Rose Chan



Rose Chan (b. 1925, Soo Chow [present-day Suzhou], China d. 1987, Penang, Malaysia) was born Chan Wai Chang into a family of acrobats.1 She became famous throughout Malaysia as the “Queen of Striptease” in the 1950s for her sensational acts, which included a stunt known as the “Python Act” where she wrestled with a python.2 For her generosity, she soon gained another moniker  – the “Charity Queen”.3

Early life
At the age of six, Chan was taken to Kuala Lumpur by her adoptive mother. While she knew who her birth mother was, she would only say to a newspaper, the New Sunday Times, “I know who my mother is, but I don't want to say”.4 Chan had no formal schooling, except for a brief eight months at the age of 12, and took on various jobs in Malaya, such as working at a shop making buttons out of coconut shells.5  At 16, she was married off to a Singaporean harbour contractor, who was more than thrice her age, as his fourth wife.6 However, the marriage ended after her mother made frequent monetary demands on Chan's husband, asking for $1,000 to $2,000 at a time.7


Accomplishments
Chan's failed marriage led her to become a cabaret dancer at the Happy World (later renamed Gay World) amusement park in Geylang to earn some much-needed income.8 She was an accomplished dancer, as shown by her runner-up placement in the All-Women's Ballroom Dancing Championship in 1949. Her beauty was also evident as she finished runner-up in the Miss Singapore beauty contest the following year.9 

As Chan was already a highly popular cabaret girl, she formed her own dance company, The Rose Chan Revue, in 1951 and toured the whole of Malaya.10 It was in 1952 that her career really took off. That year, her bra snapped while she was performing at the Majestic Theatre in Ipoh, and the audience responded with thunderous applause. The audience’s favourable response led her to change her routine from then on, as she made her name for herself as the “Queen of Striptease”.11 As she famously said, “Everybody clapped very hard, and I thought, ‘Here I dance all night and sweat so much and nobody claps. My bra breaks and they clap”.12 Chan’s new stage act was revolutionary, including daring deeds such as bending iron rods using the base of her throat, having motorcycles ride over planks placed across her body, and the “Python Act”, where she wrestled with a large python, even coiling it provocatively around herself.13 

However, while Chan’s suggestive acts brought her much success, they also caused her to have several run-ins with the law.14 In 1967, she was banned from performing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after a police raid on her revue at Bukit Bintang Amusement Park found that she had gone against her no-stripping promise made when she applied for her performing licence.15 Chan was then arrested for performing indecently in public in Perth, Australia, in September 1970, but was acquitted.16 A month later, again in Perth, she was found guilty of accepting money for sex at a massage parlour. She was fined A$60.17 By 1973, her performing licence in Malaysia had been taken away by the authorities. Undaunted, Chan continued performing until 1976, when she performed her last striptease in Kuala Lumpur.18 

Controversies aside, Chan was also known for her generosity. She would donate some of the proceeds from her shows to charities, including those benefiting children, old folks, tuberculosis patients and the blind.19 She was dubbed the “Charity XQueen” for her charitable acts.20 

Chan's life continues to be a fascination for many. In August 2008, local theatre group The Theatre Practice staged the play I am Queen, which tells the story of stripper Betty Yong, a character modelled on Chan.21 In April 2009, MediaCorp Raintree Pictures announced that they would be making a biopic of Chan's life. The movie, entitled Chinese Rose, was to be helmed by local director Eric Khoo.22 Khoo’s intended full-length movie on Rose Chan was, however, condensed into one of six short stories in his omnibus, In The Room, which was screened at the 26th Singapore International Film Festival in December 2015.23

Family
First husband: A Singaporean harbour contractor, name unknown.24
Second husband: Mohamed Nazier Kahar, an Indonesian.25
Third husband: Chong Yew Meng.26
Fourth husband: Jimmy Chew.27
Fifth husband: Low Kim Seng.28
Two sons: First son, whose name is not known, from her first marriage, and second son, Chong Weng Thye, from her third marriage.29
Four daughters: Jennifer and Irene Chan. The names of her two other daughters, one of whom was adopted, are not known. At a young age, Jennifer and Irene were introduced to the press in 1974 as her protégés. By then, she had taught them to sing and dance.30 

Death
Chan was diagnosed with breast cancer around 1980, and after a long battle with the disease, died at the age of 62 on 26 May 1987 in her home in Butterworth, Penang.31




Author

Christopher Ong



References
1. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 198. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 43. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
2. Tseng, D. (2008, April 29). A new Rose in the makingThe Straits Times, p. 50; Lim, C. (1994, July 16). Looking into the psyche of stripper Rose ChanThe Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 65. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ)
4.  Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Brown, V. (2013, September 24). She's not just a stripper, says Cecil Rajendra of Rose Chan. The Star Online. Retrieved 2017, January 2 from http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2013/09/24/cecil-rajendra-rose-chan/; Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 43. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
5. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet (in association with the National Heritage Board), p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 42, 239. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 43. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
6. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 112. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 44. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
7. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 112–113. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 44. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
8. Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 44. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE); Brazil, D. (2007). Insider’s Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 196. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 BRA-[TRA]); Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 115–116, 240. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ)
9. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 54, 240. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 44. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
10. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 120, 158–159, 240. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 44. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
11. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 58, 159, 240–241. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ)
12. Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 44. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
13. Brazil, D. (2007). Insider’s Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 196. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 BRA-[TRA]); Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 186. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 45. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE) 
14. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 158. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ)
15. Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 46. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE); Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 188. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ)
16. Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 46. (Call no.: RU CLOS 338.709595 OE)
17. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 157–158, 243. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 46. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
18. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 188, 243. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge,9, 46. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
19. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]; Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 206–207. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 44. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
20. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 65. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ)
21. Tan, T. (2008, August 7). Erotica of 1950s gets strip searchThe Straits Times, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Tseng, D. (2008, April 29). A new Rose in the makingThe Straits Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Twang, L. (2015, December 3). Actress in Eric Khoo's new R21 film is 'shy'. MyPaper. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Flora. (2015, November 25). [InC-terview] In The Room with Eric Khoo. InCinemas.sg. Retrieved 2017, January 2 from https://www.incinemas.sg/interview-details.aspx?id=5
24. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
25. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 241. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 45. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
26. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 242. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 45. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
27. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 242. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ)
28. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 243. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ)
29. Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 48. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
30. Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 66, 207. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge, 9, 47–48. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)
31. Tseng, D. (2008, April 29). A new Rose in the makingThe Straits Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Rajendra, C. (2013). No bed of roses: The Rose Chan story. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 22, 236. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.7028092 RAJ); Lim, D. (2005, September). Flower of Malaya. Off the edge,9, 47–48. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.709595 OE)



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Women entertainers--Malaysia--Malaya--Biography
Women entertainers--Singapore--Biography
Chan, Rose, 1925-1987
Women dancers--Singapore--Biography
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies
Women dancers--Malaysia--Malaya--Biography
Stripteasers--Malaysia--Malaya--Biography
Stripteasers--Singapore--Biography
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Leisure and entertainment