January 27, 2007

Nicholas Stoodley - Living in the Twilight Zone Chapter 5

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 5 - An Alien Culture

The early days were a bit of a blur. Here I was in a foreign and sometimes truly alien culture sweating it out in a climate more suited to alligators than Englishmen! Outside there were an amazing amount of people with guns! There were check points and Martial Law and I was opening a store selling RTW clothing with my name outside - I was even decidedly unsure about the whole venture! And then there was the publicity! I wasn't really used to that. I'd had publicity before in Europe and had even appeared (drunk unfortunately and telling a dirty joke to the Premier of New South Wales) on TV in Australia, but the Philippines was so "personal". Everyone seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time just gossiping about everyone else: who was bonking who and why and when and even HOW. It is hardly surprising that the Philippines ended up as the text capital of the world!

In the mid 70's there wasn't much choice when it came to press publicity because Marcos had closed down a lot of newspapers for not being too friendly to him so one was very much left with the Bulletin Today and it's magazine, PANORAMA. Chelo Banal interviewed me one afternoon Рa delightful young lady Рand soon I was chatting away nineteen to the dozen with no thought at all. As far as I was concerned we were just gossiping. Wrong. "And what did I think of our local actors?" I had been asked. "Well," I had stupidly said with no thought at all, "I think Christopher de Leon has about as much talent as a dead slug!" It had been a throw away line designed, I guess, to make me seem both clever and superior. Such is the naivet̩ of the young and inexperienced. Actually Christopher was the ONLY actor that I knew about at that time and he was, in fact, a good actor; but I was just having fun. Gossip. I was enjoying this. Christopher de Leon wasn't. As far as he was concerned it was libel or slander or whatever, but it wasn't Kosher and I was in for big legal trouble.

Life WAS casual in the Philippines and it was so easy to become ensnared in a situation without even realizing you had slipped down a honey-coated slope into an abyss of unfathomable proportions. There was NO SCRIPT to life in Manila – it was a crazy hodge podge of events that spontaneously erupted in the face of the unwary with alarming regularity. Invited to appear on a game show called SPIN-A-WIN I was suddenly grabbed in the full glare of God knows how many people on TV and made to dance with Elizabeth of the crazy hair Ramsey. Me, a reticent English virgin that had, up to that moment, thought himself adventurous. Was THAT ever my baptism of fire! And it was constant. Everyday brought new heart stopping events bubbling to the surface.

Drinking beer one evening with a friend at one of those open air bars on M.H. del Pilar (well kiosk would be more appropriate) I had gone off for a few moments to try and find somewhere I could buy a packet of Dunhill cigarettes and returned fifteen minutes later to find that, apparently, my friend had been taken away in a Police van with several others. Directed to the Western Police District Headquarters somewhere near the Hilton Hotel, I finally found him languishing in a filthy, smelly, crowded, locked room full of various miscreants and a few well dressed individuals looking both scared and out of place. Demanding to see the policeman in charge and summoning up all my British courage I was directed outside where a sloppily dressed man with a bulging belly, sweaty armpits and a presumably loaded gun was lounging across a table, obviously in the latter stages of a drinking contest with his buddies – also all with loaded guns. I was toast. But England didn't become the World's leading Imperialist Power for nothing and I managed to crack a meager joke that had all the cops laughing hysterically and inviting me to get as drunk as they were. "Well, just ONE bottle then". Four beers later I had won my friend's reprieve. His crime? None. It was beer money that's all; who wouldn't pay to get out of that hell hole? They even offered to drive me back to the bar from where I'd come but by then I doubted if they could even stand, let alone drive! Yes, it was an alien culture alright!

Previously: Chapter 4 - Curfew Passes

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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Sid said...

hahahaha! you had me laughing with your story. i just love your humor and sarcasm. my kind of writing! man i really love your stories, please keep them coming! this one is hillarious.

canDIshhh said...

Sana we can still watch the old episodes noh?? :)

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