Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Once in a Lifetime
And you may find yourself sitting on a tour bus with 14 middle-aged, waxed, laquered, sprayed, glossed, blow-dried and mummified Hong Kong beauticians clad in identical white dresses and rhinestone edged jackets with wide lapels, pink T-shirts, pink high heels with matching pink polka bows bound for a women's prison.
And you may find yourself on the same bus with a public relations officer for the Hong Kong prison system who keeps tossing out unintentional malapropisms like "That's frozen water under the bridge," and "Let's foot it" and singing Tie a Yellow Ribbon as a joke because it's a song about getting out of prison.
And you may ask yourself...well, how did I get here?
It was an assignment. The beauticians were part of prison PR push to show off a new rehab program that will supposedly train female convicts how to use scissors for cutting hair instead of stabbing faithless boyfriends. Or something like that.
Gotta say, though, that my coworkers ears perked up when I mentioned that I was going to a women's prison.
"Yeah!" I replied smartly. "Caged Heat! Hong Kong Harlots Behind Bars! 'Lei Ming's burning loins twitched involuntarily as Warden Wong suggestively fondled the polished knob of his hefty nightstick...' 'I need correction, warden. Are you man enough to correct me?'''
Well, it wasn't like that, of course. Turns out it was a minimum security prison for girls and women ages 14-21 who were there for relatively minor offensives. I did ask about Hong Kong's Milk Shake Murderess, Nancy KIssel but found she is in stir somewhere harsher and harder to get to.
The cons looked like the children most of them were -- all in raggedly shorn bob haircuts and clad in identical dress gray cardigans, pin striped oversized button down shirts, gray slacks and clunky, shiny black shoes with waffle stomper soles.
Quite the contrast with the Mary Kay/Stepford Beauticians, but maybe that was the point. Girls, you may be convicted criminals now, but if you work hard you can be a Class 1 Fashion Felon!
Also on hand were several Hong Kong celebs I'd never heard of. Maybe you too? There was "Michelle" (one word, like Madonna or Cher) with her ex-jock boyfriend as well as "Supermodel Vanessa Yeung," and Kenix Kwok, an ex-insurance agent turned star of TV shows of which I was equally ignorant..
My fave thought was the emcee, a cheerful, portly gray bearded B or C-list celeb named Michael Law whose credits include a mainland movie called A Widow's Romance and "runnerup Asia Pacific Singing Contest." Kind of Hong Kong's Troy McClure I was thinking, though Bill Murray's old SNL lounge singer also came to mind when in the process of chatting me up he interrupted himself to grab a female prison PR woman gently by the arm, gaze deeply into her eyes and croon, "Saayyy, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in -- the Hong Kong prison system?" in his best Charlie Rich.
But maybe you had to be there. I know I'm glad I was.
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