. . . Leslie Cheung

. . .

Leslie Cheung  
Here Comes Trouble
1956 - 2003
  Late on Thursday, I attended Leslie Cheung's farewell concert. (The funeral was scheduled for even later, I guess.) It was a small venue, and I was seated fairly high in the balcony. That turned out fine, because it happened that Leslie Cheung was startlingly tall -- eight or nine feet tall, at least! (He looks much shorter on film.) We made eye contact!

After the show, I was happy but a little drowsy, so I stopped at an unreconstructed diner for coffee. I must've nodded off, because next thing I knew, it was morning. I asked the proprietor behind the counter -- a gruff old guy -- what I owed.

He said "25 cents."

"25 cents? That's impossible. I know I had more than one cup, and what about the other people at my table?"

"It's 25 cents."

I gave him five bucks and told him to keep the change, but he insisted on giving it to me, in the form of a bundle of micropayment traveler's checks and coins mounted in cardboard.

"This alone must be worth more than five dollars," I said, trying to return one of the coin collections.

He stood there with his gray-haired arms folded.

As tributes to Leslie Cheung go, that one was less odd than the one accorded by our newspaper of erasure, the New York Times. In a fit of shame, they've removed access, but, if memory serves, it was buried at the bottom of a puff for an MTV movie, mentioned Chow Yun-Fat as much as the deceased, relied on pre-1997 press clippings for information on his sexual identity, and ignored most of those roles noticed even by the NYT over the years.

My own list surprises me, once assembled, by the range his consistently self-pitying timbre was able to cover:

  • the epitome of teenage angst in Nomad
  • bumbling wimp in Chinese Ghost Story
  • idealistic cop in A Better Tomorrow
  • the infatuated rich kid of Rouge
  • damaged cocksmith in Days of Being Wild
  • sword-wielding assassins tragically reformed and cynically resigned in Bride with White Hair and Ashes of Time
  • turning drag farce to grand opera in Farewell My Concubine
  • the misty gigolo of Temptress Moon
  • and Argentina's most dysfunctional boyfriend in Happy Together
Surprises, I think, because, although he was central to the success of all these movies, he was never the point of them in the way that other stars might be.

The sheer daring of HK actors can make it difficult to come up with Hollywood comparisons. But in a boyishness that verged on the cadaverous, in his perfectionism, and in his persistent cold distance, as if all his masks, no matter how varied, were carved from a single unbreachable shell of loneliness and disdain, Cheung reminds me of Henry Fonda. A Fonda who skipped John Ford and went straight from Fritz Lang and Preston Sturges to Sergio Leone.


. . .

Memo to my betters

(a seasonal dedication to Leslie Cheung)

A progressive tax isn't a penalty. It's not a personal attack. It's simply a practical matter, like shooting a mad dog.

The world isn't socialist, and so governments need funding to provide services. Unless the government gets its funding from other countries (the empire model), it has to be funded by its citizens.

Rich citizens have more money, so it makes practical sense to get more funding from them.

Rich citizens receive more benefit from the government (directly through the pork-barrel; indirectly through property laws, courts, a stable currency, and the military and paramilitary forces needed to secure them) and exert more influence on the government, and so it also makes moral sense.

It all seems pretty straightforward to me.

The problem, of course, is that not all rich citizens care about their country or even about their own long-term viability. Should such short-sighted greedy bastards gain control of the government, things fall apart in a hurry.

As for the idea of a tax on intelligence, I'm afraid it's already been implemented as student loans, and they started getting real, real progressive during the Reagan years.

. . .


Natalie Schulhofer sends us an update from that other Times:

A report in the At the Movies column of Weekend on Friday about the death of
the Hong Kong actor Leslie Cheung, who played a police academy graduate in
John Woo's film "A Better Tomorrow," misidentified the actor who played
his older brother. That actor was Ti Lung, not Chow Yun Fat.

Which should serve nicely as icebreaker in the big hangoverless cocktail party in the sky when Cheung meets Joe LeSueur:

FIRST CHAPTER: Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara, By KINKY FRIEDMAN

Speaking of whom, in still another Times, Mary Ann Gwinn & Michael Upchurch tell us about "the books most likely to provoke, intrigue and inspire [but pointedly not 'inform'] us this season":

"The Art of Burning Bridges: A Life of John O'Hara" by Geoffrey Wolff (Knopf). The novelist-memoirist ("Providence," "The Duke of Deception") examines the life and career of novelist John O'Hara ("Appointment in Samara," "Butterfield 8"), the 1940s-'50s writer whose star is back on the rise. This biography follows the April publication of a memoir by O'Hara's lover: "Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara" by Joe LeSueur (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.