(This is part of the series on behind-the-scenes while covering celebrities.)
I nearly lost three precious photos today. Precious because they were personalized autographed photos for my friends from Wu Chun. I left or dropped them by accident at Krispy Kreme in Siam Paragon and almost didn’t get them back. I couldn’t blame the staff if they didn’t want to turn them over but what will they do with photos addressed to specific people?
It was just one of those random things I didn’t expect to happen. One day, I just asked a friend if he knows Wu Chun and if he could get an interview for me. He said he’d ask another friend, who turned out to be Wu Chun’s buddy.
And thus began my correspondence with Go Kiat Chun or “GKC” as he is known in Brunei.
GKC was very hands on. He never referred me to his manager and dealt with me directly. He was open, friendly and very easy to talk to. No red tape in setting up an interview. There was just a teeny bit of miscommunication though because he thought I’d inform him when I can fly to BSB when in fact, I was waiting for him to inform me when he will be in BSB. I thought that the interview would go kaput then because of this but it was just a matter of moving the dates.
Truth be told, there was really no need for me to fly to BSB and interview him because he answered all my questions in the email already when he thought I couldn’t make it anymore. Of course I could have gone ahead and write the story from the email interview but I had this chance to talk to the person myself, so why settle for a long-distance one? Besides, I was curious how GKC is really like up close and personal. I was wondering if he would be as nice and friendly in person.
So off I flew to BSB and the song that was playing in the taxi that picked me up at the airport was that of Feilunhai (Fahrenheit). I thought that was a good start for the trip.
I arrived two days before my scheduled interview. I wanted to check out the city and catch up with friends first. But the following day, my friend A, who I was staying with told me she got this message from GKC’s manager. I thought, “manager”? He has a manager in BSB? I thought the manager would only be confined in Taiwan and he’d be a “freelancer” whenever he’s in BSB.
I had just woken up when A told me that so please excuse my cluelessness in the succeeding account.
I called the number and introduced myself to the person who picked up the call.
Me: Hi this is (Yupki).
Voice: Oh, hello (Yupki)!
Me: My friend got this message from Chun’s manager about my interview with him.
Voice: Oh yeah… can we move it to today?
Me: Today?! (Mind going haywire as I wasn’t psychologically prepared–yes of course, you have to be psychologically prepared for an interview.)
Voice: Oh, you’re not free?
Me: I just thought it was going to be tomorrow. But… okay, what time does he want it?
Voice: This afternoon? Around 2pm.
(I checked the time, I only had like two hours to prepare and I haven’t even had breakfast or lunch yet. I. Just. Woke. Up.)
Me: Okay. Where shall I meet him?
Voice: Where are you staying? (I mention the place.) Hmmm, then you can go to the coffee shop at the Fitness Zone in Kiulap.
Me: All right… who am I talking to by the way?
Voice: This is Chun!
I. Almost. Died. Of. Embarrassment.
So anyway, two hours later, I found the cafe at the ground floor of Fitness Zone. I was about 10 minutes early so I had time to survey the area and choose the best place to have the interview. I chose a corner and thought I’d have him facing the wall so there won’t be any distractions. I ordered a drink and checked my camera and recorder, reviewed my notes and took a deep breath. I get nervous before an interview, not because I would be interviewing a celebrity, but because I am anxious on how it will go. An interview is a job for me more than anything else in the world. If I don’t do this right, then my efforts would be wasted.
I was constantly watching the door and a few minutes after 2pm, I spotted him outside the coffee shop. He had an FZ cap on. He walked in and I stood up and made a small wave. He walked over to me, shook my hand and went over to the place I was just sitting on. Which meant, he won’t be facing the wall but facing the rest of the world. Not that it was a problem because there was no one at the cafe anyway so no chance of fans interrupting the interview midway.
We exchanged pleasantries and chit-chatted for a while. Just as I was about to begin recording, one of his FZ staff came and he handed some stuff to the guy. He was very soft-spoken and had a Singaporean-like accent.
He ordered some green tea concoction that I had to urge him to finish throughout the interview because the ice cream was melting. Like he said at the beginning of the interview, he’s the kind of person who adapts to the person he is talking to. “Like you’re chatty so I can be chatty… but if the person is quiet, then I will be quiet too.”
He was a good subject and one plus is that he speaks English so there was no need for translation. And it mattered I guess that the interview was done in his home turf so he was relaxed. And there were no handlers or managers hanging around.
He was a walking advertisement of FZ and carried around a backpack. Far from the “idol” that everyone is familiar with with the coiffed hair and the designer clothes. I was tempted to ask him to remove his cap so I can see his hair. I was even tempted to seek permission to poke his face because his skin was perfect I wanted to find out if he had make-up on. (Of course he didn’t.) And his muscles were not as bulky or maybe he had toned down on the body-building.
He offered to give me a tour of his gym (he is proud of his business) and as we were about to walk out of the cafe, I was surprised when a group of fans suddenly sprung up on him. I immediately saw the stance of GKC go from relaxed to wary. For a moment I even thought that he was going to snub his fans because he didn’t talk to them. It was only once he stepped outside that he spoke to them in low tones. They wanted to have their photo taken with him so I offered to take it. “Is that OK?” he asked. I was amused that he looked kind of shy that I was the one who asked the fans where they were from. It seemed that the fans (and the paparazzi as he mentioned in the interview) have followed him all the way to BSB. Of course, there was me too.
We went up to his gym where two female fans hanging out in the receiving area started taking photos the moment he walked in. He stopped them from taking photos and turned to me, “they are very naughty”. It turned out that these girls from Singapore were always there everyday waiting for him to show up at the gym.
I told him I needed to take photos and he suggested to meet up again the following day at the new FZ branch in Serusop because it was a better location for the photoshoot. The interview was originally set there but when he learned I was staying in an area nearer Kiulap, he suggested we have it there instead. So we agreed to meet at Serusop the following day.
Then came the tricky part after every interview… asking for autographs for friends. I had a golden felt tip pen ready and several clean sheets of paper. “Oh,” he took one look at them, “I have photos for them. I’ll give them to you tomorrow.”
And that is why those photos I nearly lost today are so precious. The signature wasn’t the only one that came from GKC, the pictures themselves too.
On my way back, I saw his red Lamborghini parked across the building. I just suspected it was his but I confirmed it when I ran into his buddy (my “broker” for the interview later) who said: “So you met Chun already? You saw him in his Lambo?” Rich kids and their terminology!
GKC wasn’t driving the Lambo the following day but an Audi sportscar that was already parked at the front of FZ. I was late about 20 minutes because the car was late in picking me up and I was a bit upset. I’d rather be early than late especially in interview appointments. When I got to the gym, he was talking to his staff in one of the glass-encased rooms. I sat down and noticed right away that the two Singapore fans were there again.
I gave GKC an apologetic look when he came out from the meeting. He signaled for a moment and went up. When he returned, he handed me something. I looked at it and realized these were the photos neatly tucked in an envelope. He gave me a tour of the branch, which was much bigger and grander than the one in Kiulap, all this time with his two fans following us everywhere with their eyes. It seemed GKC had told them to sit there and not follow him around. He said that before, they’d really literally follow him around. “If I go out, they’d also go out. I couldn’t do any work. So I told them it’s OK for you to come here but you have to let me do my work.” So there they were sitting in the reception area like well-behaved children.
I chose the bicycle room as location for the shoot. I have always been dependent on photographers to do the work for me but now, I was on my own and I was lost especially when he asked me how I wanted him to pose. I replied cheekily, “you’re the expert here, I don’t really know how to direct photo shoots.” He was stiff at first but soon got into the groove that I almost laughed out loud at one point because he was really posing. I’d say, professional. Too bad I am an amateur photographer.
He walked us out of the branch afterwards and I almost felt sad saying goodbye to him because he has been such a very cooperative subject. (Even opening up on what he really thinks of the e-biz and the incessant rumors about him, and why he backed out of Absolute Boyfriend–but these things will have to remain off-the-record.)
“Keep in touch,” he said before I left.
You can bet on that, GKC.
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