By Hans Ebert
Married life with Trina was more than good. It was everything and more. As a young couple, our combined salaries were around HK$5,000, and this was fine. We were still in our little Japanese style apartment in Park Road and were even able to save money. Living together there was like a Graham Nash song: Perfect.
This was a very different Hong Kong to what we have today where people talk in millions and billions while those who can’t live detached lives on social media where fantasy and reality often come together to create emotional clutter.
As for Trina and myself, she was busy working for an arts magazine called Orientations whereas apart from working as Creative Director with the same local ad agency, I was making a little extra money writing an entertainment column for the SCMP and reviewing records for the TV and E Times.
Having the entertainment column meant being invited to five star hotels for dinners and to review their cabaret acts. More importantly, it opened the doors for me to meet and interview people like filmmakers Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese and various actors and actresses- Peter Sellers, Mickey Rooney, Eartha Kitt, Shirley MacLaine, Jeff Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Burgess Meredith etc.
Apart from seeing a glimpse of the entertainment world from the inside, writing about the various interviews helped me really understand journalism and my way around words. It was moving me in a direction that I finally felt I belonged.
Roman Polanski was an interesting subject to interview. It was soon after the murder of his pregnant actress wife Sharon Tate. The reason I got an exclusive interview with him which lasted from the afternoon to a dinner in his honour was probably because at the press conference, I stayed away from asking about her murder. Instead, I asked why he had never made a Western. That won him over.
In his suite, he showed me a book called “Los Negritos” and how the fastest and most accurate gunslingers were former black slaves.
He showed me drawings of the gunfight at OK Corral and pointed out just how bad shots the Earps, Doc Holliday and the Clantons were with many rounds being fired at close proximity and which missed their targets.
I couldn’t help thinking of my first acid trip and going back to being a gunslinger who was shot in the back and gave me what they call a Wild Bill Hickock complex. I can’t sit anywhere even today without my back to the wall. I need to see what’s heading my way even if it’s a runaway train.
Polanski spoke excitedly about his new project- how he wanted it filmed in slow motion and made into a surreal Western starring Sammy Davis Jr who he mentioned was the fastest draw- as in gunslinger- in Hollywood.
I know, I told him. I interviewed and partied with Mr Davis and his dancers when fifteen. He laughed and ended up “interviewing” me for half an hour about that party.
Of course, Roman Polanski never made the film. He was busy escaping statutory rape charges of a minor by fleeing Hollywood forever. Did I like the controversial film director? Very much. He was charming, he was full of passion for his work, he was creative, he had a wonderful sense of black humour, and knowing everything he had gone through escaping Poland with his parents during World War 2, I felt an underlying sense of sadness made that much worse by the brutal murder of his pregnant wife by followers of the mad man that was Charles Manson.
That’s a lot hurt for anyone to carry through their life. And we often do things we regret to numb the pain. Or we numb the pain very early in life to runaway from reality and family secrets.
While the family I had in Hong Kong were in The Land Of A 1000 Dances as there was an actual white person as a relative and I had finally done something right, Trina’s parents had returned to St Louis by now and we ended up inheriting their white Tibetan terrier Mini.
Of course, there was Kitty to consider and how she would react to this stranger invading her space. But, somehow, she accepted Mini, and Mini knew who was in charge. They became great pals and with both looking after the other. If we couldn’t find either, the other would take us to where they were while there were the oddities of Mini eating Kitty’s food and Kitty eating Mini’s food.
Life was good and the bond Trina and I had was unbreakable. I never once considered being with anyone else. Why mess with perfection?
One thing I remember vividly was my first trip to St Louis to meet her elder sisters and their families. My fear of flying at that time was made worse by knowing I would be a stranger in a strange land- middle America and where “dark” people were a rarity.
Trina’s sisters were lovely people though their husbands had their oddities. I really didn’t want to go hunting with them for rabbits. Hell, I skipped biology lessons in school to avoid dissecting frogs and rabbits. Why would I want to hunt down and shoot rabbits? But if I didn’t understand them, they must have thought I was the man who fell to earth and were no doubt thinking how on earth Trina and I got together.
All this was nothing compared to having to go to church every Sunday with her parents. Remember that her father was a Lutheran minister- a good man, somewhat shy and who loosened up after a few Black Russians which had become my drink of choice secretly taken with tranquillisers to calm myself.
There were a few anxiety attacks which I kept to myself and thought I knew how to self medicate myself. Going to church meant popping a few pills to get me through being around so many white people who asked me questions like, “Do ya like potato salad?” I felt I was in an episode of “Twin Peaks”.
Back in Hong Kong, we had moved to a two bedroom apartment down the road from where we were to 68 Bonham Road. It put us back a bit- the rent was a crippling HK$1,200- but the timing was right for what was to come next.
While the four of us settled in- Trina, Mini, Kitty and myself- it was local Canto Pop idol and actor Sam Hui who gave us the news.
Walking over to his apartment to meet up with his American Filipina wife Rebu, whom I had known before and had become good friends with my wife, he casually asked Trina, “You’re pregnant?” That was news to her and me. We hadn’t even thought about it. Let me take that back: I didn’t think we would be able to have children. Sam was right. Trina was pregnant and that turned our world upside down and inside out and all for the better.
Of course with news that they were going to be grandparents, my parents left Melbourne and returned to Hong Kong. Everyone loved the white wife. My aunts- Burghers, of course- suddenly acquired strange British accents with my mother believing that every white person enjoyed eating a Shepherds Pie, fish and chips and anything from McDonald’s. It was amusing to see Trina being served what my mother called a “fish burger” while my father and I tucked into packets of the Burgher dish known as lampries.
Trina was getting bigger and the big day arrived when I was watching the night races on television. Trina’s water bag burst. I was calling on my Six Up and asked if she could hang on. She couldn’t. So we got a cab, got her to the hospital and she was quickly wheeled in to the operating theatre. I wasn’t allowed in, which was just as good as I would have fainted.
My parents were with me as was my boss Philip and his wife at the time. Trina needed an epidural and out popped out our daughter on April 11. The nurse showed her to me and I said something flippant like, “Looks good to me.”
Trina and I had agreed to name her Sasha Samantha- Sasha being picked by Trina. A few weeks before the birth, while reading a book on old Hollywood, I came across the name Taryn, the strikingly beautiful daughter of actor Tyrone Power, pictured below. For some reason, I expected our Taryn to be more beautiful. I wasn’t wrong.
I immediately loved the name and the way it was spelt. The letter y added a certain je ne sais quoi. Without Trina knowing, an announcement ad appeared in the newspaper the next day that born to us was Taryn Samantha Ebert. Trina was taken aback by the new name, but the way she didn’t suffer a meltdown about it meant that it was a name that passed the EQ test.
As visitors came to see her, I had an interview setup with John McVie, bassist with Fleetwood Mac, at The Bombay Indian Restaurant close to the hospital.
Between listening to me ramble on about fatherhood and the name Taryn, he asked me to keep an ear open for a new band called The Police with an excellent bass guitarist and singer named Sting.
Fatherhood, Trina, Taryn, Fleetwood Mac, the Police, Sting, my parents- it was a world in motion day.
My thoughts were about how Taryn would like her room, and the welcome she would receive from Mini and Kitty. There was nothing to worry about. Trina let them greet her, they sniffed her, and became her great protector by guarding her room when she was asleep and letting us know when she was awake. It was a magical time. We were truly blessed.
We didn’t worry about the future or finances or any of the clutter that messes up lives today. We knew we wanted the best for Taryn and simply went with the flow to give her the best.
To be continued…
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