Veteran Singapore entertainer Victor Khoo, best known for his ventriloquist act Charlee and his Saturday morning radio shows in the 1970s, passed away on Friday morning. He was 63 years old.
According to a statement released by his family, Khoo had been battling cancer for several years. “He was a pioneer in so many ways, from his early days in Rediffusion, to his defining corporate events, to filmmaking, and of course his iconic work with Charlee — whom he always considered a business partner,” the family wrote. “We remember him for his generosity, his wit, his unfailing optimism, and his warmth and affection… even at the end, he had a smile and a squeeze of the hand for us and all who visited.”
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to Khoo on his Facebook page on Friday evening, writing, “Victor and his puppet, Charlee, often performed at events I attended, and I always enjoyed the shows. Charlee was cheeky but remarkably well-informed. Children loved Charlee, and listened faithfully to his radio show ‘Happy Talk’ on Saturday mornings.”
PM Lee added that Khoo contributed to Singapore’s society in many ways apart from the work he did in its entertainment scene, supporting the cause of breast cancer after his first wife, Lam May Yee, succumbed to it several years ago.
Local veteran jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro also reminisced his time spent with Khoo on his Facebook page upon learning of the news. He shared that he worked actively with Khoo between the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, often appearing at events together where Khoo would either emcee or perform magic. Khoo would also at times clown or perform his signature ventriloquist act while Monteiro led or played in the band.
“The passing of Victor Khoo is like the passing of, in global terms, Jim Henson, or when Shari Lewis and Lamb Chops left us,” wrote Monteiro, referring to the creator of children’s shows “Sesame Street” and “Lamb Chops”. “Yesterday, Singapore… lost a GIANT, in a world where giants of their respective countries and of the world are fast disappearing.”
Khoo leaves behind four children — Barry and Brandon, sons from his marriage to Lam, Victoria and Vanessa, daughters he had with his wife Shellen, as well as some 11 siblings, nephews, nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces.
Watch him in his showreel here: