Much ado has been made about Andy Lau and his "girlfriend" Carol Chu recently, not least from Sin Chew Daily, who labeled a photo of them hand-in-hand leaving KL International Airport in Malaysia "the photo of the century". Lau's appearance at Chu's father's funeral led to some guessing. Then, in a letter on his official website, Lau confirmed his marriage to Chu, apologized to his fans and cleared rumors that have been circulating for 24 years. Twenty-four years? They may have a child for goodness sake.
But give credit to Lau for sticking to his principles. As old-fashioned, unnecessary and hollow as his principles may seem, 24 years is a long time to pretend you don't have a girlfriend.
Young celebrities are much more open about their relationships. In July, Liu Ye married French photographer Anais Martane and photos were soon released showing them kissing and flirting. Yuan Quan and Xia Yu, who have been similarly open about their romance, just anounced their marriage to the public.
For Western celebrities, being secretive about a relationship is a short-lived affair. Paparazzi pictures of the "couple" soon lead to confirmation. Besides, celebrities can profit. In Hollywood there isn't a more money-making deal than hooking up with a fellow celeb. Think of the earning machine that Brad and Angelina are.
Celebs soon learn they can cash in on their wedding by signing contracts with magazines worth millions of dollars. David and Victoria Beckham set the standard in 1999, when they sold their pictures to OK! for a record 2 million. Britney Spears and Kevin Federline followed suit, selling their pictures to OK!
While being open about the fact that they are engaged, most celebrities will attempt to keep the ceremony a secret. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony told friends to gather at Lopez's home for a simple "afternoon party". The news that it was their wedding got out and paparazzi helicopters circled the house. Nicole Kidman went to extreme lengths to keep her wedding to Keith Urban private. She set the time at 6.30 pm so that the dark would keep out snooping eyes, and reportedly hired false brides to look like her.
For Hollywood celebrities, secrecy isn't of the "are they/aren't they?" type. Secrecy is about details of the wedding--the date, the dress, the number of dancing monkeys. These are kept under wraps to ensure exclusivity--often meaning exclusivity to one magazine.
It's also a handy way to get a bit of self-promotion. "In a way, when these couples act very shy to the press and the public, it keeps the fires of interest burning even brighter," explained ex-OK! editor Sarah Ivens to USA Today. " If I was a smart person with an album to promote, I'd do it as well."
Lau came into the public eye in the 80s, when being a celebrity was more about talent. Now it's about presence. There's dignity in Lau's attempt to save a private life, but he ends up looking out-of-date. It would be a shame if the rumors about their marriage were true since they've wasted that photo opportunity. Still, they can always do it again.