Ventriloquist and veteran entertainer Victor Khoo died yesterday morning after a battle with cancer. He was 63.
Khoo and his wooden puppet sidekick Charlee were household names in Singapore throughout the 1970s and '80s, when they hosted the Saturday morning children's radio show Happy Talk for seven years.
While best known for his ventriloquist act, Khoo also wore many other hats, including magician, DJ, compere and film director.
His career as an entertainer took him across the globe, from New Zealand and South Africa to the glitz and glamour of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
His family declined to speak to the media but said in a statement: "Many people remember Victor for the huge impact he had on the entertainment scene in Singapore and abroad.
"He was a pioneer in so many ways... and, of course, his iconic work with Charlee, whom he always considered a business partner.
"We remember him for his generosity, his wit, his unfailing optimism, and his warmth and affection. He always had time for his family and close friends. Even at the end, he had a smile and a squeeze of the hand for us and all who visited... We will miss him terribly."
Khoo was born the eighth of 11 children, to a rent collector and a housewife.
Performing was always in his blood, and when he was about eight, he and two of his brothers formed a trio called The Singing Khoos, and took part in talent competitions.
In school, Khoo was a fierce debater, and represented St Patrick's School to win the first season of the SBC English Debate, a national inter-school English debate competition televised by the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, in 1969.
He began his career in showbiz as entertainment manager at the now-defunct Hotel Malaysia, and in 1980, founded his own entertainment and production company called Victor Khoo Productions.
Pianist and singer Stephen Francis, 53, who knew Khoo since he was about nine or 10 years old, said: "Victor's one classic entertainer. I must say, I haven't seen another show host or master of ceremonies as great as he is. He can always capture the audience, make them do crazy, fun things, make them stand up, whatever he wanted. He's a very funny guy, always very witty, very quick in everything he does."
Jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro, 53, said: "He's really an entertainment icon, and one of the puppeteers who went mainstream with his famous puppet Charlee.
"He was loved by children, many who grew up listening to Charlee on the radio. His contribution to the entertainment scene in Singapore is undisputed."
Educational therapist Christabel Hong, 53, was one of those children who watched Khoo perform his ventriloquist act live when she was a child.
She said: "In those days, he was probably the only ventriloquist around, and was definitely one of the pioneers. When I watched, I was amazed at how he could make the puppet talk. He was very skilful, very animated and very present on stage."
Khoo is survived by his sons Barry and Brandon, from his first marriage to the late Lam May Yee; his wife Shellen, and daughters, Victoria and Vanessa.
This article was first published on June 7, 2014.
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