of Golden Harvest films.
There were hoteliers Bryan Bryce, Ken Moss and Felix Bieger and their Hilton, Hyatt Regency and Peninsula Hotels, respectively, and local bully boy Bruce Lee winning cha cha championships.
Later, there were Alan Zeman and Lan Kwai Fong, Andrew Bull and Canton, Silvio Wang, Michael Pope and Manhattan, Beth Smith at The Scene- and years later, a former NASA chemical engineer named Daniel Ng, below, who decided that Chinese people needed a break from rice and noodles and opened the first McDonald’s in Paterson Street, Causeway Bay.
If I ever had a mentor in life lessons, it was Daniel- crazy like a fox, interested in everything and everyone, opinionated- but always open, challenging others so as to formulate his own thoughts, knowing full well that Ronald McDonald was downright creepy and that China was, yes, the land of opportunity, but also a country where no one could be trusted and the favors to be had by offering various Mainland officials and their entrepreneurial family and friends the opportunity to manufacture McAnythings except for McDonald’s menu items.
Daniel Ng was a visionary, lived in his own world which few understood or were allowed in, and then-married to the incredibly attractive Rebecca- my favorite “older woman”.
Though he was known by thousands who wanted to have part of the millions he had- whom he strung along while they thought they were in charge.
It was a game for his brilliant mind and he really was Hong Kong’s last bona fide entrepreneur- and, simply put, a real guy who hated bullshit. I miss his friendship.
Richard Li supposedly launching STARTV doesn’t count as being entrepreneurship. Gawd no. And when the final chapter about THAT scam and its ship of fools- Arnie Tucker, Robert and George Chan, Alex Zilo and the very dodgy Michael Johnson is ever written, the truth will still be out there.
But that was the Eighties and early Nineties and the beginning of the end for Hong Kong as Pandora’s Box had been opened and strangers bearing gifts were allowed in to rape, pillage, scam and leave this city while others used the gift of the gab and showed how impotence can be rewarded while honest hard work led nowhere.
Going back to the Sixties and Seventies, sure, there were the creepy side to this city- the readily available smack from North Point and Tai Hang Road which resulted in teenage deaths, monkeys on backs, shushed up suicides of the city’s well-to-do’s, the notorious Special Investigations Unit and its relentless pursuit of Hong Kong’s gay community who stayed in the closet outta great fear, the “suicide” of 29-year-old gay police inspector John MacLelland, the getaway of bent police superintendent Peter Godber, below, the sinister disc jockey Mike Sebastian who arrived from Singapore with a whiff around him that stunk more than any curry, the mysterious death of Bruce Lee- and still troubling to me, the very strange death of Brandon Lee on the set of The Crow.
But,even these, somehow, added to the mysteries of a Hong Kong trying to carve out a personality for itself.
What personality, I am still unsure.
It all made us stronger and wiser- and the acid trips some took were more cerebral than fun as we HAD to grow up fast- and travel to those worlds locked in five-eighths of your brain.
Those of us who did take those trips went back to Camelot or the Wild West or wherever the fuck that drug de jour on blotting paper took us. Regrets? None.
This was a city experimenting with everything- ourselves, our fears, everything school and our folks could not teach us with us kids hanging out with dancers, whores, con men, married women, characters like eccentric fashion writers San who was more Lady Gaga than GaGa will ever be, and Hilary Alexander who landed on her feet beautifully in the UK.
Others with the newspapers were Nene King, Bill Yim, Robin Parke, and Kevin Sinclair along with footballers Derek Currie and Walter Gerard, radio disc jockeys Mike Souza, Darryl Patton, Tony Myatt and Ray Cordeiro, school bands like The Beachcombers, Rebel Sect, the Kontinentals, below, and the Mystics, tea dances, youth clubs, meeting places like the Hilton’s Den and Coffee Shop, the Hyatt Regency’s Firecracker Bar- and great sex.
Want me? Take me- and with none of today’s obscene politeness and no condoms.
Hong Kong was far from being perfect, but it was also hardly imperfect. It was a balancing act of the good, the bad and the ugly which gave it character and resolve. And a soul.
Sadly, the Greed Is Good mantra of the Eighties that made multi-millionaires of oily ad men like Geoff Brown and those associated with his scams, STARTV’s Michael Johnson and those who used and abused Hong Kong never stayed in the Eighties.
It grew like a cancer where, today, government civil servants, old time business tycoons, lawmakers, television executives, music executives, and everyone from the financial sector are being wheeled out and finally revealed to have “billions” in their bank accounts from various fraudulent “enterprises.”
At their ages, do they really care? Why should they?
They’ve lived their lives of La Vida Loca when they could still get it up and, by the time they have their Appeals heard and all the various other judicial procedures take place, they’ll be more than ready to live out the last few years of their lives looking after their gardens in Stanley Prison while singing, It’s Too Late.
So, with spiraling rents are allowed to keep spiraling as it’s all about supply and demand, landlords can’t be singled out for being greedy.
They took a punt, they own property, people will outbid others for these properties, so why be nice guys?
Who’s to blame for this? Mainland Chinese? But why? Because they have all that nouveau riche money? And so?
They became entrepreneurs and found something consumers in China wanted- wines, art, handbags, poodles…
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, many sit and feel sorry with themselves- but mainly pissed off and bitterly jealous at the success of others.
Like Hong Kong, they have lost their mojos and that one-time USP of going out and being a Nike advertisement by just DOING it.
No money? No investors to just do it?
Sorry, but how have all these penniless gweilos come to Hong Kong in recent years from bankrupt European countries and- so quickly- own- OWN, baby- their own restaurants, shops, apartments and have built up their own brands?
Why is someone like Jon Nierman still able to fund dopey projects like his talent search to find an all-Asian girl group and which he christened Blush, hyped them to death, got his equally dopey gweilo mates to help the hype until Blush eventually became Bust?
Hong Kong today thrives on bullshit, bit players with a false sense of self-importance and huge dollops of exaggeration.
A million becomes billions and all that supposedly glitters- including lifestyles and that thing called success- is Fool’s Gold and jealousy and gossip are making things and many things far greater than their worth.
Who the fuck ARE these people and what are they DOING for Hong Kong? Really?
What all this naive hype about these never-beens does is only heighten perception- and their importance to those who never knew Hong Kong’s REAL game changers.
Add my old mate Harry Rolnick to that list and all those who ended up at AA finding their Higher Power.
I never did though I believe in the Serenity Prayer.
The reality is that the cupboard is bare, ponzie schemes are working because of the desperation of many who did an Oliver Twist and asked for More and were sold a pack of lies and an “exclusive” membership and shares in a club like Alistair Paton’s M1NT which preyed on Hong Kong’s greed.
It wasn’t Paton’s fault though I think him to be a right twat. He was smooth, smart and probably born with penis envy- but succeeded in taking many for a ride.
How can Hong Kong get its mojo back?
First FIND it and then kick out those with no loyalty or sense of real belonging to Hong Kong.
We’ve taken in way too many strays- and not fought hard enough for our rights.