By Hans Ebert
In the Rant section of the SCMP’s Sunday Magazine, the writer mentioned being hit in the face last Friday and thrown out of a club by one of those Hong Kong princelings with the powerful big daddy’s surname and money behind them and who are always seen scouring the local club life for new notches to their Ego belt.
Why the smackdown? The princeling, who fancies himself as a tastemaker with his own fan following, wanted to take over the turntable from one of the best international DJs around whom the writer had negotiated to perform at the club- and had the audacity to be told, No.
Though not mentioning names- not a smart thing to do when it was obvious who the princeling’s big daddy is- no prizes to those in Hong Kong for guessing his name. The real giveaway was mention of the princeling’s posse of enablers and models, every one of them a wannabe- but can neverbe- Chris Brown, Drake or Kendall Jenner. Wait: Does anyone really wanna be a wannabe Chris Brown? Really?
The story made me think of just how many times many of us in this city of the Haves and the Have Nots have suffered fools gladly like these delusional legends in their own lunchtime, and always hiding behind their famous big daddies.
The amount of “singers” signed up by music companies because of their family connections, especially if related to some Canto Pop artist who might have been relevant 30-40 years ago is both sad and humorous. The apple very often falls much further far from the tree than many think, and way too often, the tree never had many branches anyway, and certainly no trunk to talk about. But these signings show up the weakness of what’s often passed off as being “A&R skills”, and where only a middle aged audience would believe that the son or daughter of some average one-time recording artist just had to be good, or, at least, has drawing power. And this, my friends, is just one way how mediocrity is elevated to obscene levels of fraudulent fame and importance.
Forgetting these princelings and Hello Kitty princesses making loud sucking noises with silver spoons in their mouths, what’s amazing are those same old- but now much older- names trotted out and talked about with such star-struck reverence. But why? Can’t people hear that they, well, suck? That they are hugely overrated and pretentious performers propped up by family ties, or a fabulously wealthy husband who happens to run a company listed on the stock exchange?
Some of you will know who I am talking about, but where it becomes hugely disappointing is when some of the biggest names in entertainment whom you have looked up to for decades as game changers either fall for the same shtick, or else are not the people with the scruples you once thought they had. They are just another brick in the wall, but actually very famous, and simply seeing dollar signs in “making nice” to, let’s say, a very average singer pushing fifty, and yet to make it anywhere. What she has going for her is the star-truck trophy husband with whom he sees as his trophy wife, and who has the power to sign off on various deals, which, in turn, keeps the old dear’s career keeping on. It’s the entertainment industry’s Game Of Thrones.
Guess it’s no difference to bowing and scraping in front of The Donald and telling yourself, it’s nothing personal, it’s only business, and to forget his bovine behaviour. Think of the money he might funnel your way like an ABBA song.
The problem is when this business creates false impressions, and big money is used to make the very ordinary look important- and which is bought and sold by those who are easily star-struck, and, even more easily, manipulated. And gawd knows, this spreads. It’s why we have the Kardashians and Perez Hilton and everything else that they have spawned, and unleashed on the world like a pox.
Mercifully, the Paris Hilton juggernaut was thwarted at the pass a few years ago though there’s always some billionaire playboy in Manila, Jakarta or Dubai who will pay millions to have Miss Hilton play act at being a DJ. And if she’s busy being a DJ in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur- or Vegas, Macau- there’s always Lindsay Lohan, Flo Rida, Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, and Mr Pitbull waiting in the wings with some mixologist.
What happened to real music happening in a really big way? Maybe it got fed up and went home though we must be so damn thankful for James Bay, Hozier, Jess Glynne, and Tori Kelly.
Here’s the thing- and the thing that’s another problem: The global entertainment world is controlled by a handful of power brokers. They own management companies, music companies, promotions, film, television, publishing and technology companies- and though they might not like each other, big business often requires them to work together.
They have fought hard to get to where they are, and they’re here to stay. If they’re going anywhere, it’s to Asia and cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and Mumbai, where the big money is along with the investors to fund their latest ventures. They can smell money- and they never ever use their own. These new ventures are too risky, and these game changers are risk averse.
This is why Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man, and in his Eighties, owns part of Facebook and Spotify. It’s why Mark Zuckerberg, along with everyone else, wishes to get close to Alibaba’s Jack Ma thinking that this will be a glorious entrée into the Mainland China market. Please.
Before his Kingfisher business empire went belly up, it’s why the global movers and shakers went Jai Ho and sat at the feet of billionaire Vijay Mallya, the one-time “Richard Branson of India”. Mallya was their great hope of tapping into the Bollywood market. Please.
Amongst the very real power brokers and investors are, of course, the shysters- and they’re everywhere with false Wikipedia back stories, laundry lists of credits and projects that can only be described as daft, but with the bravado to market themselves as something they’re not and able to get away with it- this “it” often being Ponzi schemes based on feeding off the greed and gullibility of the human condition.
When the net starts to close in on them, they make like Mandrake and disappear, only to resurface in places like Malta, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Jakarta, Hanoi, Cambodia, islands off Greece- places where people are trusting, where they can peddle their stories to a star-struck media, and, ironically with some massive karma thrown in, the new stomping grounds for so-called investors, but without even birdseed money to their names. So, what you have is a global Viper Room of cheats, lies, deceit, and heaps of Sandra bollocks that more often than not ends in various threats of legal action, but with the bottom line being this: When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose and Monopoly money can’t even buy anyone squatters rights on Old Kent Road.
How have we reached this dead end- this place where the Art Of Bullshit is practiced everyday, and allowed to “bloom” and flourish despite knowing that, “No, you never discovered the Jackson 5″, “No, you were never Michael Jackson’s official choreographer”, “No, you don’t have offers from anywhere”, “No, you’re not making a movie with Marlon Brando because Marlon Brando is dead”, and, “Okay, maybe you were once one of the Temptations”.
How have we reached this point of no return and evil, vindictive Walter Mitty characters? It could be for a million reasons. Too busy doing not much to really care and fight for one’s art and make it as good as possible? Settling for good is enough and losing pride in the ownership of one’s work? Taking in too many strays without checking their credentials at the door and immediately turfing them out along with their history of excessive baggage? Being star-struck only to be disappointed when heroes let you down and turn out to be just like everybody else who’s used you- except for her who still warns you to beware of darkness and remains the only constant in your life.
And in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take, so you better start repaying her what you took, and get back to where you belong. Get back to that happy place. And screw the rest.