Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Singapore's First Female Pop Singer Impersonator?

On the Singapore Music Memory Trail

The Cathay at its oldest?
It was near the end of November 1958.  I was about to celebrate my birthday and enjoy the last few years of my teens. I couldn't forget that period because what was more interesting in the music scene was a newspaper report about young girls performing live at a major cinema.  Some of them were still at school.  

Live bands in cinemas before a movie was common in the 50s and 60s.
Singaporean movie and music fans were in an uproar because nearly everyone interested in English language movies and songs were concentrating on the finals of a singing contest held at the Cathay Cinema in conjunction with a film that had the country talking.

There was hardly any entertainment those years so you can imagine the ruckus that was going on about school girls singing on stage. And it happened before any Singapore's Millie Small, Connie Francis or Cliff Richard impersonators were around.
Mamie Van Doren (not Doris Day) with Clark Gable.
The film was a romantic comedy about teachers and featured pop singer and down to earth  clean cut actress Doris Day*.  Her male lead was Karlok Kaypor (in Hokkien parlance) or Clark Gable in simple English.  He was a 1950s Johnny Depp or George Clooney?

The movie, Teacher's Pet, won two academy awards and was a local hit those years because of our dynamic duo (Day and Gable) and more so because of blonde bombshell and Playboy Bunny's favorite cover girl Mamie van Doren (right) in a co-starring role.  Like a Marilyn Monroe copy and paste, she was sexy and voluptuous.

With all this publicity in mind, the show at 9.30 that evening was a sell-out. On stage were four girls, chosen to appear for the finals of Singapore's Doris Day Singing Competition and they included, Nancy Renjaan, Ellen Ong, Pearl Silus and Nelly Martinus. 

Image of an applause meter. Clap hard and hand will move!
Since an applause meter was used to pick the winner, supporters and fans of the contestants cheered and screamed their hearts out at the end of each song after the applause sign lit up because the more noise there was the further the hand of the meter moved.  
The sign lit up when it's time to applause.

When the winner was announced, Nancy Renjaan (image right: Straits Times Press) from the Singapore Telephone Board clinched the title and became the Doris Day of Singapore, one of the first few pop impersonators on our island.  School girl Ellen Ong was second and the others were runners-up. 

Were you at the Cathay that night?  Were you one of those who participated in the contest? Love to hear your story.  Let's hit the Nostalgia Meter button and create some noise too.

*Doris Day appeared in 39 movies and ranked the biggest box-office actress/singer.  She was the only woman on that special list, for four years, from 1960 to 1964 and ranking in the top 10 for ten years, from 1951 to 1952 and from 1959 to 1966. 

She was the top female box-office star of all time and is today ranked (believe me!) sixth among the top 10 box office performers, both male and female, as of 2012. That is a champion indeed. If you've heard, Que, Sera, Sera, that's her song.

Images: Google and The Straits Times Press, Singapore.
Original article with information from newspaper advertisements.



Very glad that you are active in the soft side of life in Singapore. Keep it up. "A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future." Robert A. Heinlein. And you can skip the Singapore propaganda TV! Your taste for good tunes I 'dig' for my own memory!

Andy Young* said...

Thank you Erwin. That's why I'm going forward now with my postings, forward to the 1950s where many local pop music fans are not aware that we had Singapore 50s music too. This particular post explains the presence of a Singapore's Doris Day from 1958.

Priscilla George said...

Wow...what a flashback. Way before my time. Never knew we were so colourful. My images of that era are all about immigrants and earning money. Thanks Andy.


Chen Huisi is an: Event Emcee/Host/Album Singer at Freelance Emcee and Singer.

Chen Huisi: I was on FB n saw this nice pix!

Andy Lim That's Doris Day, very pop a long time ago. Her famous song is, "Que Sera, Sera" which means, 'What Will Be Will Be."

Chen Huisi I know that song!

Andy Lim Wow, that's something! I am surprised. She's the original singer.

Chen Huisi I love listen n singing oldies too...

Andy Lim Great that you do. Many of them are definitely worth listening to.

Andy Young* said...

Thanks Priscilla,

No life wasn't black and white like the movies were then. Singapore was colorful, young, sexy and full of energy. Since there were no TV and computers those years people go to the cinemas, nightclubs and the three Worlds to enjoy themselves. Again thank you for support. Hope more of the gang will write in.

Andy Young* said...

Hi Huisi,
Thank you for your support and chat on FB. I heard you're a great MC, event host and singer.

YEN CHOW said...

Interesting to know what happened in 60s' music. A sudden thought "Will people in 2060 be interested to know about 2014?" Hmm...


She is great one of my favourite idols of the oldies.

Andy Young* said...

Thanks Veron for your comment. You must be back home enjoying Summer Wine.

Andy Young* said...

Thank you Yen Chow and Wing Lee for support. You have a good question there. Will people in the future be interested? I think so.

Andy Young* said...

Joycelyn Leong, Doris Lim and Adeline Pang. Thanks guys for the support and visit. Glad you like the posting.


Honestly it was my first time and I was fascinated. There's so much heritage, and information that only someone with experience can share. So a big thank you to you. I enjoyed the article. Will definitely make an effort to read it more often.

Andy Young* said...

Hi Priscilla, It is you I must thank. I write this blog to share with young people like you. I hope you will help me, as a goodwill ambassador, to spread the information to friends on FB and beyond. Without a past there is no future is a quote from John Fowles in his pop book, "The Magus". Again thank you.

ROY CHEW said...

Of coz.. music transcends time..