Anita Sarawak's half-sister: I worry and pray she's okay
Anita Sarawak's half-sister concerned about being unable to contact US-based entertainer, having last heard from her in March
When she last spoke to her US-based half-sister Anita Sarawak in March, the iconic Singapore-born entertainer mentioned that she wanted a private life away from the spotlight.
Former model and actress-singer Noor Kumalasari Mohd Taib said: "She was the same as ever. She wants to be a full-time housewife now and relax.
"She shops for groceries at a mom-and-pop store near her home, not in a lavish shopping mall. She's very down-to-earth."
She also said that Anita, who moved back to Las Vegas in 2013 with her British husband Mohamad Mahathir Abdullah, had told her to decline interview requests, appearances and invitations to perform at Singapore's Jubilee Year celebrations.
"I told her that reporters were looking for her but she said, 'Tell them I'm not interested,'" Noor Kumalasari, 59, told The New Paper in a phone interview from Kuala Lumpur last week.
"She is happy living a moderate life now that she has retired from showbiz."
Anita's late mother, actress Siput Sarawak, was married to late actor S. Roomai Noor before he married Noor Kumalasari's late mother, actress Umi Kalthum.
Anita, 63, fell off the radar in 2013, the last time she is said to have been in touch with industry contacts.
Famous for her deep, powerful vocals and vibrant personality, she was reportedly last based in Kuala Lumpur, where she hosted television shows from 2003.
The entertainment diva lived and performed in Las Vegas in the US from 1985 to 2001 before returning to Singapore for two years.
After four decades of being in the limelight in Las Vegas, Malaysia and Singapore, Anita then mysteriously vanished from the scene.
Noor Kumalasari said Anita had hinted at leaving behind the glitz and glamour as far back as a decade ago.
"It's high time for her to retire. She has knee problems and it was time for her to focus on her health. But she loves her fans and is always thinking of them," she said.
"She once told me, 'I'm tired but the show has to go on.' She hated to disappoint her fans.
"I think people should respect her decision. Performing is in her blood, so it's a heartache for her to quit it. It is not easy for her."
But while she understands Anita's need for privacy, she also can't help worrying as it has been two months since they last spoke. This is the longest they have gone without speaking to each other.
Unusually, Anita also broke her annual ritual of calling Noor Kumalasari on her birthday last month.
She felt something was amiss but tried to shake off the feeling. She worries and prays daily for Anita's safety, hoping that she is just treasuring her time away from the limelight.
"I just hope and pray that she is okay and doing well. Maybe she is just busy travelling and taking things slowly," said Noor Kumalasari.
"But that is 40 per cent of my feelings, the other 60 per cent is the thought that she might not be in the best of health."
Anita has also not been in touch with her other five half-siblings either. Their calls and text messages to her have gone unanswered.
Noor Kumalasari said that Anita's best friend could not track her down despite going to her home in the US.
In Anita's absence, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive, suggesting that she was having marital problems with her 62-year-old husband and that she has started wearing the hijab (Muslim headdress).
To Noor Kumalasari's knowledge, the rumours are untrue. "That is why I want to talk to her, so she can clarify but she hasn't called.
"Maybe she is afraid I would ask her point-blank about the rumours. She knows I am the type to do so.
"But what has she got to be afraid of? We are siblings."
Asked about their relationship, Noor Kumalasari said: "We click and understand each other perfectly. She gives me good advice and vice versa.
"She might be far away but my heart is full of love for her. I remember her in my prayers every day.
"Please pray for her as well."
'Anita just wants some down time'
She will always come back for her friends and family, says local Malay radio DJ Hafeez Glamour.
He tried to reach Anita Sarawak, who is a close friend, earlier this year when the Esplanade was interested in inviting the popular star for a show as part of Singapore's Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Hafeez, 44, said the US and Singapore phone numbers he had for Anita were no longer in use. His e-mails to her and her husband, Mr Mohamad Mahathir Abdullah, also went unanswered.
"Maybe she wants to lead a private and peaceful life. I know she will call some day. She never forgets her friends," said Hafeez, who used to chat with Anita regularly when she was still living in Singapore.
Local entertainer Najip Ali, 50, who creative directed Anita's talk show, Anita: Speak Of The Diva, in 2001, said he last spoke to her in 2011 when he was honoured at the inaugural Seri Temasek Awards.
Anita, who received the Seri Temasek Achievement Award, also accepted the Legend Award on behalf of her late mother, actress Siput Sarawak.
"We are past the 'worry' stage now because if anything were to happen to her, her sister would be the first to know. Anita just wants some down time," he said.
Mr Lim Sek, the 56-year-old chief executive of entertainment company Music & Movement and a Sing50 organising committee member, last saw Anita in 2013 at a corporate gig at Marina Bay Sands.
He had hoped to engage her for the Sing50 concert, but understands that she will resurface only when she is ready.
"Any show will be incomplete without her but any public figure, especially of her calibre, needs time away from the industry and we respect that," he said.
Her life story
Showbusiness is in Anita Sarawak's blood.
Her late mother, Siput Sarawak, and late stepmother, Umi Kalthum, who raised her, were prominent figures during the golden age of Malay cinema in the 50s and 60s.
Her late father, S. Roomai Noor, was a veteran actor and director.
Anita rose to prominence at the age of 17 after releasing her debut English album With A Lot O' Soul in 1969.
The diva went on to make numerous English and Malay records, and was well-loved for hits such as Lodeh Mak Lodeh, Seksis, Bawalah Daku Pergi and Sophisticated Lady.
She won over fans not only with her deep and sultry vocals, but also with her flamboyant sense of style, sleek dance moves and over-the-top personality.
Anita was lauded as a world-class act, rising from a top entertainer in Singapore and Malaysia to clinching an 18-year stint performing at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1985.
She left Las Vegas in 2001 and returned to Singapore to perform and host English talk show Anita: Speak Of The Diva and Malay variety show Bersama Anita.
Two years later, she moved to Kuala Lumpur after bagging a deal with Malaysian cable TV channel Astro to host various programmes.
Once known as Sophisticated Lady, Miss Dynamite and First Lady of Song, Anita was hailed as Singapore's singing ambassador and has performed in Asia, Europe and the US.
She won the Special Achievement Award at Anugerah Planet Muzik in 2002, the Oxford Centre for Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, and the Seri Temasek Achievement Award in 2011.
HER LOVE LIFE
Anita married musician Mohamad Abdul Samad. They divorced in 1976.
She married late Indonesian singer-actor Broery Marantika. It lasted four years.
She married American James Dean "JD" Nicholas, lead singer of US funk group The Commodores in a Las Vegas mosque. They divorced in 1999 but remain good friends.
She married Briton Mohamad Mahathir Abdullah in a Las Vegas mosque. He has a son named Matthew from a previous marriage.