Her faults are fewer, her lips are truer, my China doll - Slim Whitman:
Put him on stage and he swoons the crowd with his bass baritone voice, perfect diction and immaculately tailored, Six Million Dollar Man suits from *Danny's. But off stage, Larry Lai was so shy when he first met his wife that he did not have enough courage to ask for her telephone number.
The Rosee D'or was the place where he first set eyes on his pretty "China doll." In the 60s this night club was above the old Lido Cinema at Orchard Road and veteran singer Ahmad Daud with the late Saloma were both performing then. Larry Lai and Tan Swee Leong were in charge of a live recording of the show for Rediffusion.
After he was formally introduced to the young lady by a friend they were together for 5 years before Larry married her in 1965. So this year, as Singapore celebrates its 45th National Day, they celebrate their wedding anniversary too!
There's no people like show people, like no people I know - Ethel Merman:
It was my third meeting with Larry as he reminisced his years at Rediffusion . "I was with the broadcast station from 1960 to 1978 and remember the first few weeks. It was my first show at the auditorium called Under 21 and as I approached the microphone, my knees were shaking so badly, I had to hold them. Actually there was an audience of only 300 people."
There was another occasion when his boss had an accident and Larry, at the very last minute, had to host Rediffusion Discoveries at the Odeon Cinema in town. Although he was ill-prepared, the show went on smoothly as he faced an audience of about 1,500 people. "There was hardly any entertainment in the 60s and people were just flocking to these shows."
Comparatively, Larry considered Rado Show (image) his most challenging as it was his television debut. He had agreed to do the show after he left Rediffusion in 1978. It was a quiz and entertainment programme recorded live. The show was a success but he recalled an occasion, when the programme exceeded its transmission time by three minutes because of a technical glitch.
So that evening, through no fault of theirs, when The Trailers, a pop guitar group, was closing the programme with an instrumental number, it played into news-time i.e. beyond its 9 pm schedule. Larry managed to save what could have been a disastrous situation. He exclaimed: "Nobody goes beyond the 9 o'clock news!" He's not called Mr. Cool for nothing.
Music man play your song for me, Music man play my soul, Music man play a melody, Music man take control - Chaka Khan:
Larry added that adequate preparation was the key to being a confident and good compere. But there was no guarantee that every show or broadcast would be a success and felt that he was fortunate he faced no major problem during his own career.
Larry remembers that his work as a DJ was just as interesting. He has a very good memory and this ability has allowed him to remember the many songs, singers, composers and bands in the music scene. They may well run into the thousands and Larry enjoyed sharing the music and trivia with listeners who had either written to him or telephoned him during his tenure at Rediffusion.
As the interview became more interesting and I started asking him about regular Rediffusion requesters in the 60s with names like: Elvis Augustine Neo, Ursula Katerina Ong and Cliff Alphonso Beng, he suggested a mee-siam break at Ang Moh Kio...
More about MR COOL in future postings. Would you like to share your thoughts about him?
*Popular with Singapore celebrities in the 60s & 70s.
Image: Rado Show/Larry Lai Collection.
Original article: Andy Lim.