Saturday, December 29, 2012

Déjà vu - Two Old Stars of The Star!

Charles Chan and Janet are in Wellington, we had a dinner catch up; we reminisced the good old days when we were with The Star tabloid in Malaysia. Isn't that what "Two old  stars of The Star" (quote and unquote from Chong Cheng Hai) talk about? Chong is a "younger star of The Star".  ;)

Charles and I go back a long way, he was the News Editor and me the Photo Editor at the 1974 Star Publications in Penang, Malaysia.

When I joint, The Star was hardly 2 years old. We were competing with the all powerful The New Straits Times, the national broadsheet and a 70+ year old local, The Straits Echo; another broadsheet.

Charles was a no nonsense News Editor during those "lean and mean" days, I remember fondly that he ordered the photographer to reshoot the job because the shots were not up to his high standard. In 1974, News Editor has MORE power and say than a young Photo Editor ;)

Charles got along with me so well that he SOLD me his precious SOLID SILVER Dunhill cigarette lighter for RM 60.00! He even let me pay the amount by 3 monthly installments of RM 20.00 :) He reckoned that was a sure way of quitting his smoking habit! Hee hee... 

"These shots are RUBBISH!  You go back and get new one!  Don't come back if you can't!" Young rookie pixmen were scared stiff of Charles, but those were the days that our ONLY weapon to beat the heavy weight competitors was to produce BETTER stories and PHOTOS than them!

In the early years of The Star, good photos were displayed BIG to attract our readers; especially "human interest" pictures :)

Pictures taken by me at the flash flood in Kangar, The Star loved candid shots!

You were guaranteed a good FRONT PAGE display of your Decisive Moment captures! I am sure this "incentive" pushed the team of young photographers harder to excel in their work!

January 14, 1976; the then Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak died.  Charles was stationed in Kuala Lumpur and I was sent from Penang to shoot the funeral.  It was a big event, both the News Editor and Photo Editor were sent to the Subang International Airport to wait for the coffin.

On that faithful day our taxi was stopped at the Federal Highway and Charles and me had to WALK for MILES to the airport!  Luckily we were younger then ;) At least Charles did not have to carry a big bag full of cameras and lenses, he took with him a writing pad and a ball pen.

After the event we managed to get into a waiting "to make a fast buck" taxi parked at the airport. It was anybody guess how theses taxis got into the airport!!

I remembered it cost us something like RM 350.00 to get back to our office in Bangsar!  Goodness, that was nearly a month of my miserable pay! Ha ha ha...

I also remembered our Editor In Chief / Managing Director K.S.Choong told Charles when he try to claim back the fare... "Don't tell me if you were caught in a hotel with a girl, we will have to pay for the expensive room?" Ha ha ha...

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Razak's funeral, this was taken by me; outside the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur. I was sent from Penang to cover the funeral, I had to shoot colour and black and white at the same time for The Star.
This picture ran broadsheet (double spreads) in the tabloid.

I found this transparency more than 16 years later, it was moldy and faded; many hours of extensive Photoshop time were used to restore the image.

Nikon F2 camera, 20mm f2.8 lens on Kodak Ektachrome film. © C.Y.Leow / The Star

So here's to you Charles, thanks for the memories; guidance and friendship! But lets be like what our younger "star" Chong Cheng Hai advices.. "Remember the good old days, CY but don't stop creating new good days, too. 
Soon, today will be the good old days ... I hope."  Thanks Chong  :)

Two old stars of The Star with their Generals and daughters at the Dragon, Dixon Street; Wellington, New Zealand.

Famous Last Words...

On October 27, 1987; Operation Lalang, saw the arrest of 106 persons under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the revoking of the publishing licenses of two dailies, The Star and the Sin Chew Jit Poh and two weeklies, The Sunday Star and Watan.

Charles got a job with the Auckland Star and I with The Dominion in Wellington. We immigrated to this Land of the Long White Cloud in 1988.


Charles Chan said...

CY, it was a pleasure meeting up with you. We old dogs only fond memories of the good old days to yak about. About the way I dealt with the rookies, I wish I could have done it better. But there was no malice behind it. At the end of the day, we could sit down and have a beer at the pub. I recall a young Malay reporter in Business Times who cried because I scolded him him. A few years later, after I left the newspaper, we met again and he thanked me for my guidance,including being hard on him sometimes. He appreciated that I taught him the tricks of the trade. Same with Cheah Cheng Hye who invited me to dinners, karaoke sessions and his wedding when I worked in HK. From the way the old comrades in the photo dept communicate with you, I see you too have done right with your boys. Ah, the good old days....

heather said...

Sounds like he was the "Gordon Ramsay" of News editing in those days.That much for a cigarette lighter? Do you still have it.?You could melt it down and have it made into something more aesthetic.