Cheung Fat-Chung better known as Cheung kwok-wing (张国荣) aka Leslie Cheung (English) aka Gor Gor (big brother) aka the King of Chinese pop. Gor Gor is one of the founding fathers of Cantopop and has won many awards for both music and films.
Early life and education
Cheung was born Cheung Fat-chung in Kowloon, Hong Kong, the youngest of ten children in a middle-class Hakka family. Cheung Wut-hoi (張活海), his father, was a fairly well known tailor, whose customers included American actors William Holden, Marlon Brando, and Cary Grant. His parents divorced when he was quite young. While in Hong Kong, Cheung attended Rosaryhill School at Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island. At age 12, he was sent to Norwich School in England. He worked as a bartender at his relatives' restaurant in Southend-on-Sea and sang during the weekends. It was around this period that he chose his name, Leslie. According to Cheung, he chose this name because "I love the film Gone with the Wind. And I like Leslie Howard."
In several interviews, Cheung stated he had had a fairly unhappy childhood. "I didn't have a happy childhood. Arguments, fights and we didn't live together; I was brought up by my granny." "What I would say most affected me as a child, was that my parents were not at home with me. As a young kid, one could not always understand why his parents weren't at home. This made me depressed sometimes."
Cheung attended the University of Leeds where he studied textile management. He continued university through the end of his first year when his father fell ill. After his father's recovery, Cheung did not return to England to complete his studies.
Following his participation in talent competitions, Cheung signed with Polydor Records in 1977 and released his first albums, I Like Dreamin and Day Dreamin, recording the full contents of the album in English. The albums flopped as did his first Cantonese-language album, Lover's Arrow, in 1979. During one performance in 1980, Cheung was booed by the crowd and the singer briefly departed from his music career, until signing with Capital Artists in 1982 where he released his breakthrough album, Wind Blows On that year. In 1984, his song "Monica" became the best-selling single in Hong Kong history and made Cheung a music superstar. Cheung would release more successful albums, including For Your Heart Only (1985), Stand Up (1986) and Admiration (1986). Cheung left Capital Artists in 1987 and released nine more albums on the Cinepoly label.
Cheung donated profits of the 1989 album Salute to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, which was named the Leslie Cheung Memorial Scholarship after his death.
Cheung's status as one of Hong Kong's biggest artists brought him in competition with fellow superstar Alan Tam (譚詠麟), leading to increasing hostility between their fans, starting a long-standing conflict that soon put heavy pressure on both singers. In 1988, Tam publicly quit all pop music award ceremonies. In 1989, Cheung announced his intention to retire from his music career as a singer. Cheung then set a record by being the first singer ever in Cantopop history to hold a retirement concert series Final Encounter of the Legend, which ran for 33 consecutive nights (he was 33 at the time) at Hong Kong Coliseum.
The turning point in Cheung's acting career came in 1986 with his starring role in John Woo's (吳宇森) A Better Tomorrow, which broke Hong Kong's box office record. In the following years Cheung was praised for his performances in films which found popularity with audiences worldwide, including A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), Rouge (1987) and Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild (1991).
Although Cheung quit his career as a pop singer from 1989 to 1995, he continued his music career as a songwriter. He composed more than ten songs during that time. In 1993, he won Best Original Movie Song Award from Golden Horse Film Festival for the theme song Red Cheek, White Hair to the film The Bride with White Hair (as a film score composer). In 1995, he wrote all three theme songs for the film The Phantom Lover. As for songwriting, Cheung won four nominations for Best Original Movie Song Award at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards and two nominations for Best Original Film Song at the Hong Kong Film Awards. In 1998, he was a member of the jury at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival.
In 1995 Cheung signed a contract with Rock Records, returning to music as a singer. At the same year, he released his first post-"retirement" album, Beloved. Beloved achieved large market success with the award of IFPI Best Selling Album.
In 2001 Cheung collaborated with William Chang, the art director of Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild (1991), to make his music video Bewildered, about the intimacy between two gay men. Japanese ballet dancer Nishijima Kazuhiro played Cheung's lover in the video. The music video was demonized for advocating homosexuality and was banned by TVB, but Cheung refused to edit the scenes and censor himself.
Cheung's last concert tour was the Passion Tour, which took place in Hong Kong and overseas from 2000 to 2001. Cheung collaborated with fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier, transforming Cheung "From Angel to Devil" in four costumes: the Angel, the Pretty Boy, the Latin Lover, and the Devil – denoting cross-cultural drag and focusing on Cheung's androgyny and bisexuality. Although Passion Tour was acclaimed in Japan, Korea, and Canada for Cheung's glamour and dignity in using drag performance through Gaultier's costume designs, in Hong Kong it was received with disapproval.
In 2011, CCTV commented the "Passion Tour" that from performance form, art concept, costume props and audience response, all represent the highest standard of Chinese concerts, no one has ever surpassed.
In 1977, during the filming the RTV television series Love Story, the then 20-year-old Cheung met and fallen in love with his 17-year-old co-star, Teresa Mo (毛舜筠), and they got along after they finished the series. In 1979, Cheung proposed to Mo with flowers in marriage. But his sudden proposal startled Mo and she began to distance herself from him. Although Cheung and Teresa Mo eventually broke up shortly after the proposal and briefly lost contact, they later remained close friends again when they reunited for the 1992 film All's Well, Ends Well.
Cheung later went into a brief relationship with an actress Shirley Yim [zh], the younger sister of Michelle Yim, but they broke up in 1980, due to their incompatibly for each other's lifestyles.
Cheung and Ngai Sze-pui (倪詩蓓), a Hong Kong model and actress whom he met on the set of ATV television series Agency 24, were in a relationship for two years from 1981 to 1983.
In 1984, at the house of Albert Yeung, Cheung met Cindy Yeung (楊諾詩), the youngest daughter of Albert Yeung who had recently returned from Boston. Cindy Yeung was also a fan of Cheung and was seven years younger than him. Cheung and Yeung went out on several dates until the latter returned to Boston. They continued their relationship through phone calls and letters, but would later part ways on the following year but still remained good friends. Cheung felt that if he was not in showbiz, he may have already been married with children like most of his friends.
Cheung distinguished himself as a Canto-pop singer through embodying the politics, sexual and gender identity of a queer subject position.
In an interview in 1992, Cheung stated that "My mind is bisexual. It's easy for me to love a woman. It's also easy for me to love a man, too" and "I believe that a good actor would be androgynous, and ever changing," referencing his performance of intersexuality, androgynous dressing, and gay femininity in his music videos and films.
He announced his same-sex relationship with his childhood friend Daffy Tong Hok-tak (唐鹤德) during a concert in 1997, earning him prestige in LGBT communities in China, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
Cheung responded to questions regarding his love life: "In terms of lovers, I think I can be a better friend than a lover. Because I am a workaholic. To share my romance, that person has to compromise something." This statement was out during the interview following the release of the film Okinawa Rendez-vous in 2000.
In a 2001 interview with Time magazine, Cheung said: "It's more appropriate to say I'm bisexual. I've had girlfriends. When I was 22 or so, I asked my girlfriend Teresa Mo to marry me."
He moved to Vancouver in 1990 and became a Canadian citizen by naturalisation. He held Canadian citizenship.
Cheung was a supporter of several charities concerning children's welfare. He was a patron of the Children's Cancer Foundation, a charity that provides caring service for young children with cancer and their families. Cheung donated HK$1 million (US$128,000) in 1996 and launched five sets of RED cards to help raise funds for the Children's Cancer Foundation. He was the first star to launch a charity fundraiser at a concert.In 1996, he had rarely sung in public, but he sang three theme songs of his films to raise money for the elderly. RED card is a charity that Cheung set up a collection booth outside the HK Coliseum in his concert in 1997. As long as donation of HK$100 or above can be obtained a set of card.Cheung said, "I will lead the way, so I donated HK$1,000,000 to Hong Kong children's cancer fund in my own name." During the concert, we collected more than HK$800,000, Cheung and his friends added more than HK$10,000 and made up a million Hong Kong dollars to donate to the cancer fund.
He was also a patron of the End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation (ECSAF), founded by veteran actress Josephine Siao (蕭芳芳). "Last night, wireless for the Taiwan earthquake, 'send warm to Taiwan' fund-raising party, PO in front of the screen performance of fried rice fund-raising, "brother" Leslie Cheung on the stage to test food, praise good taste, impromptu donated 250,000 Hong Kong dollars to the victims of Taiwan, together with fans donations, a bowl of fried rice has raised 500,000 Hong Kong dollar." --1999
Sun Entertainment opened the "star Second-hand Shop", donated by the stars of second-hand goods to open the auction, the amount of money donated to the "Sun Love Fund". Leslie Cheung has always been praised that has a very good taste， in support of charitable activities, he was the first to donate carefully selected three pieces of love to treasure for the big auction. --2000 of the Sun. Leslie has donated his beloved badminton racket to the commercial Taiwan "http://idclub.com celebrities" for auction, income donated to children's Cancer Fund. "--2000 of Oriental Daily
In 1999 and 2000, he appeared in TVB charity shows to help raise funds for ECSAF, in which he was appointed a goodwill ambassador in 2002.
Seedling protection fund large-scale charity night this year, already is scheduled for 12 April, Cheung takes the lead in response to donate $100,000HKD when celebrating his birthday on the same day last year, he has told the guests that give him cash instead of birthday presents, then he donate the all the money that he receive in his birthday party to the fund. -- 12 March 2003 Oriental daily.
---Death and legacy
Leslie Cheung leapt from the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel (right) located at the Central district, Hong Kong Island.
3rd anniversary of Cheung's death, in Central, Hong Kong, 2006
"Miss You Much Leslie" exhibition at Times Square (Hong Kong), April 2013
Cheung died of suicide on 1 April 2003 at 6:43 pm (HKT). He leapt from the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, located in the Central district of Hong Kong Island. He left a suicide note saying that he had been suffering from depression. He was 46 years old.
As one of the most popular performers in Asia, Cheung's death broke the hearts of millions of his fans across Asia and shocked the Asian entertainment industry and Chinese community worldwide. The day after Cheung's death, his partner Daffy Tong confirmed that Cheung suffered from clinical depression and had been seeing Professor Felice Lieh Mak, a famous therapist, for treatment for almost a year. He also revealed that Cheung had previously attempted suicide in November 2002. Later at his funeral, Cheung's niece disclosed that her uncle had severe clinical depression and suffered much over the past year.
Despite the risk of infection from SARS and the WHO's warning on traveling to Hong Kong, tens of thousands attended Cheung's memorial service, which was held for the public, on 7 April 2003, including celebrities and other fans, many from other parts of the world such as mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, the United States, and Canada. Cheung's funeral was held on 8 April 2003. For almost a month, Cheung's death dominated newspaper headlines in Hong Kong and his songs were constantly on the air. His final album, Everything Follows the Wind (一切隨風), was released three months after his death.
Cheung's suicide note (translation):
Depression! Many thanks to all my friends. Many thanks to Professor Felice Lieh-Mak (麥列菲菲) (Cheung's last psychiatrist). This year has been so tough. I can't stand it anymore. Many thanks to Mr. Tong. Many thanks to my family. Many thanks to Sister Fei (沈殿霞). In my life I have done nothing bad. Why does it have to be like this?
In a 2012 interview, Cheung's eldest sister, Ophelia, stated Cheung was diagnosed with clinical depression caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. She said that reporters were frequently found outside of her brother's home which hampered his ability to get to his doctor's facility. Thus, he would come over to her house to consult with his doctor. He would ask his sister, "Why am I depressed? I have money and so many people love me." He was reluctant to take medication for his depression.
In 2013, Cheung's former music agent Florence Chan organised two memorial concerts entitled Miss You Much Leslie on 31 March and 1 April for the 10th anniversary of Cheung's death. Big names of the Hong Kong entertainment industry performed at the concert at Hong Kong Coliseum. In addition, in 2013, Cheung's fans from around the world made 2 million orizuru cranes for the Guinness World Record as a tribute to the anniversary.
On 12 September 2016, on what would have been Cheung's 60th birthday, over one thousand fans joined Florence Chan in the morning at Po Fook Hill Ancestral Hall (寶福山) for prayers. At night, Cheung's fans club, Red Mission organised "Leslie Cheung 60th Red Hot Birthday Party" to commemorate Cheung. It was an outdoor birthday party at Central Harbourfront Event Space with a big LED screen projecting Cheung's past video clips, concerts, songs and pictures. Eason Chan (陳奕迅) as a member of Red Mission joined the party singing one of Cheung's song "4 season" (春夏秋冬) as a tribute to Cheung. In the same month, another fans club, United Leslie also celebrated the big day of this renowned star. United Leslie organised an exhibition and movie screening of Cheung's two selected movies in PMQ, Central of Hong Kong.
-----Struggling with Hong Kong media and social prejudice
Cheung is well known for his prominent roles portraying queer characters in Happy Together and Farewell My Concubine. A pair of red high heels Cheung wore during a performance of his song Red were described as "a top draw" at an exhibit on androgynous fashion in Hong Kong. Many media outlets focused primarily on arguing about his gay identity instead of on his artistic achievement in film and music. Before his death, Cheung mentioned in interviews that he had become depressed because of negative comments about gender-crossing in his Passion Tour concert. He had planned to retire from stage performance because of the strain of being a bisexual artist in Hong Kong, facing stigmatization, surveillance, and marginalization.
Teresa Mo (1977–1979)
Shirley Yim (1979–1980)
Ngai Sze-pui (1981–1983)
Cindy Yeung (1984–1985)
Daffy Tong (1985–2003)
In 2018, 55383 Cheungkwokwing was named in memory of Leslie Cheung. The main-belt asteroid was discovered by Bill Yeung at the Desert Eagle Observatory in 2001.