Sunday, August 06, 2006

Living dangerously with dwarfs, Angela Lansbury, Lin Piao and Zhou En Lai
There are moments more and more when I wonder what and why the hell I'm still here, but it took a small gathering tonight in a Shenzhen nightclub, restaurant and bar area to keep me hanging on. The occasion was a gathering of Brit and New Zealand business types as well as Chinese Christians and a couple of covert missionaries - a mostly mixed batch - and I was there to try to make more contacts regarding a never-ending story I'm attempting to research on underground Chinese Christians
In the course of it, I wound up meeting two people of minor note, an older British woman who resembled Angela Lansbury and who has been in China, Hong Kong and Macau since the early '70s. She said she was originally attached covertly to the British secret service in the 70s in Beijing as a "business secretary" (kind of a Miss Moneypenny on steroids) who offhandedly added that as part of her duties she'd met the compiler of The Little Red Book and China's first prime minister, Zhou Enlai at an official reception in 1973.
"He was a lovely man," she said. "Very gracious."
The gathering also included a photographer connected with the Christians, a Chinese hunchback dwarf who looked and sounded alarmingly like Linda Hunt's role as a male photog dwarf in a 1982 Mel Gibson movie in which a pre-antiSemite/delusionary Christ figure Gibson played a foreign correspondent in SE Asia, The Year of Living Dangerously. If you never saw it, it's worth a rental. Gibson was good and Hunt won an Oscar.
Anyway, the Linda Hunt hunchback photogdwarf and I were talking with the Angela Moneypenny woman and she mentioned Zhou En Lai again. (Is there a Dylan song in this?... "The motorcycle black madonna, two-wheeled gypsy queen and her silver-studded phantom cause the gray flannel dwarf to scream....")
So the photogdwarf upped the Chinese revolutionary name dropping ante by telling us that as a child he had lived downstairs in a government complex from former Chinese defense minister and one-time Mao heir apparent, Lin Biao. The photogdwarf's dad had been a Chicom revolutionary on the Long March with Lin, Mao and Zhou and later was an sort of aid de camp for Lin. He added that his father also paid the price when he was imprisoned and tortured after Lin's plane was shot down over Mongolia in 1971 on Mao's orders as Lin, supposedly fed-up with the Cultural Revolution and who failed in a conspiracy kill his boss, was fleeing to the Soviet Union.
I asked him what his most lasting childhood memory of living downstairs from Lin Biao was and he replied: "He had a Russian phonograph and he would play western recordings very loudly late at night. It was hard to sleep but we did not complain because he was my father's friend and boss."
What kind of songs, I asked, hoping he'd say something like The Beatles or Elvis, maybe Dylan. He couldn't describe them well, but I got the vague impression they were a mix of European and Russian classical and '30s pop.
Actually, there is no conclusive evidence that Lin Biao's plane was shot down. There's a chance of this, but it's more likely that the pilot of the plane didn't have enough time to completely fuel the plane, due to the fact that Lin's pursuers were hot on his heels as Lin and his family (sans trecherous daughter who spilled the beans about the escape plans) arrived at the airport. Lin Biao's plane crashed because it didn't have enough fuel to reach its destination. You can read the account of this in Jung Chang's Mao: the Unknown Story (pp. 557-61). Such a great book. Jung Chang has no love for Mao, so if her research found it more likely that Mao was responsible for Lin Biao's plane crashing, she would have pushed that theory.
a dwarf name-dropper at a quasi underground christian party gives you all the reason you need to stay in China.

I've started reading that book to, but I am only up to Mao's takeover of all communist forces.
Well, it certainly sounds like an interesting bunch of people you were with.

Aren't all Chinese people dwarfs, though? :p
Tell that to Yao Ming.
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