candice yu A press release arrives in the office. It is from the Phillip Wain health club and bears important tidings of a new appointment. The club's Image Woman for 1998 is Candice Yu, former actress and much-photographed habitue of the social circuit. According to the press release Yu, wife and mother of two, considers herself 'one of the luckiest and happiest women in the world'. And, one must add, although the press release doesn't, surely one of the fittest women in Hong Kong. Eighteen months ago, when Deborah Sims opened the Body By Deborah health club, Yu was given heavy press coverage as its Honourable Member. Pictures of her fragrantly working out at BBD appeared everywhere. There is a piquant subtext here: Deborah Sims is the ex-wife of Eddie Phillips who is the chairman of Phillip Wain. Meanwhile, Yu admitted in an interview that she actually worked out at the Country Club. All very exhausting, you will agree. I rang Yu's husband, Henry Lee, who used to be a racing driver and now works in public relations, although evidently not for his wife because shortly afterwards Phillip Wain rang back and said they were handling Yu's press queries and please could I deal with them. So we arranged to meet one afternoon at the Causeway Bay Phillip Wain club. There was some confusion about dates when I arrived, and it turned out that Yu was at home with her daughters, but she sweetly volunteered to leap into her car immediately and come and meet me. I thought this showed nobility beyond the call of duty but perhaps not: as an Image Woman, bonding with the media is the call of duty. 'I have to show up for any press relating to the club,' explained Yu. 'I have to help with advertising. I have to do some photo shoots for the club and if Eddie needs me to go overseas, like Australia or Malaysia, I have to go.' Naturally, she also has to work out at the club. This is part of the six-page contract she has signed with Phillips for the next two years. How much money are we talking about? 'Seven figures,' said Yu, which seemed to me like a big fat sum to pay for a slender woman. 'One day, Eddie called me and said he had something to talk about. I feel a bit strange because we're not that close - you know, we don't go and have lunch or dinner. So I proposed that we have tea at the Mandarin.' (I had to interrupt here and ask her if she'd had cakes too, and she said yes, plus she always ate dessert at meals. She told Eddie this recently when he rang her mid-munch and he cried, 'Don't eat too much!' in alarm that his investment might increase.) 'Eddie said, 'I know your relationship with Deborah, I just want to know if you're interested.' I thought that Deborah will understand, this is commercial, not to do with friends. When she was opening her club, I knew that she was having divorce proceedings and I could support her and help promote the business. And I didn't ask for a return, there was no money. Now Eddie's offering good terms and, honestly, I can't resist. This is so suitable for me. Both parties benefit, so why not? But she said I betrayed her.' I said that, in the circumstances, this was perfectly understandable and Yu agreed. 'I called Deborah after the press conference - as a friend, that's the right thing to do - but she blamed me [and said] that I'd called her too late. But it was supposed to be top secret.' I hadn't made it to that press conference but it sounded potentially hilarious with much verbal drum-rolling about the attributes of the Image Woman while Yu hid behind a screen until summoned forth to face the media blitz. Did she find it hard not to laugh? Yu looked puzzled. 'No. Why? Your face tells me that you are surprised. It's a compliment, don't you think so? I should be very proud. I am very proud, actually. Why is it funny? Why?' Caught on the hop, I began to extemporise about my own hysterical response in the unlikely event of ever being held up as exemplifying the ... er (I was scanning the press release), 'precious values' of womanhood. Yu leaned back and replied, with great serenity, 'They have to say that, otherwise why would they have chosen me?' Actually, I liked this attitude and it mostly summed up Yu's take on life which is of the unquestioning, laid-back variety. When I asked her why she had a tendency to turn up at social functions in transparent garments she thought about it and replied: 'Why not? Maybe I will get old, fat, not so pretty anymore but now I can afford to, so why not?' She said that she'd only ever once thought of leaving Hong Kong, in 1989. 'But if I have to get used to a new country why not get used to a new government here? And, you know, driving on the other side of the road, that kills me.' All her energy must go into those work-outs (one and a half hours, three times a week) because nothing seemed to rile her. She fell into acting via modelling, she fell into marriage to actor Chow Yun-fat 16 years ago when she was 23, she fell out of it 10 months later. 'It's lucky I never let people give me pressure,' mused Yu. 'With Chow Yun-fat, 90 per cent of people said that it won't last. If I'm another kind of girl I'd say 'I'll show you' but, let's face it, I was wrong and they were right. I'm an easy-going person, I never take things too seriously.' Well, hardly ever. I'd done a quick trawl through her press cuttings and came up with one from 12 years ago, headlined 'Sad Day In Court For TV Celebrity', which gave details of a charge of common assault brought against Yu by a woman to whom Yu had lent $140,000. Yu had met her by chance and became exercised, in a manner of speaking, about the debt. As a crime, it was quintessentially tai-tai in both location (outside a hair salon) and choice of weapon (mobile phone). When I brought this up, Yu gave a tiny smile and said, 'Once in a while, you crack.' There was a pause. 'Come on, everyone has a temper.' Oh, absolutely, I agreed, even the most precious among us.