Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A biography on Rose Chan

Today theSun published  my story where the  award winning poet Cecil Rajendra talks about this latest project. He has just written a biography on the life of the Malaysian queen of striptease Rose Chan . Here is the story.  

Title: Stripping bare The Rose

By Bissme S

Award winng poet Cecil Rajendra (below)has just completed a biography, entitled No Bed of Roses, that would likely raise a few eyebrows. The biography focuses on the late Rose Chan, Malaysia’s queen of striptease. 
Born Chan Wai Chang, she started her career as a cabaret dancer. The turning point in her career came when she was 27. Due to a ‘wardrobe malfunction', her brassiere snapped while she was dancing. 
She received thunderous applause from her audience, some of whom thought it was part of her performance
Seeing that the crowd loved it, she repeated this on a regular basis and eventually was bestowed the title’ of queen of striptease. The book is now in the hands of publisher Marshall Cavendish in Singapore and  is expected to hit the shelves before the year is out.
To date, the Penang-born poet has written 21 collections of poetry, published across 50 countries and translated into German, Japanese, Swahili, French, Chinese, Tamil,Bengali, Thai, Spanish, Malay, Dutch, Danish and Urdu, among others.In this exclusive interview, Cecil shares his thoughts on his new book.

* What we can expect from this book?

The initial title was The Last Days of Rose Chan but during the writing, I realised that in spite of all the glamour, Rose had a very tough life,  starting from her early childhood years – forced into wedlock at the age of  16, five failed marriages, hounded by the authorities, and finally falling  victim to the dreaded cancer. Her life was certainly No Bed of Roses!
No aspect of her life is left unturned – from her dancing, her strip shows,her husbands, her court cases and her sex secrets. Chan was also a great cook, accomplished ballroom dancer and philanthropist. I consider her to be our country’s first feminist – she could stand up to any man! What I admired most about her was her fearlessness and her fierce independent spirit.

Did you ever met Rose in person?

Rose Chan had been part of my schoolboy fantasies for decades, but I never got  to see any of her shows. In the 50s, a group of us tried to sneak in to watch  her perform. But we were caught and the security guards threw us out. The first time I met her was in 1980 when she came to Penang to spend her last days. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given six to 18 months to live. But she lived on for another six years.I was first hired as her lawyer.Later, she asked me to write her life story. Over the period of five years, we met frequently. Her narrative was never linear but always episodic – preferring to jump from one event to
another … as the mood took her.
I have spoken to dozens of people who had seen her shows but they only knew her as a striptease queen, but nothing of her private persona. Though there was one gentleman who claimed to have leapt on stage and help  extricate Rose from her python which was strangling her.” (One of Rose’s famous acts involved her wrestling with a python.)

What is the common misconception about Rose?

That she was a mere stripper, performing unsavoury acts and breaking the law  in the process. Nothing could be further from the truth ... up to her  retirement in the 70s, every one of her shows in Malaysia and Singapore was performed with a permit.
In 1959, a group of moralists petitioned the Ipoh Town Council not to issue  Rose a permit to perform. The acting chairman, Dr W. Holmes, brushed their  objections aside, saying:‘There is a tendency in every male to be something of  a peeping Tom. It is perhaps better that we issue this permit for a striptease show, than to have people peep into your bedrooms at night 

What kind of reaction do you think the book will receive?

I don’t know what sort of reaction the book will provoke ... but no matter what, it is bound to kick up a storm in these hypocritical ‘holierthan- thou’ times where there is far more censorship than in good old Tunku’s days