After 53 years in showbiz, Datuk Lai Meng is ready to bid farewell to the local entertainment scene.
Best-loved for her role in the popular long-running sitcom Empat Sekawan, the 90-year-old Lai has been featured in countless commercials, and stage, radio, television, film projects, including Singaporean filmmaker Jack Neo’s hit movies such as Ah Long Pte Ltd (2008), Love Matters (2009), Where Got Ghost? (2009).
Lai received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at Taipei’s 45th Golden Horse Awards at age 81 for her role as a mother stricken with Alzheimer’s disease in Neo’s Money No Enough 2 (2008).
She was awarded a datukship by the Sultan of Pahang in 2013 and an AMN honour by the Yang di-Pertuan Agung in 1978.
Last week, the veteran actress, whose real name is Lai Kwai Yoon, conducted a press conference in Kuala Lumpur to announce her retirement from the local performing arts scene, which will be marked by a gala dinner at HGH Convention Centre on Jan 27.
The gala dinner will be hosted by her son Yap Meow Chook, a movie producer, and her godson Bjarne Wong, a film director.
Lai has been confined to a wheelchair after she suffered a fall last year. Since then, it has been so difficult for her to get around that she pondered her retirement over the past few months. After taking a long break to recover from the accident, the showbiz veteran finally decided to do so in order to spend more time with her family.
Lai, fondly dubbed Aunty Lai Meng by fans, has three children and four grandchildren.
The nonagenarian has devoted most of her life to the local entertainment industry, and her son Yap said that “all her friends are also friends of our family”.
Taking to the stage, Lai herself was in good spirits, as she expressed her appreciation to all those who have supported her over the years, including artistes, directors, producers, film crew, sponsors, radio deejays, and fans.
“My wish is to reconnect with all those who have worked with me and helped me over the years. I really hope to see you all there (at the gala dinner).
“If everybody can come and join us, I will be very happy. In fact, I will be so speechless with joy that I can only laugh!
“Please continue to give me your support, and wish me a bright future,” said Lai, who hopes that her friends can come and “sing and dance and have fun” at her retirement party.
After retiring, Lai said she would like to indulge more in her favourite pastime – mahjong.
“There is nothing I love more than to play mahjong. But I’ve not been playing much because I’ve always been too busy with work,” chuckled Lai, who recalled her weekly mahjong sessions with her good friends and her husband, who passed away when she was 79.
The Tribute to Datuk Lai Meng Retirement Gala Dinner will be held on Jan 27 at 7pm at HGH Convention Centre. For enquiries, call Angie (017-956 1101) or Creative Events (03-5889 5209).