Sunday, September 23, 2012

When Grease Was King: A Photo Shoot With Kheng

Produced by The Moving Visuals Co. for Mediacorp  Okto
Our Past Is Our Present:
Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? could we ...?*

A Documentary:
It was fun when I had to stand in front of the video cameras again and discuss things 60s, this time around with veteran Singapore actor and pole dancing extraodinaire Tan Kheng Hua (image right). We were not discussing Grease the movie, but grease on the head, namely Brylcreem the crowning glory of local boys from the 60s.

Brylcreem Ad in the 60s (Google)

Grease, Guitars and Girls:
Daphne Koh, producer for Memento Singapore, who read this blog invited me for an interview for a documentary to be made by The Moving Visuals Company a local film house.  We met at Burger King in Novena Square and talked the morning away about local 60s band boys and their interest in guitars, girlfriends and grease.

The Interview:
We discussed at length the popularity of Brylcreem, Tancho Pomade and Yardley of London and how a combination of the three slicky stuff  kept the band boys' hair in place weathering all storms. Actually the cream was more to keep their hair tidy when they appeared for stage performances. They also wanted to look good in front of  girl friends. The topic on hair cream and other Singapore 60s memorabilia featured in a four-part documentary that will be televised on Mediacorp Okto (Channel 108) again soon.

The Shoot with Kheng Hua:
As usual my nerves got the better of me when I faced the cameras at Petain Road with its row of peranakan terrace homes. But with experienced Kheng Hua beside me I felt comfortable as she led me with her giggles and laughter.  We started off camera by discussing 60s music and when I was more relaxed this charming host of the series took command of the scene shots with her constant chatter, eloquence and natural ease.

Produced by The Moving Visuals Co. for Mediacorp Okto.
We won the day and as we glided to Desker Road (image above) looking for the **Indian (mamak) shop where the grease was on sale, we were already good friends.  In fact, my gracious lady-in-charge was even in control of the camera crew, instructing them all the way with strict tenderness and calm.

Drama 101:
With professionals around nothing can go wrong, so they say. Nothing went wrong but a large truck nearly spoilt our schedule when the driver decided to park it right in front of our shoot as he went for his breakfast.  Rather than wait for him to reappear our party changed venue as I gave my soliloquy about Elvis' hairstyle before the cams. Yikes!

I learnt a bit of Drama 101 at the Uni in Canada a long time ago but I think Kheng Hua taught me more. She's definitely just as great a teacher as she is an actor.

Shooting 'Momento Singapore' at Petain Road (Andy Lim Collection)
For the uninitiated:
**Indian (Mamak) or mini-sundry shops are a thing of the past in Singapore and used to be scattered all over the island.  There are possibly about four shops left today and this Desker Road shop is one.

They sell small items from sweetmeats, snacks and stationery to drinks, cigarettes, newspapers and of course, hair-cream. If you're lucky you might even see a bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling. All you need to do is pluck one and pay the Indian shopkeeper 5 cents. In the 60s that is...

*(Partial Lyrics: 'The Way We Were' Songwriters: Alan n Marilyn Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch).
About film house:
Image 1, 3 from: 'Memento Singapore', a documentary.
Image 2 from: Google Images
Image 4 and Original Article from: Andy Lim Collection.


Koh said...

Hi Andy

Glad it was a nice experience for you!

I learnt a lot about hair creams from you. It was quite interesting to hear from you, how Tancho was used to tame the sideburns, especially for those whose hair is harder to straighten. Hair creams tell so much of our lifestyle and past!

=) daphne

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Daphne for the comment. Sorry this reply took so long. I was away on holiday and will be leaving again soon for another adventure.

It was nice working with you.


Dear Andy

Hope that this email finds you well. Here’s an invitation to a Media Briefing on a charity show of which I’m a volunteer assisting with the publicity.

Great if you could join us for the briefing this Wednesday from 11am to 2pm at the Brazilian restaurant at 6th Avenue Bukit Timah. Hamish Brown and about half a dozen artistes will be there. I will, too, of course.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Robert,
Thanks for invitation, email and SMS. Away on holiday. Will catch up with you soon.

I doubt I can attend the Media briefing.

All the best for a successful show.

LKM said...

When will documentary be shown on TV?

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I honestly don't know. Will find out and inform. It has already been shown once.

JACK HIGH said...

This was part of a general crackdown on Western "Pop Culture" and decadent behaviour by the youth.There was a ban of "Hippies" entering Singapore from as early as April 1970 and the closure of many venues playing western rock music at the start of 1970.

The list of banned songs was long but included such harmless titles a "Up up and away in my beautiful ballon" "Puff the magic dragon"...

Check out the Singapore National Library for more info there are a number of Straits Times articles that you may help you in your understanding of why long hair was banned.

Don´t forget that Singapore had only just become a nation and a sense of citizenship and what it meant to be a Singaporian was in an early stage of development.As Lee Kuan Yew put it in early 1970.Hippies were "permissive , escapist , drug-taking , self-indulgent promiscuous people "

And you didn´t get to see the Woodstock film . That was Banned in January 1971!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Jack wherever you are from. Appreciate your interest in the topic.

We've had our days of yore and the trials we went through but I think it's all for the better now.

We're not that sparkling anymore although the authorities tried to keep it that way.

But you can still hear 60s music everywhere and anywhere...

Jack High said...

You are welcome Andy. I was a British school boy in 68-70 at St John´s service school.

I was also a great fan of "The Barbed wire" "Concrete Parachute" and "Fried Ice" among other bands.

I have kept up an interest in the "City state´s " music scene ever since I left. Glad to see you are keeping people informed of your Heritage.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks again Jack for your interest in our bands and music. You can write in anytime to make comments or provide nostalgia on this blog.

Alan Thompson from England who served at the RAF in the 60s has a permanent place on this blog having posted numerous articles about his experiences in Singapore with his guitar group.

Appreciate your visits.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I have put up Jack High's comments on this posting because of his discussion about long hair and hippie culture in Singapore 60s.

Brylcreem and hair. They stick together.


Tan Kheng Hua (Chinese: 陈琼华; pinyin: Chén Qiónghuá; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tân Hhêng-hôa; born January 17, 1963) is a popular Singaporean actress best known for her role as Margaret Phua in Singapore-based MediaCorp TV Channel 5's longest-running hit television sitcom Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd.

In her youth, she never thought about acting until she went to the United States to get her university education.

(Read more about her on Wikipedia).


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ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you for your kind comment. I have not connected your site to mine as I do not promote cigarette nor other advertisements on my blog.


Dear Andy,

I have been reading your blog regularly and was interested in the features on hair cream, radios, etc. They reminded me of adverts from the 1960s and here are a few:

Kao Wonderful washing powder.
Brand's Essence of Chicken.
Fraser & Neave ("F and N put the flavour where the fun is...!").
Time for a Tiger.

There must be many more.

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