Monday, February 05, 2007

Opal Dates a Famous Actor

Over the course of this past summer, I got to appear on Opal Bonfante's radio show, "London Calling," almost every day. Opal sent me an autographed photo of herself and unlike some female radio DJs, who are not very good looking, she is very attractive. The old adage, "a face for radio" definitely doesn't apply to her. Opal liked to describe herself as "hot and funny" and I agree with her. There seemed to be a certain humorous chemistry between us that made for good radio. She described my voice as, "overtly sexual." Opal started reading my blog and soon became my most dedicated reader.
As at the time, both she and I were single, I suppose it was inevitable that I would begin to fancy her. It's very difficult to date someone in show business if you aren't also in the business. Even if you are, it's very difficult for men to date up the scale. Women can pull it off if they are good looking, but for men, it's tough. Opal had a radio show, albeit on a minor station, while I was just doing a bit of acting, here and there. Radio personalities are notoriously hard to date, as they have so many propositions from listeners, they tend to put up a wall between themselves and members of the audience. To make my prospects even more difficult, Opal is only 24, while I am 47. She often stated, on air, that she wanted to marry this or that ageing rock star, usually some guy in his sixties, but that could have been just joking about, for the show. Of course there are women who will date guys twenty years their senior, but the problem is finding them. In many cases, it helps if the guy is rich, or famous, or both. I was neither...yet. The only thing I could do was display my best charms to Opal, my voice and my humor.
Off air, I confided in Opal that I had a desire to get a radio show of my own. She encouraged that aspiration. On one occasion, she even said, "we must find a way to get you on radio." Given this, I was pretty disappointed when Opal announced that she was having a young female listener, Louise, do a month of work experience on her show. Louise has also stated that she would like to be a radio presenter. Louise's great disadvantage is that she doesn't enunciate clearly. She has a slurred speaking style that isn't quite a lisp, but sounds terrible on air. To me, unless she gets rid of it, she has almost no chance of an on air career in radio. Opal having this girl work on the show seemed like a double slap in the face. Given the girl's prospects, it seems like a waste of an opportunity. Also, I wondered why Opal had never considered doing the same thing for me. Any reluctance Opal might have had to place herself in close proximity to a listener was completely ignored in this case. She even had Louise living in the same house as her, for the month.
I kept my disappointment to myself and never said anything to Opal about it. One day, Opal told me she was going to be doing a TV project. She was still going to be on the radio, but she was going to be presenting on TV on the weekends. She started traveling to Bristol for weekends, to rehearse for the TV show. I had learned that Opal had never seen any of the "Star Wars" films. In September, Sky Movies started showing all the "Star Wars" films in the order that they were originally released, one each weekend, for six weeks straight. I asked Opal how she traveled to Bristol for her rehearsals. She told me she took the train. On the Saturday that Sky was starting with the first "Star Wars" film, Opal confirmed that she would be taking the train from Bristol back to London, in the afternoon. As the train line from Bristol passes through Reading, near where I live, I asked Opal if she would like to come over and watch the first "Star Wars" film with me. I sweetened the deal by offering to cook her dinner, making allowances for her vegetarianism, of course. She declined stating that she was in a hurry to get back to London so she could go out, "kissing boys." I was disappointed, of course, but spent the evening watching "Star Wars," alone, drowning my sorrows in a bag of microwave popcorn.
The radio station where Opal worked hired a new manager. He imposed changes on Opal's show, forbidding her form taking callers on air. This was a big blow for me, as I was enjoying being a nightly regular on her show. I kept in touch with Opal anyway, demonstrating that I wasn't only interested in her because she put me on air. I felt like we had a friendship, at least, and it was good to have a show business friend. I was able to ask her advice on auditions and such, and Opal's simply a lot of fun to talk with. One evening, in the autumn, while listening to her on the radio, I heard her say that she'd like to marry someone who doesn't watch any sports on TV. I sent her a cheeky email saying that I don't watch sports on TV. She emailed me back, saying that she wasn't single anymore. Sure, I was disappointed, but I had long expected that, one day, Opal would start dating some guy, younger than me, higher up the entertainment ladder. Some guy in a band, or an actor, or something, probably in his late twenties or early thirties. Opal is quite a catch and I was surprised at how long she had remained single in the first place. I stopped calling her as much and relied more on email, which is free. I might as well save on my phone bill.
I started referring to Opal as "unsingle person," in my emails to her, in a bit of light teasing. Time passed and one evening, Opal ended up telling me her boyfriend was an old actor named "Burt." I responded by guessing, "Burt Lancaster" and "Burt Reynolds," not serious. Opal shocked me by saying his name was Burt Kwok. At first I thought it was just Opal joking around. "Is this a wind up?" I asked. She assured me she wasn't kidding. "Burt Kwok's famous," I said in amazement. Opal said she was surprised I'd ever heard of him. That must be because Opal is so young. She wasn't around in Burt's heyday. I told her Burt had played Cato in "The Pink Panther" films, had been in a James Bond film, and had been a regular on "The Harry Hill Show," on TV. She was surprised that I knew so much about him. She asked me if I was looking this all up on Google. I assured her I hadn't been, but that was a good idea. I did a Google search on Burt and looked at his IMDb page. He'd done a load of films and TV shows. He was born in Manchester, England, but raised in Shanghai. That's when it hit me. I checked his date of birth...July 18, 1930. After some quick mental arithmetic...holy cow! He's 76 years old!
"Opal, he's 76!" I emailed, in amazement. She confirmed that was true. I couldn't resist teasing her about this. "Ask him if he's got a grand-daughter for me," I emailed back. I felt a strange mix of emotions. On one hand, I was annoyed. Burt Kwok is more years older than me than I am older than Opal. While I don't have anything against big age differences between people who are dating, the fact that I had fancied Opal myself made this grate on my sensibilities a bit. "How could she prefer such an old guy over me?" I wondered to myself. Opal had acted a bit funny towards me, once, after I had written that I was from a "mixed race" background. I thought that had put her off me, but here she was dating a Chinese guy. On the other hand, it was kind of cool. I admired Burt's work as an actor and fair play to the guy if he can pull a hot 24-year-old. I emailed her again, writing, "ask him if he can fix me up with any Chinese women." She responded by saying that was the funniest request anyone had ever made of her.
Opal asked me if I was going to write about her dating Burt Kwok in my blog. I told her I would consider it. Immediately, I realized I had a potential tiger by the tail. My first thought was that it would make a fabulous scoop for my blog. Then, it occurred to me that I could sell the story to one of the tabloid newspapers. Before I would make any decisions, I talked to Opal again. I warned her that if I wrote about this in my blog, someone in the mainstream media might pick up on it. It could end up in the tabloids. I asked her if she had considered the potential publicity and would she be bothered about that? She said she doubted anyone would take any notice. We debated it back and forth. Opal said the only way to find out was for me to write about it and see if anyone in the media noticed. Still, I hesitated. Should I sell the story to a tabloid, or publish it for free, on my blog? Would Opal be bothered if I sold it to a tabloid? She didn't seem bothered at the risk that it might get picked up by the media, but would she feel differently if she found out I had deliberately sold it to them? If I expressly asked her, she might decide to sell it herself and cut me out. I needed the money worse than she did. In the back of my mind was another concern. Suppose she's just winding me up? If I was going to a tabloid, I needed to be sure the story was true. How could I do that?
I decided to ask Opal to meet me, socially, with Burt. This way, I could verify for myself if the story was true, or just a load of bullshit. In addition to fact checking the story, it would be cool to meet Burt Kwok. The first time I emailed Opal, suggesting we all go out sometime, she ignored it. I brought the subject up again, but she declined. I tried to talk her around. If I was dating someone famous, I'd share that with Opal. I would invite her to meet the person and even offer to do an exclusive interview on Opal's show. I thought we were like, friends? Don't friends help each other out? I told Opal that as my evil ex-wife, the Black Queen, was half Chinese, Burt and I were practically related. In the end, I couldn't seem to get anywhere with Opal about meeting Burt. This was adding insult to injury. It's bad enough losing out on a girl to a 76 year old man, but then to be cut out of even meeting him, socially and developing a show business friendship just made me feel worse.
I ended up sitting on the story for almost two months. At one point, Opal asked me when I was going to write the blog article about her and Burt, but I wasn't sure then. I told her I was still verifying some things. I felt uncomfortable about selling the story to the tabloids without Opal's express knowledge, as I considered her a friend. There is still some chance that it's a wind up. Given that she'd already said I could publish it in my blog, I decided to put it here, where I at least could enjoy the exclusive of being first to break the story. Some more time passed until I could get around to writing it. Perhaps you have noticed that I have been tending to do short articles, lately. In any case, I haven't been able to verify the facts, other than as I have related to you, here. Make of it what you will, all I have is what Opal's told me.

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