1980s TV stars bid farewell to godfather Bai Yan

(Above) Show business veterans at Bai Yan's 100th birthday celebration in May. (From far left) Former television actresses Ye Sumei and Chen Bifeng, who worked with Bai Yan in the 1980s and were his goddaughters, were at the wake.
(Above) Show business veterans at Bai Yan's 100th birthday celebration in May. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO, INVISION
(From left) Former television actresses Ye Sumei and Chen Bifeng, who worked with Bai Yan in the 1980s and were his goddaughters, were at the wake.
(From left) Former television actresses Ye Sumei and Chen Bifeng, who worked with Bai Yan in the 1980s and were his goddaughters, were at the wake. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO, INVISION

Leading 1980s television actresses Chen Bifeng, Zeng Huifen and Ye Sumei were among the artists who paid their last respects to veteran local actor Bai Yan, who died early on Monday.

The trio were goddaughters to Bai, who died months after celebrating his 100th birthday in May.

According to Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao, former actress Zeng turned up at the wake on Monday and Tuesday. Best known for her role in Samsui Women (1986), she is now based in the United States but was back for a visit.

Others who were at the wake at the Singapore Casket on Monday included Chen and Ye as well as veteran actors Zhang Jinhua and Zhou Quanxi. Zhou was also there on Tuesday.

Chen starred in Flying Fish (1983), The Happy Trio (1986) and On The Fringe (1988), while Ye is known for playing sworn sisters with Zheng Wanling in Two Different Lives (1989).

Chen said she was most impressed by Bai's enthusiasm in show business. "After he left the TV station in the 1990s, he still performed at old folks' homes with programmes involving magic, songs and dance," the former actress, who teaches Chinese and drama classes in schools on a freelance basis, told Wanbao.

Veteran actress Zhang, 82, who played Bai's wife in Five Foot Way (1987) and We Are Family (1988), said she felt no pressure working with him as he was friendly and humorous.

Also at the wake on Monday were actor Chen Shucheng and his wife, former actress Huang Peiru, as well as actress Xiang Yun and her husband Edmund Chen.

Actresses Zoe Tay, Hong Huifang, Chen Xiuhuan, Li Yinzhu and Jin Yinji were at the wake on Tuesday. Li and Jin played Bai's daughter-in-law and housekeeper respectively in We Are Family.

Tay said she first worked with Bai in her debut TV serial My Fair Ladies after winning the inaugural Star Search in 1988. She also recalled that the last serial they worked on together was Ride The Waves (1993), in which he played her father-in-law.

She said that as a new actress at that time, she was convinced by his performance on set. She said Bai could recite a few pages of his lines from beginning to end without stopping and he could express the roles' emotions vividly.

Bai leaves behind three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In a tribute to him posted on Facebook on Monday, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat wrote: "Saddened by the passing of our veteran actor, Bai Yan. He was 100 years old when he passed on this morning. Uncle Bai Yan joined the television industry in 1985 and acted in many memorable shows such as We Are Family, Son Of Pulau Tekong, Five Foot Way and Pretty Faces.

"Many of us grew up watching him on screens and even till today, he remains a household name. Uncle Bai Yan was well-loved by many Singaporeans and fellow artists, he will be deeply missed."

Bai's funeral will be held tomorrow morning.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2019, with the headline '1980s TV stars bid farewell to godfather Bai Yan'. Print Edition | Subscribe