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Sunday, 4 November 2012

LESSONS FROM MADAME

"It's a shame that we only gather all together again when someone dies," Nathaniel sighed. The late Gregory Derham used to stay with Nate and his husband whenever Greg would make a trip to Manila to purchase fabrics and feathers from Carolina's and Divisoria.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the Victoria Peak Garden, a Chinese style, rolling expanse of greenery that was once-upon-a-time an alternate home for the governor of Hong Kong.

"People only clear their schedules when someone dies," echoed our boss, Greg Crandall.

By that time, of course, it's too late.

When we arrived in Hong Kong in 2005, House of Siren (Greg Durham's production company) was already a legend in the international party scene. Our former boss, Colette Koo - herself a legend in the city's film, design, hospitality and publishing circles - tried to recruit Greg to be a judge at the first ever Mr Gay Hong Kong competition in 2009. Greg was was in Miami on a project, too busy to check his e-mails.

To be clear, we've only met Gregory Derham once. We were organizing a party called "Mystic Garden" In Vibes, The Mira Hong Kong's Eden-like outdoor lounge. We needed to borrow costumes from House of Siren - at no cost, of course, since we're Pinoy and penniless.

"You'll get tons of exposure to an ultra-rich demographic - 0.02 of the population - people who are in a position to throw lavish parties regularly," we pitched.

Greg nearly bit our head off.

"If your crowd's really that rich - darling! - they can pay!" he scolded. "Look at me," he admonished, gesturing grandly with a bracelet-clad forearm, towards a mind boggling collection of costumes and set pieces, "do you think I need exposure? I'm too busy! It's the holiday season! I need money more than I need exposure!"

And that was the end of it. We left his leafy suburban atelier, tail between our legs.

We never had much to do with Greg or House of Siren. We never had anything to do with him. And yet, because we also partly put up parties for a living - albeit not at the same scale and ambition - we felt  we needed to be there. The proverbial passing of the baton had never occured; Greg grew quieter in his later years. But Greg is a part of our heritage - we had to be present.

Hong Kong's high society came to pay respects. Royalty from media, PR, nightlife, fashion, the arts... Many took the microphone to say a few words of tribute - often humorous, always poignant. They called him "Madame."

Parties are often seen as frivolous and unnecessary.

And yet, when we mourn, it's just another party that brings us yet together again.



Photobucketlovely coxderek chalmersrugyPhotobucketPhotobucketgregory derham // PARTY ON! //



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