Google the name “Marcus Chin” and the search results you see aren’t about his 48-year-long career. Instead, what you get are reports on his cheating scandal from 2009 when the-then 56-year-old’s affair with his-then 24-year-old assistant Eileen Cheah was exposed. (P/S: The Chinese media also coined the affair “old cow eating fresh grass’, which remains a popular term that Chinese journos use to describe May-December romances). What ensued was a very messy, very public legal battle over how much maintenance he would give his estranged wife, retired Taiwanese singer Murong Ying, whom he married in 1987.
That isn’t the only blemish in the 65-year-old’s record. In the 1970s and 80s, Marcus was already one of the most sought-after TV hosts and a singer. But he was banned from primetime TV because his 1981 cassette release ‘Chi Dao’ (‘Late’) featured raunchy songs. Thanks to Jack Neo, he successfully made a comeback as one of the cast members on long-running variety show Comedy Night. Then the affair happened. Marcus voluntarily left Jack’s company J-Team for fear that the incident would harm the company’s image. Alas, his quest for love was in vain: In 2011, Marcus and Eileen broke up, a year after they welcomed their daughter. Their 32-year age gap aside, Marcus has cited Eileen’s lack of a sense of security as the main reason for their spilt since Marcus was and is today still legally married to Murong. The latter still lives in the marital home she shared with the actor-host. According to Marcus, getting divorced would mean selling their home which would leave Murong homeless. Marcus now lives alone in a rented apartment. In an interview last year, Marcus confessed that he was worried if he would be able to continue working in showbiz after the scandal.
Well, today, Marcus is a sought-after actor and one of the hosts of Love 97.2FM’s uber-popular morning show. He also reached what he calls the “pinnacle of [his] career” when he was bestowed the Special Achievement Award at this year’s Star Awards (FYI: The accolade is given to artistes who have made significant contributions in their area of work over the past few years). The veteran actor also scored a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor nom for his thigh-slappingly funny turn in Ch 8 drama Have a Little Faith. You can now catch Marcus as a taxi-driver who stops at nothing to reconcile with his estranged son in new Ch 8 drama Fifty and Fabulous.
8 DAYS: Fifty and Fabulous revolves around the lives of senior citizens. What’s one thing that you’ve learnt to let go with age?
MARCUS CHIN: When I was younger and impetuous, I’d get upset or angry even over trivial matters. Now, a lot of things don’t faze me. Even if I get taken advantage of, I’ll just let it slide. In that way, there’re fewer conflicts, and I’m also happier. I’m also less calculating. Like, when I come to work in the mornings, I’d buy breakfast for everyone. And I won’t ask them to pay me back. (Laughs) Or if someone asks me, “Can you make a detour to fetch me?” I’d say, “Sure, no problem!” As long as I have the time and ability, I’d try my best to help others. I’m also a regular volunteer for two charity organisations — Chung Hwa Medical Institution and Geylang East Home For The Aged.
What’s the most and least senior citizen thing about yourself?
The least senior citizen thing about myself is my fashionable dressing. I wear the most ‘in’ clothing. I usually shop at Paragon or Mandarin Gallery. The most senior citizen thing about myself? I eat very simply and very little. I don’t restrict myself to eating only certain kinds of food, but I’d control my portion size ’cos it’s easy for the food to go in, but hard for it to come out. (Laughs)
You won the Special Achievement Award at this year’s Star Awards. Looking back at your past five decades in showbiz, what would you say are the highest and lowest points of your career?
Of course, winning that award is the highest point of my career. As for low points, there have been many. The most disastrous one was when the station banned me [from TV] for over 10 years ’cos I had released a cassette tape containing some smutty songs at that time. After a while, I could go on afternoon shows, but not on primetime TV. Jack Neo brought me back in [by casting me in long-running variety show Comedy Night]. After that episode, I became more careful. I can’t return to that state again — I don’t have the time. (Laughs)
What about in your personal life?
You can say that my marriage is a failure. But I’m not wallowing in sadness. I’m very happy by myself.
Are there times when you feel lonely?
No, ’cos work keeps me occupied. And I have a lot of friends.
Did your previous marriage affect the way you view love and dating?
It caused me to develop marriage phobia.
Was that why you didn’t want to marry your then-girlfriend, Eileen?
Yes. I didn’t want to give her a commitment [by marrying her, so she left me]. Till now, I’m still not [legally] separated from [my wife, Murong]. I didn’t settle [the divorce proceedings]. There isn’t a need to do so since neither of us is remarrying. So things have come to a halt — like a computer ‘hanging’. (Laughs)
You see your eight-year-old daughter Elise once a month. How do you guys bond when you meet?
I usually take her out to have a meal, and then we’re separated again. She lives in Johor, with her mum, so it’s not easy [to see her]. How nice it’d be if she were living in Singapore.
Fifty and Fabulous debuts June 6, on Ch 8, 9pm.