I blew my big chance way back 16 years ago, during my first year in Taiwan. I was asked to play the role of a lecherous foreigner in a skit on one of those Saturday-night prime-time variety shows – someone from an agency called the school where I was studying Chinese to ask them to find a suitable Chinese-speaking foreigner, and they thought I’d be just the ticket for it. The scene of the skit was a traditional Chinese family reunion to celebrate the return of the family scion from his studies abroad. I had to act as the young man’s foreign friend who he brought back with him for a visit and who disrupted everything and outraged everyone by making lascivious overtures to all the female relatives in attendance (including the grand old matriarch in her bath chair, inevitably played by a well known male comedian). Yes, it was a classic piece of tasteless foreigner stereotyping, guaranteed to suit the prejudices of and be lapped up by the audience. (I recall they also had a pretty local starlet with her skin darkened and draped in a skimpy tigerskin costume to represent another of his foreign friends – I’m sure you can well imagine it!) But I considered it harmless enough and a bit of a lark, something colourful to write home about, so I went along and hammed it up as required. Originally, they had wanted me to memorize and spiel out some complicated doggerel verse that they thrust at me during the rehearsal – it was peppered with characters to be accidentally-on-purpose pronounced in the wrong tone and thus suggest supposedly hilarious double entendres, but my Chinese was far too weak for such demands, and I couldn’t make head or tail of its meaning, let alone remember and repeat it as required. So they gave up on that, and left me to more or less ad lib as I went along. It was an enjoyable experience, I thought my performance fitted the bill very nicely, and I rather hoped they’d invite me back to do some more – but I never did hear from them again. My inability to master those lines must have badly disappointed the show’s producers. If only my Chinese had been better then, perhaps I could have launched an exciting TV career, and become an earlier version of Jeff.
Anyway, that little episode paid another kind of dividend in a rather unexpected way. The show was put in the can to be aired a few weeks later. At the time I was living in a taofang and didn’t have my own TV. Of course I wanted to see my performance, so after discussing options with the luscious 19-year-old girl I was dating, we decided the best thing would be to check into a short-time hotel for a couple of hours to watch it on TV. When we booked the room and stressed that it must be equipped with a TV, the hotel receptionist must have assumed that we wanted to watch porn films to accompany our anticipated frolicking – they could never for a moment have imagined the true and truly “innocent” purpose of our two-hour stay in their hotel. And as our relationship had up till then remained quite chaste (young Taiwanese xiaojies were different in those days), I had absolutely no ulterior motives or lustful intentions in taking her to the hotel room. However, when she saw the guy beside her comporting with all those stars on the small screen, she got more excited than I did, and when it was over she had worked herself up into such a frenzy that she melted into my arms and all but begged me to make love to her. I couldn’t resist her passionate entreaties (well, okay, I didn’t really try very hard), and when we checked out of the hotel, we left the bedsheets not only in the condition that the hotel staff would have expected to see, but also with rather large bloody patches that I hope didn’t bring down too many curses on my head. Ah, the amazing aphrodosiac effect of stardom! Such a pity that it was and will likely always remain my one and only taste of it during this lifetime.