Updated: 2013-02-16 10:26
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)
When male bonding turns suspiciously intimate, people turn on the spigot of gossip. Little do they realize that human relationships may not fit into neat categories and, in most cases, it is none of their business if a twosome becomes soul mates or bedfellows.
CCTV's Spring Festival gala is no ordinary variety show. It's watched by a billion people and every number is rehearsed to death. Though a live show, a performer who launches into improvisation will be preempted by a pre-recording of the same number. Yet, Louis Liu, the de-facto resident magician of the gala, ad-libbed a line during this year's illusion by making pianist Yundi Li, his collaborator, disappear and appear. When Li assumed the look of searching for something, Liu blurted out: "Looking for Leehom?"
That turned into what many in the audience say was the "funniest moment in the show". It was not a joke per se, but rather, an allusion to the supposed romance between Leehom Wang and Yundi Li that had not long ago intrigued a nation of tabloid news fanatics.
For those not attuned to China's entertainment scene, both Wang and Li are superstar musicians. Wang is a pop singer and occasional movie star, raised in the US and based in Taiwan; Li, a Chongqing native, is a pianist with a lyricism perfect for Chopin whose career is among the most illustrious in China.
Their paths crossed on the stage and developed into a friendship. One would visit the other during holidays, and they would go out to a movie together. Sometime last year, the rumor mill kicked into high gear and catalogued numerous clues that presumably point to a deeper relationship than mere friendship. Suddenly, Wang greeting his fans in Chongqing dialect while performing in that city, and Li playing a few notes from Wang's song, became evidence of a secret love affair, as if they were flirtations between two semi-closeted gay celebrities.
Did I mention they are both guys?
After a long silence, Wang stated in his microblog that both of them are straight and like girls.
The magician's reference to this unconventional love story did not rile pianist Li. But the next day CCTV posted a statement on its blog that the line was improvised by Louis Liu and was hence removed from the repeat broadcast. Liu, in his defense, emphasized that everything he said and did on the show was pre-approved. Maybe there was a lapse in communication, but most in the online community felt what Liu did was harmless and should be treated as a joke.
Then someone claimed that Wang, who was also on the show but in a separate number, punched Liu in the face after the show. This was so obvious a fabrication - by someone who is too into melodrama - that one could only laugh at its lack of sophistication.