Dick Lee
Photo: Courtesy of Dick Lee

7:00AM I’m an early riser and I need only six hours of sleep. I go to bed based on what time I need to wake up. I don’t need an alarm—I wake up exactly at the six-hour mark. It’s strange how it’s to the minute. The first thing I do is drink a glass of lemon and water. I can’t remember why I started the habit, but I think it helps with maintaining my weight.

7:30AM I’ll have another glass of slow juice with a teaspoon of something that I swear by—psyllium husk. Breakfast varies from day to day with my helper deciding. My previous helper, who’d been with us for 20 years, just retired; so it was with great trepidation that I had to look for another one. Guess what? My new helper and her husband added me on Facebook even before she arrived! It’s a whole new generation. She has a secretarial degree listed in her papers. She’s never been to Singapore, but she’s so resourceful and smart. She’s also a little chubby, which means she likes to eat and cook. Most importantly, I made her learn how to sew and alter my clothes.

7:35AM While having my meal, I’ll read the newspapers and do a Sudoku puzzle. I have a gripe: Our national broadsheet’s probably the only one in the world without a puzzle. Even though they recently added two strips of comics in, are we still so humourless?

8:15AM I go through my emails and I answer all the long and complicated ones, such as media interviews, because I can’t do them on the road.

10:00AM Before, I was the one planning my own time, but it’s getting too much because the projects I’m involved with are getting bigger. Annie, a long-time friend who’s now managing my schedules, will update me about the day. She used to produce musicals, and it was through her that I started directing them.

Dick Lee
Photo: Courtesy of Dick Lee

11:00AM I’m a Virgo and we’re very organised people. I make lists; my books are arranged in alphabetical order; and my clothes are sorted by colours. Even the songs that I play in my car are sorted according to genres and playlists. But what I’ve been doing these days is playing the music on shuffle mode—I like that sense of surprise. I go swimming at the Singapore Island Country Club; and that’s where I’m forced to plan and think… otherwise I’m confronted with the agony of doing laps! I do only 10 laps, and they’re over in an instant if, for example, I’m going through lyrics in my head. It’s a very important time for me.

1:00PM I have lunch at a fairly quiet place in the clubhouse with a beautiful view. It must be the only spot in Singapore where it’s just nature—you can’t see even one building, no matter where you look!

2:05PM As much as possible, I try to have meetings at home. Rehearsals take up a whole day. For my musical, The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized, there was a strong audio visual component. I’d meet with the stage manager who’d cue hilarious clips of my old performances converted from VHS tapes. Remember those? They’re costly to keep because they turn mouldy. You can clean them. I tried it once by dismantling the tape myself, but destroyed it when I couldn’t put it back. I just finished this year’s National Day Parade (NDP), where I was Creative Director. Unlike a musical, the scale of NDP is so different. We can’t say, “Let’s fix that tomorrow” because it’ll take one week for things to come into effect. I have to give instructions early. Besides, a small change can affect so many things. The power of “Home,” the song I wrote and sung by Kit Chan in 1998, is beyond me. And to think the song is 17 years old!

7:30PM If I don’t have any other engagements, dinner’s usually at home. They are fast affairs—usually 30 minutes.

Dick Lee
Photos: Courtesy of Dick Lee

8:00PM I’m an impulsive Internet shopper, so some of my evenings are spent browsing on sites such as Mr Porter and Amazon. It’s an after-dinner thing, you know? You just want to let your mind rest a little. I’m a fan of vintage Versace prints. My stage wardrobe during my Orientalism tour in 1991 was from Versace. But I had to throw them away because they were badly stained. Thanks to the Internet, I’ve managed to buy back about 30 pieces of them.

10:00PM I catch up on the little bits and pieces that I haven’t been able to do all day. The night’s usually reserved for creative matters. I tend to store a lot of information. If you’re a multi-tasker like me, you need great discipline to focus on the tasks at hand. I’m involved in so many projects, so I need to switch hats immediately. That’s taken me a lifetime to understand. I’ve been fortunate to do the things I love. It can drive people crazy—it has driven me crazy before—but I’ve learnt to manage it. We just need to deal with it and get on with the show.

12:00AM My helper does a great job of making the bed like how the hotels do it. I’m not fussy about my bedsheets because I fall asleep quickly—even on a plane—so quality doesn’t matter. But they need to be in calming colours. I unwind by playing games on the iPad. Just simple ones to take my mind off things. I know it’s time to hit the sack when I’m nodding off while playing the game. I always thought I needed complete darkness to sleep, but one time I woke up and there were some lights on, and I finally realised it doesn’t make a difference.