When 8 DAYS Spent 3 Hours With Tommy Page in 1992

We revisit an interview with the late Tommy Page, who back in the '90s, was a frequent visitor to Singapore. Here, he talked about his distaste for George H W Bush, the need for Aids research, and Sally Yeh. (This story first appeared in Issue 103, Sep 26, 1992)

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Tommy Page pulls down his black jeans to reveal his Calvin Klein undies. Stylist Cat Ong, makeup artist Shelly Ann Lim and myself, all women, try not to notice. The undies are a little loose though, prompting me to ask him when he got “those”. Two days ago, he said. Shelly Ann makes a wisecrack about the other “those”. She wears a magnifying glass around her neck, one that Tommy assures her she will not need to use on him.

Tommy Page is heow (read: vain) as hell. But it’s not the bad kind of vanity. It’s the kind that makes you want to reach out and muss his hair because you know he’s going to give you a quasi-stern look then flirt with you using his eyebrows. Which he does. A lot.

During the press conference earlier in the day, a fan asked him if it was true that he had developed a paunch. He pulled up his t-shirt to reveal rather tight abdominal muscles and said, “I don’t have a stomach.” He repeats the story now to Cat and Shelly Ann, who tell him to wait till he’s 35. “Every morning when I wake up, I lay on the floor and do this (demonstrates a crunch) for twenty minutes. I promise you I will never have a stomach!”

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He listens enthusiastically as Cat tells him about the designer sales happening in town for Gaultier, Versace, Matsuda. “Are they selling the fall stuff here yet?” he asks. No, of course they are last season’s. “Oh, I’d rather have the new season at full price. When I get back to New York I have to be the coolest. I can’t be wearing last season’s.”

One thing’s for sure, he knows exactly how he wants to look. Cat matched his green outfit with a maroon jacket, but he ditches the maroon for a black, and insists on wearing his own belt.

What’s wrong with this buckle? It’s the coolest thing!” says Cat indignantly. “You have very quiet taste. What’s this, suburban chic?”

“That’s suburban chic,” Tommy replies cheekily, nodding at the discussed belt. “This is New York chic. New York’s cool as hell!”

He tells me how he and Sally Yeh were sitting around a piano and how she got him to play all his new songs, and started singing harmonies to “I’m Always Dreaming Of You”, and he decided to ask her to sing a duet. “I wasn’t going to ask any old singer,” he’d said earlier. “But Sally has a great voice.”

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All this while, he’s telling Shelly Ann to touch up his one-day-old stubble. “I don’t look good with hair growth,” he extols. “I usually shave every other day ‘cause when you let it grow you get a really clean shave - Can I do my own hair? I can’t put mousse in it ‘cause it gets all clumpy. Do you have any hairspray?”

He says he’s grown up, physically and mentally. Indeed he’s put on some beef since the last time. He spends some hours playing tennis and at the gym, between doing interviews. He first came to Singapore at 18; he’s 22 now, and he’s learned what not to say to the press. Basically he’s politically correct about everything, including politics.

“If you wanna know what I think of the Bush Administration, I think it sucks! Actually the funny thing is that I used to be really Republican but now I’m becoming more Democratic, because I think Republicans are very narrow-minded.”

“I personally am against abortion, I don’t think it is right. But I don’t believe the government should make it illegal, I think it’s the woman’s choice. I don’t think men should be deciding what women should do with their bodies. And if a girl does not want to be bearing a child, she has every right to make that decision. I don’t think she’s killing a baby if she destroys a two month-old foetus. I think that it’s a woman’s choice. But personally I’m very pro-life and I think that a bad life is better than no life at all. And if it were my decision and I was a girl and I was pregnant, I would have the baby. I’d go through nine months and if I couldn’t keep it, I’d put it up for adoption ‘cause there’re many families wanting a baby so bad. A lot of girls say to me, you can’t say that ‘cause you’re not a girl.”

“President Bush also is really bad ‘cause he ignores Aids research. I think that it’s really important to find a cure. Here you guys don’t have a problem with it but back in New York it’s a major problem. Everybody’s really paranoid about it; straight people are getting it now, young babies get it, many innocent people get it, and I don’t think anybody deserves to get Aids, no matter how you get it. Even gay people do not deserve to get Aids.”

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“So my politics: I’m going to vote for Bill Clinton. I think he’s an idiot but he’s the least of all three idiots.”

It is a big relief to confirm that this musician that people call a wimp has a mind of his own, and can actually talk confidently about the issues of the day. But that’s about as much of a serious quote as I can get out of him. The photo shoot takes precedence.

“Can you bring the light down a little please? I have really droopy eyes and I really look much better with the light below me,” he tells photographer Gary Sng, who obliges. Tommy turns to me and says: “See, I’ve done this so many times I know all my imperfections.”

He’s standing there with his vest open exposing his chest. “Can you cover up some of the pimples please?” he asks Shelly Ann. He refers to his chest, where a sprinkling of bumps have happily fested. Shelly Ann throws me a very amused glance and trots off to pat foundation on his body. Cat whispers in Hokkien, “Wah, this one is so heow!”

But vain or not, he’s a likeable guy, friendly, open, and helluva lot of fun to just hang around with. He defends his image fiercely (“Why do people think it’s so bad to be a teenybopper? I meant to be one!”) and if he weren’t singing anymore, he’d be managing a teenager whom he will groom and teach to be just like him, “a mini Tommy Page”.

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I scribble my last notes while Tommy is trying to convince Cat and Gary that for his boxer shorts picture he should be standing at the balcony with a cup of coffee. Cat prefers that he be rising out of the sheets.

“Does your husband know you’re so perverted?” he asks her in mock shock. “Why do you think he hooked up with me?” she retorts.

Tommy Page suddenly realises there’s a reporter in the vicinity. “Watch what you say! She’s writing it all down! Oh no, what’s this article going to be like?”

Well heow boy, we’ll send you a copy. 

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