Rocker fades in Faye's shadow

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 May, 2006, 12:00am

Former Black Panther lead singer Dou Wei is in danger of being remembered not as one of the founders of rock music in China, but as the out-of-control ex-husband of pop diva Faye Wong.

The 36-year-old was recently released from police custody after storming into the Beijing News' editorial department on May 10. He smashed several computers, broke windows and a television set, then set fire to a staff member's car. The troubled rock star having apparently made his not-so-subtle point, then turned himself in to police.

His cronies issued warnings of similar actions to an increasingly 'nosey' media.

Dou was looking for journalist Zhuo Wei, who claimed in two reports that the star was separating from his second wife, Gao Yuan. Zhuo had written that Dou had financial problems, only gave his wife 500 yuan a month, and earned only 250 yuan from gigs. Cynics wondered if Dou's sudden leap back onto the front pages, websites, blogs and TV broadcasts was a carefully choreographed publicity stunt.

Media columnists are divided over whether he needs psychiatric help. It is thought most likely though that the man many call the pioneer of Chinese rock simply reached the end of his tether after being abandoned by his public.

Many argue Dou had played second fiddle to Faye Wong ever since they were married in 1996. The Dou-Wong saga had it all - tangled love lives, wealth, fame, and, ultimately, heartbreak.

They had a daughter, Dou Jingtong, were treated like royalty, had powerful friends, were good looking, talented and adored by millions of fans.

Interest in the pair only intensified when they divorced three years after their marriage because of Dou's affair with Gao, his lover before he married Wong.

But unlike Wong, Dou, whose trademark in the early '90s was a mane of long hair and the pulsating rhythms of Black Panther, was unable to reinvent himself for a new audience. He started branching out in new artistic directions and no one cared.

Signs of his increasing instability came last month. Known for his forthright views, he demanded audiences with reporters and used the interviews to lambaste critics, fellow musicians and anyone else who riled him.

However, friends of Dou said he had been perfectly normal the night before the attack on the newspaper.

'We had been around him several days before he set fire to the car. He was fine. Dou just wanted to relieve his feelings,'' a friend said.

Ma Pei, a musician and friend said 'if there was something mentally wrong, he would not have surrendered to the police so calmly'.

However, Dou's jealousy of his ex-wife's new life was obvious to others.

He would have been reading the stories about Wong expecting a baby with her new husband, actor Li Yapeng, and seen photos of the pair hiding behind sunglasses as they were chased across the capital by the paparazzi.

In recent times Dou had become a near-recluse, jamming at small Beijing clubs with fellow musicians.

'Many contend that he just simply isn't very musically talented any more, and is famous more for being Faye Wong's ex-husband,' says Beijing Time Out's music editor, Paul Kendall.

'He's been experimenting with jazz acoustics, making formless, lyric-less music. He's been signed by a Hong Kong record label and producing electronic-inspired pieces. But his following is today very small,' he added.

Dou has been released from custody and will seemingly escape charges of arson and criminal damage. He has agreed to pay compensation to the Beijing News which has said it will not pursue charges - but 'will continue to report objectively' the peccadilloes of China's precious celebrities.

But Dou has received support from other famous Chinese rockers, including Cui Jian. 'The media constantly harasses Dou. His angry outbursts should make people think about the relationship between artists, [the] media and the public,' he said, and called for 'sound legislation and strong protection of artists' privacy' in the media.

Duo has also received support from the public, with most of those voting in online surveys agreeing he deserves another chance.

And he's back on the pages of news and glossy magazines in the mainland, and has bloggers hacking away at their keyboards long into the night about 'the mad ex-husband of Faye Wong'.

'What Dou needs most is not money but respect for his private life. If the media do not cover him too much, he will be saved,' fellow musician Ma said.

China's celebrities are discovering - at some cost - that the trappings of fame are the same the world over.