Frog prince grooved to the end

SINGAPORE - In taiwanese singer Frankie Kao Ling-feng's heyday, the live-wire entertainer was known for his signature move of flinging the microphone stand around on stage.

But at the 63-year-old singer's last performance here at a New Year countdown concert last year, he drew cheers for the simplest of moves - standing up on a stage at the Resorts World Sentosa casino.

Ms Chen Ming Pei, the concert's executive producer from Biz Trends Media, tells Life!: "He was sitting in a wheelchair, he grabbed the mike stand and stood up. The audience cheered and gave him lots of encouragement. He was really happy that day."

The leukaemia-stricken performer, who died on Monday, continued to perform to the very end for the sake of his children, she adds.

"He was the breadwinner of his family. He was in debt," recounts Ms Chen, who is in her 50s.

"He told me he needed to continue performing as he wanted to earn money for his children. He knew he didn't have much time left."

The lively Kao, known as the Frog Prince for his short neck and bow-legged dance style, was extremely popular in the 1970s and 1980s; having him on stage then was a guarantee that tickets would sell.

Over the decades, he performed regularly in the region.

Singaporean entertainers who had shared the stage with Kao recall his vitality on stage and dedication to his craft.

Actor-host-comedian Marcus Chin, 60, says: "I knew Kao from the time we toured the region for concerts during the 1980s. He was a huge star and oozing with confidence whenever he took to the stage.

"Nothing could faze him. Even when he was battling his illness later on, he still took to the stage.

"I admire his ability to work the crowd. There was never an awkward moment when Kao was on stage."

Indeed, Ms Chen, who had known Kao for more than three decades, says he is a "perfectionist". "Even when he was sick, he was still practising his moves," she says.

Speaking to Life! over the phone from Taiwan, Taiwanese veteran singer Yu Tian, 66, says: "He was extraordinary. He was the one who was game to perform in ways other performers didn't dare."

Ardent fan Nancy Khoo, who is in her early 50s, is sad to see her idol go. She went to Changi Airport to receive him when he came for his concert at the Resorts World Convention Centre in November.

She says: "I love all his songs. He had a unique way of singing. I tried to attend all his concerts, even those in Malaysia. It's a real pity that such an iconic singer is gone."

Get MyPaper for more stories.