March 30, 2007

Nicholas Stoodley - Living in the Twilight Zone Chapter 8

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 8 - Coco Banana

Let it be Magic.....and it was. It was the time of Donna Summer who, in so many ways, created the spell that was the Disco Decade. That was the time of Coco Banana, the offspring of Ernest Santiago who had a talent for self-promotion and wore a satisfied smile that always reminded me of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. And why shouldn't he have been smiling! They lined up to be admitted to the magic. In droves.

Perhaps some of them had found their way to Coco Banana by way of the mini forest that used to stand in the middle of Remedios Circle in Malate where on a Saturday night you could smell the clouds of illegal smoke as it slowly wended its way up into the atmosphere in a haze of its own particular magic. In those days the yuppies didn't go to Malate - that was out of bounds. But Sean Connery came. Lots of famous foreigners were there but in those heady, glorious, riotous days Coco Banana was almost the center of the Universe!

Tucked away in a dimly lit side street just off Remedious Circlem, the club somehow managed to attract the most amazingly eclectic mixture of people that could be imagined. Sure there were the sex tourists from Europe who were only just becoming Euro Trash but then they were fanning out allover the East in their quest for cheap thrills. But actually nobody gave a damn and that was what disco was all about. It was a great leveller where we all merged into a homogeneous melange of interweaving bodies, sweat and the general Ecstasy of freedom that flowed despite the castration of the system wrought upon the country by its government!

Socialites and Movie Stars writhed with hookers and call boys and fashion models. Cross dressers slunk around eyeing up the competition and even the odd politician showed up anxious not to be left out. And through it all Donna Summer oozed an almost sacred grail. She WAS disco. The heart. The soul.

It was at Coco Banana when I first realized that Nicholas Stoodley, as a brand, had "made it" in the Philippines. I had drifted in at midnight since just NOBODY really went there before except perhaps the sex tourists from Europe, and there I was confronted by at least 15 people wearing my signature across their chests. A strange feeling. They had no idea it was ME as I squeezed through them, but there I was. Sort of famous. In many ways it meant a lot more than winning the PBA at the Araneta Collesium. Of course the majority of those that cavorted my name across the floor were call boys but then I guess I could claim that I was master of street fashion!

Manila had always, up to that point in time, been very self-conscious socially. I mean one just didn't cross social boundaries. One would never, darling, go to a club with hookers and call boys and yet here they were. The genuine Makati socialites not giving a damn, cheek by jowl with, for all it was known, their drivers. Look around the room and you saw fame and wealth and poverty together and having FUN. Simple as that. Not like the Embassy in the Fort today where it is necessary to be a friend of Tim Yap or famous or beautiful and rich to even survive a few minutes before being swept into a corner!

Coco we miss you.

Previously: Chapter 7 - Skatetown

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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