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Cheung, Leslie (1956-2003)  
page: 1  2  

Cheung played one of a pair of gay lovers in Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together (1997), an ironically titled piece because the couple, who make a trip to Argentina to rekindle their relationship, fail to find their longed-for happiness.

Cheung's personal situation was more fortunate. After making Happy Together, he came out publicly and acknowledged his lover, Tong Hock Tak, a banker. Speculation about Cheung's sexual orientation had been rife for some years, but he had always dodged questions, fearing that revelation of his relationship might be deleterious to Tong's career. By this time, however, Cheung's fortune--skillfully managed by Tong--had grown to the point that Tong was able to retire from his job.

Still, coming out was not without risk for Cheung since very few star Asian entertainers are openly gay. In this case, reported Ronald Bergan, "the move did nothing to diminish his following; it only increased it."

In the late 1990s Cheung resumed his singing career. His comeback album, Legend (1997), was a great success, and several more bestsellers followed. He returned to the concert stage as well, and in 2000 played a year-long "Passion" tour, described by Allan Hunter as "noted for the kind of spectacular costume changes and flamboyant attitude that would have made Liberace seem self-effacing." His onstage wardrobe featured eight outfits by Jean-Paul Gaultier, including a white tuxedo with angel wings, gold hot pants, and a "naughty skirt."

In reviving his singing career, Cheung made music videos, one of which "featured a pas de deux (with a Japanese male ballet dancer) so sexy that it was banned by TVB, Hong Kong's top channel."

In his last film, Law Chi-Leung's Inner Senses (2002), Cheung played a psychiatrist tempted by evil spirits to kill himself. Thus, fans who heard of Cheung's suicide on April 1, 2003, hoped at first that the story might be a macabre April Fool's Day joke. But soon they learned that Cheung had indeed taken his own life by jumping from a twenty-fourth floor balcony at Hong Kong's Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Cheung, who had long suffered from depression and had reportedly tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills the previous year, left a note in which he thanked Tong, his family, and his friends, but concluded poignantly, "I have not done one single bad thing in my life. Why is it like that?"

Disconsolate fans quickly created a shrine at the spot of Cheung's death. Their memorial offerings of flowers, notes, personal mementos, and photographs covered half a block. Admirers of all ages joined in paying tribute to the popular artist.

Linda Rapp

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arts >> Overview:  Film Actors: Gay Male

Although few gay actors have been permitted the luxury of openness, many of them have challenged and helped reconfigure notions of masculinity and, to a lesser extent, of homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Hong Kong Film

Filmmaking in Hong Kong eventually came to terms with, exploited, and often blurred the lines between Chinese traditions of gender ambiguity and Westernized "out" politics.

arts >> Gaultier, Jean-Paul

Designer Jean-Paul Gaultier incorporates elements of gay style into his clothes that typically fuse classic fashion with unconventional elements and challenge traditional notions of masculinity.

arts >> Liberace

Liberace was for many the epitome of flamboyant camp, yet he was also a gay man who steadfastly refused to acknowledge publicly his sexual identity.


Bergan, Ronald. "Leslie Cheung: Asian Actor and Pop Star Famed for His Androgynous Performances on Stage and Screen." The Guardian (London) (April 5, 2003): 23.

Carr, Jay. "'Farewell My Concubine' Holds an Unflattering Mirror to China." Boston Globe (October 29, 1993): 51.

Corliss, Richard, and Stephen Short. "Forever Leslie." Time (International Edition) (May 7, 2001): 44.

Goodman, Peter S. "Farewell to a Troubled Star and a City's High Times." Washington Post (April 5, 2003): C1.

Hartl, John. "'Farewell My Concubine' Latest Film to Explore World of Sexual Ambiguity--a First for China." Seattle Times (October 24, 1993): F1.

Holden, Stephen. "A 'Gone with the Wind' in China, without War." New York Times (October 5, 1996): Sec. 1, 19.

Hunter, Allan. "Leslie Cheung." The Scotsman (April 3, 2003): 16.

Mizui, Yoko. "Gender Bender from H.K." The Daily Yomiuri (November 30, 1995): 23.

Rayns, Tony. "Leslie Cheung; Pop singer and star of 'Farewell My Concubine.'" The Independent (London) (April 3, 2003): 20.

Stuart, Jan. "Happy Together." The Advocate 746 (November 11, 1997): 67.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Cheung, Leslie  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2003  
    Date Last Updated September 4, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2003, glbtq, inc.  


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