As promised, I got 高凌風’s book. It’s an autobiography with lots of intimate, gossipy details. After reading just a few chapters, I’m convinced, more than ever, that this man, an outrageous stage performer, a brazen talk show host who couldn’t sing to save his life, was no bimbo. In his usual candid style, Kao confessed that entering the entertainment industry was because it was sexy and exciting. He wanted to have fun. Indeed, even his most ruthless critics will confess that he enjoyed every performance and that pure energy was greeted by hordes of screaming fans.
Discovered by romance author Qiong Yao in an age when entertainment was a very different ball game, 高凌風 shot to fame and went through numerous ups and downs, from being shot to being imprisoned for carrying a gun during his performances. An incredibly resilient guy, he survived three failed marriages and had made several comebacks from the verge of bankruptcy. Throughout his book, he kept reminding us that he was a motivational speaker; a “反败为胜” (turning the tide) lecturer. All his brilliant strategies, his blunders, his stubbornness and burning optimism point to the fact that creative people are curious and always in need of new challenges and fresh stimuli to stay creative. Restrict them with rules and morals and you’ll only be wasting their talent.
Not being a fan of celebrity gossip and totally unable to appreciate Kao’s performances, I was quite unaware of what he went through in recent years. When I saw news of his death on Facebook, I decided to write something about him and while doing research, I discovered some shocking events leading to the end of his third marriage My curiosity piqued, I decided to read his book and also did some research online. It appears that the main reason that a dying Frankie Kao saw the need to write this book (published just months before his death) is to clear his name. Reading his book, I can feel his anguish and helplessness. In the end, 高凌風 didn’t have to kill himself to prove that he was telling the truth.
Before I go on, let me state that it’s not that I’m suddenly interested in celebrity gossip or derive pleasure from seeing couples fight. Those wishing to read more of this in my blog will be disappointed. It’s just that in this case, I can see and feel the pure agony that Kao was going through, bravely and optimistically fighting a deadly illness and at the same time trying to convince the doubters that he was actually ill! This case also shows how easy it is to look like a victim when your opponent is an arrogant, articulate and flamboyant performer.
The whole saga started with Kao’s wife (金友庄) being caught by the paparazzi, behaving intimately with a male business associate in a car. Immediately after the media reported the incident, Kao put up a good show, buying his wife her own car and going on a second honeymoon with her. He denied that there were any problems with their marriage and effectively covered things up for her. But Jin insisted on divorce. She went public with her relationship with the man in the car but somehow managed to repair her reputation by appearing on talk shows to complain about Kao’s flirty, womanising ways, his constant verbal abuse and even said that he had contracted STD. She doubted that he was really suffering from leukaemia and was sure that he was acting and pretending to avoid paying alimony.
高凌風 obtained two independent medical reports to show that he wasn’t suffering from any STD, but by then, the damage had been done. Talk show after talk show, 金友庄 vilified Kao and made him look like the villain. She went on Facebook to let off steam and further ruin his reputation. And as we can see from the videos I’ve embedded, many women were on her side.
Kao believed that the only thing that could take a woman away from a “happy” marriage has to be a third party. He put full blame on the “cobra”. He insinuated that she was using all this negative propaganda against him to cover up her infidelity. The panel didn’t seem to agree. They felt that he had ill-treated 金友庄 and the host seemed to have forgotten her role as moderator.
高凌風 insisted that he was shielding Jin from negative publicity with his denial of her affair. The panel (and the host) asked if he was sincere about forgiving Jin. They even accused him of putting on a show. According to Kao’s book, he wanted to save his marriage and he even felt that he might have been wrong. After all, he was nearly 20 years Jin’s senior and he hadn’t spent enough time with her. I don’t know what level of magnanimity the hostile panel expected of Kao, but Kao’s forgiveness was clearly conditional. The moment she refused to leave “cobra”, the deal was off. The moment she presented the media with Kao’s list of sins to whitewash her infidelity, Kao saw it as extreme betrayal. Of course, Kao was no saint, but aren’t these reasonable human reactions? What was there to pretend? What kind of a “show” were these ladies talking about?
Completely bought by Jin’s accusations, the panel put 高凌風 in a difficult position in which he had to prove that he was not responsible for the failure of the marriage. Gosh, they even brought up a piece of history that occurred before Kao married Jin! Does it mean that girls who are not virgins won’t make good wives?
Kao’s claim that he had never been unfaithful is unconvincing. In fact, he was even indirectly admitting to it. He brought up an interesting point. If she had never fought with him over such things, why did it suddenly become an issue now? Double standards or not, “cobra” was still the tipping point.
I find it rather strange that the panel (and the host) seemed to be trying to nail 高凌風 for infidelity and use that as an excuse to make Jin’s affair look mild or even “innocent” in contrast. I don’t know how Taiwan had progressed over the years, but being a traditional man, 高凌風 was plainly only fooling around and had no intention of dumping his wife. The reverse is not true. 金友庄 had every intention of dumping Kao. He even categorically allowed her to fool around twice a year without his knowledge. If one insists on equality between the sexes, then there may be value in pursuing Kao’s associations with his female companions and co-workers. Other than that, it’s really a matter of comparing apples with oranges.
高凌風 mentioned an interesting point here. Who was more anxious to get divorced. In his book and in this video, he had insisted that he was never in favour of divorce. What good is Kao’s second wife’s advice for his third wife? A businessman might as well listen to what his partner’s ex-partner has to say about him. For all we know, Kao’s second wife may be popping champagne if Kao were divorced again. I can’t believe this host.
Yes, 金友庄 went through thick and thin with him, but things changed. Who changed? Only 高凌風? Obviously not. To him, the entertainment business was familiar territory. So who suffered and who benefited from his successful comeback? Only Kao? Only Jin? What if they had remained hawkers and Jin did not have a taste of life on the fast lane? Would none of this had happened? I can follow Kao’s reasoning that if 金友庄 had wanted divorce, she would have started her own personal savings account a long time ago. She didn’t. By the time “cobra” came into her life, it was too late.
Kao was suing someone in China for cheating him of NTD 30,000,000. He was suffering from leukaemia. These are provable and proven facts now. 金友庄 didn’t believe him. In his book, he elaborated on the part about an investment in China going bad and why he decided not to pursue the matter. He also explained why he was giving up on chemotherapy. I can understand why he was raising the white flag. It’s not an admission of guilt of course, but if the panel and the public were so sympathetic towards someone so good at playing victim and refuse to believe me even when I’m telling the truth and I’m already in my last legs, ready to die any time, I would also raise a white flag. It’s sad that a man of his status had to explain his predicament to such detail to the public to clear his name. I wonder what the prejudiced folks out there would think if he had lived.
Can’t read English? Embarrassing. I don’t know what to say. For someone who is not a fan of Kao, I’ve gained a whole new level of respect for him, coming out in spite of terminal illness to be confronted by a hostile panel (and a host) who had already formed their opinions. Playboys will be playboys and even angels can lie. It’s so sad that it’s only with his death that people might take a more balanced view of this common yet uncommon saga.
In his book, Kao mentioned that he had made a voice recording of his final will. Latest reports say that all potential heirs to Kao’s legacy are currently watching one another’s moves. Kao’s estate is officially worth NTD 64 million. It is likely that he has much more than that. He made over NTD 4.7 million in his recent concert in Singapore. I foresee trouble ahead. I’m not interested anymore as the good guy (relatively speaking) is already dead.
© Chan Joon Yee
Frankie Kao’s last song written by Malaysian songwriter Namewee.
© Chan Joon Yee