The rise and fall of a skin-flick star

Can celebrities stay anonymous? A 28-year-old unemployed Singapore blitzed to fame on the internet revealing everything except his real name and his face.

A Google search for Gary Ng, Singapore delivered about 110,000 results in 0.20 seconds, showing he is mentioned more often on the internet than any Singapore leader except prime minister Lee Hsien Loong  and his father, minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew. What makes the young man so hot is his sexcapades. Singaporeans have been watching wide-eyed his home-made videos. One of the most popular stories on The Straits Times website, as I write this, is headlined: Gary Ng admits filming more than 500 sex clips. The story begins:  “While he was engaged in sex with different women, the intimate moments were filmed with a video camera hidden in a plastic bag.”

The sex vid whiz, whose real name is Chen Guilin, posted 33 of his videos online after digitally masking his own face and those of the women. “As some of these girls are either from polytechnics or local universities, I do not want to expose them. I care about their future too – many are also high-fliers in banking. I do not want to spoil their lives,” he told The New Paper in an interview nearly two years ago.

The newspaper contacted him at the email address he posted with his videos.  He was already a celebrity by then, hiding his face but exchanging messages and videos online with his “fans”. He had started posting his sex videos – taken mostly at home or hotels – in September 2008, he told the paper. Making , distributing and owning obscene films are criminal offences for which people can be jailed in Singapore. Yet Chen continued his sexploits unchecked, claiming to have chalked up more than 50 sex partners in a year. The women, he said, were attracted to him because he “grooms himself well” and drives a “nice car” – a Nissan GTR.

What proved his undoing was not his sexploits but the money he cheated or stole from some of the women. He was arrested last October with the help of an attractive 30-year-old woman lawyer hired by  the women. Ms Yeo Poh Tiang hit upon a clever ruse to recover the money.  “We only knew him by his moniker and had no real information on him, so it was difficult to serve the writ on him,” she said. So she contacted him online, pretending she was eager to have sex with him. They agreed to meet at a luxury hotel. Then she tipped off the police, who arrested him.

Chen pleaded guilty in court last week to one charge of possessing 507 obscene films and seven other charges including housebreaking, forgery and criminal breach of trust. The young man, a former property agent, admitted he had made off with almost S$172,000 (more than Rs 6 million) worth of cash and valuables. He broke into the homes of some of the women by duplicating their keys and also forged the signatures of two of the women to withdraw money from their accounts.

Chen faces up to six months’ jail and a S$20,000 fine for possessing the obscene films, reported The New Paper, but could be locked away for years for his other crimes. He could be jailed up to seven years for criminal breach of trust and faces up to 10 years behind bars for forgery and housebreaking.

The case warrants attention not just for the sexploits of Chen but also for the publicity he received from the mainstream media. Singapore has the reputation of being a nanny state where chewing gum and Playboy are banned. But the proliferation of blogs and the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are transforming the local media.

I mentioned last week how Singapore Press Holdings, which holds a stake in every major Singapore newspaper, is eyeing new investment opportunities in shopping malls to offset the decline in newspaper circulation as readers shift to the internet. At the same time, it’s expanding its online presence, running a slew of websites specializing in various fields, from hard news to technology. That’s how Chen  received so much publicity.  His story appeared on omy.sg, an SPH website for bloggers, and was then picked up by the newspapers. Apparently, it created so much buzz  that The Straits Times website even ran a video interview with Chen without showing his face. The interview included the warning,” Viewer discretion advised”, and suggestive shots from his sex videos.

Yes, The Straits Times is getting less strait-laced with the times. Not that it’s wading into a sea of smut. It’s reporting other online revelations, too, that have nothing to do with sex. When a 16-year-old tweeted, “I am driving the company car”, that was published by the newspaper website with a photo of the underage driver  and an invitation to the readers to comment on his caper. Reporting such incidents may seem like dumbing down the news. But a newspaper has to engage with its readers – and in this age of blogs, Twitter and Facebook, everyone’s a newsmaker.

No wonder Chen shot to fame with his extreme bedroom athleticism. It was guaranteed to make Singapore gawp. The government is forever urging young Singaporeans to get married and have babies. But one doesn’t necessarily follow the other among the “No sex please, we’re Singaporeans”. Singaporeans had sex less frequently and experienced orgasm less often than Indians, according to the 2007-2008 Durex Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey.  But there are healthy—even oversexed – exceptions. Singaporean Grace Quek, better known by her stage name, Annabel Chong, became famous at 22 by engaging in 251 sex acts with about 70 men in 10 hours in 1995, reminds Wikipedia.

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