The unforgettable Andy Lau - still going strong after three decades of standing solo under the relentless spotlight of show business. Zou Hong / China Daily
The unwritten rule at all interviews with super-celebrity Andy Lau is: Stay away from questions about his private life. China Daily's Xu Fan breaks the rule with good reason.
It's no secret among Chinese entertainment reporters. Andy Lau will answer almost any question with one exception. Don't ask about family. The 49-year-old Hong Kong-based showbiz A-lister is celebrating 30 years in the business with a new album aptly named Unforgettable, and he will also go on tour with 20 concerts later this year in December. During his recent tour in Beijing, he fended every question with his usual smiling ease, and allowed the mask to slip only once.
"I don't even talk to my father about my family life, so why should I confide in the media?" he retorted when asked if hiding his long-time relationship with his Malaysian beauty queen wife was a heavy price to pay for fame and fan loyalty.
"Some things I can share with my fans because they know me, but not with the media. Who knows what kind of a person they will make you up to be?" he says with a slight quiver in his voice, unguarded for a nanosecond as he fielded questions in an interview with China Daily in a well-appointed room at a luxury hotel in Beijing.
As usual, Lau is surrounded by protective assistants and an army of agents.
It is a formula that has worked so far for Lau, this separation of public and private persona. In an arena where relentless competition, fickle fans and fierce backstabbing are the order of the day, Andy Lau has survived more than the traditional 15 minutes of fame and become an iconic evergreen for generations of fans.
Thirty years is a long time to have bloomed and boomed in Chinese show business.
Lau has acted in more than 140 films, recorded 120 albums, held nearly 500 concerts and won more than 500 awards for his work in music, on stage and screen, as well as for his work in charity.
In addition, he is one of few in the entertainment industry in Hong Kong to have been appointed Justice of Peace (JP), a ceremonial title given by local government to model leaders in society.
Andy Lau is an official role model.
But, some critics have said there is one person Lau needs to treat better - and that is his 44-year-old wife Carol Chu, in a relationship Lau has kept under wraps for more years than he would ever admit.
Chu comes from Penang, born to a rich family and blessed with good looks that had her capturing a handful of beauty pageants crowns when she was younger. At the peak of her popularity, Chu met Lau, who was visiting Malaysia with a celebrity soccer team.
Their courtship was conducted in absolute secrecy and their relationship kept away from the media spotlight for 24 years, until recently when her father passed away, and the couple flew to Malaysia to attend the funeral.
The paparazzi mobbed Hong Kong airport on Aug 25, 2009, when the couple returned to Hong Kong after the funeral and Lau publicly acknowledged his wife for the first time.
Lau published an apology on his official fan website a few days later.
"I felt so ashamed that I didn't keep my promise to tell it embarrassed my family, friends and the media who trust me. I'm so sorry." Why apologize? Because he had promised to tell his public if he got married.
The belated recognition and apology seriously dented his otherwise impeccable reputation.
It seems sad that a man nearing 50 should have to hide his marital status and his right to have a family from the public. But there is justification enough.
Fervent fans have been known to threaten suicide if their idol so much as glanced favorably at a female. Another celebrity, Jackie Chan, had to tread warily after one of his Japanese fans nursed a devotion until death, literally.
Chan only admitted to his marriage to Taiwanese actress Joan Lin when his grown son, Jaycee, entered the industry.