Wong Kim Hoh,
The Straits Times,
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
One night nearly five years ago, Wang Weiliang was crooning his heart out in a karaoke lounge when a stranger came along and changed his life.
The man asked Wang if he would like to sing at a getai, a live stage performance usually held during the Hungry Ghost month and other Chinese festivals.
Then a 22-year-old used car salesman bored not just with his job but also with life in general, he decided to give it a shot.
He made his debut in October 2009 at a getai in Bedok, singing two Hokkien songs - A Sad Passerby and Xiao Wei - for which he was paid $80.
"There were no rehearsals and I had to sing with a live band. I was so nervous I was rooted to the stage and didn't move an inch," recalls Wang, 27, in Mandarin.
The audience did not know who the newbie was, but applauded warmly. "I was hooked. I told myself this was what I wanted. You could say my new life started with that $80," he says.
The Secondary 2 dropout and former teen gangster bade adieu to his hitherto chequered past - which included stints as a pasar malam hawker, alarm clock salesman and contractor - to pursue a performing career.
The road was rocky, filled with heartbreak and hard times. Things got so dire at one stage that he had to sing at a gigolo bar to make ends meet.
On the recommendation of a friend, he found a regular gig performing at a gigolo bar in Orchard Road, where male hosts from countries such as South Korea, China and Thailand entertained paying female guests.
He performed six nights a week. Patrons who liked the performers would buy garlands - each with a monetary value - to show their appreciation.
"The most I got was a couple of thousand dollars a night. But there was a Thai singer who was so popular that the women would fight over him. He once got $60,000 in a night," he recalls.
"Sixty thousand dollars," he repeats, shaking his head. With a sigh, he adds: "The sad thing is, in a place like that, no one will listen to you sing. The patrons are more interested in the hosts."
Although he received his fair share of indecent proposals, he says, he never accepted them. "I guess my male ego can't take it," he says with a sigh.
Read the full report at AsiaOne.