SYP's Hot Ladies of Reno . . .
. . . and a few hot gentlemen, too

Imagine my astonishment to learn that one of China's two most spectacular attractions would be coming to my side of the world! No, nReno card for SYPot the Great Wall (although I must confess that seemed the more likely possibility), I mean Su You Peng, who rather casually mentioned to a fan during an event in Beijing, back in December, that he'd be coming to the US to perform for Chinese New Year. We were all pretty stunned, and going a bit crazed trying to figure out all of the wheres and whens and whats. Eventually, the official word was available: You Peng would be headlining a concert as part of a Chinese New Year event for VIP members of Harrah's in Reno, Nevada. OMG! Reno! That's driving distance from San Francisco! Even more incredible, an actual concert! With a live band! Probably he'd even sing more than only a few songs!! We were SOOOOO going to Reno . . .

. . . which proved a bit more difficult than one would expect. First, tickets were not for sale; they were only available to Harrah's VIPs and through a casino tour package. The first time nightdreamer phoned USAsia, the response was, "How did you find out about this?! It hasn't even been publicized yet!" Ah -- they do not know the powers of SYP fandom to unearth any secret. Anyway, we started to gather a group of fans located all around North America -- Houston, San Francisco, Chicago, Vancouver, New York, Denver, Los Angeles -- to coordinate travel, housing and ticket arrangements. We also got in contact with Hao Xiao Nan, YP's manager at HuaYi, to let her know that the American fans were excited, organizing and most definitely planning to attend.

ASIF Reno card for SYP

We secretly hoped -- although really just being able to hear You Peng sing live would have been more than enough! -- that we could have a fan gathering in Reno, and in fact we finally learned that this would be possible. I won't repeat the gory details of what it took to actually make this gathering happen, as that's been reported elsewhere. On to the good stuff!

I picked up Ingrid at SFO on Friday a bit before noon, and we headed up to Reno, armed with a collection of SYP songs on CD to keep us company. The weather, which had been pretty dismal a week before, turned beautiful with You Peng's arrival in San Francisco (he spent about a week here in my city, and I hope he had a great time! By the way, YP, in case you read this, there is a house for sale on my street . . . prices are rock bottom here now!). We could not check in as soon as we arrived at Harrah's since neither room was booked in our names, so I phoned the Denver contingent who had flown in earlier in the day. They were going to a restaurant for a late lunch, and we joined them. They had even already seen YP! While lugging their bags from the airport shuttle into Harrah's, they spotted him at the intersection with his parents, holding his mom's hand. Wow, how sweet! This little incident was a topic of conversation throughout the weekend.

Once everyone arrived and we all met up, we arranged to have a little meeting after dinner to talk about arrangements for buying flowers, checking out the venue, and some sort of organization for the gathering the next day, and also agreed to meet for Saturday brunch.

It was terrific fun to actually meet everybody, after weeks -- and in some cases, months -- of corresponding via email and MSN and through the forums. Beyond his talents as an actor and a singer, and his personal qualities of integrity, courtesy and generosity, You Peng has done a quite remarkable thing in creating his family of fans, pretty successfully instilling them with the same values he has. Thanks, YP! I treasure all of the new friends I have made since I got sucked into your world.
So, much of Saturday was spent running around to the florist (who was very helpful and created some gorgeous bouquets for us), meeting with the restaurant managers to beg for a gathering location, sneaking up to scope out the concert venue seating, plus the distraction of being able to hear YP rehearsing at the top of the (gated shut) escalator on the next floor. I'm pretty sure none of us ate before the concert; Lina and Ming had tickets for the VIP Chinese New Year dinner and invited nightdreamer and me, and it was probably the worst Chinese food any of us had ever eaten. We got at the head of the line, nightdreamer drove to the florist to pick up the flowers, and once they opened the hall we grabbed the best seats in our section. Although most of us weren't able to sit in the front, most of the seating was actually pretty good, not too far away (the room held around 900 people). They also had two large screens at either end, and the technical crew did a fabulous job of projecting close-ups during the concert. The sound was great, the band was great; I wish I had had a chance to ask YP how he felt about singing with live music, but I think he must have been delighted. Yang Yan opened the show, and although she is a seasoned and popular performer, with a terrific voice, she kinda overstayed her welcome by adding a few extra songs to her set; did not make any friends among SYP fans, I'm afraid. Poor YP was waiting backstage so long he finally had to make a trip to the restroom, which was in the back of the hall, before he went on; we waved wildly (but silently), so he knew where we were, and he gave us a "thumbs up." Alec Su singing

Alec Su singing in Reno

I don't think I have ever heard him sing better, in any performance clips I've seen. His voice was rich and strong, he was elegant and confident striding across the stage, chatting to the audience in both Mandarin and Cantonese. His song list was very unusual and quite delightful: starting with the Huan Zhu Ge Ge theme (which he sang offstage), some Little Tigers songs he does not often sing, and several covers in addition to the signature "You Are My One Teardrop" and "Cherish." He sang songs in Mandarin, Cantonese and English (a Bryan Adams cover, "Everything I Do"). I got to present the bouquet from ASIF, long-stemmed red roses, which I gave him during "Zhen Xi." We were asked to not go up on the stage, but were permitted to go up to the foot of the stage to present our bouquets. Fortunately, YP has had lots of practice accepting flowers while he's singing, and saw me standing down there waiting for him. He also recognized me, I could tell by the look on his face! (Then I got yelled at by one of the staff, who probably picked on me because I was the only Caucasian in the room, and who also obviously did not realize that YP has to have flowers when he's singing, especially that song!)

You Peng's audience reception was quite enthusiastic. There were quite a few fans there we had not had contact with beforehand, and I think he got about 8 bouquets (more than Yang Yan!! so there!). I think that the majority of the crowd were Cantonese speakers, likely from the San Francisco area, but they knew him from Little Tigers, HZGG, and some of the more recent dramas that were aired on local TV and available on video.

Alec Su singing Zhen Xi
After the concert ended, we headed over to Andreotti's, the Italian restaurant where our gathering was supposed to be hosted, to find that some diners who had started at 7 pm were still lingering over dessert! So our site got moved back and forth a few times, then YP's manager came down to check it out, with two guys who were part of the HY staff. Since my duties as one of the group organizers did not include using my feeble Mandarin skills, I chatted with these guys while Ingrid and nightdreamer made arrangements with Hao and the Andreotti's manager. They were both very nice: one was a UC Berkeley law student moonlighting for HY as a translator for Bay Area visits, while the other guy -- another Caucasian who said he noticed me when I was giving You Peng the bouquet -- was a friend of the translator's and was helping out as a driver (although he described himself to me as a "groupie" -- I told him he could join our group since we could use a few more guys). Oh, no surprise, I guess: we've dubbed ourselves YP's HOT Ladies of Reno. But we really have to express our thanks and appreciation to the one man in our group, Ming, for taking photos, standing in lines, and generally putting up with us all weekend (although there were also a few random guys who showed up at the gathering).
Alec Su at Reno fan meet

FINALLY, our arrangements were deemed acceptable, and they brought You Peng down. We were seated in one narrow section of the restaurant, with tables on one side and booths on the other; fortunately our group was small, around 20 people, but it wasn't ideal. At first we tried to be organized and respectful, but inevitably it all devolved into chaos. We had a card that everyone had signed, and gave that to him. Sweet Lotus did manage to pose YP a few of the questions we had collected as a group, and I'll leave it to her to report on these. We did ask him to add the ASIF web site to his blog listing, and he promised to do so, and he also wrote us a note to put up on the site. In Chinese. Well, he had had a very long day and I don't think he was feeling up to speaking much English, especially since most of our group members were chattering non-stop to him in Mandarin and Cantonese! (So, you guys all owe me complete translations, from the gathering and also the comments he made during the concert! Pay up!!) You Peng very graciously signed about a ton of stuff that people had brought with them. Cameras were going off non-stop; I was very impressed with his ability to ignore all of this and simply respond casually to any comment or question

In interviews, more than once, You Peng has said that he doesn't have a good memory. Either he's being unduly modest, or this is one of the secret weapons in his arsenal of charms. I was not surprised that he recognized me, as I kinda stand out in this group. But when I teasingly asked him during the gathering if he remembered me from Shanghai, he said, "Yes, I do. Yi dian." I was floored: this was the first thing I said to him when I met him then, a year and a half ago, in response to his question to me, "Do you speak Chinese?" Not a good memory? Ha!
Several fans had little gifts to present. Mine was something special, a project that I had been working on with four other fans for the past six months. We had decided that English-speaking fans should have a proper translation of "My Days at Jian Zhong," the book You Peng had written back in 1995, about his experiences preparing for the Taiwan college examinations while dealing with the pressures of being unexpectedly famous as a member of Little Tigers. I wanted a proper translation; I had heard from many friends how much the book had impressed and influenced them. So, we wrote one -- moondream, amie, nightdreamer, Teresa and I -- and designed and printed a copy to present to You Peng. At the time we had no idea we'd ever be able to do this personally, so it was a very great honor for me to be able to hand him this little gift. I know he was surprised: his eyes got really wide (I'm getting used to that!) and he said "Wow!" and spent several minutes flipping through the book. Then he jokingly asked whether we were giving him the book to help him improve his English, after which he noted that it might be useful with some international plans that HY had. (Something like that: hopefully someone else can translate what he said more accurately.) Then he looked up at me and said, "Thanks a lot." book cover
Hot ladies of Reno

After a bit, we moved out of the booth area to a more central area for group photos. Once again, YP was gracious and calm, waiting as we all milled around for a while and finally got in order for our pictures. And then he left, waving and saying "Bye" several times on his way to the door.

Eventually we all realized that there was food (the restaurant had provided several fruit platters), and we ate a bit and all started talking at once, and even though each of us has now returned home, we are still talking about this special weekend, and will continue to cherish our memories for a very long time.

ASIF card autograph