January 06, 2007

Nicholas Stoodley - Living in the Twilight Zone Chapter 3

Tune in every Saturday as Nicholas recalls the Disco Decade in Manila when Martial Law, Cuban heels, Donna Summer, Coco Banana and a lot of hair combined in a frenzy of uncertain excitement.

Chapter 3 - Playboy Magazine

How in God's name did I end up sitting at a desk in a house in Scout Magbanua designing (or attempting to design) clothes in a country so far from home a country most people couldn't even find on the map! Turgid gray clouds were obscuring the sun (and my mind) and an extremely odd maid outside was attempting lunch that was even odder. Food certainly was, how shall I say, VERY experimental in those days. Being English I had informed Elving, my maid, that rice was all good and well but NON STOP rice? Could she cook potatoes? She had duly asked around and discovered exactly what a potato was (obviously a rare and exotic delicacy in those days) but unfortunately neglected to find out how one cooked this particular vegetable. They arrived, small hard bullets lurking at the bottom of a bowl of dark, yellowish brown liquid in which was suspended a few lumps of what could only be described as disgusting. Ah pork! I was told. Unfortunately the poor pig hadn't shaved well before it met its maker and therefore a number of bristles protruded from the flesh. So much for lunch! So much for being a superstar from Rome . It wasn't a good day.

I hadn't even intended to work for Valentino and yet it was this fact that had so entranced my financial backers in the first place. I MUST be good if I'd been his assistant. So ran the logic. My original plan though had been to get into movies. Sitting under a tree in Hyde Park in London and feeling very strongly that my life needed a bit of excitement, I had asked myself what would I like to do if I had a free wish? Anything in the world! So I decided I wanted to be a Film Director. Simple really well it WAS a wish. The best way, I had thought, was to start as an assistant to a successful, well known Director and I'd take it from there.

I placed an advertisement in the Times newspaper that read FRANCO ZEFIRELLI PLEASE CONTACT NICHOLAS IN LONDON URGENT. With the callowness of youth combined with an over-optimistic personality, I fully expected him to contact me and he did. A few days later, I got a letter telling me to call a number in Rome. I spoke to a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn who informed me that "Franco don't know any Nicholas in London ." I had laughed and explained and she had laughed and that was that. Simple. The next day I was in Rome getting drunk with her. It wasn't to be though. There were too many Americans saturating the Italian Film Industry at that time and work permits were impossible to get. The only possibility was for me to work in an allied field, say design, and then transfer to film after a year or so.

Perpetuating this fairy story, (for this is how it sounds) I just happened to know someone who worked for Valentino so I applied for a job. I recall clearly the first time Valentino himself saw me, his head peering almost shyly round the corner of his office . Mmmm, Nice English boy but dresses like shit! he had thought. There was no mistaking THAT look. Can I design a chair? I had been asked. Why not I had replied, honest enough to mention that this was something I had never contemplated before and surprisingly this answer was enough to get me the job.

Obviously Valentino had wanted a fresh new approach infused into his line of Home D cor and he certainly got it, resulting in my being summoned to his office to explain the front cover of Playboy Magazine. Two scantily clad nymphets posing with a chair. It was MY chair. I was proud! It was though HIS chair. A Valentino chair! I had designed what looked amazingly like a phallic symbol. It had been entirely sub conscious on my part but there, with two nearly naked girls well, let's just say it wasn't very Valentino!

Thousands of miles away from Rome I was still struggling with an empty sheet of paper, a dull mind and a bad stomach. What price an adventurous spirit?

Previously: Chapter 2 - Cold Turkey!

Start from the beginning! Read: Chapter 1 - An English Virgin

Nicholas Stoodley was born near London and has lived at one time or another in the South of France, Rome, Sydney, Tagaytay, England, Paris and Manila with plans to move to Ibiza shortly. A former assistant to Valentino in Rome, he arrived in Manila in 1976 and pioneered Ready to Wear in the Philippines with the NICHOLAS STOODLEY brand of casual clothing. During his stay in the Philippines Nicholas also won the PBA Invitational Basketball Conference in 1980 with his team from Los Angeles, designed and manufactured a Stainless Steel Sports Utility Jeep that was featured in the Frankfurt Motor Show and opened "Skatetown", a Roller Disco with Jorge Araneta in Cubao. And that was just the first course!

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