By Hans Ebert
There were a couple of very weird years- not as weird as my first acid trip- but weird nevertheless. For example, there was an American kid at KGV whom we called “Fuzzy”. His real name was Bruce Barron. He was brash, he was cocky, he was supposedly extremely rich and was one of the first kids to have his own drum kit- a Ludwig drum kit. But no one wanted him in their band.
Fuzzy Bruce was almost always being beaten up for mouthing off. But when his father was shot dead one New Year’s Eve while working alone in his office in Star House- his murder still remains unsolved today with word being that it was a hired hit man from the Philippines- the helter skelter lifestyle took a brief pause. Very brief.
Though there were various rumours that his father worked for the CIA or that it had to do with some drug deal gone wrong, Fuzzy Bruce eventually got married, got divorced, became richer, went broke, got lost, and ended up being a male model and B Grade movie star making Ramboeque movies in the Philippines.
When in advertising, some of us tried to help him out by giving him work, but it was sad to see how far he had fallen.
Getting back to where we were at the time, it was all very sexually driven and drug fuelled, but more on an experimental level. To try and understand their kids better, even some parents- mainly American- were dropping acid whereas heroin use crept up on those in certain new secondary schools that had opened and were attended by expatriate kids from very well to do but dysfunctional families.
There were deaths through overdose by some kids even younger than us, there were divorces and suicides that were hushed up as these involved families of British government officials and members of the American community. Remember that this was still colonial Hong Kong. Many things were left unsaid. This was the dark side of the moon and one very long playing Pink Floyd record.
On the sunny side of the street, there was a fledgling Hong Kong pop scene, which never amounted to much other than a few afternoon tea dances where pretty ordinary bands tried to be Herman’s Hermits, the Hollies, the Searchers and very clean cut British Beat Boom groups. It was all innocent fun.
Far more important was sex with no need for condoms because AIDS had not arrived and STDs were still just three letters in the alphabet. There were girls everywhere.
At least three times a week, Steve and I would pretend to go to the KGV tuck shop, but instead run down the stairs to a side street where at 3.30pm we’d meet up with the loosest girl from a neighbouring school and do the fandango with her. We’d be back in our classes around fifteen minutes later as that was about all the time we needed. It was that Wham Bam, Thank You, M’am period where apart from schoolgirls, there were also a few of their mothers who needed attention.
As the Doors sang, these were strange days and those memories still live with us and no doubt shaped much of our thinking and actions in later life. The mind is a very special place and some of us allowed too much danger in there without realising it.
For myself, that strange childhood in Ceylon and Hong Kong and to arrive at this point in life was one very long trip that I will probably wrestle with to understand until I can’t fight the past anymore. But at that time, nothing could possibly go wrong.
School had become just another footnote. One term, I barely attended school. I would pretend to go, hide out around the corner, watch my parents leave and then return home and call my girlfriend at the time- an older Portuguese girl who led a pretty carefree lifestyle- to come over so we could just stay in bed and do the dance of love until around 5pm.
Though I was barely in school, when it came time to take the exams that mattered, I would not only pass, I would pass with distinction- especially Art, History and English Literature. Every other subject was dismissed with me scrawling “Don’t know, don’t care” across the exam papers from the UK that needed to be filled out. It was obvious that only if something was interesting to me would I make the time to absorb it all and more.
Despite being captain of the school second X1 cricket team and grabbing two successive double hat tricks in one key match and needing to pass only three subjects but having passed five, the headmaster at the time, who had it in for me for a few years when he was my History teacher, was certain I had cheated. I was expelled for being a “bad influence” and “looking like a clown”.
The days when I was at school, I was always in trouble for wearing tight pants, shirts where the sleeves were rolled below the elbows- a weird no no rule- having hair that was below the collar and, gawd forbid, not bringing a prayer book to assembly. I didn’t tell my parents about the expulsion. It could wait a few months. They had arranged for me to spend the summer with my father’s cousin and her family in Los Angeles for me to sort out whatever was messing up my head. Nothing was messing up my head. I was just addicted to women, especially American “hippie chicks”.
Sending me to LA at that particular time when there were the opening of strip clubs and free love was a dream come true. For my mother, it was a nightmare though my father was enjoying being a hotelier at the Hong Kong Hilton and rubbing shoulders with the rich and the famous and visiting Hollywood royalty.
My father’s cousin in LA was married to a much older man- a Burgher, of course- had two kids- a son and daughter who were around my age. What added to the surrealism of the time spent with them was the dysfunctional family life going on in that household. Hey, they were Burghers. The son was constantly angry with everything and had embraced the radical black power movement of the Black Panthers. You can’t make this shit up.
He was the drummer in a band and his anarchic political leanings meant been introduced to black radicals like Huey Newton and Angela Davies along with the soul music of the Chamber Brothers and Sly Stone and clubs on the Strip like The Whiskey and Troubadour to watch R’nB bands like Tower Of Power and Cold Sweat. Of course there were women at these clubs and I fell in lust with a number of them.
My hair was now down past my shoulders and I was going out with your typical LA lady who persuaded me to use the money my parents had given me for this summer break on a pair of hugely expensive snakeskin boots with three inch heels. They were tough to wear, but I couldn’t help being noticed.
Looking back, this even more radical lifestyle probably came about after having earlier met the great Sammy Davis Jr at a press conference in Hong Kong.
My father had pulled various strings for me to join a local newspaper to see if this might be something that appealed to me. It didn’t in the beginning.
With my cousin captaining the Hong Kong cricket team, I was assigned the job of collating all the local cricket results. This was hardly going to get me anywhere- that is until the day when all the reporters were busy and I was sent to cover a Sammy Davis Jr press conference at the Hong Kong Hilton. I think I asked him about Sinatra and his “forbidden affair” with white actress Kim Novak.
Though I don’t think he ever answered the question about Kim Novak, it did set him off about a long and very interesting story about how he and Sinatra met and formed a mutual admiration society. I was about to leave before his manager asked me to stay behind. Mr Davis wanted to speak to me. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit he greeted me with one of those complicated “brother” handshakes and asked me to “hang” with his entourage. I phoned my story in, relaxed and went out for dinner with everyone until we were back in Mr Davis’ suite with his dancers. Joints were passed around until a couple of his dancers moved closer to me and Hans left that suite with a huge smile on my face. You dig?
My story appeared on the front page of the newspaper the next day and soon I had my own entertainment column and free invites to everything happening in Hong Kong. My writing was improving, I now had a certain power base, I was meeting celebrities, models and showgirls. When in LA, I was filing stories from there about the new cultural changes taking place, their links to music…and the various changes I was going through to reach where I was heading. That was another trip altogether.
(To be continued…)
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