March 24, 2007

Nicholas Stoodley - Living in the Twilight Zone Chapter 7

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 7 - Skatetown

Skatetown came into being after a conversation I had in the early 80's with Jorge Araneta. He thought that Cubao needed an image shift. He was right! The problem with Cubao was...well, Cubao was in Cubao and not Makati or Greenhills where all the "smart" crowd went. Or so the theory went. Here was a chance to get wild and wild I got - in many ways!

Well, the ONLY way to get people to see Cubao in a different light was to do something way out of the ordinary - so I bought a 1957 Cadillac convertible and painted it bright pink. A good start. Then I crashed it into the plate glass window next to the entrance. The concept was Roller Disco. The lights, the music and Bose speakers with a hell thumping bass that made your hair stand on end...none of that anemic Muzak and neon strip lighting of normal roller rinks where glazed matrons watched with horror while their siblings crashed to the floor in convoluted heaps. This was meant to be SERIOUS. It had to be because to some extent roller skating under a raft of screaming lights to loud disco music in semi darkness produces an effect not guaranteed to be the best recipe for safety! I mean it was all very well luring the crazies from Makati to go all the way to Cubao (like it was the NORTH POLE in those days) but put them on skates to Donna Summer and you've got a serious potential problem. And that was only the start. I remember well nearly dragging one of the disc jockey out of the booth since the atmosphere inside the booth had become rather enveloped in a haze of marijuana fumes. Fun perhaps but dangerous. Dangerous.

This is an original invitation to the opening of SKATETOWN which opened in the early 80's. It was my project with Jorge Araneta.

The space up on the third floor of Ali Mall was cavernous and screaming for development and apart from an actually extremely good Italian restaurant where I once had lunch with Paul Anka, (who had the great misfortune to compose the favorite song of all bad singers in karaoke bars in the world: My Way) the rest of the floor was one great space waiting to happen.

Electro Systems were brought into create the lights and install a high-tech sound system and we worked, therefore, from the top down; working on the ceiling first since it was this cacophony of coordinated lights that would hopefully not disorientate the skaters too much that would create the mood for Skatetown. The DJ booth jutted out into the rink so that the disc jockey could see what was happening (unless he was stoned out of his mind) and was clad in mirrored sheets as was, in fact, quite a lot of the sidings. The original rink was painted with clouds but with the thousands of skaters that besieged the place they quickly faded into obscurity. Silver padded edging surrounded the rink itself and that lasted about a month only since bewildered skaters zoomed, temporarily blinded perhaps, into the sides at speed = shredding everything in their path! They were replaced with industrial strength vivid pink vinyl and the problem was solved.

At the far end of SKATETOWN there was, somewhat incongruously, a real Australian outback saloon that Jorge Araneta had purchased complete in Australia and had shipped over to Manila. It was as far away from a disco as you could imagine but it worked. Crazy was what was needed and crazy we got. Bit too crazy. The Araneta management decided that we needed to have periods every hour when the lights (the neon srip lights I hated) were turned on and the sound turned down so that more normal people who just liked skating could enjoy themselves without risk of brain damage or a broken arm or leg! It became the headquarters of an important skating club and these were serious skaters! They wore uniforms and not like the scarlet red one piece, zip up coveralls that I designed for the Skatetown staff either. It was a culture clash: me wanting wild and then wanting wholesome. But all in all - it worked!

The opening actually did attract the glitterati, I mean there really was, for all to see, Chinbee Monotoc, all the way from Makati in her Saint Laurent gliding across the rink hemmed in by A Listers from the "better" areas. They had made it to Cubao without getting mugged! Ernest Santiago of the famed Coco Banana arranged a show on skates and anyone who remembers Coco Banana will have an idea of how it was - outrageous comes to mind. So it was a great success and I wanted it to spread. I wanted to do the whole top floor as a sort of crazy, young vibrant place that would have all linked in together like cool Lego but it was too advanced a concept for that period. But Skatetown remains a great memory for many people. It was a spark. It ROCKED.

Previously: Chapter 6 - Basketball Fever & Nicholas Stoodley Photos

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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1 comment:

paetechie said...

nice to re-visit your site again

will link you up. i posted pictures of astroboy et al on my blog



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